Picturing Pride 2016

Young Torontonians feel proud when they see their lives, their family set-up and their city reflected in the picture books that they read. So, we put together a list of 7 noteworthy LGBTQ-friendly titles, in honour of Canada’s first-ever Pride Month, June, 2016:

SPT-LGBTQ-Book-List-TangoBased on the true story of two male Chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, who raised a  chick in Central Park Zoo, And Tango Makes Three is one of the most challenged books in the U.SJustin Richardson and Peter Parnell‘s text conveys complex social ideas in an emotionally direct manner. They situate Roy and Silo’s unique desire to create a family together alongside that of the other animals in the zoo. Bigots may see red. But readers see two male characters build a loving home for their daughter, Tango. These three flightless birds teach kids a memorable and vital lesson in human nature.

SPT-LGBTQ-EwertOne of the first-ever picture books to address ‘trans’ issues, 10,000 Dresses remains a staple of LGBTQ-themed KidLit.  Bailey adores dresses and dreams of crafting beautiful, magical gowns out of everything from rainbows to windows. “You’re a BOY!” say Bailey’s Mother and Father. “You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all.”  An older girl named Laurel shows Bailey it’s OK to be your authentic self. They pursue their shared passion for fashion, and make exquisite dresses. Marcus Ewert’s inspiring tale, and Rex Ray’s vibrant illustrations, will resonate with any kid who refuses to dress like everyone else.

SPT-LGBTQ-Book-List-Badacchino-MorrisMorris loves to wear a tangerine dress from his classroom’s tickle trunk. The kids in the schoolyard taunt him, and won’t let him on board their imaginary spaceships. Morris refuses to let the bullies win. At home, he makes a painting of himself wearing the dress and having an incredible interplanetary adventure. When he shows it to two classmates, they join him on a playtime space voyage towards a galaxy of acceptance. A 2015 Stonewall Honour Book, Morris Micklewhite and The Tangerine Dress testifies to the importance of embracing our own dreams and one another’s differences.

SPT-LGBTQ-Dutton-DonovanFrom the author of Mommy, Mama and me and Daddy, Papa and Me comes the story of Donovan’s turn as ring-bearer at his two moms’ wedding. Even a decade ago, themes like having two moms or same-sex marriage would likely be presented as “issues” that the characters must resolve. Instead,  Leslèa Newman treats the lesbian wedding as the starting point for Donovan’s story. By focusing on a son performing his role, Newman captures how bewildering public rituals like weddings can be for kids (and all involved). Readers learn that, “love makes a family.” A wonderful story about love, family and marriage, Donovan’s Big Day will appeal to the entire wedding party.

SPT-LGBTQ-ByrneNate’s friends are dressing as superheroes in the Purim costume parade, but he wants to be an alien. Even though his two fathers and sister encourage him to dress up the way he wants, Nate suspects that doing so will make him feel too different. Much like Newman’s approach to same-sex marriage in Donovan’s Big Day, Elizabeth Kushner doesn’t justify Nate’s family set-up. Her insightful story focuses instead on Nate’s feelings and his anxiety about fitting in. The Purim Superhero is one of the few LGBTQ-friendly picture books on our radar to feature a character who isn’t Christian.

SPT-LGBTQ-De-Haan-King&KingKing and King is a whimsical variation on the classic fairy tale trope of dashing Prince meets-and-weds a beautiful Princess. A Queen decides that it’s time for her son to get married. Uninspired by the eligible Princesses she invites to their castle, the Prince only perks up when Princess Madeline stops by with  her brother, Prince Lee, in tow. The two Princes fall in love at first sight, marry and everyone lives happily ever after. Stern Nijland‘s multimedia collages add a playful, improvised tone to the otherwise formulaic story. And the DIY tone invites kids to put their own spin on other fairy tales.       

SPT-LGBTQ-Book-List-What-Makes-A-BabyWhat Makes A Baby explains conception, gestation and birth in a way that includes trans folks and people who conceive through non-traditional means such as adoption, IVF, and surrogacy. Sex educator Cory Silverberg’s story outlines the reproductive process but doesn’t gender people or body parts. And Fiona Smyth’s illustrations don’t specify the characters’ colour or gender. Parents from all backgrounds are thereby given room to draw upon their own experiences, when reading to their kids. What Makes A Baby gives kids the tools to start addressing a key, related question – one that appears in countless other LGBTQ-friendly picture books: what makes a “family” in today’s world?

Happy Reading!

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2nd Annual Canadian Author for Indies Day

To celebrate the 2nd annual Canadian Authors for Indies Day, on Saturday, April 30,  authors will give readings, volunteer as guest booksellers, and even engage in cartooning contests at independent bookstores across Canada. The full line-up for #AFI2016 can be found at authorsforindies.com and, for updates, follow @authors4indies on Twitter.

Coach House Books issued this handy, special edition map of Toronto’s many indie bookstores, created by acclaimed illustrator Tania Howells :

IndieBookstoreMap2016-TanyaHowells-CoachHouse_0Want to explore the range of these shops?  You’ll need sensible shoes, high protein snacks, and, above all, a schedule. To get your map-making juices flowing, here’s an exemplary itinerary that our own Lauren Stewart composed for the BookNet Canada blog:


TYPE Books, 883 Queen St. W.

