A Holiday Gift Guide to This Year’s LGBTQ+ Middle Grade Books

Library with many shelves and books, diminishing perspective and shallow dof
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This year’s LGBTQ-inclusive middle-grade books cover a wide range of identities, settings and moods. Here are some of the best. I’ve indicated the main LGBTQ+ representation in each; many also have additional LGBTQ+ characters.

Science fiction and fantasy: A queer fairy girl tries to save her world with the help of chosen family in “The Mossheart’s Promise” by Rebecca Mix (Balzer & Bray); three queer, Black protagonists lead the apocalyptic action tale “Alex Wise vs. the End of the World,” by Terry J. Benton-Walker (Labyrinth Road); two very different girls must unite to save their magical town from a spell gone awry (and maybe get their dads to date) in “Just a Pinch of Magic,” by Alechia Dow (Feiwel & Friends); and a girl attends a botanical boarding school to find a magical plant that can heal one of her two dads in “The Girl from Earth’s End,” by Tara Dairman (Candlewick).

Sci fi/fantasy graphic novels: Two-dad families star in “Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life,” by Emma Steinkellner (Labyrinth Road), set in an offbeat magical land; and in “Basil and Oregano,” by Melissa Capriglione (Dark Horse), about a magical culinary boarding school (and a two-girl relationship); while “Grace Needs Space!,” by Benjamin A. Wilgus, illustrated by Rii Abrego (Random House), centers a divorced, two-mom family living in space.

Sci fi/fantasy sequels: A sword-swinging, nonbinary hero seeks truth in “Sir Callie and the Dragon’s Roost,” by Esme Symes-Smith (Labyrinth Road); nonbinary characters are also among the multiple protagonists in “Fox Snare,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Disney-Hyperion), a space opera with echoes of Korean mythology; and the near-future “B.E.S.T. World: Some Assembly Required,” by Cory McCarthy (Clarion). Two-boy relationships/crushes feature in “From the World of Percy Jackson: The Sun and the Star,” by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro (Disney-Hyperion); the West African-inspired “Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials,” by Jamar J. Perry (Bloomsbury USA); and the futuristic, urban “Battle Dragons: City of Secrets,” by Alex London (Scholastic); while “Witchlings: The Golden Frog Games,” by Claribel A. Ortega (Scholastic) includes a two-girl crush in a magical town infused with Dominican culture; and “The Nameless Witch,” by Natalie C. Parker, illustrated by Tyler Champion (Razorbill) stars a queer werewolf girl with two moms and a trans sister.

Magic realism: A girl helps (and develops a crush on) the princess of a magical realm in “Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom,” by Nina Varela (Little, Brown); a bi girl with two dads gets stuck in a “Groundhog Day”-like time loop in “Vivian Lantz’s Second Chances,” by Kathryn Ormsbee (HarperCollins); a nerdy, Black, queer girl acquires strange powers in “Ellie Engle Saves Herself,” by Leah Johnson (Disney-Hyperion); and a gay boy stars in the Pinocchio-influenced “Matteo,” by Michael Leali (HarperCollins). A girl whose two moms run a magical bookshop learns about her sibling’s nonbinary identity in the novel in verse “The Lonely Book,” by Meg Grehan (Little Island); three friends, one of whom is nonbinary, must help a fairy return home in “One True Wish,” by Lauren Kate (Atheneum); a nonbinary tween whose mother is in rehab finds help from their animate shadow and their trans aunt in “The Beautiful Something Else,” by Ash Van Otterloo (Scholastic); and a nonbinary tween is the chosen mediator between dogs and humans in the hilarious graphic novel “The Dog Knight,” by Jeremy Whitley, with art by Melissa Capriglione and colors by Bre Indigo (Feiwel & Friends).

Spooky tales: Shiver with the trans boy protagonist in “The House That Whispers,” by Lin Thompson (Little, Brown); the nonbinary protagonist of “The Otherwoods,” by Justine Pucella Winans (Bloomsbury USA); and the queer mom families in the vampire tale “Don’t Want to Be Your Monster,” by Deke Moulton (Tundra Books); the Hindu-inspired graphic novel “Shakti,” by SJ Sindu, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (HarperAlley); and the fairy-tale-influenced “The Unsleeping Witch,” by Alexandra Overy (Inkyard).

Building community: A nonbinary figure skater works to make a place for themself in “Skating on Mars,” by Caroline Huntoon (Feiwel & Friends); and a girl finds purpose in the early ACT UP movement after her gay dad dies from complications of AIDS in “World Made of Glass,” by Ami Polonsky (Little, Brown).

Relationships (romantic and otherwise): Two queer girl protagonists alternate voices in the novel in verse “The Song of Us,” by Kate Fussner (Katherine Tegan), a loose retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice; a gay boy finds comfort in his mom’s recipes after she dies in “Eli Over Easy,” by Phil Stamper (HarperCollins); gender creative boys and a two-boy couple are among the group of imaginative friends in “The Cardboard Kingdom: Snow and Sorcery,” by Chad Sell (Knopf), the third volume in the graphic novel series; and a girl comes out as asexual in “Just Lizzie,” by Karen Wilfrid (Clarion).

Health, mental health and neurodiversity: A boy with obsessive compulsive disorder finds a nonbinary crush in the graphic novel “Buzzing,” by Samuel Sattin, illustrated by Rye Hickman (Little, Brown); two girls (one of whom is autistic and has ADHD) deepen their interest in engineering and each other in “The Problem With Gravity,” by Michelle Mohrweis (Peachtree); an autistic, trans boy moves through grief after a friend’s death in the novel-in-verse “Dear Mothman,” by Robin Gow (Amulet); two middle-school boys, one with anxiety and one who is gay, confront personal and social challenges in “You Owe Me One, Universe,” by Chad Lucas (Amulet), the second book in the series; a gay theater kid with anxiety navigates friendships and crushes in “Forsooth,” by Jimmy Matejek-Morris (Carolrhoda); queer protagonists with Crohn’s disease star in “Will on the Inside,” by Andrew Eliopulos (Quill Tree), and the hysterical and touching “The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet,” by Jake Maia Arlow (Dial).

Pure queer joy: The nonbinary-led caper “Elle Campbell Wins Their Weekend,” by Ben Kahn (Scholastic), has strong Ferris Bueller vibes; queer community shines in “Camp QUILTBAG,” by A. J. Sass and Nicole Melleby (Algonquin); and a nonbinary kid with a “pretty great” life has a crush on a puzzling classmate in “Green,” by Alex Gino (Scholastic), set in the same world as their Stonewall Award-winning “Melissa.”

For longer reviews and even more books, visit my Database of LGBTQ Family Books.

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