Tundra Telegram: Books to Trans-form Your Mood

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we discuss things that are engendering heated conversations on social media and pass along some queerly excellent titles.

This past weekend, November 20, was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed the year prior. Tragically, it was a day of remembrance that was marked by further anti-LGBTQ violence, as news broke early that morning of a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs – a tragedy that would have been much worse, if not for the actions of some heroic patrons at the club.

In the face of such tragedy, we wanted to take a moment to feature books of trans joy – books that celebrate trans lives and experiences, with minimal focus on the hardships and tragedy. (Obviously, we appreciate books that speak to trans sadness and pain, too, but this week, we’re hoping to accentuate the positive.)

PICTURE BOOKS

Let’s start with some picture books that cheerlead trans stories. Calvin by JR and Vanessa Ford, and illustrated by Kayla Harren, celebrates the lead-up to young trans boy’s first day of school, complete with new haircut, new clothes, and . . . a new name. Any hesitance Calvin had introducing his true self to the world melts away as family, friends, and teachers rally around him in a joyful story inspired by the authors’ own child.

Jodie Patterson and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow’s Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope likewise lightly fictionalizes the experiences of the author’s son, as Penelope faces some frustrations and, eventually, real triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. The main takeaway from the book is that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are – and that sounds like a message to celebrate!

Can a book only published in 2018 be a classic? We think so, which is why we’ve included classic picture book Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love on this list. A buoyant celebration of self-love and genderfluidity, the story follows young Julián after he notices three women dressed spectacularly on the subway, all on their way to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume. He worries what his abuela will think about how Julián sees himself, but soon realizes he needn’t worry: his abuela just wants to perfect his costume and take him to the parade!

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas is the real-life story of co-author Jazz Jennings, a transgender child who has become a spokesperson for trans kids everywhere. (She’s also, for TLC Fans, the star of a reality show by the very same name!)

Another book based on a true story (and inspired by a documentary), Ho’onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale and Mika Song, features a young Hawaiian girl in who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. So when Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she decides to be part of it in this musical celebration.

There are few things more joyous than a rainbow wig, as any My Little Pony cosplayer can tell you. You can experience that joy yourself with My Rainbow by authors DeShanna and Trinity Neal, and illustrated by Art Twink (who has maybe the best illustrator name of all time?). When young transgender girl Trinity decides she needs long hair, her dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her daughter.

We also recommend Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender and Stereotypes from Canadian children’s book artist Elise Gravel and trans activist and educator Mykaell Blais, an easy-to-understand picture book that opens the door to conversations about gender stereotypes and identity. We’ve found the book also has a crossover audience with adults who are trying to learn more, sometimes inspired by the kids and grandkids in their life who are trans or nonbinary.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Okay, so it may not be the definition of trans joy, but Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker is a cyber mystery, and that was fun in The Net! Zenobia is an expert hacker trans girl in a new town and new school. So, when there’s a mystery to be solved around hateful memes being posted anonymously, Zenobia goes full digital Nancy Drew to crack the case and finds a new home in the process.

If cyber detective work doesn’t sound joyful enough, how about gliding through the open water like an otter? Obie Is Man Enough, a book by Schuyler Bailar, competitive swimmer and the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division I men’s team, is a coming-of-age story that closely mirrors Bailar’s own experiences in the pool. Transgender tween Obie, after his transition, has to leave his swim coach and pool (there is some bullying in this book), but soon dives into things with a new, more supportive swim team, with support from family and friends – including Charlie, his first crush.

What about a combination coming-of-age transgender and ghost story? That’s what Too Bright To See, the National Book Award finalist by Kyle Lukoff, is. Best friends Moira and Bug spend the summer before middle school investigating a haunting in Bug’s eerie old house while preparing for a new stage of life. For Bug, that preparation – and, in a strange way, the haunting – lead to the revelation they are transgender.