I have a soft spot for this store, located in the heart of the Queen West shopping district across from the vast greenery of Trinity Bellwoods Park: it’s gorgeous, has unique titles I’ve not found anywhere else in the city, and employed me for over four years. Plus, TYPE is going hard on Authors for Indies in 2016, tying the event to a celebration of their 10th anniversary.

As with last year, they will have a limited number of special products for early-bird customers, and I plan to be in the lineup before the doors open at 10 a.m. to secure an exclusive, limited-edition hardcover of André Alexis’ Giller Prize-winning novel Fifteen Dogs, and a tote bag commemorating the store’s 10th anniversary designed by Back Alleys and Shoplifter‘s Michael Cho. Plus, the first 30 customers get tote bags stuffed with literary swag from HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Book Thug, Coach House, and Drawn & Quarterly!

A store as beloved and geographically blessed as TYPE will, of course, have a full slate of authors offering bookselling support; head over to their Facebook page to get the most up-to-date information.

Another Story Bookshop, 315 Roncesvalles Ave.

Visiting Another Story is a treasured activity on its own but I’m particularly excited to stop by at 11 a.m. when their first slate of authors starts working. I’m looking forward to meeting Teva Harrison and hopefully snag autographed copies of her newly released memoir about living with metastatic cancer, In-Between Days. There are many people in my life with whom I’d like to share her comics, which were previously serialized in The Walrus.

Once I’ve secured a few copies and discretely gobbled down a cookie (their snack game was on last year), I’ll move on—many more shops and authors to see—and my walk up Roncesvalles to the subway will surely offer plenty of distractions, with the neighbourhood’s rich mix of indie restaurants, shops, and community hotspots.

Complete Authors for Indies event details are available on the shop’s Facebook page.

A Novel Spot, 270 The Kingsway

This is one of two bookshops on this list that I will visit for the first time on Authors for Indies Day, and it’s safe to say I’m pretty excited. Visiting a new store is filled with anticipation: will we have the same taste? Will it challenge me? What treasure will I leave with? The store hosts a healthy number of events each month and I’ve only heard great things about the shop, the staff team, and their selection. Authors for Indies is a wonderful excuse to visit this newer shop in Toronto’s west end; I can’t wait to find out about their participating authors when I arrive!

A Novel Spot will tweet details of its confirmed author appearances @NovelSpotBooks.

Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St.

Ben McNally Books, one of the most gorgeous shops in the city, shines even brighter due to its location in the otherwise uninspired Financial District (to our Wolf of Wall Street fans reading today: no offense intended). Ben McNally is hosting Ian Brown‘s only Authors for Indies Day appearance, starting at noon. One of my favourite memoirists, Brown will be stumping until 1 p.m., giving me a hard deadline to make it to the shop from the west end.

Ben McNally will offer event listings on their website at benmcnallybooks.com.

Book City, 348 Danforth Ave. and 1950 Queen St. E.

As the day winds down, I will head east towards my own neighbourhood indies. My first stop off the subway will be the Book City location on The Danforth, a bustling location in the heart of Greektown and very conveniently located near famous smoothie and juice purveyor The Big Carrot. Juice in hand (sugar will be required to fuel the rest of this particular itinerary), I hope to make it to the Danforth location in time for Nettie Cronish, health-conscious cookbook author and protector of my waistline.

Once I pick Nettie’s brain for a new title for my ever-expanding cookbook collection, I will hop back onto transit and head over to Book City’s second location in The Beaches, hopefully in time to catch Canadian historian extraordinaire Ken McGoogan. The man has written over a dozen books on obscure pockets of Canadian history and identity, surely he can identify a book suitable for my grandfather, a voracious reader of the subject.

For Authors for Indies Day newbies, there are dozens of authors appearing at all Book City locations on Authors for Indies Day, so you really cannot choose a “bad” time to visit any one of their stores, IMHO. Take a breath and head to Book City’s Facebook page for information about the authors appearing at the chain’s various locations.

Great Escape Book Store, 957 Kingston Rd.

Great Escape is the second store I’ll be visiting for the first time on April 30, and I’m pretty excited to discover a shop in my new neighbourhood. They’ve got one author appearing on Authors for Indies Day: Jason Ramsay-Brown, whose book Toronto’s Ravines and Urban Forests I’m excited to pick up.

Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore, 991 Kingston Rd.

The final stop on my journey will be the new location of the beloved east end children’s bookshop, Ella Minnow. Recently relocated from its Queen Street East location in The Beaches, Ella Minnow is listing beloved plasticine artist (and author of dozens of picture books) Barbara Reid, in her sole Authors for Indies appearance. My journey brings me to this store near to its closing bell at 5 p.m., so my fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to meet my childhood hero.

Ella Minnow’s website promises forthcoming details on Authors for Indies.

Happy Authors For Indies Day 2016!

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