Monthly Archives: November 2016

 The Best Transgender Kidlit for Everyone

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 29, 2016

When I put out a call for diverse articles on children’s books from guest bloggers, one of the respondents was M.G. Hennessey, an activist supporting rights for transgender folks. Hennessey has been vocal about the tendency of book reviewers to treat LGBTQ characters and themes as inherently “mature” even if the story content is G or PG equivalent, and for reviews to “warn” gatekeeper book buyers (teachers, parents, booksellers, librarians) that there are trans characters in books—attitudes that can contribute to further alienation and marginalization for children and teens who just want to be treated like other kids, with the same standards and open-mindedness.
Ami Polonsky’s groundbreaking Gracefully, Grayson and Alex Gino’s MG sensation, George, opened the door to mainstream middle grade fiction about trans children. In YA literature, Julie Ann Peters’ 2004 novel, Luna, and Ellen Wittlinger’s 2007 Parrotfish paved the way for YA fiction about transgender teens for a mainstream audience. It’s wonderful to see the field open up in recent years, with new books for all ages, several of which Hennessey describes below.
Please welcome M.G. Hennessey to ShelfTalker! Here’s her guest post:
I’ve always been a big believer in the power of books to change hearts and minds. It’s hard to hate someone you know, and these new and forthcoming titles provide a great window into the lives of transgender kids. It’s somewhat ironic that Transgender Awareness week comes on the heels of the November 8 election. Many in the transgender community are afraid that recent gains in civil rights and protections will be erased by the next administration.
Happily, the past year has seen a slew of books published with transgender main characters. The bulk of these are still transition stories that focus on trans girls, but hopefully in the future we’ll see more books that include trans boys, genderqueer, and gender expansive characters. It would also be wonderful if we reach a point where a character’s gender identity isn’t the main focus of the story; true equality will be achieved when a transgender child is simply another character in the book, appreciated for themselves.
For young readers:
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Trans teen and advocate Jazz Jennings co-wrote this book based on her life story. The language is clear and simple, and explains how Jazz’s family came to accept her for who she is, and helped her through her transition.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
A lovely story about Bailey, a trans girl who dreams of fanciful dresses each night. Bailey confronts misunderstanding from her parents, but finds acceptance with an older girl, Laurel. Together they make the dresses Bailey has longed for.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Red is a blue crayon that has unfortunately been given the wrong label. Although not specifically about gender identity, the subtext is clear, and the overall message about being true to yourself should speak to all kids.
For a long time, most trans-themed children’s literature was relegated to the Young Adult sphere. Thankfully, there are some fantastic new books being published for tweens:
Ages 8 and up:
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Grayson hasn’t had it easy. After losing her parents at an early age, she’s sent to live with an aunt, uncle, and cousin in what is not the warmest home environment. Grayson is a social outcast who yearns to have long, flowing hair and to wear pretty things. Auditioning for the school play finally gives her an outlet to show her true face to the world.

series by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters
A fantastic option for fans of graphic novels with a supernatural twist. This story of five friends at a summer camp is refreshing for its wide range of characters of all races, family backgrounds, and body types. Trans character Jo officially comes out in issue 17, although from the way it’s presented, Jo’s friends knew and accepted her for who she was from the start.
The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
Shane is a post-transition 12-year-old boy who likes playing video games, working on his graphic novel, and playing baseball. He’s been living “stealth” at his new school for years, keeping his assigned gender secret from even his best friend, Josh. When Shane gets outed by the school bully, he’s forced to deal with the consequences. This is one of the only trans-themed books with a trans boy. It includes a graphic novel within the novel, illustrated by genderqueer artist Sfé R. Monster.