This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, is an appetizing sampler of stories for middle-graders from all genres. Whether they’re in the mood for contemporary coming-out trans stories or adventures of nonbinary pirates on the high seas, this dazzling anthology has a colorful tale for everyone.

YOUNG ADULT

Few things bring more joy than love and baked goods, which is why we’re recommending A. R. Capetta’s Heartbreak Bakery. Teenage baker Syd (who is agender) sends ripples of heartbreak through the queer community of Austin, Texas, when a batch of post-being-dumped brownies turns out to be magical – and makes everyone who eats them break up their romantic relationships! Syd has a major crush on Harley, the sexy trans delivery messenger, and reading this book is akin to nuzzling underneath a big, magical, queer electric blanket.

But for a touch more magic, there’s Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, a whimsical, dark fantasy about Jam, a transgender girl who befriends a horrifying monster that emerges from one of her mother’s paintings. Jam lives in a utopian society, where trans kids are trusted to know their own bodies and feelings (that’s good), but it’s a creaky utopia that may rely on secrets and deceit (not so good). Still, there’s enough wonder and magic to bring a smile to any reader’s face.

Sports, romance, and courage are the highlights of The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons, the story of a trans boy athlete who gets a fresh start at liberal private school – where no one knows he’s trans. Not his soccer coach, and not even the cute, down-low Christian guy he has a crush on. When the soccer league enforces a discriminatory rule, Spencer has two choices – he can keep silent and let discrimination win, or he can reveal the truth about himself and fight for his rights and face the fallout. But Spencer will find that people can always surprise you in good ways.

In the mood for a little romance, but also the adrenaline rush of an argument? Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas has the benefit of not only having a title that’s also a Joni Mitchell song, but also featuring a trans protagonist, Finch, who loves school debates! (Nerd alert!) And this isn’t just any debate Finch is competing in, it’s the Nationals, and Finch has developed a tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner as he is scheduled to debate – in a cruel twist of fate – against transgender rights.

And since we were just talking about sports, let’s hop back into the pool. Man o’War by Cory McCarthy is a frequently comical coming-of-age novel about an Arab American trans swimmer taking the plunge into self-discovery in a very not-coastal Ohio town. We’ll admit, there’s some external (and internal) homophobia and a lot of angst, but it’s also – at times – a real barrel of laughs.

We should also note there is no shortage of books about the dizzying excitement of life as a trans youth published in the Pocket Change Collective series, all illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. As just a sampling, Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon is like a gender-binary-smashing pep talk, giving readers access to the infinite possibilities within themselves. Leo Baker’s Skate For Your Life is the professional skateboarder’s personal journey within the sport as a non-binary athlete and proves that being authentically yourself is truly rad. And Continuum by Chella Man has the deaf and transgender artist, actor, and activist (from Titans) pushes readers to unlearn certain constructs in their lives and set off on a beautiful and chaotic road of exploration.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Are Un-fork-gettable

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects readers are stewing on, and recommend some tasty tomes for young readers to chew on.

This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. And for many people – at least the more fortunate among us – that means a large family feast with plates of delicious food. Often followed by days and days of leftovers. So, if you’re anything like us, food has been on your mind a lot.

Luckily, the many publishers for children and young readers that we sell and distribute have a veritable cornucopia of food-related books, if you’re hungry to read about the things we ingest. Come partake of some peculiar but very palatable publications.

PICTURE BOOKS

Anyone who has had Thanksgiving dinner with family knows mealtimes can be filled with drama. And that’s the case in Frankie’s Favorite Food by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, where the school play will feature kids dressed as their favorite foods. Only one problem: Frankie can’t decide because he loves so many foods. So he becomes the play’s costume manager until he figures out a favorite food that will also be familiar to Thanksgiving diners.

Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan and Cindy Wume is not about literal dumplings, but ten sons in a Taiwanese family who have that nickname (as having both sons and dumplings is auspicious). But the book also looks at the one sister to the dumplings, growing up in the shadow of her brothers and making her own way in life. And since it includes a couple of feasts fit for eleven kids (and featuring some actual dumplings), we’re counting it as a food book.

