10 for Spring: Kids

Pride Month is here, along with SO MANY exciting queer books. Before we move onto new releases, we want to highlight a few books that have already hit the shelves that we’re excited about. As we wrote in our earlier post, there will be a separate slate of Children’s contenders so our posts will be separated from here on out.

#1. Bathe the Cat by Alice B McGinty, illus. David Roberts (picture book)

Publisher Marketing: Bathe the floor? Sweep the dishes? This riotous romp of a picture book follows a frantic family as they try to get some chores done—with no help from the family cat, who keeps scrambling the list of chores with hilarious effects. Get ready for a rollicking read-aloud with a truly purrfect ending.

Our Thoughts: This book is storytime gold, featuring a two-dad family and a sneaky cat. It’s a delightful example of queer stories about everyday life. The energetic art is a pitch-perfect match. 

#2. In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again.

Our Thoughts: Keen eyes might recognize the cover art is by Tonya Engel, who also illustrated the Stonewall Award winning Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender. Could Lockington’s latest be the next standard setter for queer middle grade? We think it stands a chance.

#3. Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, illus. Kaylani Juanita (picture book)

Publisher Marketing: A little girl stays home with Mama when Mommy goes off on a work trip in this tender, inviting story that will resonate with every child who has missed a parent.

Our Thoughts: It’s still relatively uncommon to find a picture book where queer parents are neither background characters nor something to be explained to or accepted by others, so this one feels extra special. Printz winner LaCour and Stonewall winner Juanita deliver a story fo big feelings with their signature beauty and quiet. 

#4. Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Our Thoughts: We’ve been waiting on stellar autistic queer rep in middle grade, and this books delivers. The school trip scavenger hunt to famous Barcelona sites makes for a fun backdrop as Ellen finds new comfort in their queer sexuality and gender identity while navigating tough middle school social interactions.

#5. Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild, illus. Charlene Chua (picture book)

Publisher Marketing: Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Charlene Chua is a touching picture book about friendship and the courage it takes to share your feelings.

Our Thoughts: As far as we know, this is one of the only picture books from a mainstream publisher portraying a sapphic crush between kids! A 2022 Lambda Literary Award finalist with two starred reviews, this sweet story is sure to be in the running for the Real Committee’s attention. 

#6. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: Percy Jackson meets Tristan Strong in this hilarious, action-packed middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.

Our Thoughts: Zhao’s middle grade series-starter promises to bring the inventive world-building, high stakes action, sharp social commentary, and queer affirmation that made their YA debut Iron Widow so compelling. The mash up of gaming with Chinese myth and history, told through the perspective of a gay Hui Muslim Chinese-American lead, makes this one we can’t wait to get our hands on.

#7. Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: When a nonbinary tiger spirit named Sebin finally gets their chance to follow in their Uncle Hwan’s footsteps in the Thousand World Space Forces, it’s more of a nightmare than a dream come true.

Our Thoughts: Tiger Honor imagines an intergalactic future where being nonbinary isn’t outside the ordinary. The nonbinary main character interacts with several nonbinary adults over the course of the story, which is pretty unprecedented. This casual inclusion is great to see in middle grade, and all the more exciting in a fast-paced space adventure that draws on Korean mythology.

#8. The Civil War of Amos Abernathy by Michael Leali (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: A heartfelt debut novel about a boy’s attempt to find himself in the history he loves—perfect for fans of Dear Sweet Pea and From the Desk of Zoe Washington.

Our Thoughts: The premise of this book is deliciously specific. We’re thankful to see more rural queer stories being published, especially if they are as good as this debut seems to be. 

#9. The Best Liars in Riverview by Lin Thompson (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: In the woods of a small Kentucky town, Aubrey sets off on a journey about growing up, self-discovery, and acceptance while searching for their missing best friend—perfect for fans of King and the Dragonflies and Three Times Lucky.

Our Thoughts: A distinctive voice, keen observations about gender, and heartfelt appeals to empathy make this a stand-out addition to nonbinary middle grade. Bonus points for another rural queer story, too!

#10. The Lock-Eater by Zack Loran Clark (middle grade)

Publisher Marketing: For fans of Nevermoor and Howl’s Moving Castle comes an epic fantasy about a girl with the ability to unlock anything—including the empire’s darkest secrets.

Our Thoughts: Contemporary realistic fiction overshadows fantasy in the Stonewall canon but this book could help break the mold. Middle grade fantasy with a sapphic crush AND strong worldbuilding? Sounds like a skip to the top of the TBR pile.

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