It’s Pride Month again and most of us are probably spending it inside—so I’d recommend you celebrate with LGBTQ+ middle grade books. I didn’t come out until my late teens, so there is something really comforting in these stories about LGBTQ+ kids being able to figure themselves out sooner.
Last year, I suggested a list of LGBTQ+ novels for kids, but this year I broadened my list to include nonfiction as well because it’s essential that we learn more about our community’s often underrepresented history. Remember that if you are buying these LGBTQ+ middle grade books, it would be great to support your local indie bookshop.
Love Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt
Frankie has a lot going on. Not only does she have to deal with being bullied at school by a group of kids led by a girl named Sally, but her mom has a severe case of MS. Then Frankie discovers that Sally isn’t so mean after all and the two girls become friends. As they grow closer, Frankie’s feelings begin to blur confusingly and she begins to wonder if she actually has romantic feelings for Sally.
Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby
Finch just wants to find a place where she feels like she is understood. After being abandoned by her father and losing her mother to cancer, she spends most of her time alone. As a trans girl, she has a strained relationship with her stepfather and is afraid to open up to kids at school. Finch’s only friend, Maddy, is her next-door neighbour, an older woman who runs a wildlife rescue out of her home. Though everything is resolved very conveniently in the end, it is a tenderly written book about belonging, kindness and love.
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
Rahul Kapoor is a gay Indian American boy living in a small Midwestern town. On the verge of beginning 7th grade and feeling very stressed about it, Rahul seeks out advice from his grandfather Bhai, who suggests that he find a talent and become the best at it. So, along with the help of his best friend Chelsea, he begins a search to discover his identity. This often funny book tackles real issues (mental health, racism and sexuality).
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan
This poetic novel in verse is about Stevie, a shy 11-year-old girl living in Ireland with her mom. Stevie and her mom are very close, but Stevie struggles to understand if it’s normal to have feelings for girls. Eventually she meets a kind librarian who supports her search for information and helps her find books with stories about girls who love other girls. Now Stevie just needs to build up the courage to tell her mother about what she is feeling.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
I love magical realism, and this is a phenomenal example of the genre. After Khalid’s sudden death, his brother Kingston struggles to cope with the loss. After Khalid begins to visit in his dreams, King becomes sure that his brother has transformed into a dragonfly. King wants to talk with his best friend Sandy about his feelings of loss, but he is being pressured to stay away by rumours that Sandy is gay. When Sandy goes missing, it sends King on an adventure that will require he reckon with some big truths.
Spin with Me by Ami Polonsky (November 2020)
A novel split into two narrative voices, this tells the story of a burgeoning relationship between Essie and Ollie, both of whom are 13. Essie is new in town and nervous about starting at her new school, which she will only be at for one year anyway. Then she meets Ollie and there is definitely chemistry between them. As the two teens grow closer, Essie realizes Ollie is nonbinary. Ollie, on the other hand, has their own struggle as they attempt to balance the new relationship, queer activism and other interests. Will they be able to figure this out before Essie leaves town?
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Alberta and her dads have long been the only Black family in their California beach town. She loves her best friend Laramie, but there are some things that Laramie just doesn’t get. When Edie moves to town with her family, Alberta is jazzed that there will be another black girl to spend time with. Initially the girls don’t have much in common, but they are brought together by a mysterious discovery. This wonderful novel has a positive, loving portrayal of gay parents.
Rainbow Revolutionaries: Fifty LGBTQ+ People Who Made History by Sarah Prager and Sarah Papworth
This beautifully illustrated history book would have meant the world to me when I was a burgeoning baby homo, and I am so glad that it now exists in the world. I want follow-up editions! Filled with exciting, inspiring and heartbreaking stories, this is a wonderful reminder of LGBTQ+ peoples’ contributions to history. Did you know Glenn Burke, a black gay man, co-invented the high five? There is a lot of great info like that in this collection of true stories.
The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman
This nonfiction middle grade book recounts the Stonewall Riots in short essays that focus on objects like political patches, newspaper articles and a Christopher Street Liberation Day March ad. Overall, Pitman does a great job at giving pre-Stonewall context and in including information about the gay right movements that preceded it, such as the Gay Liberation Front. Also, though aimed at middle graders, this is an informative and accessible read for teens and adults as well.
Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life by Riyadh Khalaf and illustrated by Melissa McFeeters
Oh book, you had me at the title. This gaytastic guidebook will provide support and advice to queer tween and teen guys, with accessible information written by YouTuber and LGBT+ advocate Khalaf. The book balances being informative and engaging, and I recommend it heartily.
This isn’t even all of what is new and upcoming in LGBTQ+ middle grade books right now! Read Casey’s post for some other titles.