Though some Thanksgiving meals can be pretty routine, some home chefs get a bit more adventurous. That spirit of culinary adventure permeates Kalamata’s Kitchen by Sarah Thomas and illustrated by Jo Kosmides Edwards, about a girl and her alligator sidekick (Al Dente) who get over back-to-school anxiety by magically transporting themselves to an Indian spice market , where they realize trying new things – be they foods or experiences at school – is exciting!

How about a picture book from the host of Top Chef and Taste the Nation? Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi and Juana Martinez-Neal celebrates family recipes and family time spent in the kitchen – a perfect subject for post-Thanksgiving reading. Neela and Amma go to the market to buy tomatoes to make her Paati’s famous sauce. And as Neela and Amma cook together, they find a way for Paati to share in both the love and the flavors though she is far away.

Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens by Elizabeth Lilly also celebrates how a good meal can bring a family together. Inspired by the author’s childhood vacations, it follows a family road trip, as they visit both sides of the family – American and Colombian – and revel in the two cultures and cuisines.

When the big meal is more of a potluck, it can sometimes turn into a competition of whose dish is the best. The characters of It Happened on Sweet Street by Caroline Adderson and Stephane Jorisch know that feeling all too well, as a rivalry among bakers causes havoc on one road that hosts a panoply of new cakes, cookies, and pies. The winners, as usual, are the ones eating the desserts.

Inspired by the spirit of, but not about the famous French chef and television personality, Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad features two young friends – Julia and Simca – who love cooking, preparing feasts for friends, and who agree there’s no such thing as “too much butter.” This is a playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up, and mastering the art of having a good time.

The titular character in Little Taco Truck by Tanya Valentine and Jorge Martin also loves making food for friends – or any paying customers, that is – but has trouble sharing at first, when other food trucks (Annie’s Arepas and Gumbo Jumbo, among others) begin to park on their street. Packed with flavor and cuisine from around the world, this is a great read-aloud about friendship and cooperation, for fans of both trucks and food.

And if you have a young reader who doesn’t just want to read about food, but wants to actually make it, there’s Cook It!: The Dr. Seuss Cookbook for Kid Chefs by Daniel Gercke. From Grinch-inspired Roast Beast to “Warm Whisked Wocket Waffles” and – yes – even, Green Eggs and Ham, this book features fifty recipes inspired by the books of Dr. Seuss (and accompanying Seussian photos from Christopher Testani) for kids and grown-ups to cook together.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

As might be expected, food stories lend themselves well to graphic novels, as it’s said we eat with our eyes first. Kicking off this shortlist of mouthwatering comics is Stephen Shaskan’s Pizza and Taco series about two best friends who also happen to be two delicious foods with lots of toppings.

Mika Song’s Donut Feed the Squirrels features two squirrel friends – Norma and Belly – who would probably gobble Pizza and Taco up. Lucky for them, Norma and Belly are focused on a donut food truck and the best way to steal its scrumptious contents.

The squirrels’ plight is probably understood by Weenie, the hero of the hilarious Mad about Meatloaf by Maureen Fergus and Alexandra Bye. As you may have guessed from the title, Weenie – a wiener dog with best friends Frank (a cat) and Beans (a guinea pig) – is obsessed with meatloaf and will try anything to get some – disguises, meatloaf traps, and much, much more.

And even Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly get in on the food action in their third book, Peanut Butter and Jelly. Longtime readers of the series know N & J love their waffles. But in this book, Narwhal becomes so enamored with peanut butter, they even want to change their name to peanut butter! This is another fun adventure about trying new things, favorite foods, and self-acceptance.

