Recently my library director charged me with an assignment. “I want our library to have the best collection of LGBTQI literature in the state of Maine.” For the uninitiated, this acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex, and it led to an enlightening research project. I looked at dozens of book lists and read hundreds of reviews, finally selecting about 40 new titles for preschoolers to high schoolers for the library collection.
One of the things I soon learned is that this genre congregates around two poles: picture books for kids with nontraditional families, and teen books about budding sexuality. There is very little out there between My Two Mommies and Two Boys Kissing.
That’s why discovering Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle was so refreshing. Here is a chapter book geared to ages 10-13 about Nate Foster, a middle school boy who loves show tunes.
My old friend Mort asked if I could recommend books for his 4 1/2 year-old grandson, and YES, Mort, I can. This one’s for you!
Four is a fun age because kids are just starting to break down language in a way that will soon be actual reading, and they comprehend books at a different level. They start to get the jokes, for instance, when the words tell one story but the pictures tell another, and can sit and listen to longer, more interesting books. This is an easy age to recommend for because there are so many wonderful picture books out there.
Let’s focus on the BOY part for a minute. Currently superheroes are BIG among the preschool set (They are’t the only ones. I just got home from the movie Captain America 2 with my 12-year-old). And while the product placement books published by Marvel and Disney are huge sellers, there are many more creative books out there with a superhero theme.
One of my older favorites is Dex: the Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Beuhner. This is the story of a diminutive dog who, through hard work and determination, becomes the neighborhood hero. It is totally lovable, with comic book flair and a great message.
What makes a kid love a book? We always look for logical reasons that books appeal to certain kids: she loves dogs, he loves swordplay; she might want to read about girls with crushes, he probably doesn’t.
But it is refreshing to be reminded that sometimes love for a book, like love for art, is simply intuitive; no logic required.
There is nothing that made The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata jump out as a book I would connect with. In fact, if I had read the description in the front of the book I might not have picked it up. True confession: I just liked the cheerful yellow cover, and, let’s face it, the National Book Award seal didn’t hurt.
But I LOVE this book in a way I can’t entirely explain.