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Pearl Power and the Girl with Two Dads – Mel Elliott

This picture book does a brilliant thing effortlessly. As an LGBT+ couple with a son we’re always on the look out for a well produced, good quality book which features a child with two mums or two dads.

By their nature – not having the biggest potential customer base – they can be cheaply made or not to the same standard as wider releases which is so dispiriting.

Pearl however, is not cheap. Pearl Power is a little girl with a lot of spirit. She is forthright and speaks her mind, and believes in equality. She’s excited to welcome the new girl, Matilda to her school, but quickly discovers she’s a little different, Matilda has two dads!

Pearl deals with this information brilliantly and matter of fact-ly and assumes because her mum makes her be responsible and eat vegetables that a house with two dads would be totally different and fun.

Little does poor Pearl realise that her house is more like Matilda’s than she would like…

This book isn’t just great for showing kids that their same sex parents are just like everyone else, but it should be required reading for ‘regular’ families too. It makes it clear that the issue is only as complicated as adults want to make it.

PERFECT FOR: anyone who has a little boy or girl in their class who happens to have two mummies or two daddies. It will totally help them realise all humans have more in common than they have different.

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The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

SHORT STORIES – PAPERBACK – £8.99

GORGEOUS GROWN UP BOOK ALERT!! This collection of weird, wonderful grown up short stories is enchanting.

From a girl running a coffin hotel where people can experience a slice of death for the night on an island…. to a world like ours where you can order replacement animal hearts on the internet for your loved ones. 

From a moment where a mysterious silent soldier appears in a woman’s kitchen to a boy looking for advice as his sister seems to have two souls. Plus the sentient plants stealing a van to avoid gardeners (sort of, still not quite sure what that ones about) .

Dreamlike lyrical writing which is almost poetry, this little collection really stays with you. Amazing stuff from a female author and poet who has such a precise command of her language and mastery of atmosphere within just a few short paragraphs.

If you like eccentric, weird yet emotional reads to intersperse with your longer novels, this is perfect to dip into.

 

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Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano

Instead of starting this review with a summary of the plot and characters, this reviewer has to start with a thank you to the author and publishers. This is TOTALLY the book that 12 year old me needed to have in his life. It super duper isn’t their fault that it came out 26 years too late now I’m properly old.

So, now that’s out of the way, let’s begin. This summery, lovely book is about Dylan who is fourteen and is being dragged along to a £9.50 short break holiday in a caravan park in Cornwall. The bonus is he’s been allowed to bring his best friend Kayla along, which is important to him as his family doesn’t know that he likes boys. His parents are busy dancing and being soooo embarrassing and often leave him to baby sit his four year old brother Jude.

He wouldn’t normally mind this, but his attention is focussed on Jayden-Lee, the caravan park’s resident bad boy. Dylan is smitten at first sight and is determined to be noticed. How much will Kayla help him in his quest for love before she feels neglected? Will Jayden-Lee feel the same if Dylan can work up the courage to be seen? Surely he can’t be that naughty underneath it all? More importantly, just why does the Park Mascot, Nibbles the hamster, seem to be in his way being so annoying and meddling in his attempts at every turn?

This book is sweet and funny, with Dylan’s ability to get into ever increasingly catastrophic situations providing a lot of laughs and thrills. Not only that, it’s heartfelt as it has real issues faced by kids between its covers.

With an exciting, romantic ending, this will stay with you much longer than any £9.50 mini break in a dingy rubbish caravan park!

A PARENTS PERSPECTIVE

We don’t like to put an age range on reading, but despite its gently romantic theme, it is not explicit at all, and is suitable for all older children. Most reviewers say 12+, but depending on the maturity of the child I would argue there’s nothing here that slightly younger ages than this couldn’t read.

As well as dealing with themes of unrequited crushes, and understanding the beginnings of romantic feelings, this book touches on themes of complex family dynamics, coming out to family members, and bullying.

This book has both a positive, not overwrought attitude towards LGBT issues, and a lovely representation of disability. Dylan’s little brother Jude has cerebral palsy and the book provides an honest look at what it must be like for a family with a member in a wheelchair without ever being preachy. His best friend Kayla is plus sized and has a very body positive attitude and one of the romances touched upon is racially diverse.

We would totally recommend this book to any reader, gay or straight, but if you think that your child might be LGBT+ but not ready to talk to you about it, mixing this book into their reading is a great idea. It will give them the message that who they are is ok, teach them they are worth something lovely and ‘normal’ happening to them and show them they’re not alone. It may also give them the tools and the courage to talk to you about how they feel and who they are – without ruining a whole fairground event (don’t ask, Dylan already feels bad enough about it!).

This is a funny, heartwarming tale, with madcap set pieces which verge on slapstick thanks to Dylan’s complete inability to de-escalate any situation.

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Books for tweens and teenagers who don’t fit in

As a mother who is a bibliophile, there is often a temptation to try and find the answer to all of life’s trials in the pages of a book.

Kids won’t sleep?  Kids won’t eat?  Kids won’t do anything they are supposed to do, including getting their uniforms on, eating their breakfast and JUST GETTING OUT OF THE DOOR PLEASE OH FOR THE LOVE OF… You get the picture. And there are some great books out there for parents that, even if they don’t actually fix the problem, give you the comfort of knowing you’re not alone, and this too shall pass.

But what about when they hit that age – and if you’re there, you know exactly what I’m talking about – that stage between childhood and ‘adulthood’ where the parenting manuals just can’t fix it? The stage of “you don’t know what it’s like…” 

You want to tell them “it will get better” or “those people who seem so confident probably feel just as frightened as you” or “you are an incredible human being, and it may be hard to understand that now, because you have only been on the planet for [insert age] years, but believe me… Believe me when I tell you that out there, in the big world, you are going to soar”.

You’ve perhaps read this far waiting for a link to a magical new book that holds the answers to this new challenge in the journey that is parenthood. Sorry.

I believe that books do hold the answers to life’s trials. And they do give the comfort of knowing you’re not alone, and this too shall pass. But the books that matter here are not for you.

They are for our children who want to fit in and be like everyone else. To learn that they are not alone in feeling like an outsider. The excruciatingly difficult lesson of learning that what makes them different from everyone else may well be the thing that makes them so incredibly awesome.

Below are a few books that can help them along that path. Books that let them share the stories of young people figuring out what it means to be who they are. And sometimes, that can be enough. To feel that that journey is a shared one.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – a coming-of-age story about an introvert who learns the value of being herself.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – championing and celebrating inclusivity and tolerance by showing both how people can blossom when they are accepted for who they are, and how painful life can be for people who are ignored or mistreated.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – an insight into every teenager’s mind, figuring out whether different is good, and being true to yourself.

Share your recommendations on our Facebook page – what books helped you get through those difficult teenage years..?