Thanksgiving usually involves cooking with your family, something that happens in a very public forum in Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster by Rachelle Delaney. Alice’s father is a culinary historian, who enters into a reality cooking show – Culinary Combat – with his daughter, much to her chagrin. Even worse: a saboteur is mixing up some mayhem backstage, and Alice and a few new friends take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s Mya’s Strategy to Save the World is mostly about Mya Parsons and her attempts to prove herself responsible so she can get a phone. But it’s also about Mya’s growing social justice interest, her involvement with the school’s Social Justice club (particularly campaigns to assist Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, where her mom hails from). Along the way, she takes some cooking lessons from her aunt and readers are treated to a few curry recipes to try at home!

All these fictional stories about food are great, but what if you want . . . the truth? Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott chronicles, in graphic novel form, the inventions of pies, ice cream, brownies, and more. Learn about the true stories behind everyone’s favorite treats in the most mouthwatering nonfiction book ever.

YOUNG ADULT

Anyone who has stuffed themselves sick on Thanksgiving dinner knows eating and romance are inextricably linked. There are many YA novels linking food and love, like Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma. In it, Radha gives up her dreams of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world and discovers a new love for Indian cooking. Then Jai, captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, enters her life and the two get a taste of what happily ever after could be like.

Jared Reck’s Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love mines the romance of Scandinavian cooking, as it follows Oscar Olsson, who runs a Swedish food truck with his grandfather. That is, he does until he’s pulled away more and more by Mary Louise (Lou) an overachiever who ropes him into a project reducing food waste at their high school. Will love blossom over uneaten apples? You bet it will!

Jennifer Yen’s A Taste for Love combines matchmaking and baking in all the best ways. Liza Yang agrees to help her mother, owner of the popular Yin & Yang Bakery, set up a junior baking competition at the store. But Liza finds she’s been tricked – all the baking contestants are eligible young Asian American men her mother thinks would make a perfect partner for her daughter. (Now who amongst us can say they’ve ever had a Thanksgiving with nearly as much romantic potential?)

Magical muffins are at the heart of A. R. Carpetta’s The Heartbreak Bakery, in which a teenaged baker, Syd, sends ripples of heartbreak through Austin’s queer community when a batch of post-being-dumped brownies turns out to be magical – and makes everyone who eats them break up with their romantic partners! So it’s up to Syd and cute bike messenger Harley to try to fix things – because Thanksgiving is all about making amends.

Love from Scratch by Kaitlyn Hill lets the sparks (and flour) fly when two interns – Reese and Benny – start at a wildly popular cooking channel in Seattle. When the two competitors have to work together on a video shoot, audiences begin to ship them, even as their rivalry intensifies. But all baking relies on good chemistry.

Finally, the Pocket Change Collective book Food-Related Stories by chef and food activist Gaby Melian and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, looks at Melian’s journey through food, from growing up in Argentina, to becoming a street vendor, and later Bon Appetit’s test kitchen manager. The book explores how creating a meaningful relationship with food – however simple or complicated – can be a powerful form of activism.

Happy reading (and eating)!

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Here’s a list of recent and upcoming books that highlight Asian creators and their stories.

Picture Books:

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. . . . Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Natsumis Song of SummerNatsumi’s Song of Summer
By Robert Paul Weston
Illustrated by Misa Saburi
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265417 | Tundra Books
Natsumi’s nervousness about meeting her cousin from across the sea quickly disappears when she discovers that her cousin is a lot like her: they both love summertime’s hot sandy beaches, cool refreshing watermelon, festivals, and fireworks. Then Jill asks Natsumi about the strange buzzing sound that comes from the nearby trees, and Natsumi is nervous once again. What if Jill is frightened of Natsumi’s cherished cicadas, the insects that sing the music of summertime? This sweet and gentle picture book celebrates summer in Japan, as one little girl shares her love for bugs with her cousin who is visiting from America.

Ten Little Dumplings
By Larissa Fan
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266193 | Puffin Canada
In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family – special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you’ll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent – a sister. As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world . . . and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling. Based on a short film made by the author, inspired by her father’s family in Taiwan, Ten Little Dumplings looks at some unhappy truths about the place of girls in our world in an accessible, inspiring and hopeful way.

