Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

LGBT History Month

Rainbow Pride Heart

A guest blog by Charlie Morris

It’s LGBT History Month in February, where we celebrate the stories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals and all those who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, that have helped us in our journey to being a more fair, equal and inclusive society for everyone. One way to help ensure a future that is accepting and kind is to share books that encourage empathy, and give LGBTQ+ characters a story of their own. Here are some suggestions to add to your book shelves in 2021.

Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

Picture Books

The Boys – Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie (April) Follow the adventures of four boys as they grow up, forming bonds of friendship to last a lifetime - even if they are occasionally put to the test...Ace and Løvlie’s gentle journey to adulthood is an inclusive and heartwarming read that challenges toxic masculinity and demonstrates the importance of mutual support.

WHAT ARE YOUR WORDS? – Katherine Locke, illustrated by Anne Passchier (May)  Follow Ari through their neighborhood as they try to find their words in this sweet, accessible introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns that is perfect for readers of all ages. Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages.

My Daddies - Gareth Peter and Garry Parsons (May)  A funny, heartfelt picture-book: perfect for introducing children to the different kinds of family there are in the world today, and celebrating story time together. Set off on a series of incredible adventures with an adorable family as the stories they read burst into colourful life. Battle dragons, dodge deadly dinosaurs, zoom to the moon and explore the world in a hot air balloon, before winding down in a wonderfully cosy bedtime ending.

Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate (May) Grandad's camper van is hidden away in the garage - now Gramps isn't around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn't be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad's granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up...

The Pirate Mums – Jodie Mullish and Lydia Corry (June) Billy's family is not what you'd call ordinary. His mums won't listen to NORMAL music. They love to sing sea shanties and dance jigs in the lounge. Their clothes are highly unusual, they have a rude parrot for a pet, and their taste in house design is, well . . . FISHY. Billy wishes his family could be more like everyone else's. Until a swashbuckling adventure changes everything!

ABC of Gender Identity – Devika Dalal (June) This bright and playful A - Z introduces young readers to 26 gender identities to help raise awareness and acceptance of different genders. Gender identity is an important part of who we are, and how we express ourselves in the world, and this book aims to help children better understand themselves and those around them. With simple explanations, a helpful guide for adults, and a diverse cast of illustrated characters, this is the perfect book for exploring diversity, acceptance and equality with children age 5+.

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman - Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew (September) Far out to sea and deep below the whispering waves lives a merman called Nen. Nen spends his days exploring his underwater kingdom, but something is missing: his heart is empty. So, Nen ventures to the forbidden world above and it is here that he meets Ernest, a lonely fisherman. But can two people from different worlds be together and what will happen when a terrifying storm gathers? A lyrical, beautiful celebration of love, acceptance and faith, with a gentle message about how we treat our oceans, and each other.

Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

Middle Grade (Age 8-12) FICTION

Meow or Never – Jazz Taylor (out now) A heartwarming story of secret pets and secret crushes... and learning to take center stage! Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn't mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she's feeling stressed (which is a lot these days). As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school's musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role! She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Proud of Me – Sarah Hagger-Holt (February) An accessible child-centred story about self-acceptance and the importance of opening up to those closest to you. Becky and Josh are almost-twins, with two mums and the same anonymous donor dad. Josh can't wait until he's eighteen, the legal age when he can finally contact his donor, and he'll do anything to find out more - even if it involves lying. Becky can't stop thinking about her new friend, Carli. Could her feelings for Carli be a sign of something more? Becky and Josh both want their parents to be proud of them...but right now, they're struggling to even accept themselves.

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean (Author)  Sandhya Prabhat (Illustrator) (February) The rainbow-filled, JOYOUS debut from a hugely exciting new talent. Things aren't going great for Archie Albright. His dad's acting weird, his mum too, and he all he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad's pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow, an adventure away. Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it...

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G! – Jenny Carney (April) Enter the hilarious world of Billie Upton Green . . . The start of an exciting new series full of Billie's laugh-out-loud observations and doodles! There is a new girl at Billie's school, and Billie takes it upon herself to show her around, teach her the Biscuit Laws, and remind her that yes, two women can get married (after all, Billie's mums' wedding is the event of the year). But then suspicion sets in. The new girl seems very close to Billie's best friend Layla. And doesn't she know a little too much about the latest big school heist - the theft of Mrs Robinson's purse...?

