Friday, July 21, 2017

Paper Circuits - STEAM Program

Paper Circuits

My last school-aged STEAM program of the summer focused on electrical circuits. Unlike previous programs, this one required some specialized supplies that are not readily available locally, but are relatively low-cost and easily ordered online. All you need is copper tape, small LED lights, button batteries, cardstock, scotch tape, and markers, pencils, and/or crayons. These can be used to build a circuit on a piece of paper or cardboard, and could be applied to a number of different projects, but I decided to have the kids use the circuits to light up their own artwork. 

Recommended Ages: 8-14

Recommended Group Size: 10-20; this is definitely better with a smaller group

Time:  1 hour for main project, additional 15-30 minutes for exploring with the Touch Circuits

Budget: About $35 for consummable supplies [with plenty leftover for future programs], $25 for each Touch Circuit toy.

To demonstrate how a circuit works, I started with a demonstration using these really neat educational toys from Lakeshore called "Light and Sound Touch Circuits". It is a "stick" with a handle that acts as a terminal at each end. When the circuit is completed, the "stick" lights up and plays sounds (the sounds can be turned off if desired). The circuit can be completed by one person holding each handle, or by two or more people in a chain. I started with showing them with two of us, then three, then the whole class. They got to see how it would stop anytime someone broke the circuit, and I told them to keep that in mind later if they had to trouble-shoot their project.

circuits for kids

Next I showed them the paper circuits, first a simple circuit with one light, then series and parallel circuits with two lights. I explained to them the advantage of parallel was that you could still power two lights with one battery, while the series circuit required two batteries, and that if one light went out, the other light would still work in a parallel circuit. They got to look at them up close, and see the two different methods of making a on-off switch.

Paper Circuits with Kids

* I also made sure to warn them about safety regarding the button batteries. They are very dangerous if swallowed and must be kept away from younger siblings and pets!*

Then they were ready to get started on their own!

Materials & Supplies 

Making Paper Circuits with Kids


Template for Parallel Paper Ciruit

1. Because our group usually skews younger, I pre-printed a parallel circuit template on cardstock for them and folded the top half of the cardstock down over the circuit template. I showed them how to hold it up to the light or window so you can see through and lightly mark where the LED's will be. [For older kids, I would let them plan and draw their circuit templates themselves.]

Paper Circuits for children

Then I told them to use their imaginations and think about how they could incorporate the lights into a drawing, such as lights on a bridge or building, fireflies, stars, lights on a vehicle, space ship, etc., then make their picture. 

2. Carefully measure and cut the pieces of copper tape and apply to the template, being sure to leave the indicated gaps, and get it as smooth as possible. Be sure to get complete overlap at all corners and intersections and smooth down well for best conductivity. Begin where the battery will be, then set the battery in place (+) side UP, and end the last piece of copper tape by attaching it to the top of the battery. Use scotch tape to secure the battery in place.

(Ideally, the tape would be applied in as few pieces as possible, using a precise fold to turn the corners rather than cutting separate pieces. While this creates a more efficient circuit, it is tricky and I felt would be too difficult for the ages that I had.)

Paper Circuits Program for Kids

3. For the switch, put a small piece of copper tape on the indicated line, then cut on either side so it can fold up over the gap in the circuit and complete the circuit. Use a binder clip to hold in place if desired. (There are other types of on/off controls and some more sophisticated battery holders you can find described online that you might want to try).

Paper Circuits for kids

4. Place the LED's. Look closely at the LED; the positive leg is the one that is slightly longer. Be sure to keep up with which one it is, and bend each leg out at a 90 degree angle. Place the LEDs in the designated gaps in the circuit, pointing the longer, (+) leg in the direction of the (+) side of the battery, and tape in place.

LED Paper Circuits for kids

5. If the switch is in the "ON" position, the LED's should light up once they are in place. Depending on lighting effect desired, poke a hole for the bulb to go through if a bright light is desired, or not if a more gentle glow is desired.

Paper circuits for kids program

Here are some examples I made (unfortunately didn't get any pictures of any the kids made):

Paper Circuits for kids, lighting up artwork with LEDs


1. The most common problem are loose or inefficient connections. Be sure the battery is connected with the copper tape at both ends of the circuit, make sure there are no gaps where two pieces of tape come together, but a complete overlap, make sure the switch is fully bridging the gap and connecting at each end. Because this is on paper, the flexible nature will cause some fluctuations and flickering, especially when picked up. This is to be expected.

