The John Bellairs Read

The John Bellairs Read

John Bellairs spines TMW 2019

What a wonderful way to spend the start of 2019 — on a project to read through the young people’s literature from John Bellairs & Co. In sixth grade, when I first read Bellairs, I was entranced. The books may have been the first time I saw my middle-grade self in literature — specifically in young characters who thought “too much” and who were friends with older generations. Click the link above to see the diary-chart I filled in on the reading journey.

Love on Black Women

Love on Black Women

Remember the philanthropy newspaper columns of yore — the ones you could write to because you had an unexpected expense? Love on Black Women, a concept and a command, re-engerizes this direct-support path, this time around for black women love-on-black-womenwho could use extra support.

Creative founder of the effort Shavonda Sisson says on the site, “Black women are the backbone of our families, neighborhoods, and community. Yet we often don’t give them the love they deserve. Let’s love on them.”

Are you a black woman who could you some extra support? Request support at

Do you want to nominate a black woman for some support? Send love at

Do you want to support black women by donating funds? Donate at

Top 2018 Books

Top 2018 Books

I read a little over 100 books of all sizes in 2018 — down from over 200 in 2017. Makes sense, though — my day-job focus switched in recent time from coordinating book tours to managing leadership programs. During last year, I tracked my “5-star” books, regardless if the books were published in 2018, so I’m pulling the following list from that list. Also, I’m leaving out any re-reads of Harry Potter books. My top 2018 books are, by category:

Business Leadership

How to Be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings: Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women
Sarah Cooper


The Wright Brothers
David McCullough


When My Brother Was an Aztec
Natalie Díaz

Bury It
Sam Sax

Adult Fiction

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall
James Magruder

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh

Middle Grade

The Ghost in the Mirror
John Bellairs / Brad Strickland


The Dangerous Art of Blending In
Angelo Surmelis


Boy Erased
Garrard Conley

Picture Book

Can I Be Your Dog?
Troy Cummings

Graphic Novel

The Backstagers, Vol. 1 & 2
James Tynion IV

5 More Books for Young People Featuring LGBT+ Characters

5 More Books for Young People Featuring LGBT+ Characters

Am I imagining it, or do we continue to see more books that represent the many types of LGBT+ young people in the world? I’m unsure of the volume — but I am reading books that are telling stories I’ve not seen in print in their ways before. As in the related post noted above, I’ve attempted to indicate identities in the descriptions, though the nature of naming characters as specifically gay or bisexual, for example, is limiting, and I generally try to avoid doing so.

Felix Yz – Ages 8 to 11
Lisa Bunker
June 2018 (paperback release)
The Trans grandparent figure in this book inspires Felix to be accepting — and to realize that what confuses him doesn’t necessarily give him the right to know things about Trans people. Includes a constant story line of ongoing alien possession, but that deepens the story while making the novel accessible to the target audience. Perhaps the novel to read after George.

The Stars Beneath Our FeetAgest 9 to 13
David Barclay Moore
January 2019 (paperback release)

Features a young man who has family members (e. g., mother) portrayed as having sexuality outside of heterosexuality. Much of the story focuses on the loss of an older brother (who was shot at a club); and how to be friends with someone others make fun of.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In – Ages 12 to 17
Angelo Surmelis
January 2018
Similar to the wonderful Girl Mans Up, this book realistically addresses the multiplicity of identities of a main character. Here, Evan is Greek-American, gay, and more. A nice highlight is that the best-friend-he-falls-for portion is not from the tragic straight-guy-crush-trope box. The violence, often from the mother, seems more real as the church the family belongs to becomes wary of her methods.

The Backstagers (Vol 1 and 2) – Ages 8 to 17
James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh
2017 – 2018
These fantastical comics / graphic novels (which are they, in this case?) feature a same-sex crush that is adorable and cheer-worthy. Also — the secrets of what goes on in the backstage theatre (sic) world are akin to what might be happening in an Escher work.

Boy Erased – Ages 14 to 17
Garrard Conley
2017 (paperback release)
The memoir basis for the 2018 film offers a sad-but-relevant tale of the dangerous of ex-gay therapy and toxic family environments.

Why, Goblet of Fire, Why?

Why, Goblet of Fire, Why?

Those enrolled in Harry Potter Studies have heard the question — Why even have The Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter Book 4)? Why not just have someone kidnap Harry in an easier manner or at an earlier time?

