cover image Joy, to the World

Joy, to the World

Kai Shappley and Lisa Bunker. Clarion, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-324275-3

Young transgender activist Shappley’s hopeful debut, written in collaboration with Bunker (Zenobia July), offers a down-to-earth telling about a trans girl whose passion for cheer launches her life in an unexpected direction. After moving from Minnesota to Texas, where “cheer is like the official sport,” 12-year-old Joy Simmons confides in her journal that becoming a flyer is “my destiny.” Joy initially worries that her single mother will say no to cheer due to the family’s stretched finances, but after her mom agrees, Joy’s practice pays off: she makes the middle school team with her best friends. But everything comes crashing down when Joy is kicked off the team due to an exclusionary state law that says athletes must compete “on the team that aligns with their sex assigned at birth.” Joy is subsequently required to use the nurse’s bathroom and harassed at school. As the family navigates increasingly hostile school board meetings and Joy is inspired to speak publicly against an anti-trans bill being considered by the Texas Senate, they connect with unexpected allies. Interspersed with journal entries, Joy’s plainspoken first-person perspective accessibly reports on the very real threats trans children face daily alongside the resilient character’s faith and personal feelings. Protagonists are white. Ages 8–12. Agents: (for Shappley) Laura Thede and Alicia Beekman, DDO Artists Agency; (for Bunker) Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (May.)