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A Pride Month Book Review – The ABCs of Queer History –

PRIDE MONTH BOOK REVIEW

THE ABCs OF QUEER HISTORY
Written by Dr. Seema Yasmin
Illustrated by Lucy Kirk
(Workman Kids; $18.99, Ages 5 and up)

 

The ABCs of Queer History cover queer people and allies holding pride banners flags.

 

Author and poet Dr. Seema Yasmin and illustrator Lucy Kirk’s ambitious The ABCs of Queer History is a nonfiction picture book that makes queer history accessible to young readers. With its vibrant illustrations and excellent examples, the book will open children’s eyes to the struggles and the rewards that constitute the queer experience in the United States.

 

The ABCs of Queer History int1 A is for Abundant.
Interior spread from The ABCs of Queer History written by Dr. Seema Yasmin and illustrated by Lucy Kirk, Workman Kids ©2024.

 

“This is a book of people, of ideas, of accomplishments and events.” The first vibrantly illustrated spread is a great introduction. Readers learn in the art above that “A is for abundant, because we are many: our histories show we are diverse and plenty.” The letter E aptly explores equality while G is for groundbreaking where trailblazers like Barbara Jordan, the first queer congresswoman, or inspiring athlete Michael Sam are cited. I particularly enjoyed the colorful and cheerful spread for Q. “Q is for queens, of our hearts, of the light – a glorious tradition. Oh, what a sight!” Drag artists, including RuPaul, are getting dressed for a performance, some having make-up applied, some blowing their hair, and others bushing wigs, or simply strutting their stuff.

 

The ABCs of Queer History int2 C celebrate.
Interior spread from The ABCs of Queer History written by Dr. Seema Yasmin and illustrated by Lucy Kirk, Workman Kids ©2024.

 

Marriage equality is covered under M and N is a nod to notable figures in queer history who spoke up for transgender rights. Naturally, Stonewall is addressed when we reach S. It’s a tribute to the powerful movement that ultimately led to the uprising from which there was no turning back. Children will learn about old and new aspects of queer history in this hopeful approach, “… tales of hope and activism, tales of legends and glory.”

 

The ABCs of Queer History int3 H is for hope.
Interior spread from The ABCs of Queer History written by Dr. Seema Yasmin and illustrated by Lucy Kirk, Workman Kids ©2024.

 

Familiar and unfamiliar names are featured throughout adding to the scope of engaging content this book covers. Whether it’s art, science, medicine, or fashion, queer people’s continued contribution to our society is one to celebrate. In some parts of the book, the rhymes were near rhymes or slant rhymes but overall they still worked to convey the importance of understanding queer history and its positive, and lasting impact on our country. Rhyme appeals to so many kids but I also like the ABC format because the book can easily be read letter by letter. A parent or caregiver can read two or three letters at a time followed by a meaningful discussion. In addition to the alphabet, eight pages of invaluable Queer History Terms and Figures included in the back matter are fascinating to read. From Josephine Baker to Tennessee Williams, from Gender and Sex to Z is for Zero Tolerance, all aspects of queerness are explained. I recommend this informative book and hope it lands in kids’ hands across the U.S.A.

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Recommended Read for Pride Month – Strong

 

NEW PICTURE BOOK FOR PRIDE MONTH

 

Pride graphic

It may be the last day of Pride Month, but here’s a book worth celebrating year round!

 

Strong coverSTRONG
Written by Rob Kearney and Eric Rosswood
Illustrated by  Nidhi Chanani 
(Little Brown BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Strong is the kind of feel-good picture book that demonstrates to children, through a real-life example, the benefits of being true to themselves and following their dreams.

In this accessible biography, readers learn how, from an early age, Rob Kearney showed an affinity for lifting heavy things whether that was milk bottles or bags filled with groceries. As he grew so did his strength. He could easily pull a tug-of-war rope or lift cheerleaders sky-high. This powerful ability made him feel good about himself as his interest in weightlifting blossomed. “But Rob’s favorite sport was weightlifting. It required him to use every muscle in his body.” Sentences like this one give readers a wonderful understanding of what it was that appealed to Rob and why he ultimately pursued weightlifting as a career.