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency: The Edge of the Ocean – LD Lapinski (April) Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside...Flick is now a badge-wearing member of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency so when an urgent summons arrives at Strangeworlds from Pirate Queen Nyfe, she and Strangeworlds Society guardian Jonathan immediately pack their bags for an adventure to Queen Nyfe's world: The Break, a place of magic and piracy. Nyfe's world is falling apart. The Break is used to having ships vanish without a trace, but there has been a sudden increase that can't be explained by giant squid or mer-people. The edge of their flat world is coming ever closer to them and they need to escape before it collapses entirely. But how do you sail a ship through a suitcase? How do you fit a mer-queen the size of a whale into something small enough to carry in your hand? Will Flick and Jonathan be able to find a way to transport the inhabitants of the Break to another world before theirs disappears forever?

Thanks A Lot, Universe – Chad Lucas (May) Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn't know if things will ever be "normal" again . . . Ezra's always been popular. He's friends with most of the kids on his basketball team--even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he's too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . . But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they're willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they'd rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves--and each other.

Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

MIDDLE GRADE (AGE 8-12) NON-FICTION

Making A Baby: An Inclusive Guide to How Every Family Begins by Rachel Greener (Author) Clare Owen (Illustrator) In this honest, accessible illustrated guide to how babies are made, young readers can find out exactly what is needed to grow a baby, from introducing the basic building blocks of life such as sperm and eggs, to explaining the different ways that these building blocks can be put together to create a family.Working closely with a leading national LGBT organisation, this inclusive guide to Making a Baby covers sex, sperm and egg donation, IUI, IVF, surrogacy and adoption, as well as explaining how a baby grows in the womb and about different kinds of births. Written in gentle and accessible language that can be shared with younger children or read alone by confident readers, we hope this book and its clear illustrations will provide the stepping stone for every parent to have an open conversation with their child about how babies are made, and their family began.

The Big Book of LGBTQ+ Activities: Teaching Children About Gender Identity, Sexuality, Relationships and Different Families by Amie Taylor (Author) and  Liza Stevens (Illustrator) With 5 fun tales featuring merpeople, a rainbow wedding and a back-to-front horse, this captivating guide to LGBTQ+ identities takes you on a journey through Clear Sky Castle to promote inclusion for children aged 6 to 9. The interactive stories and games - including drawing, sculpting, word searches and quizzes - raise awareness of different kinds of families, as well as identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary, and teach acceptance for all. The resourceful 'Guide for Adults' at the end of the book offers advice, answers to activities throughout, and signposts to helpful organisations for the adult reading the book with the child.

All Boys Aren't Blue – George M Johnson (March) This powerful YA memoir-manifesto follows journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson as they explore their childhood, adolescence, and college years, growing up under the duality of being black and queer. From memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at age five to their loving relationship with their grandmother, to their first sexual experience, the stories wrestle with triumph and tragedy and cover topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, inequality, consent, and Black joy.

Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

Young Adult 13+


Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth – Sex Education meets Derry Girls in the next YA book from the author of The Falling in Love Montage. When Aideen agrees to help ambitious class swot Maebh Kowalski deal with her crazy workload, she doesn’t expect to end up reluctantly pushing Maebh down the stairs. With this, Aideen becomes the school ‘fixer’: any problem a student has, Aideen will sort it out, from stealing confiscated mobiles to breaking into parties. All she asks for is a favour in return. But Aideen’s own life is a mess – her mam’s drinking again, her BFF Holly is avoiding her and she’s skipping school. Spending more time with the uptight (but annoyingly cute) Maebh and chatterbox Kavi, Aideen starts to wonder: can every problem be solved?

The Deep-Sea Duke – Lauren James Hugo is spending the holidays on his friend Dorian's home planet, Hydrox. Although thrilled at the invitation, Hugo is still astonished that Duke Dorian could possibly want to be friends with an android watchmaker like him. But when the pair land on Hydrox along with their friend Ada, they soon discover that there are much bigger problems afoot. A race of butterflies from a neighbouring star system have evacuated their now-uninhabitable planet, and Hydrox is struggling to find space for the growing number of refugees. Meanwhile, deep in the seas beneath Dorian's home, a strange creature is on a path of destruction ... Can the unlikely trio step in before the crisis gets out of control? Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 12+

