2018 Trans Affirming Picture Book Wrap Up

Currently reading: The Wicked and the Divine vol. 2: The Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen
From Julián is a Mermaid.

Working in the book shop, I constantly encounter customers who are surprised at the range of books available that include LGBTQ+ content, especially for children. I am always pleased to tell them that there are more and more coming out every year – especially because I love picture books, and have a growing collection myself. That said, it can still be hard to find the books that are affirming for trans and enby children, if you don’t have access to a brick and mortar shop that can identify them. The following are my picks for gender-affirming books for children published in the last year. Please, if I’ve missed any here, visit my contact page, and let me know!

Picture Books Published in 2018

Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, appeared on lots of best-of lists for 2018. This affirming book is Love’s debut, about a young Afro-Latinx boy who experiments with dressing up as a mermaid in his abuela’s house. In the conclusion, they attend and join in the mermaid parade, an annual event at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. The lush watercolour illustrations and positive representation of non-white characters is what make this book stand out for me. Love says that this book was in part inspired by a trans family member of a boyfriend she had while writing the book.

Neither, by Airlie Anderson, is a colourful fever dream of a picture book suitable for the youngest audiences. It features a cast of misfit creatures who learn that they can reject binary identities and find happiness and friendship along the way. This book features a lot of rainbows, which is great for Pride season, and is perfect as an affirming springtime gift, as the main characters are reminiscent of the Peeps marshmallows.

From Neither.

Jamie is Jamie: A Book About Being Yourself and Playing Your Way, by Afsaneh Moradian, challenges gender stereotypes through the story of a child who encounters confusion among their peers when they want to play with a wide variety of toys. The book includes a section for adults who are interested in using playtime as a learning tool for children to learn about gender and related constructs. This book is written by an author of colour, and illustrated by Maria Bogade, who has worked on award-winning projects such as the Gruffalo.

I am including Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders because I wanted this list to be thorough, but this wouldn’t be my first recommendation. It’s an American-centric book that tells a whitewashed, gay male focused history of the rainbow flag. But also? Trans people are part of that rainbow, so. Make your own choices about this one. My alternate recommendation for this would be This Day in June, or M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book.

While Today I’ll Be a Unicorn, by Dana Simpson, does not feature openly trans characters, this book is trans affirming in that it is written and illustrated by a trans woman. Along with this book for young readers, Simpson also released Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theatre in 2018, the eighth and latest instalment in her wildly popular middle grade graphic novel series. The ninth book will be released in 2019.

From Today I’ll Be a Unicorn.

There are lots of picture book options for people seeking stories about boys and other masculine characters openly defying gender norms and embracing traditionally feminine aspects. King Alice, by Matthew Cordell, tells the story of an imaginative young girl who invents a story in which she is a king.

Jack (Not Jackie), by Erica Silverman, explores the complicated emotions that a cis sibling might navigate upon discovering that their sibling is trans. It has been criticised by some trans readers as it uses the MC’s deadname and the wrong pronouns in the book. It has also been criticised for ciscentrism, and use of stereotypes about trans people. For all these reasons, it would not be my recommendation for a trans reader, but it could be a useful learning tool for a cis audience. I also give this book bonus points for being the only book, to my knowledge, featuring an explicitly transgender child.

Pink is for Boys, by Robb Pearlman, encourages readers to think of colours as being for people of all genders, and to move away from the pink/blue representation of the gender binary. This book features a diverse cast of characters, including racialized and disabled youth. For me, this book is a 101 level book, suitable in particular for children who may be learning about gender for the first time.

Last but not least is Love, Z, the newest offering from Jessie Sima. Sima is the author of several LGBTQ affirming and representative picture books, including Not Quite Narwhal and Harriet Gets Carried Away. In this latest book, Z, a young robot, searches for the meaning of “love”, and along the way encounters a charming cast of characters, including a feline boat captain. Although this book is not explicit in having trans subject matter, it does have meaningful queer representation, and the main character, Z, is never gendered in this story. (It’s perfect. What I’m saying is, it’s perfect.)

