In the past few months, my students have become entranced with the Heartstopper series. They have binged the Netflix series, read through the webcomic online, and devoured the copy of Volume One that is in our classroom library. They have convinced their parents to buy them copies and asked the school librarian to add copies for next year. Tomorrow, I'll bring Volume Two to school (which I ordered weeks ago and was on back-order), and I expect that they will be very excited.
Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman, is a heartwarming read. In Volume One, Charlie, a gay teen, and Nick become friends and slowly fall for each other. In Volume Two, Nick realizes that he is bisexual and the two become boyfriends. The story focuses on their relationship and how they support each other, as well as exploring the impact of homophobia. It is a sweet story and I can understand how it has caught students' attention.
Graphic novels like Heartstopper often catch students' attention, particularly ones that have 2SLGBTQ+ characters. There is power in seeing yourself represented on the page, particularly in a visual medium. There is also power in reading a story that offers a window into another's world. Graphic novels have successfully explored topics surrounding identity, rights, acceptance, and love for years now. Below are some examples of graphic novels with 2SLGBTQ+ characters that have captured my students' attention over the years.
- The Cardboard Kingdom, by Chad Sell - A graphic novel that follows the children of the cardboard kingdom, a neighbourhood where kids go on adventures and take on new personas using cardboard costumes and their own creativity. A few of the kids in this book are questioning their gender identity, and the message of gentle love and acceptance that is offered from family in the book is beautiful.
- The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang - This excellent graphic novel tells the story of a prince who secretly dresses like a woman. It is a fantastic book about coming to terms with your own identity.
- Speak Up by Rebecca Burgess - This book focuses on Mia, a girl who is autistic and who is convinced by her nonbinary best friend Charlie to enter a singing competition.
- The Witchboy, The Hidden Witch, and The Midwinter Witch by Molly Ostertag - This graphic novel series is about a boy who defies the long-held gender norms of his family to become a witch.
- Lumberjanes - A graphic novel series about a summer camp for hardcore lady types. It features a lesbian relationship between two campers, as well as a transgender protagonist. The series explores a variety of supernatural mysteries and is highly entertaining.
- Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh - This graphic novel tells the story of Snapdragon, a girl who wants to learn to be a witch from Jacks, a mysterious elderly woman who has a key connection to Snap's family. It features a transgender secondary character and a key subplot about a same-sex relationship from years gone by. This book literally fell apart this year because it was read so frequently.
- The Girl from the Sea, by Molly Knox Ostertag - This graphic novel tells the story of Morgan, who is hiding the fact that she likes other girls. Her world is turned upside down when she is rescued from drowning by Keltie, a selkie who is hiding a secret of her own.
- Enemies, by Svetlana Chmakova - The fourth book in the Berrybrook Middle School series focuses on Felicity, who is working on develop a business with her best friend while navigating middle school enemies. I appreciate the inclusion of two non-binary mentors who help her pursue her dream.
- The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen - This graphic novel tells the story of Tiến, who wants to come out to his Vietnamese mother, but doesn't know how. A beautiful tale that weaves together stories about coming of age, immigration, and identity, with fairytales. This is my favourite book in this list.
- Surviving the City Volume 2: From the Roots Up, written by Tasha Spillett and illustrated by Natasha Donovan - This is the second volume in the Surviving the City series. This volume focuses on Dez, a teen who is growing up in Winnipeg and finding space in her Indigenous culture and community as a two-spirited person. This is the only book I have come across with a two-spirited character and it offers an important discussion of this underrepresented group.
- I Am Not Starfire, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani - This is a perfect read for fans of superhero stories. It is about Mandy, the non-superpowered daughter of the famous superhero Starfire. The book follows Mandy's developing relationship with her classmate Claire.
- Bloom, written by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau - Ari is struggling to figure out what makes him happy. Through his work at his family's bakery, he meets Hector and love starts to bloom.
- Mooncakes, written by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu - In this fantasy graphic novel, Nova, a young witch, falls for her childhood friend Tam, a non-binary werewolf, as they investigate a supernatural occurrence in their town.