Middle Grade:

Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field
By Angela Ahn
Illustrated by Julie Kwon
312 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268265 | Tundra Books
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust. Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once – he needs time to sketch out a plan.

The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan
By Salma Hussain
296 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271494 | Tundra Books
Mona Hasan is a young Muslim girl growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, when the first Gulf War breaks out in 1991. The war isn’t what she expects – “We didn’t even get any days off school! Just my luck!” – especially when the ground offensive is over so quickly and her family peels the masking tape off their windows. Her parents, however, fear there is no peace in the region, and it sparks a major change in their lives. Over the course of one year, Mona falls in love, speaks up to protect her younger sister, loses her best friend to the new girl at school, has summer adventures with her cousins in Pakistan, immigrates to Canada, and pursues her ambition to be a feminist and a poet.

Young Adult:

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265578 | Penguin Teen Canada
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
By Shyam Selvadurai
280 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781774880333 | Tundra Books
Shyam Selvadurai’s brilliant novels, Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens, have garnered him international acclaim. In his first young adult novel, now with a new cover, he explores first love with clarity, humor and compassion. The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons. Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the cheerful, well-to-do household in which he is being raised by his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky. He tries not to think of his life “before,” when his doting mother was still alive. Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising: he wants to appear in his school’s production of Othello and he is learning to type at Uncle Lucky’s tropical fish business. Then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith’s ordered life is storm-tossed. He finds himself falling in love with the Canadian boy. Othello, with its powerful theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama in which Amrith finds himself immersed.

Throwaway Daughter
By Ting-Xing Ye with William Bell
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781774880340 | Tundra Books
Throwaway Daughter tells the story of Grace Dong-mei Parker, whose biggest concern is how to distill her adoption from China into the neat blanks of her personal history assignment. Aside from the unwelcome reminders of difference, Grace loves passing for the typical Canadian teen – until the day she witnesses the Tiananmen massacre on the news. Horrified, she sets out to explore her Chinese ancestry, only to discover that she was one of the thousands of infant girls abandoned in China since the introduction of the one-child policy, strictly enforced by the Communist government. But Grace was one of the lucky ones, adopted as a baby by a loving Canadian couple. With the encouragement of her adoptive parents, she studies Chinese and travels back to China in search of her birth mother. She manages to locate the village where she was born, but at first no one is willing to help her. However, Grace never gives up and, finally, she is reunited with her birth mother, discovering through this emotional bond the truth of what happened to her almost twenty years before.

Wrong Side of the Court
By H. N. Khan
312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270879 | Penguin Teen Canada
Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother’s potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who’s coping with the shooting death of his older brother. But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone.

Merrie Monarch Festival 2022

The 59th annual Merrie Monarch Festival is coming up with the Hōʻike Night is scheduled for April 17 to 22, 2022. The festival is a non-profit organization that honors Hawaiian traditions, native language and arts, including an internationally acclaimed hula competition.

Here are some books celebrating Hawaiian culture:

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try . . . . Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Ohana Means Family
By Ilima Loomis
Illustrated by Kenard Pak
40 Pages | Ages 3-6 | Paperback
ISBN 9780823451180 | Neal Porter Books
“This is the land that’s never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.” Acclaimed illustrator and animator Kenard Pak’s light-filled, dramatic illustrations pair exquisitely with Ilima Loomis’ text to celebrate Hawaiian land and culture. The backmatter includes a glossary of Hawaiian terms used, as well as an author’s note.

Snow Angel, Sand Angel
By Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593127377 | Make Me A World
Claire has been surrounded by the deep blue waves of Hapuna Beach and the magnificent mountains of Hawai’i all her life, but has never, ever seen snow. When her father drives her and her family to the top of the Mauna Kea, she can’t help but to be disappointed . . . it’s not the winter wonderland she’s always dreamed of. And that’s what she wants, more than anything. But as Claire edges ever closer to the new year, she wonders if maybe – just maybe – she can delight in the special joys of winter in her own way – right there, on her Big Island of Hawaii. Includes backmatter that captures the environmental culture of Hawaii, and will teach children not only about the local flora and fauna, but also the value of being environmentally friendly.

