Small Town Pride

May 2022. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063118782.
Gr 5 Up–In the tiny town of Barton Springs, OH, Jake is the only openly gay kid, a fact he’s mostly comfortable with–even if he’s not sure he loves the huge pride flag his dad hung up. Especially, because the mayor across the street dislikes lawn signs, protests, and anything that threatens the perfect peace she aspires to build in town. As people begin to take sides, Jake questions what “pride” really means, and if he can fit into the small town he loves. When the mayor’s cute son agrees to help try to throw the town’s first pride festival, Jake wonders if he can really trust him, and if pride in this town is possible at all. This is a timely, relevant novel with references to current events that middle grade readers will connect with. Jake and his friends are navigating all the normal middle school triumphs and pitfalls, while planning a pride festival with all the optimism and nerves expected from a group of tweens. Stamper excels at exemplifying the range of support Jake could expect to find, with some of the hypocritical adults undergoing well-crafted character development. Some interactions read like a guide to having tough conversations—but for a book that’s all about empowering tweens, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
VERDICT Middle schoolers will be drawn to this story about a kid trying to find his place, learning to speak up, and understanding what pride really means.

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