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Hot Off the Press Spotlight: Be-YOU-tiful

The Hot Off the Press Spotlight segment showcases new books from our current Hot Off the Press list to further assist parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other book enthusiasts in finding engaging books for all types of readers.

No matter your size, your background, the color of your skin, or what pronouns you use, you are amazing! Each of us is an individual who brings our very own unique experiences and talents to the world, and that’s worth celebrating. Sometimes the journey to self-love is easy; other times it can be long and painful. But however you get there, it’s worth it to be able to honor the whole person you are. This selection of titles from our February Hot Off the Press list shares some stories that put the YOU in beautiful.

El rosa, el azul y tú, written & illustrated by Elise Gravel (NubeOcho) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, LGBTQIA+, Spanish, ages 4-6.

Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel raises these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping.

Harriet’s Reflections, written & illustrated by Marion Kadi (Eerdmans) — Fiction, Picture Book, Imagination / Play, Animals, Concepts, ages 4-6.

An imaginative tale about a rambunctious lion reflection and the fierce little girl he decides to mirror.

One day the reflection of a lion decides to reflect someone different. He picks a little girl named Harriet, who eagerly accepts the new face staring back at her. Harriet loves how ferocious she is now at school: she’s not afraid to speak up in class, and she can romp around the playground like a wild beast. But soon Harriet starts to miss the reflection she had before, the one who looked like her. Can Harriet find a way to balance her old reflection and her new one? 

This whimsical story explores themes of confidence and identity with colorful illustrations and a sly sense of humor. Delightful and unconventional, Harriet’s Reflections is the perfect read-aloud for anyone who’s ever wondered about the face on the other side of the mirror—and what they might do next.

Hooray For She, He, Ze, and They!, by Lindz Amer; illus. by Kip Alizadeh (Simon & Schuster) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, LGBTQIA+, Mental / Physical Health, Cultural Diversity, ages 4-6.

In this joyous picture book exploration of gender euphoria, celebrated Queer Kid Stuff and The Rainbow Parenting podcast host Lindz Amer teaches kids about all the ways pronouns can be joyful, defining, and empowering.

Everyone has a pronoun. There are hes. There are shes. There are theys. There are zes and hirs and faes and pers and more! What’s yours?

Finding the right pronoun for you feels like a warm hug and helps you be your most wonderful self. This gentle and whimsical guide to pronoun language encourages self-discovery and celebrates the gender euphoria of feeling like you!

How the Boogeyman Became a Poet, by Tony Keith, Jr. (HarperCollins) — Nonfiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, Biography / Memoir, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Teen.

Poet, writer, and hip-hop educator Tony Keith Jr. makes his debut with a powerful YA memoir in verse, tracing his journey from being a closeted gay Black teen battling poverty, racism, and homophobia to becoming an openly gay first-generation college student who finds freedom in poetry. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, George M. Johnson, and Jacqueline Woodson.

Tony dreams about life after high school, where his poetic voice can find freedom on the stage and page. But the Boogeyman has been following Tony since he was six years old. First, the Boogeyman was after his Blackness, but Tony has learned It knows more than that: Tony wants to be the first in his family to attend college, but there’s no path to follow. He also has feelings for boys, desires that don’t align with the script he thinks is set for him and his girlfriend, Blu.

Despite a supportive network of family and friends, Tony doesn’t breathe a word to anyone about his feelings. As he grapples with his sexuality and moves from high school to college, he struggles with loneliness while finding solace in gay chat rooms and writing poetry. But how do you find your poetic voice when you are hiding the most important parts of yourself? And how do you escape the Boogeyman when it’s lurking inside you?

I Love Myself, by Wai Mei Wong; illus. by Julia Vasileva (Orca Book Publishers) — Fiction, Picture Book, Mental / Physical Health, Imagination / Play, Kindness / Generosity, ages 4-6.

“I’m still learning to love myself, but it’s okay. I know I can always keep trying.”

Even an ordinary day is full of little challenges, especially when you’re a kid. Like when you’re learning to ride a bike and you still need training wheels…so the other kids ride past you. Or when you jump in a mud puddle…but you fall in and get your pants wet. Luckily you can learn to be kind to yourself with a bit of practice.

In this sweet picture book we accompany a child through their day, from morning to bedtime, as their inner self—portrayed as a cuddly imaginary creature—supports them in their endeavors. Some are harder than others, but the positive message of the text highlights how you can love yourself through big feelings, try something different, say no, and so much more.

Mara Hears in Style, by Terri Clemmons; illus. by Lucy Rogers (Beaming Books) — Fiction, Picture Book, Disabilities, Friendships, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, ages 4-6.

Mara takes on the world with her flashy purple hearing aids and sassy, hot pink earmolds.

Mara’s first day at her new school is filled with ups and downs surrounding her hearing aids: her teacher doesn’t remember to turn on her microphone, the lunchroom is too chaotic for lip-reading, and she keeps reading the same question over and over on her classmates’ lips: “What’s in her ears?” After a morning spent navigating these challenges, Mara makes a connection on the playground and finds that her hearing aid superpowers are perfect for making new friends.

Accessible and engaging, Mara Hears in Style will encourage readers to respect hearing differences and inspire kids who worry about making new friends. The book is filled with American Sign Language depictions–including a full alphabet spread–so readers can sign alongside Mara as they discover new ways to bridge communication gaps in their own communities.

Skater Boy, by Anthony Nerada (Soho Press) — Fiction, Prose, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Sports / Games / Recreation, Teen.

In this YA contemporary debut about pop punk, romance, and destroying the labels that confine you, a queer teen risks everything to write his own story.

Stonebridge High’s resident bad boy, seventeen-year-old Wesley “Big Mac” Mackenzie, is failing senior year—probably because of his unchecked anger problem, rowdy friends, and a recurring tendency to ditch his homework to fill his camera roll with random photos. So when his mom drags him to a winter production of The Nutcracker, Wes isn’t interested at all . . . until he sees Tristan Monroe. Mr. Nutcracker himself.

Wes knows he shouldn’t like Tristan; after all, he’s a ballet dancer, and Wes is as closeted as they come. But when they start spending time together, Wes can’t seem to get Tristan out of his head.

Driven by a new sense of purpose, Wes enters a photography contest at school, determined to better himself before the end of the school year. When a falling out with his friends becomes inevitable, Wes realizes he has to take a stand—in more ways than one—and learn that being himself means meeting somewhere in the middle of who he is and who he wants to be.

Can Wes trade his skateboard in for textbooks, ditch his friends for the photography kids he once scorned, and blow up the bad-boy reputation he never wanted in the first place?

Soren’s Seventh Song, by Dave Eggers; illus. by Mark Hoffmann (Abrams) — Fiction, Picture Book, Animals, Music / Art, Humor, ages 4-6.

From Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author Dave Eggers, Soren’s Seventh Song is a deadpan take on creativity and persistence, as told through the eyes of a humpback whale looking for a new song—with color illustrations by Mark Hoffman.

Soren, a young humpback whale, loves music but is tired of the dull, droning, endless songs that are frustratingly popular among the adult whales he knows. He has ideas for better songs: shorter, up-tempo tunes with snare drums and even maracas. Unfortunately, every time he shares his new tunes with his friends, he’s met with less than encouraging feedback and even a bit of discreet whale vomiting.

In this upbeat story of resilience and tenacity, Dave Eggers offers readers of all ages essential creative advice: your first drafts are probably terrible.

For more great book suggestions, be sure to check out the full February Hot Off the Press list!

List compiled by CBC’s resident book connoisseur, Brooke Pisarsky. Check out other Hot Off the Press Spotlight book lists on our blog.

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