Cynthia L. Copeland’s new middle-grade graphic memoir, Cub, is an intimate and atmospheric coming-of-age story that follows 12-year-old Cindy as she navigators the hormonal halls of middle-school and an informal internship at a local paper. This snapshot of author Cynthia L. Copeland’s middle-school years takes place during 1972 and 1973 and is packed with recognizable cultural references. Adult readers will likely find themselves chuckling at references to sea monkeys and trolls that younger audiences may not be able to fully appreciate. However, there is plenty of charm and relatability to keep the intended audience of eight to twelve-year-old readers engaged. Continue reading
Written by Lois Abramchik, with realistic black and white charcoal illustrations by Alaiyo Bradshaw, Is Your Family Like Mine? (1993) is about a little girl named Armetha. After starting Kindergarten, Armetha grows self-conscious that she doesn’t have a father. She begins to ask her diverse classmates about their families and realizes that some have divorced parents and live with step-familes, some have single parents, some live in foster care, and some live with a mom and dad. All families are different, but the most important thing is that they are connected by love. Continue reading
Written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor, Fox the Tiger, is an accessible story about a fox who wishes he was big, fast, and sneaky like a tiger. The fox, named Fox, reinvents himself with painted stripes and a new name – Tiger.
Fox’s transformation inspires his friends. Turtle becomes a race car and Rabbit changes into a robot. But, their new identities can’t stand up to the rain. Once the sky opens they change back into a fox, turtle, and rabbit. Continue reading
Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged (2017), written by the brilliant and prolific Zetta Elliott and richly illustrated by Purple Wong, is a sweet and accessible story about the relationship between a boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and his sister. At the end of the book, Elliott provides a detailed note about her investment in creating inclusive children’s books. She discusses wanting to write a book about autism with a Black male protagonist because society takes such a punitive stance on Black boys. The beautiful brown-skinned children Wong illustrates, as well as the diverse cast of characters both children interact with throughout the story, are wonderfully inclusive of different abilities, religions, and races. Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged is a much needed text that celebrates difference and subtly shatters stereotypes while introducing a young autistic boy to readers through the eyes of his loyal and loving sister. Continue reading
I love the cozy, whimsical, slightly melancholy, illustrations in The Boy Who Grew Flowers (2005), which is cleverly written by Jen Wojtowicz and beautifully illustrated by Steve Adams. The cover depicts a pinkish boy with blushing cheeks, flowers in one hand, green shoes in the other. This is a love story about two children who are equally kind and, as we learn at the book’s end, share one of the same differences, which makes them perfectly normal to each other, and perfect for each other.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (2017), written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, is a smart biographical children’s picture book about Dr. Temple Grandin, a compassionate scientist with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Born in 1947, Temple Grandin became an important figure in the farming industry for her work refining the treatment of cattle. Grandin negotiated ASD and the sexism in her field at a time when ASD was poorly understood and women didn’t do “men’s” work. Writer and illustrator both do a very good job representing neurodiversity as a critical lens for seeing the world differently and making a difference in the world.
Written by Alice Reeves and illustrated by Phoebe Kirk, Vincent the Vixen is a children’s picture book full of welcome surprises. The story, about a transgender girl-fox, encourages conversations about acceptance, self-awareness, and gender identity.
It begins with several foxes playing together. The foxes, identified as siblings, are seen without any identifying gender markers, such as clothes. They’re shown playing hide-and-seek, swimming, and annoying a grumpy cat. None of these activities are particularly gendered, so at the text’s opening gender is inserted as a non-issue. This changes when the fox cubs go to Betty the Badger’s house.
All Around Us, written by Xelena Gonzalez and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, is a meditation. Garcia’s images are digitally generated and seem to straddle the line between spiritual and material, curving into a circle under the weight of Gonzalez’s poetic prose. This is fitting since the text explores time as neither linear nor marked by the progression of an individual, but instead cyclical and communal.
Written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (2018), is an invaluable contribution to children’s literature that should be in every school and public library. Although the story focuses on Harvey Milk, a historically significant figure all children should learn about, it does so by positioning him within a vibrant community. As a result, the brightly illustrated picture book gives young readers a strong sense of the importance of community belonging and community building, while also paying homage to a courageous figure in US history.
I am Jazz (2014) is an autobiographical children’s picture book co-authored by Jessica Herthel and the title character, Jazz Jennings. Jennings, now a young transgender woman with her own TLC show, first entered the spotlight in 2007 when she was featured on a 20/20 documentary about transgender children. This book is a significant contribution to LGBTQ* children’s literature, since it is co-authored by, and narrated from the perspective of, the transgender child protagonist.