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Celebrating Pride Month

By Lesley Colabucci and Jennifer Shettel
 | May 29, 2018

Established in 1994, National Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, a demonstration that is largely considered the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The books in this column invoke the spirit of pride through narratives about coming out, LGBT families, and gender nonconformity. Another way to characterize the essence of this movement, in the words of New Zealand suffragist leader Kate Sheppard, who is profiled in Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted Around the World, “We must be ourselves at all risks.”

Ages 4–8

Jerome by Heart. Thomas Scotto. Trans. Claudia Bedrick & Karin Snelson. Ill. Olivier Tallec. 2018. Enchanted Lion.

Jerome by HeartThis picture book celebrates the joys of friendship between two young boys. Raphael readily admits he loves Jerome; he loves his warm smile, the stories he invents, and the way they laugh together. Raphael also knows that his affection for Jerome may be met with disapproval. He says he loves Jerome early on in the book, but qualifies it with “I can say it. It’s easy.” He repeats this statement again at the end of the book. Through the illustrations, readers see Raphael’s parents’ concern and his anger and frustration as they discourage this friendship. Raphael’s accessible voice and the use of color and perspective in the illustrations effectively capture the emotional intensity of the story. The book offers many entry points to young readers as they navigate feelings and friendships.

Julián is a Mermaid. Jessica Love. 2018. Candlewick.

Julian is a MermaidWhile riding with his abuela to the swimming pool, Julián absolutely loves seeing the people dressed up as mermaids on the subway. As they return home, he says, “Abuela, I am also a mermaid,” and, while his abuela takes a bath, Julián creates the most splendid mermaid outfit from a gauzy curtain and a headdress created with ferns, fronds, and flowers. When Abuela sees Julián, he is unsure how she will react. She gives him a loving smile, hands him a necklace to add to his costume, and walks him down the street to join in the parade of mermaids and other sea creatures walking on the beach. The illustrations (done in watercolor, gouache, and ink) include Julián’s daydreams of his underwater transformation into a mermaid.

Teddy’s Favorite Toy. Christian Trimmer. Ill. Madeline Valentine. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

Teddy's Favorite ToyTeddy has many toys, but his pink doll, Bren-Da, Warrior Queen of Pacifica, is his absolute favorite. One day, Bren-Da’s leg snaps off and Teddy wraps her up in bandages. Going off to school, he leaves her on the floor of his room, and his mom unknowingly throws Bren-Da in the trash. When a distraught Teddy discovers that Bren-Da is missing, his mom realizes what she’s done. She springs into heroic action and saves the day. Humorous mixed-media illustrations complement this story about a young boy who is free to choose what toys he wants to play with.

Ages 9–11

Love, Penelope. Joanne Rocklin. Ill. Lucy Knisley. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

Love, Penelope2015 is an exciting year in Oakland, California; the Golden State Warriors, Penelope’s favorite team, win the NBA championships and marriage equality becomes law. Penelope wants her two moms to get married, but they say they already have a “marriage of the heart.” She also wants to learn all she can about her mother’s pregnancy and her soon-to-be sibling, so she starts a journal of letters to the baby. The book chronicles the baby’s development, but also tracks Penelope’s struggles in school. Penelope’s voice and humor shine through in her letters, in which she unpacks some complicated interactions with family and friends.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History. 2018. Chelsea Clinton. Ill. Alexandra Boiger. Philomel/Penguin.

She Persisted Around the WorldIn this companion book to She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to 13 pioneering women who have defied gender roles and resisted societal expectations to shape history around the world. The women in this book have fought for what's right, including their education, right to vote, and access to professions and athletics. This book features Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Viola Desmond, Sissi Lima do Amor, Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, Wangari Maathai, Aisha Rateb, J.K. Rowling, Kate Sheppard, Yuan Yuan Tan, Mary Verghese and Malala Yousafzai. Each woman's story is accompanied by watercolor and ink illustrations and a quote.

Ages 12–14

Hurricane Child. Kheryn Callender. 2018. Scholastic.

Hurricane ChildTwelve-year-old Caroline lives on Water Island in the Virgin Islands, and her mother has been missing for over a year. Caroline travels by boat every day to a private school where she is ostracized by her peers and mistreated by the teachers. When a school administrator and a new student, Kalinda, show her some kindness, she finds herself motivated to uncover the story behind her mother’s disappearance and perhaps to discover her own story as a child born during a hurricane. Readers will wonder along with Caroline as she struggles to understand if she’s to blame for her mother leaving, if she’s being visited by a ghost, and if she might be in love with her new friend. The author was born and raised on the Virgin Islands and the book features an #ownvoices portrayal of childhood in the Caribbean.

One True Way. Shannon Hitchcock. 2018. Scholastic.

One True WayAfter her brother dies and her parents split up, Allison Drake finds herself in a new school in rural North Carolina where she meets Sam, an equestrian and the star of the basketball team. Allison is drawn to Sam because she helps her meet people at school and get involved in the school newspaper. She may also have a crush on Sam. While Allison is just discovering these feelings; Sam has been aware of her own identity for a while, but her parents and church are clear on their disapproving stance. Sam's  mother calls her basketball coach—who is a lesbian and dating a fellow teacher—a pervert and an abomination. Set in the 1970s South, the blossoming romance between Sam and Allison portrays the confusion that often accompanies coming out and illustrates the historical and political factors that surrounded gay rights during that time.

Ages 15+

And She Was. Jessica Verdi. 2018. Point/Scholastic.
And She WasWhen 18-year-old Dara finds her birth certificate and discovers her mom is her biological father, everything she thought she knew about her life is turned upside down. Driven to pursue her dream of becoming a professional tennis player, Dara first feels betrayed by her mom’s elaborate cover-up of her secret and is mad that she’s kept Dara from knowing her wealthy biological mother’s parents, who could have been supporting her tennis career. Joined by her best friend Sam, Dara sets out on a road trip to find the family she’s never known existed until now. Along the way, Dara and her mom exchange emails that lead Dara to new understandings about her mom and the life they’ve lived together in this story about family, friendship, and finding your way.

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles). Amy Spalding. 2018. Sky Pony.

The Summer of Jordi PerezAbby Ives is a pink-haired, plus-size, openly gay fashion blogger who is excited to have landed a summer internship at Lemonberry, her favorite boutique. It’s not long before she’s crushing on fellow intern Jordi Perez and finds herself falling in love. When Jordi displays photos that she’s taken of Abby without her consent, their relationship is tested and Abby must decide if she can trust Jordi again. Other leading characters include Abby’s best friend, Maliah, who is not sure Jordi is the best fit for Abby; goofy Jax, who wants Abby to be his “wingwoman” in his quest to discover the best burger in town; and Abby’s mom, who’s best known for her healthy eating franchise.

Troublemakers. Catherine Barter. 2018. Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner.

TroublemakersSet in London during a time of heightened fear due to the “East End Bomber,” this novel’s cliffhangers will get your heart racing as Alena, the main character, struggles with finding trust and truth. Due to the death of their mother, Alena is being raised by her much older brother, Danny and his life partner, Nick. Alena’s relationship with her brother becomes strained because of his work on the campaign of a conservative politician and because of his refusal to talk about their mother at all. Alena is trying to find her roots and figure out what her mother was like. She wonders if she could be an activist like her mother and why Danny is so upset when she contacts one of her mother’s friends. While the action related to the bombing suspect keeps the plot moving, the real appeal of this story is Alena’s family’s history and her search for identity.

Lesley Colabucci is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s literature for pre-service and practicing teachers. Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy. Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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