Read the Rainbow: Middle Grade Edition

Staff PicksGeorgetown Library

Read the Rainbow: Middle Grade Edition

Every single reader deserves a book where they can see a reflection of themselves, regardless of race, sexuality, creed and many other factors.  While some take their time, many kids and tweens discover their sexuality and gender identity early on.  Although we can always use more, books about queer kids and tweens are published more frequently than in years past.  Below are eight recent novels for middle graders where the main character is queer.  The final three books on this list are about transgender individuals.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Two of Ivy Aberdeen’s most prized possessions are her brush pens and her notebook, which is full of pictures of girls holding hands.  After the Aberdeen’s rural Georgia home is destroyed by a tornado, they are rescued by the community which includes Ivy’s classmate June, who Ivy doesn’t know very well.  Eventually Ivy and her parents, sixteen-year-old sister Layla, and baby twin brothers wind up in the Calliope Inn while their home is rebuilt, crammed into one bedroom.  Meanwhile, a friendship starts to develop between Ivy and June, and Ivy realizes her feelings are more than just friendly.  Unfortunately, Ivy’s notebook has disappeared, and she’s not ready to share her secret with anyone, especially Layla. Soon Ivy’s drawings start reappearing in her locker, with encouragements to talk to someone about how she feels.  Ivy tries to hold it together as she struggles with feeling unwanted by her family and mounting pressure between herself and her best friend, Taryn.  Who can Ivy trust with her feelings, and how will they react?  Readers who have kept secrets and felt lost in a large family will share a strong connection with Ivy.

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
Caroline can see things that are invisible to everyone else, is hated by everyone at her school, and has only one friend, her mother.  Rumor has it that because Caroline was born during a hurricane, she is destined to be unlucky, something Caroline starts to believe when her mother leaves and never comes back.  When a girl named Kalinda arrives from Barbados, Caroline discovers that Kalinda can also see strange things.  As they become closer, Caroline realizes that her feelings for Kalinda are romantic.  When Kalinda agrees to set out with Caroline in a storm in hopes of finding Caroline’s mother, their lives are changed forever.  Pick up Hurricane Child for a story about two girls seeking acceptance and happiness in an often homophobic society.
P.S. I Miss You by Jen-Petro-Roy
For Evie’s entire life, her family have been strict Catholics, which is a problem when Evie’s older sister Cilla gets pregnant by her boyfriend Alex.  Feeling shamed and ostracized, Cilla agrees to travel to Aunt Maureen’s farm for the last trimester of her pregnancy and birth of her child.  Evie disagrees with her parents’ and her sister’s decision, and deals with missing Cilla by writing her letters.  No matter how many letters she writes, Evie never gets a response, even after her sister has the baby and goes off to boarding school.  Evie needs Cilla more than ever when her new friend June becomes her first crush and she grapples with concerns that her parents won’t accept her.  Middle grade readers who love contemporary novels and stories of how faith and sexuality are intertwined will adore P.S. I Miss You.

One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock
It’s the 1970s, and Allie Drake’s life has been upturned.  After her older brother died, Allie’s parents separated and she moved with her mother from New Jersey to North Carolina.  As she starts at Daniel Boone Middle School, Allie hopes to make a friend and join the newspaper staff.  Luckily, gender nonconforming Sam takes Allie under her wing, and their companionship becomes romantic.  In spite of how they feel, the girls are discouraged by Sam’s conservative Christian background, and the treatment of queer adults in their small town.  One True Way will particularly appeal to fans of historical fiction.

Alan Cole Is Not A Coward by Eric Bell
All Alan Cole wants is to spend his middle school years flying under the radar, making art and harboring a secret rush on his classmate Connor.  Alan’s brother Nathan, who is popular at school and Alan’s tormentor at home, has a different plan.  When Nathan realizes that Alan likes boys, he proposes a Cole versus Cole competition, where the two race to complete seven tasks, including getting their first kiss and standing up to their verbally abusive father.  If Alan loses, he’ll be outed as gay to the whole school. Soon Alan teams up with an unlikely group of friends to help him stand up to his brother and prove his potential to his father.  Full of humor, Alan Cole Is Not A Coward is a story about a boy whose biggest adversaries are his own family.
George by Alex Gino
On the outside, George is a ten-year-old boy, but on the inside, she’s a girl named Melissa who reads magazines packed with ads for tampons, lipstick and perfume. George’s mother and brother aren’t ready to hear the truth about George.  When George’s teacher announces that Charlotte’s Web will be the class play, George finally sees her chance. George hopes that if she plays Charlotte, those around her will finally start to see who she really is. The problem? George’s teacher won’t let boys audition for the role of Charlotte.  Luckily George’s best friend Kelly is cast as Charlotte, and she’s ready to hatch a plan to help George play Charlotte.  Aimed at slightly younger middle grade readers, George will move audiences who love stories about becoming the person one is always meant to be.

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
Shane’s life has been a lot better since he switched schools three years ago and is now living with his mom.  He lives a normal life playing baseball and working on his graphic novel.  Nobody at Shane’s school knows his secret: that he was assigned female at birth, but is taking hormone blockers to stop female puberty.  When a classmate outs him, Shane has to deal with bullies at school in addition to his father, who believes that Shane is going through a phase.  Will Shane be able to find the support that he needs?  Hennessey’s debut is a moving story of a transgender boy searching for acceptance.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
Liv is less than thrilled to be starting at a middle school with a sexist dress code, stating that girls must wear skirts.  Although Liv looks like a girl, he is transgender, a secret no one knows.  Liv tries to get around the dress code by wearing a skirt with pants under it and starting a petition.  Meanwhile, Liv’s best friend Maisie is cozying up to the bullies who berate Liv for having for having two moms.  With the help of his friend Jacob, who uses a cane, can Liv reveal his true self to his family and friends, and finally persuade his school to let him wear pants?  With a dash of humor and diverse cast, readers will speed through The Pants Project.