Transgender Awareness Month

This past week, November 14-20, 2021, was Transgender Awareness Week, culminating in Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th and the whole month of November is Trans Awareness Month. Here are a few picture books and middle grade novels to get the conversation started!

Note: for the purposes of this list, we’ve included books with non-binary characters in addition to trans characters but we recognize that not all non-binary folks fall under the trans umbrella!

Bodies are Cool
By Tyler Feder
32 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593112625 | Dial Books
From the acclaimed creator of Dancing at the Pity Party and Roaring Softly, this picture book is a pure celebration of all the different human bodies that exist in the world. Highlighting the various skin tones, body shapes, and hair types is just the beginning in this truly inclusive book. With its joyful illustrations and encouraging refrain, it will instill body acceptance and confidence in the youngest of readers. “My body, your body, every different kind of body! All of them are good bodies! BODIES ARE COOL!”

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
By Jodie Patterson
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123638 | Crown BFYR
Jodie Patterson, activist and Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board, shares her transgender son’s experience in this important picture book about identity and acceptance. Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

Calvin
By JR Ford and Vanessa Ford
Illustrated by Kayla Harren
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593108673 | Putnam BFYR
Calvin has always been a boy, even if the world sees him as a girl. He knows who he is in his heart and in his mind but he hasn’t yet told his family. Finally, he can wait no longer: “I’m not a girl,” he tells his family. “I’m a boy – a boy in my heart and in my brain.” Quick to support him, his loving family takes Calvin shopping for the swim trunks he’s always wanted and back-to-school clothes and a new haircut that helps him look and feel like the boy he’s always known himself to be. As the first day of school approaches, he’s nervous and the “what-ifs” gather up inside him. But as his friends and teachers rally around him and he tells them his name, all his “what-ifs” begin to melt away.

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. . . . Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Julián at the Wedding
By Jessica Love
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212389 | Candlewick Press
Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. Jessica Love returns with a joyful story of friendship and individuality in this radiant follow-up to Julián Is a Mermaid.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
Illustrated by Art Twink
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Obie is Man Enough
By Schuyler Bailar
352 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379462 | Crown BFYR
Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs. As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water – to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

The Little Library
By Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525578338 | Schwartz & Wade
Everyone in Mr. Tiffin’s class couldn’t be more excited that the new school library has finally opened. Everyone except Jake. Jake is a slow and careful reader. Sometimes he reads the same page more than once to figure everything out. And he often feels left behind on class Library Day. All that changes when Librarian Beck notices Jake running his fingers across the grooves of a brand-new bookshelf and offers him an old, worn book: Woodworking for Young Hands. Jake checks the book out, studies the pictures and instructions, and renews the book again and again. When the school year comes to an end, Jake has the perfect gift idea for the librarian who changed his life – and he makes it with his own two hands.

The Ship We Built
By Lexie Bean
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525554837 | Dial Books
Rowan has too many secrets to write down in the pages of a diary. And if he did, he wouldn’t want anyone he knows to read them. He understands who he is and what he likes, but it’s not safe for others to find out. Now the kids at school say Rowan’s too different to spend time with. He’s not the “right kind” of girl, and he’s not the “right kind” of boy. His mom ignores him. And at night, his dad hurts him in ways he’s not ready to talk about yet. But Rowan discovers another way to share his secrets: letters. Letters he attaches to balloons and releases into the universe, hoping someone new will read them and understand. But when he befriends a classmate who knows what it’s like to be lonely and scared, even at home, Rowan realizes that there might already be a person he can trust right by his side.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.

Too Bright to See
By Kyle Lukoff
192 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111154 | Dial BFYR
It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn’t particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there’s something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont . . . and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light – Bug is transgender.