HP4 CoverAfter a recent reread of Book 4, a simple idea occurred to me — which may have already settled out for you: J. K. Rowling has a reason for the tournament needing to play out. Starting from there, here’s my sense-making:

(1) Voldemort wants Harry, not some other enemy, as part of Wormtail’s doings in the graveyard.
(2) The Cup winner gets imbued with glory by the Triwizard Cup. (No matter a tie, it seems.)
(3) The Cup doesn’t care if you get help from baddies to win.
(4) But the Cup requires you to go through the tournament at the set pace of the tasks to unlock the glory.
(5) With all this, Voldemort will postpone the graveyard situation till Harry gets leveled up with the glory of the Cup.

Let’s return to the question — Why not just have someone kidnap Harry in an easier manner or at an earlier time? Voldemort wanted Harry to take the Cup’s glory booster first, which couldn’t be rushed.

Does this make sense compared to Voldemort’s other movements? Sure — he’s focused enough in Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone to try for nearly a year for a method of revival. Likewise in Chamber of Secrets. Self-Assurance is one of Voldemort’s CliftonStrengths, no doubt, so he’s not one to be shaken by the Cup’s timing necessities.

Ten Books for Young People Featuring LGBT+ Characters

Ten Books for Young People Featuring LGBT+ Characters

Ten books from 2016 and 2017 feature Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender characters, and characters of additional identities, in wonderful ways. Of course, more than what I’ve read exists, so feel free to mention titles in the comments. I’ve attempted to indicate identities in the descriptions, though the nature of naming characters as specifically gay or bisexual, for example, is limiting, and I generally try to avoid doing so.


Sparkle Boy – Ages 4 to 7
Leslea Newman and Maria Mola
June 2017
Features a gender-nonconforming child and the child’s sister, who decides to defend her sibling against potential bullies. What a celebration of supportive parents as well.

The Magic Misfits – Ages 8 to 10
Neil Patrick Harris
November 2017
Highlights a same-sex gay male couple who adopt children and support their positive self esteem. The magic in the book is all about sleight of hand and how wanting to do and be good turns what could be a harmful skill into a helpful one.

This Would Make a Good Story Someday – Ages 8 to 12
Dana Alison Levy
May 2017
Touching, adorable story about a same-sex couple of two women and their children on a cross-country train trip. Great creative sibling support at the end is very memorable. To boot, the book’s a companion to the Family Fletcher novels.

The Other Boy – Ages 9 to 13
M. G. Hennessey
September 2016
A heart-wrenching story of a baseball-loving boy who has been transitioning with the help of a doctor and prescriptions. His past is rudely revealed at his new school, just when he thinks all might be well. Doesn’t shy away from realistic messy family and friend moments.

Posted – Ages 10 to 14
John David Anderson
May 2017
Supporting differences shines well in this middle-school novel about friends at their lunch table, who is allowed at it, and who remains when differences of opinion rise. Features a gay male who is picked on and a girl who does not conform to her peers’ ideas of what it means to be feminine.

Alan Cole Is Not a Coward – Ages 10 to 14
Eric Bell
September 2017
Family drama and school worries challenge the main gay male character, but he learns to be himself, face his crush, speak to his family, and come out in this realistic drama. The sibling-as-bully aspect is poised to inspire much discussion.

Girl Mans Up – Ages 14+
M-E Girard
September 2016
A high school girl from a Portuguese family living in Canada finally meets another girl to date, though friends and family offer a mixed bag regarding support — ranging from anger to manipulation to unquestioning love. Realistic portrayals of obtaining an abortion, worrying about the appropriateness of clothing and hair style choices, gauging family respect, and weighing the worth of maintaining friendships abound.

Highly Illogical Behavior – Ages 14+
John Corey Whaley
May 2016
An agoraphobic gay teen who hasn’t left his house in years finally has friends, though he is not aware that the new friendships were inspired by a need for a case study. Moving depictions of a grandparent-grandchild relationship provide additional depth.

Autoboyography – Ages 14+
Christina Lauren
September 2017
The gay male teen protagonist falls for a Mormon/LDS guy, despite knowing that the church’s position on same-sex relationships is not a glowing one. Being true to yourself wins out — but not without much family and friend strain.

Meddling Kids – Older Teens
Edgar Cantero
July 2017
Written for adults, but ripe for older teens to appreciate, the novel imagines that a gang of kids similar to those from Scooby Doo cartoons has grown up to be somewhat of a mess. The friends reassemble to revisit their last case, the one they thought they’d solved so well years before. Features a woman admitting her feelings for another woman.

Remember — these are ten books from 2016 and 2017 featuring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender characters, and characters of additional identities, in wonderful ways that I’ve been able to read. Feel free to mention additional LGBT+-supportive titles in the comments.