In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gay lit 2: YA and younger

Dear Annie,

Many thanks to Tatiana for that great list of gay YA books.

I just read a new one written jointly by David Levithan, author of Boy Meets Boy (mentioned in Tatiana's list) and John Green:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
.  It's told in two voices, of high school characters both named Will Grayson who have met each other  by chance.  One is gay and comes out during the course of the book.  The other is straight with a close friend named Tiny Cooper, a huge football player who's flamboyantly gay and during the course of the book writes and performs a musical about his life.  Tiny and gay Will fall in love.  There's lots of humor and strong emotion and feel of what high school life is like.  There are a few homophobic classmates, but the focus is on figuring out who you are and how to be in love.  Tiny verges on the edge of being overdone, except for the fact that he's such a likable character.  One cares about all the people in the book.

Geography Club focuses on a high school with a meaner student body.  Several gay and lesbian kids find each other, then create a club with a name so boring they figure they'll be the only members.

I'm working my way into the younger middle-grade area.  James Howe, best known for his Bunnicula series, has done a series which started with The Misfits, about four middle school kids, one of whom is gay, who have been called names and ostracized for years. They organize against it and go on an anti name-calling campaign. A little heavy-handed, but a good read for middle grade kids. Howe has done two different sequels on individual kids in the group:
Totally Joe
focuses on the gay kid. He has a crush on a boy who's not ready to come out, there's some harassment, but there's also lots of adult and peer support.

Howe's an interesting author.  He's also written early readers and picture books for much younger kids, including the Pinky and Rex series (written between 1990 and 2001).  I just re-read
Pinky and Rex and the Bully
the other day.  Pinky is a boy who loves the color pink; his friend Rex is a girl who loves dinosaurs.  In this book, a boy teases Pinky, accusing him of being a girl.  So Pinky decides that he'll stop liking pink and try to conform to the bully's perception of how one should be a boy.  He gets talked out of this idea by a wise elderly lady and stands up to the kid who's been teasing him.  Of course we don't know Pinky's or Rex's sexual preferences, but it's refreshing to have a book for young kids which hits the boys-can-do-many-things theme. 



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