I’m so excited—a new, LGBT-inclusive book for middle-grade readers, and a delightful one, at that! Jennifer Gennari’s My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer is about coming-of-age, coming out about one’s family, and baking pies. I’m happy to be doing a giveaway of two copies of the book, courtesy of publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: one today, and one later this week. Read on for details.
I’ve written about the book in my latest newspaper column, which I’ll post in full shortly. In the meantime, here’s a preview: The protagonist, 12-year-old June Farrell, lives on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont with her mother and her mother’s soon-to-be fiancée, Eva. It is the summer of 2000, just after Vermont has approved civil unions for same-sex couples. June must deal not only with the skepticism and resentment any child with a new stepparent might have, but also with her local community’s not-always-positive response to the civil union law and the lesbian family in their midst.
I was initially hesitant about such a political theme, since many issue-driven books for children have been clunky and pedantic. Gennari avoids preachiness, however, by making civil unions only one of the many issues that June must grapple with during her summer (a pie-baking contest among them), and by showing the diversity of opinions on the matter within the community, within families, and even within individuals.
Although the book doesn’t hide the fact of anti-gay sentiment, the resilience June shows in the face of bias (and the allies she finds) may give strength to children in states where marriage equality is being contested. Despite the potentially heavy subject matter, Gennari maintains a light, but never flippant, tone. Her heroine is thoughtful but not moody; spirited but not pollyannaish.
The reading level is clearly in the 9- to 12-year-old range. Only one sentence makes me think this is for the upper end of that range: June is reading letters to the editor in her local paper, and observes, “One letter writer . . . said that most gays were ‘pedophiles’ and couldn’t be trusted around innocent children.” There is no further explanation of the word. Decide for yourself if that’s appropriate for your child, or if you want to have an explanation on hand in case your child asks.
Leave a comment below about your (or your child’s) favorite middle-grade book or your favorite type of pie. I will randomly select the winner from all comments received before 11:59 p.m. ET, December 11, 2012.
Additional rules and restrictions:
U.S. and Canada residents only, please. One entry per person. Don’t worry if your comment is moderated; once I approve it, it will appear based on the time you submitted it. Spam comments, including off-topic or commercial comments, will not count. If you win any one of the two drawings for this book, you cannot play again. (You can leave a comment to participate in the discussion, but I won’t enter you in the drawing.) If you are or have been a paying advertiser (or an employee of a paying advertiser) on Mombian, you can’t play.
You must also leave a valid e-mail address with your comment. Don’t leave a postal address, though. If you win, I’ll contact you by e-mail about shipping. I will then share the winner’s name and postal address with the publicist, for the sole purpose of allowing them to mail you your prize directly.
I am a member of the Amazon Associates program, and get a small referral fee from all purchases made at Amazon.com via links on this site. You are under no obligation to purchase through them.