Small Town Pride

Phil Stamper. HarperCollins, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-311878-2

In a heartfelt middle grade debut, Stamper (Golden Boys) traces a gay 13-year-old’s arc toward authenticity and queer community in Midwestern America. After Jake Moore comes out to his parents, his father installs a large Pride flag in the family’s front yard, spurring uncomfortable reactions from more conservative members of their rural Ohio village—led by Jake’s neighbor mayor, who actively silences discourse around the topic. Fearing that he’ll never be fully accepted, but inspired by queer inclusion in a farming simulation game in which he feels at home, Jake decides to throw Barton Springs’ first Pride festival, envisioning “something huge and full of joy that for once didn’t have to do with a basketball game.” He has the support of his parents and his academically ambitious best friend, Jenna, and finds an unexpected ally in his crush, mayor’s son Brett Miller. But village politics and red tape threaten to derail the festival, forcing Jake and his cohort to work toward changing the system for the better. Drawing from his own childhood experiences and employing sympathetically rendered characters (protagonists read as white), Stamper keeps the accessible story hopeful with a clear-eyed message of acceptance, inclusion, and bighearted community. Ages 8–12. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US. (May)
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