Mental Health: LGBTQ: Middle Grade

Ann Jacobus and Nan­cy Bo Flood, authors and edu­ca­tors, devel­oped this list of books for mid­dle grade read­ers with men­tal health and LGBTQ char­ac­ters as a focus. They are main­tain­ing it, so if you have sug­ges­tions, please let us know in the com­ments. Ann and Nan­cy are avail­able for work­shops on this impor­tant top­ic for librar­i­ans, edu­ca­tors, and men­tal health orga­ni­za­tions. Ann Jacobus. Nan­cy Bo Flood.



writ­ten by Alex Gino
Scholas­tic Press, 2015
(trans­gen­der char­ac­ter, fourth grade) 

When peo­ple look at Melis­sa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

Melis­sa thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret for­ev­er. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Char­lot­te’s Web. Melis­sa real­ly, real­ly, REALLY wants to play Char­lotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part … because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kel­ly, Melis­sa comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Char­lotte — but so every­one can know who she is, once and for all.

Grace­ful­ly Grayson
writ­ten by Amy Polon­sky
Lit­tle , Brown, 2014
(trans­gen­der char­ac­ter, sixth grade)

What if who you are on the out­side does­n’t match who you are on the inside?

Grayson Sender has been hold­ing onto a secret for what seems like for­ev­er: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gen­der’s body. The weight of this secret is crush­ing, but shar­ing it would mean fac­ing ridicule, scorn, rejec­tion, or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson’s true self itch­es to break free. Will new strength from an unex­pect­ed friend­ship and a car­ing teacher’s wis­dom be enough to help Grayson step into the spot­light she was born to inhabit?

Lily and Dunkin
writ­ten by Don­na Gephart
Dela­corte Press, 2016
(trans­gen­der char­ac­ter, bipo­lar disorder)

Author Don­na Gephart crafts a com­pelling sto­ry about two remark­able young peo­ple: Lily, a trans­gen­der girl, and Dunkin, a boy deal­ing with bipo­lar dis­or­der. Their pow­er­ful jour­ney will shred your heart, then stitch it back togeth­er with kind­ness, humor, brav­ery, and love.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Tim­o­thy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Espe­cial­ly when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorf­man, birth name Nor­bert Dorf­man, is deal­ing with bipo­lar dis­or­der and has just moved from the New Jer­sey town he’s called home for the past thir­teen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hid­ing from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One sum­mer morn­ing, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorf­man, and their lives for­ev­er change.

King and the Drag­on­flies
writ­ten by Kacen Cal­len­der
Scholas­tic Press, 2020
(12-year-old queer char­ac­ter, grief, racism, domes­tic violence)

Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his broth­er Khalid has turned into a drag­on­fly. When Khalid unex­pect­ed­ly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for anoth­er to live down by the bay­ou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still vis­its in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to him­self as he watch­es grief trans­form his family.

It would be eas­i­er if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friend­ship, after over­hear­ing a secret about Sandy-that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want any­one to think you’re gay too, do you?”

But when Sandy goes miss­ing, spark­ing a town-wide search, and King finds his for­mer best friend hid­ing in a tent in his back­yard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abu­sive father, and the two begin an adven­ture as they build their own pri­vate par­adise down by the bay­ou and among the drag­on­flies. As King’s friend­ship with Sandy is reignit­ed, he’s forced to con­front ques­tions about him­self and the real­i­ty of his broth­er’s death.

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