One of my favorite books published this year is George by Alex Gino. In their debut novel, Gino expertly crafts the story of George, a transgender girl coming to terms with her identity.

In this moving and heartwarming novel, we follow George as she attempts to land the lead role of Charlotte in her school play of Charlotte's Web. There's only one problem: the lead role is a "girl's role". George is not a boy who "wants to be a girl", but a girl in a world where no one can see her. George feels that if she were to play the role of Charlotte, the world would see her as she truly is and not as she appears outwardly. The book brilliantly weaves together George's intensely private and public struggles, and the reactions of her family, friends, classmates and the world at large.

Intended for a middle grade audience (fourth to sixth grade), this simple but important story never comes across as a lesson. Instead, George speaks to the difficulties that transgender members of our community face on a regular basis. Gino approaches the subject with a clear and positive outlook on a sometimes tricky topic, and ultimately delivers a profound story of an individual trying to find their place in the world.

Interested in similar stories? Give Gracefully Grayson a try. This book tells the story of Grayson Sender, a sixth-grader coming into her own as a transgender girl. This novel is intended for a slightly older crowd (for sixth grade and older), but is another wonderful story about discovering your identity and staying true to oneself.

Also check out our Gender Variant Books for Children and Teens public list for more picture book, middle grade and teen book recommendations.

Beyond the Birds and Bees

Do you know kids who are ready to learn about the facts of life, from preschoolers who want to know where their new baby sibling came from, to adolescents dealing with puberty and sex? We have two perfect books for you, both written by sex educator Cory Silverberg and beautifully illustrated by Fiona Smyth! With bright, cheerful illustrations, straightforward text, and true diversity, these books blow other sex and puberty books away.

What Makes a Baby is for younger children who are just learning about where babies come from. The book explains that sperm and an egg are needed to make a baby. What Makes a Baby uses precise language but leaves it up to the reader to explain where their little one came from. This leaves the book open for use by any kind of family- a refreshing change for families that are usually relegated to a footnote. The illustrations boast a wealth of different kinds of families and the book emphasizes the joy that a new baby brings.

When your kids start to wonder about puberty and sex, check out Sex is a Funny Word, which is as bright and cheerful as What Makes a Baby, but longer and more advanced. This book describes sex in completely inclusive language that relates to all orientations, genders, and gender identities. It also pulls in concepts like respect, trust, joy, and justice to explain how sex fits into a bigger picture of the world. Sex is a Funny Word explores puberty, body parts, safe and unsafe touch, crushes, and so much more! The text is completely nonjudgmental and incredibly diverse.

Simply put, these books are spectacular! Go check them out!

2015 Mitten Award Winner: Maple by Lori Nichols

Every year the Michigan Library Association gives out a Mitten Award for quality in youth picture books. This year the winner was Maple by Lori Nichols.

Maple follows the early life of a young girl named Maple and her best friend, a maple tree. The illustrations are vibrant and wonderfully drawn, and it's very easy to get pulled into Maple's little world. This is a great book for those who are about to have a new member in the family, or for those who already have a younger brother or sister, and there are sequel books as well!!!

Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook

"I'm Ragweed. I'm a farm dog, and I'm really, really good at it. Most dogs aren't. But don't worry. You'll be great! You have the handbook."

Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook is a delightful new addition to our picture book collection. Throughout this darling book, Ragweed lists off tasks that a farm dog is not supposed to take part in, such as "don't wake the farmer", "don't lie in the mud" and "don't sit on the chickens' nests", but it's not until the end that Ragweed reveals the true purpose of being a farm dog: getting biscuit treats! With each line of advice, Ragweed is quick to break his rule... but usually receives a biscuit for his efforts anyway!

This adorable new book by Anne Vittur Kennedy features a fun premise and a truly charming pup. The humor is instantly identifiable, and readers of all ages will enjoy reading this goofy book together. The bright and colorful illustrations perfectly showcase Ragweed's enthusiasm and fervor for his perfectly suited profession. This hilarious romp through the tricky task of being the world's best farm dog is a real treat!

New Animal Picture Books

Do you like pretty picture books about animals that are filled with illustrations so gorgeous you can't stop staring? Here are two worth a view.

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups features simple information on different animals and what they are called while in a group. A scurry of squirrels, a mischief of mice, a romp of otters. The book is beyond beautiful and will delight both adults and children.

In The Bear Report a little girl ponders what there is to say about polar bears, and her answer is “nothing.” She is quickly corrected by a polar bear named Olafur who shows her the light, literally. They go off on an adventure North where he teaches her about where they live and how they spend their time. It’s a small, quiet book perfect for lap time with the little ones, and demonstrates how wonderful it is when you look at something up close to admire it.