From Love, Z.

Other Trans-Affirming Books for Children Published in 2018

Aquicorn Cove, by Katie O’Neill, and The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, are middle grade graphic novels that were released this year. Both have affirming representation of non-cis characters, and The Prince and the Dressmaker was created by an author of colour. Both of these books make fantastic read-aloud stories for younger readers, as they both feature vibrant illustrations, and the former has valuable environmental messages as well.

From Aquicorn Cove.

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, by Archie Bonglovanni and Tristan Jimerson, is a short, charming, 101-level graphic primer for adults in the lives of non-binary children or other children choosing to use gender neutral pronouns.

When I read the Gender Identity Workbook for Kids, by Kelly Storck LCSW, I found myself wishing that I had had this book as a child. This is a great workbook for children in the early reader range who are exploring the ways in which they experience gender, and for the adults in their lives. I recommend this educational tool highly.

PS, if you choose to purchase one of the books I’ve mentioned in this post, please follow one of the links. It’s an affiliate link, so you will be helping to support my work. If you are in the US, please use my Amazon US Affiliate. You can also always leave a tip for me through ko-fi

#BookishBloggersUnite: 2018 In Review

Currently reading: Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

One of the things that I’m really lucky to have access to in my bookish life is Book Riot Insiders, a community which gives me access to some great resources. One of those is a channel of rad book bloggers, who have offered me some great support in getting started out. I am charmed to have been invited to host the year-end tag post for #BookishBloggersUnite, and the theme that was chosen was a 2018 wrap up! 

For the past several years, I have made it my goal to read 50 books. In 2017, I made it to 41. The last book that I read that year was for a queer book club that I was part of at the time, and it also wound up being the most read book in the Toronto Public Library system that year – a pretty impressive feat, given that TPL is the largest library system in all of North America. The book was Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Margaret Thien. I closed out my reading year crying my eyes out over its final pages.

In 2018, I finally surpassed my goal of 50 books. I hope to review and write about many of them in the upcoming year. However, since this is a new project, I thought it might be interesting to offer some information about what I read. For me, 2018 is particularly poignant, because I took a lot of time off of school this year for personal reasons, and had more downtime to play with. I feel like the books I chose this year were really my choices, and say a lot about me as a reader, and probably as a bookseller, as well.

PS, if you choose to purchase one of the books I’ve mentioned in this post, please follow one of the links. It’s an affiliate link, so you will be helping to support my work. If you are in the US, please use my Amazon US Affiliate. You can also always leave a tip for me through ko-fi

#BookishBloggersUnite: Introduction

Currently reading: Jonny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead.

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Hello, world! It’s me, emmy. I’m a trans enby PhD student and indie bookseller in Toronto, Ontario. I read a tonne, and I’m beginning the arduous process of chipping away at writing a PhD dissertation, so I decided to start this blog to get back into the practice of writing, and keep up my reading pace. I’ve read a lot this past year, and I can’t wait to share some reviews and recommendations with you. I plan to post about twice a month, depending on my schedule. I love giving custom reading recommendations, so if that’s something you’re interested in, visit my contact page.

Although I won’t usually write about me, inspired by the bookish bloggers from Book Riot Insiders, I decided to begin with an introductory post that answers a few of their prompts.

Who/What got you into reading?

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, and I think that I can credit my grandmother. I was an only child raised by three generations of women all in the same house: my mom, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. We lived in an isolated place, and I can hardly remember a day that my grandmother didn’t have her nose buried in a book. By the time I was four, I was reading on my own, and I just… never stopped. It’s always been a comfort and an escape for me, and I’m not sure who I would be without books.

What are your favourite genres?