Lily and Dunkin
by Donna Gephardt
Lily is a trans girl who is currently navigating her transition, while her new friend Dunkin is dealing with bipolar disorder. The story of their blossoming friendship amidst the challenges both are facing is well-handled, not flinching from the bullying kids confront even within their own families.
There are a wealth of new titles in the YA sphere with transgender themes. Accordingly, most of the books below delve more deeply into the types of issues confronted by teens, like drugs, peer pressure, and dating.
Ages 12 and up:
Beast by Brie Spangler
A modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, told from the POV of “beast” Dylan. Though he’s only 15, Dylan could pass for an NFL linebacker. The fact that he’s also the smartest kid in his grade is often overlooked as he’s judged and taunted for his appearance. After jumping off his roof (ostensibly to retrieve a football), he’s sent to a support group where he meets trans girl Jamie. For the first time, someone sees Dylan for who he really is.
Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
A trans girl, Jess, and her best friend, Chunk, take a cross-country road trip just after graduation. Jess thinks their destination is her estranged father’s wedding but maybe, just maybe, the road will lead to her best friend’s heart as well.

If I Was Your Girl
by Meredith Russo.
A post-transition YA story written by trans woman Meredith Russo. Amanda has moved to small-town Tennessee to live with her father. Though initially determined to keep her head down and just finish high school, she soon finds herself unable to resist the charms of Grant. But when Amanda’s past is revealed, the new life she’s built threatens to come crashing down. There are two fantastic and informative author’s notes at the end of the book, one directed at transgender readers, the other at cisgender.
This is Elizabeth again. Thanks so much, M.G., for sharing these terrific recommendations with us!
mg-hennesseyABOUT THE AUTHOR
M.G. Hennessey is an ally and supporter of the Transgender Law Center, Gender Spectrum. and the Human Rights Campaign. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

The Flying Pig’s Snowflake Project

Josie Leavitt - November 28, 2016

Every year we have a Snowflake Giving program. Each snowflake represents a local child who might not otherwise get a book this holiday season. On each snowflake we list the gender and age of the child in need. The program started 19 years ago with about 30 kids. This year we’ll have more than 200 children from our local food shelves, Children’s Literacy Foundation, and the Lund Family Center. The increase in children is partly due to the increase in families using some of these services, but also our reach into more of the community. This program has gotten so popular that customers have stopped me at the grocery store to ask when the snowflakes will be up. Continue reading

The Flying Pig Flaps Its Way to 20 Years

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 23, 2016


This cute little pig, cake, and candles were created by the marvelous Kevan Atteberry. I turned the cake bright pink, though, and added the 20 years and confetti. I hope he forgives me!

Back when Josie and I were wee lasses, just past 30, we had a little pipe dream to open up a bookstore. Well, that’s not exactly true. There was a space for lease in the tiny Vermont village where we’d moved after leaving New York City, and we didn’t want it to become a dentist’s office. At that time, the town center held only the fire station, Town Hall, a children’s preschool, and a wonderful little market/deli, The Old Brick Store. We desperately wanted to create something for the entire community to enjoy, and given our teaching and literature and literacy backgrounds, it didn’t take us long to decide on a children’s bookstore. We’d lived in the state for less than two months, but we took a giant leap of faith that Vermonters were readers, and that a town of 3,500 people plus tourists could support a small store.
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20th Anniversary!

Josie Leavitt - November 22, 2016

Twenty years ago, tomorrow, Elizabeth and I opened the purple front door to Flying Pig Children’s Books in Charlotte, Vt., and began the adventure of a lifetime. We had moved to Vermont from New York City, almost on a whim, surprised to find ourselves in the country. We moved in June and what we thought was going to be a leisurely and thoughtful job hunt, we found ourselves signing a lease in September and opening on November 23, 1996.
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Jammie Night 2016!

Kenny Brechner - November 21, 2016

Mallett School’s Prime Time Reading, aka Jammie Night, continues to be my favorite event of the year. It takes place during Mallet’s Community Book Week, which also features the adorable Book Character parade (see below). Apart from having great company, Jammie Night has some of the best ingredients an event could possibly be made of: a shared love of reading, widespread community support and partnerships, pajamas, great authors, a great crowd, and amazing decorations. First, here is a scene from this year’s Book Character Parade, which takes place downtown.