Please, Open This Book!

Do it. Open it.

You might remember the funny picture book Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt. Well, those animals are back in his follow-up Please, Open This Book! And they’re not too happy. They’ve been trapped in a book! It’s dark in there, and if a book is closed all of the monkey’s bananas get smushed! If you happen to open this book and then close it the animals will be trapped all over again! What will you do? I highly recommend you open the book and find out.

Crossover Graphic Novels November Edition!

We've got a whole bunch of great crossover graphic novels for you this month and these ones are amazing!

First up this month we have Gryphon's Aren't So Great by James Sturm of Adventures in Cartooning fame. This story follows The Knight and his best friend Edward (who is his horse). Like all friendships this one is troubled by a gryphon (what your friendships don't have gryphon troubles? Must just be me). The Knight meets the Gryphon and starts riding him instead of Edward, and talking to Edward about how great Gryphon is. So just what will Edward do when Gryphon turns out to be more perilous than a pet? Read Gryphon's Aren't So Great and find out.

The second crossover graphic novel this month is Fable Comics which has a variety of artists but was edited together by Chris Duffy. These are not your normal every day fables. Nope these ones include ninja grapes (that may or may not be sour), ironic stepping on people, and leopards who really know how to rock! First Second, the published of this collection, really brought their A game to the table. The art is all great and the stories will make you chuckle, if not laugh out so loud that people wonder what's funny.

The third and final crossover is an adaptation of a wildly successful book series Warriors. Follow Ravanpaw, Tigerstar, Sasha, Graystripe, and Scourge amongst others as these graphic novels take you through new stories set in the world of Warriors. The art work in the books captures the feel of the novels, and its interesting to see what someone else imagines your favorite cats to look like! Those of you who are not already fans of the Warriors series (or who think you're too old for them) the stories in the novels are often captivating and any cat lover could enjoy the antics of these wonderful cats!

That's it for this month, but keep your eyes open for other great graphic novels that we blog about in the next month!

Shark Detective

This new picture book is a winner! Shark Detective! tells the story of a shark who lives in a hotel, watches detective shows on TV and eats potato chips. But he was ever so lonely. At night he would dream he was a detective solving mysteries! Then one day he saw a poster for a missing kitty. Oh no! What could do? He had a great idea -- Shark Detective to the rescue!

The book has charming illustrations, is hilarious, and tells a sweet story about how friends are made. This book is recommended if you're a fan of the silly style of Dragons Love Tacos or Weasels.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Illustrated Edition

Harry Potter fans rejoice! The brand new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is now on the shelves!

This edition of the first book in the popular Harry Potter series includes the full original text paired with stunning color illustrations. Each and every page has been filled with visually appealing and intricate artwork. All of the chapter intros are illustrated in addition to many other images throughout the novel. Some illustrations span multiple pages while some are small asides or details. However, each and every page has something visual-- there aren't any white pages in the entire book. In addition, aside from the switch from 'Philosopher's Stone' to 'Sorcerer's Stone', all of the Americanized changes to the first few printings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone have reverted to their original British roots (for example: substituting motorcycle for motorbike or lemon drop for sherbet lemon).

Jim Kay does a wonderful job of bringing these familiar characters to life in new and sometimes surprising ways. Harry and the gang don't resemble their movie counterparts, but are a more accurate depiction of the characters as they appear in the novels. These otherworldly illustrations are sure to delight fans and newcomers alike.

Author J. K. Rowling has also been busy with the recent release of her latest novel Career of Evil, adding to the collection of novels published under her pen name Robert Galbraith.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick has done it again. The Marvels is a beautiful book and the third in what the author is calling a trilogy, following the Caldecott Medal winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. The books are all stand-alone novels in words in pictures. Not just pictures – gorgeous, amazing illustrations done by the author.

The first 400 pages of The Marvels are all pictures and the tale begins in 1766 as we follow the story of a fantastical theater family from generation to generation, starting with Billy Marvel, survivor of a shipwreck. The last section of the book is told in words and takes place in 1990 and centers on a runaway youth named Joseph with map in hand searching for an uncle he’s never met.

The two stories seem unrelated but converge in the most beautiful way and it is up to the reader to connect the dots. I loved that it was loosely based on real people and a real house! If you enjoyed the first two books in this words and pictures format, this one should be a treat as well. To quote a theme in the book, Aut Visum Aut Non. You either see it or you don’t.

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