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins (out now)Felipe doesn't believe someone like Caio could ever fall for someone like him. But over the next fifteen days, everything will change ... If you love Rainbow Rowell and Heartstopper, you'll fall for this body-positive love story about the assumptions we make about each other, and the bravery you need to be yourself. Felipe is fat. And he doesn't need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That's why he's been waiting for summer: a break from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on TV, finishing his TBR pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he'll never actually put into practice. But things get a little out of hand when Felipe's mom informs him that Caio, the neighbour kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next fifteen days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he's had a crush on Caio since, well, for ever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he's going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks. Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself - but maybe, just maybe, he'll manage to win over Caio, too. A queer love story for anyone who's ever got into a pool with their shirt on.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigardir Nishat and Flávia are rivals at school, but Nishat can't help the secret crush burning in her heart - even though her parents disapprove of the fact she likes girls. Can she possibly find her happy ever after?  When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants - as long as she isn't herself. Because Muslim girls aren't lesbians. Nishat doesn't want to lose her family, but she also doesn't want to hide who she is, which only gets harder once Flávia walks into her life. Beautiful and charismatic, Flávia takes Nishat's breath away. But as their lives become tangled, they're caught up in a rivalry that gets in the way of any feelings they might have for each other. Can Nishat find a way to be true to herself... and find love too? Adiba Jaigirdar is a stunning new voice in young adult fiction, writing uplifting, authentic stories from a Bengali-Irish perspective. Adiba’s second YA book, Hani & Ishu’s Guide To Fake Dating, publishes later this year.

Afterlove by Tanya Byrne THE LESBIAN LOVE STORY YOU'VE BEEN DYING TO READ. Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death. Car headlights.The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she's still here. Or is she? This New Year's Eve, Ash is gets an RSVP from the afterlife she can't decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city's dead to await their fate. But Ash can't forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again ... even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive ... NOT EVEN DEATH CAN TEAR THEM APART.

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta (Sept) Mack never thought he'd find love, but now two boys want to be with him. Will he choose Karim or Finlay? And can true love last for ever? A must-read queer love story for fans of Sarah Crossan and Sex Education, written in verse by Dean Atta. Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic - he blames the films he's grown up watching. He has liked Karim for as long as he can remember, and is ecstatic when Karim becomes his boyfriend - it feels like love. But when Mack's dad gets a job on a film in Scotland, Mack has to move, and soon hediscovers how painful love can be. It's horrible being so far away from Karim, but the worst part is that Karim doesn't make the effort to visit. Love shouldn't be only on the weekends. Then, when Mack meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful, a feeling like love at first sight. How long until he tells Karim - and when will his old life and new life collide?

The Outrage by William Hussey (April) Welcome to England, where the Protectorate enforces the Public Good. Here, there are rules for everything - what to eat, what to wear, what to do, what to say, what to read, what to think, who to obey, who to hate, who to love. Your safety is assured, so long as you follow the rules. Gabriel is a natural born rule-breaker. And his biggest crime of all? Being gay. Gabriel knows his sexuality must be kept secret from all but his closest friends, not only to protect himself, but to protect his boyfriend. Because Eric isn't just the boy who has stolen Gabriel's heart. He's the son of the chief inspector at Degenerate Investigations ­­­- the man who poses the single biggest threat to Gabriel's life. And the Protectorate are experts at exposing secrets.

You’re The One That I Want – Simon James Green (June) No more Mr Nice Guy!

Freddie has a reputation for being inoffensive, sweet, kind – and therefore completely un-dateable.

As he starts sixth form, Freddie decides that this nice guy isn’t going to finish last any more. No more missing out on parties because he’s got to do his homework. No more saying no when he really wants to say yes. And most of all no more lusting after unobtainable straight boys who enjoy the attention but ultimately break his heart. Freddie embarks on a series of changes designed to transform his social and romantic life, and suddenly he’s a drama darling, getting invited to all the popular kids’ parties, and hot new boy Zach is showing an interest. Life couldn’t be better!  But the path to love is never smooth – and Freddie’s about to learn that changing everything about yourself isn’t necessarily a foolproof way of finding the right person…


Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

What’s the T? – Juno Dawson (February) Discover what it means to be a young transgender or non-binary person in the twenty-first century in this frank and funny guide for 14+ teens. Juno Dawson defines a myriad of labels and identities and offers uncensored advice on coming out, sex and relationships with her trademark humour and lightness of touch. Juno has also invited her trans and non-binary friends to make contributions, ensuring this inclusive book reflects as many experiences as possible, and features the likes of Travis Alabanza and Jay Hulme. The companion title to the groundbreaking This Book Is Gay , What's the T? tackles the complex realities of growing up trans with honesty and humour, and is joyfully illustrated by gender non-conforming artist Soofiya.