I read fiction written for any age group, and adult non-fiction. I’ve read an inordinate amount of non-fiction about animals, because of my academic interests. I don’t read a lot of books written by cis men, and I tend to gravitate heavily toward writing by trans, non-binary, and queer authors. As a white settler living on colonized land, I intentionally focus on books written by Indigenous authors. I love anything spooky.

What are your least favourite genres?

I don’t tend to enjoy comedy, romance, or history books. I don’t read a lot of mystery, popular fiction, or bestseller titles. I prefer long form to short stories or anthologies, and I have to be in the right head space to dig into poetry. The thing I struggle with the most as a bookseller is recommending books that people typically think of as light and fun, “beach read” kind of books.

If you had to choose between bringing a mediocre book series or one great standalone book to a deserted island, which would you pick?

While I don’t typically reread a lot of books, I am a wildly anxious person, and suspense is not my favourite! I enjoy books that are resolved within one volume more than stories that span many books, and I am absolutely adverse to picking up a series that hasn’t been concluded yet. I’d have to say one great standalone book.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you even have any organizational system?

Right now, I split my time between two places. One is a 450 square foot apartment in Toronto, which I share with one of my partners and four pets. We are squeezed for space, and this is where the majority of my books live! I keep them in small stacks of picture books, TBR, and a small selection of favourite books that are my permanent collection. I keep it small, though, because I move a lot! My TBR is divided into four sections right now. These are books that I intentionally sought out, ARCs and damaged books that I got from work, spooky books, and academic books. I usually read at least 2-4 books at a time, so depending on my mood and deadlines, I’ll go to a different stack to choose what I’ll pick up next.

Have you ever gone to any book signings? Which was your favorite?

The shop where I work has a very busy event calendar. In 2018, my favourite book event was the launch of Sarah Henstra’s novel, The Red Word, published by ECW Press. I was assigned to sell books at this event, and everything about it was unknown to me. Not only did the book go on to win the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction this year, but the event was an absolute delight. It was held at the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, which is the most elegant building I’ve encountered in Toronto, despite its unassuming facade. The author herself was charming, friendly, and stunning, and she was an engaging speaker and reader. Her signing was unique, as she’d had stamps made to use on each book to give them a personal touch. The excerpt she chose to read from the book intrigued me and made me laugh, and as icing on the cake, there were two enchanting folk musicians who played, and delicious snacks. It was an unexpectedly magical night.

Hardcovers or Paperbacks or eBooks or Audiobooks?

I read mostly physical books, with a preference for paperbacks for comfort reasons. However, I also make the 22 hour drive between Toronto and Denver on a regular basis, so since I began doing that, I’ve started using Libby to listen to audiobooks, and it has been a game changer for those long trips.

What makes you DNF a book?

A habit I developed during my high school IB program English class is this: if I read 100 pages of a book, and I am not enjoying it, it’s over. I rarely ever give a book more of a chance than that, and I’m fairly unapologetic about that. I am a firm believer that there are always more books in the world than one person will ever be able to read, and not every book is the right book for every reader.

Do you have a bookish pet?

I. Have. So. Many.

D and Boom are my retired racing greyhounds. They’re 10 years old, and I’ve had D since 2011, and Boom since 2013. I also have two formerly feral kittens, littermates, who are a year and a half old, named Whisper and Willow. In Denver, my partner has cats: Bailey, Odin, and Yuki; and an Australian shepherd mix named Kiba.

Do you enjoy readathons? If so, which ones can people find you participating in?

I have actually never done a readathon! Because so much of my reading life has been dominated by academic reading over the past 10 years or so, I’ve never taken on a readathon or a reading challenge. I do tend to make bookish new year’s resolutions… so maybe one day!

What is one part of bookish life you enjoy that isn’t reading?

One part of my job that I have an uncanny enjoyment for is sales pitch meetings from our publishers. I love getting a sneak peek at upcoming books, getting my hands on the ARCs they bring along, and getting excited about what’s to come for the book shop and for my own reading in the upcoming book season!