2. The second most common problem is the LED put in backwards, or the battery upside down.

3. Also, both LED's and branches of the circuit must have the same resistance for the current to split and light both of them. Since current will seek the path of least resistance, only one will light up if it has even a slightly lower resistance than the other. It is safest to use the same color LED for both lights, but that is not a guarantee. If this causes too much frustration, you can stick with a simple circuit with just one LED (probably best for younger kids). 

After they were finished with their paper circuits, we got out the rest of the Touch Circuit toys (we have 10) and let them experiment with them. They discovered they could test the conductivity of different materials by working with a partner and each of them holding one end of the Touch Circuit stick, then each holding an end of the material to be tested with their other hands. The kids loved them and I highly recommend them! My manager saw them being demonstrated at a local conference we were presenting at and knew we had to have them.

Here is a really quick and dirty (i.e., crappy) video I made to briefly demonstrate how these work:

How It Went

The kids that had been there the previous time we came for the DNA program were excited to see us walk in, and all of them really seemed to enjoy this program, and had less trouble building their circuits that I thought they would. Some of them caught on really quickly, and did a great job helping out the others. Only the very youngest child needed a significant amount of help, which was not suprising as he was only barely 6, and maybe slightly immature for 6. He did need one-on-one instruction, but fortunately there were 3 of us, so we each took turns helping him as well as checking on everyone else's progress and answering questions and troubleshooting. They REALLY loved playing with the touch circuits afterwards, and their teacher told their director they needed to buy some. The teacher asked the kids what they would rate the program on a scale on 1 to 10, and I was very happy to hear unanimous 10's!

So that will probably be it for school-aged programming until next Spring Break, back to focusing on early literacy and storytime!

Sharks (And Other Fish) Storytime

Shark Week starts Sunday, so it was time once again for a Shark-themed storytime. This is my third year doing one, and the kids all love it. We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic by bringing up how it was summer, and that in the summer a lot of people like to go to the ocean. I asked them what was one kind of fish we hoped we didn't see while we're swimming in the ocean, and it didn't take them long to say "Shark!", and I brought out my shark puppet.

Shark Storytime, shark puppet

I let them all feel the puppet and observe how soft it was. Then I explained that sharks don't really feel soft like that, nor are they smooth and slippery like other fish, but rather their skin is very rough and scratchy, like sandpaper. I wish I had thought to bring sandpaper for them to feel, since most didn't really know what it was. 

Shark StorytimeAfter our story song, we read one of my favorite books, The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark! by Ken Geist and Julia Gorton. 

I love this book for several reasons: (1) it's a creative re-telling of a favorite folktalke, (2) there is lots of repetition so the kids can join in, (3) The fish having rhyming names, and (4) it teaches a lesson about how biting on hard things, or things that are not food, is bad for your teeth! It is such a fun story to read aloud, and the kids always love it.

We followed that with a really simple, but cute song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head, "Baby Shark". There are many different versions and verses, and some get dowright gruesome, which much older kids have a lot of fun with. But for the young ones, I stick with

Baby shark (fingers make biting motion) 
Mama shark (hands make biting motion) 
Daddy shark (use whole arms to make biting motion)
Going swimming (pretend to swim)
See a shark! (look around)
Swim away! (swim faster)
Swim faster! (swim really fast)
Safe at last (wipe brow, relieved)

ocean storytime
Our next story was actually not a shark story, but I wanted to do The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna since most kids really like it, and the more they hear it, the more they seem to like it, and the author had been kind enough to send me a batch of autographed bookmarks to give to my storytime kids. The kids like the repetition, and if they are already familiar with it, they will join right in, saying "I'm a pout-pout fish, with a pout-pout face..." and "Blub...Bluuub....Bluuuuuuub." 

Too bad her latest, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, wasn't available yet.

Shark StorytimeThe kids were eager for another story, so I went right to another really great shark story that is also a retelling of a folktale, The Little Fish Who Cried Shark by Tricia Phillips. This is a great story made even more awesome by being a pop-up book! Little Scrat loves to play tricks on people, especially scary ones, and his favorite trick of all is to yell "Shark!" and watch everyone panic and scramble to hide. One day Scrat hears a shark warning, and ignores it, thinking someone is just playing a trick on him to get him back, but discovers sharks are no laughing matter. I am so glad I discovered this book; it's really great! I had to buy it used, but it was still in good shape.

We talked for a minute about what sharks eat, and that they don't usually eat humans and don't really like the way we taste, but sometimes they make a mistake. They normally eat other fish, turtles, and seals, and they aren't being mean; everything has to eat something else to survive. This led into a song about the food chain, "Slippery Fish" (also sometimes called "The Octopus Song"):

"Slippery Fish"

Slippery fish, slippery fish; swimming in the water.
Slippery fish, slippery fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an octopus!"