Adorable, eh? All right, so here is how Prime Time Reading night works. The Mallett community comes back to school at 6:00 in the evening, parents, kids, teachers, librarian, and principal, all dressed in their pajamas for an evening of read alouds. I produce a children’s book author. The evening starts with that author reading his book to the assembled throng in the gymnasium, which has been lavishly decorated around the book’s theme. Afterwords families can either go listen to one of five different community readers in five different classrooms, read together in the gym, or purchase a book and have the guest author sign it. The evening ends with the author reading a second book to the whole audience and then concludes with goodnights and more book signing. Continue reading

Making a Holiday Video?!

Josie Leavitt - November 18, 2016

As we head towards the busiest time of year, my staffers have been on fire with some fabulously creative ideas. The beauty of a staff that’s been together for as long as we have is we know each other very well. Dan and Emily are our new hires this year, but they fit in seamlessly. And here’s the very interesting thing about Flying Pig employees: many of them are professional musicians as well as being amazing booksellers. This musical ability is what spurred Sandy to think, in a moment of pure genius, “what would happen if…” way, that led to: let’s make a holiday video!  Continue reading

The Holiday 20 for 2016

Kenny Brechner - November 17, 2016

Annual tasks, whether at home or at work, that involve organizing and evaluating items with some degree of personal attachment, are always soul-testing endeavors. There is a lot of character development and personal reflection to be found in cleaning out the attic, to be sure, but when it comes to the bookstore the annual task that comes to mind is preparing the Holiday 20: our annual list of the top books for Holiday giving.
The term “top books for Holiday giving” may not come across as a model of precise definition, yet it touches on a very real distinction. This year, for example, I really wrestled with picking two books for the picture book category, which sounds preposterous given the number of good picture books published.
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It’s in the Bag

Josie Leavitt - November 16, 2016

I’ve written about holiday preparation many times. It’s vital to the success of the retail season and really cannot be overestimated. One thing that many of our customers enjoy are our tote bags. They’re made from recycled cotton, printed with a soy-based ink by a company in New Hampshire that’s run by women. The previous sentence makes me very happy, as everyone can feel good about our totes. Every bookstore should have some sort of fancy bag they give away as a a premium, because customers love them. I suspect that love comes from our pig right on the center of the bag, cute as can be, in purple ink, with our address info.  Continue reading

How Do We Best Support Kids?

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 14, 2016

Well, it’s been quite a week. The country is still reeling from the most divisive election in most of our lifetimes, and every conversation with a stranger — or even a neighbor — contains potential fireworks. The children are of course picking up on our individual and national cocktails of stress and anger and fear and suspicion, and there is ripe new fodder for bullying and marginalizing on playgrounds. We’ve all read the stories about what’s cropping up around the country, so the question at hand is, What do we do for our nation’s children that is truly helpful? And helpful right now, right this minute?
(Side note: Publishers and editors, authors and illustrators, we have a HUGE imperative. More on that at the end.)
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For the Times We Live In

Kenny Brechner - November 10, 2016

As I Iay awake early Wednesday morning, realizing, among other things, that I wasn’t going to use the humorous post I had prepared last week for today, I found myself enumerating some of the things children’s books convey to their readers. I ticked them off like a flock of sheep: hope, perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity, appreciation of differences, receiving comfort from others, standing up to bullies and for your beliefs, learning from mistakes, absorbing and moving on from misfortune, going to sleep at bedtime after a story. That kindness, empathy, sacrifice, and generosity of spirit, matter.
harriet2Another book lesson came to me, that some things matter more than others. When I first read Harriet the Spy I was 10, and loved it so much, I cried out against the ending. “Ole Golly is right, Sometimes you have to lie.” I didn’t want that to be so. When I read the book again three years later I saw that it was wise and true. Friendship was a matter of adjustment. Doing that which is most important matters and getting books into the hands and hearts of children matters deeply.
If Diogenes had used a children’s book instead of a lamp he might have had more luck finding decency in people. We know where to look.