Our Hidden Gifts – Caroline Donaghue (June) A dark and supernatural contemporary teen debut by multi-talented author and journalist Caroline O'Donoghue. Maeve Chambers doesn't have much going for her. Not only does she feel like the sole idiot in a family of geniuses, she managed to drive away her best friend Lily a year ago. But when she finds a pack of dusty old tarot cards at school, and begins to give scarily accurate readings to the girls in her class, she realizes she's found her gift at last. Things are looking up – until she discovers a strange card in the deck that definitely shouldn't be there. And two days after she convinces her ex-best friend to have a reading, Lily disappears. Can Maeve, her new friend Fiona and Lily's brother Roe find her? And will Maeve's new gift be enough to bring Lily back, before she's gone for good?

Love Is For Losers – Wibke Brueggeman (out now) A laugh out loud look at first love, loss and trying to avoid the girl of your dreams. As far as Phoebe Davis is concerned, love is to be avoided at all costs. Why would you spend your life worrying about something that turns you into a complete moron? If her best friend Polly is anything to go by, the first sniff of a relationship makes you forget about your friends (like, hello?), get completely obsessed with sex (yawn) and bang on constantly about a person who definitely isn't as great as you think they are. So Phoebe isn't going to fall in love, ever. But then she meets Emma . . . Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann is a hilarious, life-affirming novel about all the big stuff: love, sex, death, family, heartbreak, kittens . . . and kisses that turn the whole world upside down.

Rosewood book 4 (Princess at Heart) – Connie Glynn Return to the magical world of The Rosewood Chronicles in the fourth instalment of this gorgeous series for fans of The Princess Diaries and Harry Potter. Ellie is a rebellious princess hiding her real identity. Lottie is her Portman, acting as the princess for the public to shield Ellie from scrutiny. Jamie is Ellie's Partizan, a lifelong bodyguard sworn to protect the princess at any cost. Lottie, Ellie and Jamie are back for another year at Rosewood - but nothing will ever be the same again. They're still reeling from their discovery that someone rather close to home is leader of Leviathan - the group determined to take the princess down at any cost. Together they must piece together clues to Leviathan's evil plans. But this is far from simple - especially as an undercover Leviathan agent is in their midst. Friendships are at stake, families must be reunited and hearts are at risk of breaking . . .

Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (June) A compelling, incendiary, and unputdownable thriller with a shocking twist, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism with this compulsive debut. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students' dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can't escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn't afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they're planning much more than a high-school game...

Felix Ever After - Kacen Callender Felix Love has never been in love - and, yes, he's painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it's like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What's worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he's one marginalisation too many - Black, queer and transgender - to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages - after publicly posting Felix's deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned - Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn't count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle . . .But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognising the love you deserve.

A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR – Ashley Shuttleworth (February) The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling fantasy where four queer teens race to stop a serial killer before their crimes expose the hidden world of faeries to humans. Choose your player. The half-fae outcast, desperate for acceptance. The tempestuous Fury, exiled and hellbent on revenge. The dutiful prince, determined to earn his place. The brooding guardian, burdened by a terrible secret. Each holds a key to solving a series of ritualistic murders that threaten to expose faeries to the human world. But they cannot do it alone. To track down the killer, they will have to form a tenuous alliance, putting their differences - and conflicts - aside. Failure risks the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. And time is running out. Time to roll the dice.

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson (July) A stunning novel about being brave enough to be true to yourself, and learning to find joy even when times are unimaginably dark. Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival. Toni is grieving the loss of her roadie father and needing to figure out where her life will go from here - and she's desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) and is beginning to feel like she'll always be a square peg in a round hole - but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits.The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.


Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

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Charlie Morris is Senior Publicity and Marketing Executive at Little Tiger Group, a former independent bookseller, and social media manager for the Pride in Publishing network. At Little Tiger, Charlie works across all children’s books from board books to Young Adult fiction. Find her on twitter @charlieinabook 

Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

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Toppsta
2021-02-04
LGBT History Month

31st January 2021

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