Octopus, octopus; swimming in the water.
Octopus, octopus; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a tuna fish!"

Tuna fish, tuna fish; swimming in the water.
Tuna fish, tuna fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a great white shark!"

Great white shark, great white shark, swimming in the water.
Great white shark, great white shark; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an orca whale!"

Orca whale, orca whale, swimming in the water.
Orca whale, orca whale; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"BUURRP! Whoops, excuse me!"

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers and bookmarks!

How It Went

As always, the subject of sharks was a big hit. They really loved both shark stories, but didn't quite get into The Pout-Pout Fish as much. They didn't seem like they had ever heard it before, and this is one of those stories they like better after hearing it more than once, plus I guess it wasn't very fair mixing it is with the more exciting shark stories! But I did notice that I got no "Ewww"s about the kissing from this class; instead they seemed to think is was sweet and that the two fish were "in loooooooove" with each other. They enjoyed both songs, especially acting out the sharks and trying to swim away as fast as possible!

For more shark stories, try my lists from 2015 and 2016 for picture books, both fiction and non-fiction.

And remember, it's a bad week to be a seal! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ice Cream In A Bag - STEAM Program

ice cream in a bag, homemade ice cream, kitchen chemistry

What better day to share this easy, cheap and yummy program idea than National Ice Cream Day?? This is a fun "Kitchen Chemistry" experiment that just has a few easy to obtain ingredients and supplies, is easy enough for the little ones, but will appeal to older kids as well. What's better than a chemistry experiment you can eat?? And yes, it really works!

Ingredients & Supplies

Ice cream in a bag

  • half & half or milk (the more milkfat the creamier it will be)
  • sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • salt, preferably kosher
  • ice
  • pint zip-lock bags (heavier freezer bags recommended)
  • gallon zip-lock freezer bags
  • sprinkles, mini choc. chips, or other mix-ins (optional)
  • fruit juice (optional alternative to dairy)
  • towels or gloves/mittens
  • thermometer (to check starting and ending temperatures)


1. Add 1/2 Cup half & half/,milk, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to small zip-lock bag and seal. Shake to dissolve sugar.

making ice cream in a bag

2. Fill gallon zip-lock bag about 1/2 full with ice (check and record the starting temperature of the ice) and add 6 Tablespoons salt and shake to evenly distribute.

Ice cream in a bag, STEM STEAM program

3. Place smaller, sealed bag containing cream mixture inside the larger bag containing the ice and salt mixture (you may want to double-bag the small bag to be sure salt doesn't get in the ice cream), add a little more ice and seal. Shake entire bag and contents for 5-10 minutes (5 is usually enough for soft ice cream). This gets very cold, so it is recommended to either wear warm gloves, or wrap the bag in a towel (a towel will also help insulate and keep it cold).

Ice Cream in a bag

4. After 5-10 minutes, ice cream should be ready! Carefully remove inner bag containing ice cream. Check and record the final temperature of the ice/salt/water mixture. You may be surprised by how much it dropped!

Ice Cream in a bag, STEM STEAM programs for kids

5. Ice cream will be creamier if you quickly but gently squish it around a little bit in the bag. Not too much though, or it will melt!  You can add desired mix-ins, such as chocolate chips, cookies pieces, etc. at this point as well. Ice cream may be eaten directly out of the bag, or spooned into a dish, and garnished as desired. It will begin to melt immediately, so dig in!

Making ice cream in a bag, STEM STEAM program, kitchen chemistry

6. An alternative to ice cream is to make sorbet from fruit juice. Juice can be used straight out of the bottle, but I like to dilute it slightly with a little water and add a teaspoon of sugar, as it seems to taste less sweet when frozen. This is a great option if dairy allergies or lactose intolerance are an issue. I have not tried non-dairy milks, such as soy or almond, but I would imagine they would be more icy and not creamy. 

Making sorbet in a bag, STEM STEAM program, kitchen chemistry
Sorbet made with cran-raspberry juice.

So, how does this work? The chemistry of this is a little tricky to explain, but it has to do with phase-changing and the lowering of the freezing point of water by the dissolved salt.

The ice begins to melt, providing just enough liquid water to start dissolving the salt. The dissolved solute depresses the freezing point of the solution, allowing the temperature to continue to drop rather than remain a constant 0 degrees Celsius. The temperature drops because the remaining ice absorbs some of the energy (in the form of heat) from the salt water as it continues to melt (an endothermic reaction) . You can explain the chemistry either in the beginning, during the shaking time, or after. 

