It’s the last Sunday of Pride Month, so we’re wrapping up the celebration with a romantic comedy for young gay boys and picture books about children of same-sex parents or grandparents.
“A bit of country” by Brian D. Kennedy (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99)
The words are stuck in my throat. I know how much Emmett wants to hear them. But I can’t bring myself to say them. Because I’m not sure they’re real. I really like Emmett. More than I ever thought possible. But I can count the number of people I’ve said “I love you” to on the one hand. and they’re all family, so I didn’t really have a choice… With Emmett, love is too scary.
This gentle start from an author who grew up in St. Paul and Mendota Heights is an easy and enjoyable summer read that’s as much a mystery as it is a story about Emmett and Luke, who can’t ignore their attraction to each other. ‘other.
Emmett is from Oak Park, Illinois and is looking forward to getting away from home to work for a summer at Wanda World, owned by his country music idol Wanda Jean. (The author admits on his website that one of his “slightly unhealthy obsessions is all things Dolly Parton.”) Emmett hopes his summer as an entertainer at the amusement park will be the first step in his goal of becoming country music’s first gay superstar.
Luke, who lives in the Wanda World town of Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, is burdened with family obligations and thinks he can’t be gay because his mother would never forgive him. He hates country music because something happened between his grandmother and Wanda years earlier, and Luke thinks it destroyed his family.
The two young men do not know where their relationship is going because their goals are so different. Emmett urges Luke out, but Luke isn’t ready. Yet they secretly meet at Wanda World, amid the sweet smells of carnival and the sounds of people having fun. (There’s no overt gender in the narrative, and it’s handled so delicately that even would-be censors won’t find reason to grasp their pearls.)
After the men discover a stash of songs hidden away by Luke’s grandmother, their feelings about country music must be overhauled as it seems Wanda Jean is living a lie.
Kennedy, who lives in New York with her husband and photogenic dog, will be in person at the Red Balloon Bookshop, 891 Grand Ave., at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, to sign books and talk about her novel with a guest. author Emily J. Taylor. There will be special launch party favors during this free program. Space is limited, so a ticket is required. Register until June 29, 4:30 p.m., at redballoonbookshop.com. Face coverings are mandatory.
“Katy has two grandpas” by Julie Schanke Lyford and Robert A. Schanke, art by Mariia Luzina (Wise Ink, $18.95)
Katy is excited about Grandparents Day at her school because she has two grandfathers. But she stutters, so she hardly ever speaks. Grandpa Bob and Grandpa Jack are two of his favorite people. But when the teacher asks the children to talk about their grandparents, she doesn’t understand what Katy is saying because of her lisp, and she thinks the little girl is talking about a grandmother and a grandfather. . Katy’s big sister takes her to the teacher, who is so sorry for making a mistake. But Katy is still worried. The children are supposed to introduce their grandparents in front of the class and she is afraid that everyone will laugh at her speech impediment. But when she sees all kinds of grandmothers and grandfathers, she is proud to introduce her grandfathers: “They are married… TO EACH OTHER”. Her classmates cheer and Katy laughs.
This cheerful book, with bright and energetic illustrations, is written by a father-daughter team. Julie Lyford lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and two daughters and is an LGBTQ+ activist. She and her book were highlighted in a February 21 Publishers Weekly article crediting her with persuading Amazon to create its new LGBTQ+ Families children’s book category.
Robert Schanke is a retired college theater teacher who has lived in Des Moines, Iowa, with his husband of 34 years. Her books were finalists for the Lambda Literary Award.
“I love you, Violet” lyrics by Charlotte Sullivan Wild, images by Charlene Chua (Farrar Straus Giroux, $18.99)
Violet, who always wears a hat that’s a cross between a fedora and a cowboy hat, is left speechless by Mira, the cheerful laughing girl. Violet wants to go on an adventure with Mira, but whenever Violet wants to tell the girl how she feels, she becomes shy. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Violet makes a special Valentine’s Day for Mira, but the wind blows her way. When Violet makes a snow angel and falls, the other children laugh at her. But Mira does not. Instead, she hands Violet a locket with a small violet inside. And the girls go on an adventure…together.
Charlotte Wilds Sullivan, a Minneapolis native with an MFA from Hamline University, wrote most of this book in the Twin Cities with support from Minnesota community organizations and grants. She blogs that she was a kid like Violet, with crushes on other girls.
Molly B. Ellis, executive director of publicity for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, says it’s one of the first picture books from a major publisher to depict a queer crush between girls.
“Mom and Mom and Me in the Middle” by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick Press, $17.99)
Mom is African American, Mom is white, and the unnamed little narrator is in the middle, especially during hugs and mealtimes. The story takes place during a week when Mom is on a business trip and she misses Mom and the narrator very much. There are phone calls during which they express their love for each other, and when the narrator feels too sad, mom takes her on her lap and says they can be sad together. Then there’s cleaning and putting up a Welcome Home sign, and mom is back with the narrator in her place – in the middle. The writer and illustrator lives in California.
“A Few Dads” by Carol Gordon Ekster, illustrated by Javiera Maclean Alvarez (Beaming Books, $17.99)
Dads of all persuasions, gay and straight, sing, read, play, work and love their children in this book for very young readers. The message: “Every dad is different. And every child is too. The publisher is based in Minneapolis. The author is a former elementary school teacher who lives in Massachusetts and the illustrator is Chilean.