December 2021


December 2021 Stars & Big Picture

Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.

Ciccarelli, KristenEdgewood. Wednesday/St. Martin’s, 2022 [400p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250821522 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781250821539 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Clark, Zack LoranThe Lock-Eater. Dial, 2022 [368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781984816887 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781984816894 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Forsythe, MatthewMina; written and illus. by Matthew Forsythe. Wiseman/Simon, 2022 [68p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781481480413 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781481480420 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 1-3

Heath, CarlyThe Reckless Kind. Soho Teen, 2021 [336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781641292818 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781641292825 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Robinson, FionaOut of the Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie; written and illus. by Fiona Robinson. Abrams, 2022 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781419740855 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781647003159 $15.54
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 3-5

Woods, BrendaWhen Winter Robeson Came. Paulsen/Penguin, 2022 [176p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781524741587 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781524741594 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 4-7


Cover art from Calvin featuring a smiling Black boy with dimpled cheeks. Big Picture


By JR and Vanessa Ford; illus. by Kayla Harren

Activists and authors have put forth no small amount of effort to bring representation of trans children to both kids and YA books, and young readers are now fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of that labor in stories like I Am Jazz (BCCB 10/14) and Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez. This month’s Big Picture celebrates the continued push for inclusivity in trans narratives, highlighting the ways affirmation and familial support can make a world of difference for trans children. Drawing on their own experience as parents to a trans child, JR and Vanessa Ford teamed up with artist Kayla Harren to give face (and an adorable one at that, as seen in this month’s cover) to Calvin, a young trans boy of color.

The eponymous Calvin knows what his parents and friends don’t: he’s a boy, “a boy in my heart and in my brain.” While nervous to tell his family, especially because he doesn’t know anyone else who is trans, he’s met with immediate acceptance and affirmation upon coming out. His parents promise that they love him, “if you are a girl, boy, neither, or both.” Calvin’s father reintroduces him to his grandparents, using his new name. Swim trunks are purchased, hair is cut, and Calvin even begins a new year of school with his teachers, principal, and friends using his correct name and pronouns. His revelation is never questioned and often treated as a new detail of his life, as if he returned from summer vacation with a new haircut or a cool bike. Especially lovely are Calvin’s moments of quiet advocacy, such as when his friend, Violet, says that her mom told her “you’re a boy now” and Calvin replies that he’s “always been a boy inside.”

This sweet and simple slice-of-life picture book is geared as much toward caregivers as it is for littles, serving as an exemplar of what can happen when a trans child is immediately supported by the adults in their life. The Fords openly offer up some of their own wisdom for this primer, providing some details of their family’s journey and sources for grown-ups in an authors’ note.

Harren’s digital art cleverly plays with composition, often dimming the background to pull characters and events into focus, and the soft, retro palette and colored pencil-esque linework are reminiscent of Leo and Diane Dillon. One particularly resonant spread contrasts Calvin sitting on his bed, unable to sleep despite the support of his ever-present stuffed lion and the family’s loving cat, as clouds of translucent worries about the coming school day swirl around him.

The character design gives the book a cheerful energy; Calvin is impossibly adorable, with a button nose, dimpled cheeks, and wildly curly hair, and his multi-racial family would fit perfectly in the work of a modern Norman Rockwell. The intentionally diverse cast includes various body types, physical disabilities, and even freckles and vitiligo, making this an excellent addition alongside Kyle Lukoff’s When Aiden Became a Brother to bring more inclusivity to Trans Day of Visibility and Pride displays.

Kiri Palm, Reviewer

Cover illustration by Kayla Harren from Calvin copyright © 2021, used by permission of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.