Martin McLean, Middle School Queen

Sterling. Jan. 2020. 272p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454935704.
Gr 5 Up–Middle-schooler Martin McLean is a son, nephew, friend, junior mathlete, and aspiring drag queen. When his Tío Billy, also known as Cassie Blanca, introduces Martin to the world of drag, he is fascinated by it. Upon learning of an amateur all-ages night, Martin decides he wants to give it a shot. The problem is, the event is the same night as regionals for mathletes and Martin doesn’t know how he can do both if his team qualifies. Also, what will his friends and peers think if they discover Martin’s secret? Fun, inspiring, and delightful, this book is far from a drag. The cast of characters is diverse; Martin is biracial and his mother and uncle are Afro-Cuban. One of his friends is Mexican American and another is Vietnamese and uses a wheelchair. Tío Billy is gay, but it is emphasized throughout the book that performing drag does not mean one is necessarily gay. All the same, Martin does find himself questioning his sexuality. The theme of being true to oneself is wonderfully done. Zaczek also does a terrific job of making sure the drag queen aspect is age-appropriate for the audience, even having the drag event set in a coffee house instead of a bar.
VERDICT Timely, charming, and affirming. A must-purchase, especially for libraries and communities where Drag Queen Story Hour is popular.

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