Trans books for young people

posted Oct 20, 2012, 8:46 PM by jj pionke
I am in Kids Lit (not the real title) this semester.  I've taken a kid's lit class before but it focused on teens and honestly, the professor of that course didn't do that much of a good job.  I always got the impression that he kind of didn't keep it up to date and while the class focused on teen lit as a genre, it always felt very one-dimensional.  At any rate, the class I am in now is focused on kids lit in terms of being a librarian.  As far as classes go, this isn't a great fit for me because I focus more on academic librarianship, but since I do teach teenagers I figured this might give me some insight into trends, new books to teach, etc.  Alas, the class is focused more on children than on teens and the teacher has been a bit resistent to letting me modify some of the assignments so they fit my needs a little better - it is what it is.  That said, it's been fun.  I haven't read kids books since I was a kid for the most part so reading so many (we have to write 50 reviews) has been an eye opener and allows me to really see what makes a good kids book and a not so good one.  As we are getting later in the term, people are kind of focusing a bit on more specific things.  I'm focusing on lit for trans kids. 

On the one hand, there's not a lot out there.  On the other hand, there is more than you think, it just depends on how you look at it.  Alas, many trans books are mislabeled.  So, a book like Mommy, Mama, and Me is about a child growing up with gay parents, not a child who is transgender.  I'm not knocking these books!  We need to have them.  However, they don't speak to the transgender or gender questioning experience of youth.  Luckily, there are starting to be more books out there that do focus on this issue.  Below is a list of books that I have read and I have included the review I wrote for class (ungraded as of this writing!).  Links go to Amazon so you can check them out for yourself if you wish.  Your local library may or may not have these books and if they don't, request them!  Libraries like to hear from their patrons in regards to what they want to read!

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako

The story focuses on Nitori and his confusion with his desire to be a girl and how Takatsuki struggles in the same way with her desire to be a boy. We see them both trying to figure out who they are in this coming of age story that deals with social perception, siblings, friends, and gender identity. This is a manga book which is a comic book done in a specific Japanese style with large eyes as a main feature and characters in middle school or junior high (the story is set in middle school). The illustrations are black and white and the book is read from back to front, the way traditional Japanese books are read. The characters are drawn very similarly to each other which makes keeping track of them a little difficult at times. That said, the confusion, insecurity, and fear of having a socially taboo secret are well handled. This is the first book in a series meant for young adults. Highly recommended for young adults who are having gender disphoria. Highly recommended.

10,000 Dresses Story by Marcus Ewert, Illustrations by Rex Ray

Bailey is a boy who dreams of beautiful dresses that she wants to wear.  This unique story is aimed at acceptance of children who might be struggling with gender identity.  Bailey's dress dreams are the same but feature a different dress each time (a dress made of flowers or another one made of crystals).  Not everyone accepts that Bailey wants to be a girl and where dresses though.  Illustrations are done in bright primary colors with sharp lines that make them stand out as if each item had been cut from magazines.  The overall effect is fun, colorful, and vibrant.  Third graders will more than likely be able to read this book to themselves, but younger children will need the book read to them.  Words are simple, medium large, and in multiple colors.  Kids who are struggling with their gender identity, especially boys who like girl things, will like this book.  Highly Recommended.

My Princess Boy Story by Cheryl Kilodavis, Illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone

Revolving around a four year old boy who likes to dress up as a girl, Princess Boy is loved by his family but sometimes is made fun of by others.  This is a story of tolerance and perception.  Illustrations are done in watercolors on the pastel spectrum.  Characters are people of color, though they are faceless which allows for easier character identification between the reader and the story.  Language is easy to understand with words being medium large on the page.  This is not a book for a child just learning to read, but is one for a child who has some vocabulary.  A good storytime book, especially for boys who like girl things, there is a clear message of tolerance and acceptance.  Highly Recommended.

Backwards Day Story by S. Bear Bergman, Illustrations by KD Diamond

Andrea is a girl who looks forward to the one day a year on the planet Tenalp where she will be a boy, Backwards Day! One year, she remains a girl and the next day wakes up as a boy and appears to be staying that way. Told with wonderful little details like there are no roads so everyone gets around by boat or that one of the seasons is where bubblegum falls from the sky, children will love the whimsey and identify with Andrea who likes to play sports and with friends. Illustrations are done in crayon with bold primary colors which are fun in a style similar to Keith Haring. This is not a book that is easy to read for young children and is instead, a storytime book, in part because the text is a bit on the small side for a picture book. Children who have been struggling with their gender identity, as well as children who like science fiction/fantasy, will enjoy this book. Highly Recommended.

Be Who You Are!  Story by Jennifer Carr, Illustrated by Ben Rumback

Told from the third person point of view, the narrative follows Nick as he goes from being a boy to being a girl named Hope. Illustrations are pastel watercolors, mostly in roundels. Text is simple, done in larger type. Though the story starts out as a book that second through fourth graders could read, the incidences of illustrations lessen overtime and there is more text on the page making this book more of a storytime type of text rather than a read alone type of book. For those who are struggling with acceptance of a gender variant child, this is a must read. Children who are thinking about their gender identity will enjoy this book in part because it is a story about people like them and in part because the story shows a lot of acceptance. Highly Recommended.

The Adventures of Tulip: Birthday Wish Fairy Story by S. Bear Bergman, Illustrated by Suzy Malik

Tulip is a fairy that grants wishes and he goes on a journey to understand children that wish to change genders. Imaginative and full of whimsey, Tulip's story is a lesson in tolerance. The illustrations are in bright pastel colors done in computer graphic style. Tulip himself is brown-toned with a spiral haircut. The text is medium sized in black ink and there is a great deal of it. This is certainly not a book for beginning readers to read to themselves because of the amount of text present but it would make a great storytime book for a small group of kids. Children who like complex stories, want a challenging read, and are exploring gender identity will love this book. Highly Recommended.