 

 

Strong int baby
Interior spread from Strong written by Rob Kearney and Eric Rosswood with illustrations by Nidhi Chanani, Little Brown YR ©2022.

 

Rob’s life was forever changed after being introduced to the Strongman competition at age 17. He learned it was SO much more than lifting heavy weights. To qualify, he’d have to be able to pull a vehicle, flip an enormous tire, lift a log over his head, and lots more that’s described in fascinating backmatter. The art and prose depict how committed Rob became and how he trained before school by running, swimming, and lifting all sorts of things. At his fittest, he could lift over 400 pounds which is more than a refrigerator!

 

Strong int2 kid
Interior illustrations from Strong written by Rob Kearney and Eric Rosswood with illustrations by Nidhi Chanani, Little Brown YR ©2022.

 

Without ever stating the main character’s queerness outright, the authors describe how, when not in his workout garb, Rob had a truly original style with his hair cut in a Mohawk, along with a flair for dressing in bright, bold colors and patterns that were 100% him. They also show Rob coming in last place at his first competition which is realistic as well as smart to demonstrate to children. People do not automatically win. Success takes hard work. And Rob was determined. He also was in love. Chanani’s vibrant art pairs perfectly with the text and reflects Rob’s personality in all its Strongman glory.  A favorite spread of mine is below.

 

Int art3 fire engine
Interior spread from Strong written by Rob Kearney and Eric Rosswood with illustrations by Nidhi Chanani, Little Brown YR ©2022.

 

While training Rob met Joey who motivated Rob to be himself. While it’s not clear how long after meeting Joey Rob went on to win the North American championship, what is clear is that Rob’s personal growth helped him overcome any challenges such as bullying and self-doubt he may have had on his journey. This picture book, full of hope and positivity is recommended for any child questioning their self-worth. Rob’s candid Author Note on how being openly gay helped “smash stereotypes” about sexual orientation and perceived strength reminds me of my former gay roommate in London who was a proud tri-athlete in the ’80s when laws still criminalized homosexuality. I believe this book does a great job of acknowledging and encouraging any children feeling unsure about themselves whether that relates to their sexuality or their self-confidence.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Also highly recommended:

The Rainbow Parade coverTHE RAINBOW PARADE
Written and illustrated by Emily Neilson
(Dial BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

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Feel Free to Dazzle! Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

 

JULIÁN IS A MERMAID
Written and illustrated by Jessica Love
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

JULIAN IS A MERMAID cover art Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Love

 

Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, is a brilliant debut picture book. As Julián and his abuela leave the public pool, they share the subway ride with some women dressed as mermaids. Julián loves mermaids and feels he is one too. He demonstrates this while his abuela’s away taking a bath. At the crucial moment of discovery, Abuela encourages Julián and takes him to his tribe: a gathering of likeminded people.

 

Interior artwork from Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
JULIAN IS A MERMAID. Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Love. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 

Jessica Love’s beautiful sentiment is echoed in her vibrant, festive art done by hand with ink, gouache, and watercolor on brown paper. Richly rendered, expressive characters stand out against muted backgrounds. This 40-page picture book gently shows how easy it can be to accept others. Potentially contentious moments are, instead, depicted with understanding.

 

Interior spread from Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
JULIAN IS A MERMAID. Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Love. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 

Using words sparingly, Julián is a Mermaid captures the colorful expansiveness of our imaginations when given free rein.

Starred reviews – Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

About the author: Jessica Love is an illustrator and Broadway actress. She has a BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as a graduate degree from Juilliard. She lives in New York.

 

• Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting,Christine@Write-for-Success.com

 

Read another recent review by Christine Van Zandt here.

 

 

 

 

 

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