This experiment does not take very long, so you could do ice cream first, and have time to try making sorbet (those who already made sorbet due to dairy issues could try a different flavor), or combine it with other simple "kitchen chemistry" experiments. A couple of good ones to pair with this would be the old picking up an ice cube with a string trick, and making butter from heavy cream in a jar (or small plastic container).

For a library program, display books for check-out with other simple at-home science experiments, fiction or non-fiction books featuring or mentioning ice cream or the dairy industry, and cook books (especially any explaining the science of cooking).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Books with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Themes for Younger Kids

25 books about diversity, self-acceptance, and being transgender or gender non-conforming for younger readers, transgender children's books

**I have since updated this bibliography, removing a few of the older or more problematic titles and adding several new ones. Click here for the updated list!**

One day when I was working the desk, a patron asked for help using the catalog. The book she was looking up happened to be one with a transgender protagonist, and I mentioned I had read it recently. Then she explained she had a young transgender daughter and was having a very hard time finding any books with transgender characters or themes that were not for teens or older tweens.

I found a few titles in our catalog, which unfortunately were not in at our location. She asked about getting more added to the collection, and I showed her how to put in a request, but since she didn't know any specific titles, I offered to do some digging and e-mail her a list of titles so she would have something to start with. I included the titles our system owns, as well as those suggested by other youth services professionals, some I found on other lists, and some titles I just happened to come across in the process. She was primarily interested in picture books, but also wanted to know about any chapter books for kids up to about age 12.

*One caveat: I could not get my hands on most of these and had to go by samples, summaries, and reviews, so please don't take these as recommendations, merely as a list of books to consider.

Picture Books (ages 4-8ish)

It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (2004). 

While this book doesn't specifically address being transgender, it does provide a positive message about being different in general. Some of the examples are physical characteristics, some are random, but it also includes having different kinds of families.

Written for the youngest readers, it features short, simple text, and bright, colorful illustrations with heavy black outlines that look as though a child had drawn them.

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr (2016). 

This is a companion to the book above, continuing the positive message about diversity and individuality, encouraging kids to be proud of what makes them unique, and to express themselves however they need to. It does not specifically address transgender, but it does show a boy wearing a feather boa.

Illustrated in Parr's signature primitive style with bold colors, this book is an excellent way to teach acceptance and individuality to young children.

Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian & Mike Curato (2016). 

Two worms fall in love and decide to get married. Their friends excitedly ask them about their wedding plans: Who is going to wear the wedding dress? Who will wear the tux? The worms can't figure out which one of them should wear what, and in the end they decide that it doesn't matter

(Fun fact: Worms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, in other words they are all both male and female. When they mate, both sets of sex organs are used by both worms, and they both become mothers and fathers!)

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall (2015). 

A crayon is labeled Red, but no matter how hard tries, he just can't color anything red; everything keeps coming out blue! His teacher just thinks he needs more practice, and his friends and classmates try to show him how. But he still draws blue strawberries. He is very frustrated and sad, until he finally realizes that he isn't a defective red crayon, he is in fact a brilliant, but mis-labeled, blue!

An obvious parallel to being transgender can by drawn from the story, but it can also be used to relate to not being defined by your appearance or others' expectations in general. 

Fun Fact: Author Michael Hall said though he realized many people would interpret this as being about transgender and that was fine, the story was actually about his experiences growing up with dyslexia, and the expectations and pressure from his father to perform better in school.

BunnyBear by Andrea Loney & Carmen Saldana (2017).

Bunnybear was born a bear, but feels more like a rabbit. He prefers bouncing through the bushes to tramping in the forest. In his heart, he is light, bouncy, and fluffy. But, neither the bears nor the bunnies understand him at first, and when they make fun of him it makes him feel sad and anxious. Eventually he learns to be true to himself, and helps others as well.

Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jess Walton & Dougal MacPherson, (2017).

Errol's teddy Thomas is his best friend, and they do everything together. One day Thomas is sad, and nothing Errol tries seems to cheer him up. At first Thomas is afraid Errol won't want to be his friend if he tells him what's wrong, but finally confides that in her heart she has always known she was really a girl teddy, and wishes to be called Tilly, not Thomas. Errol says he doesn't care, and that "What matters is that you are my friend."

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings & Shelaugh McNicholas (2014). 

This is based on the real-life experiences of Jazz Jennings, a young transgender girl who is now well known as a spokesperson for transgender children. With this book she tries to explain in simple terms what transgender is, and what it was like for her as a young child. She does use the "born in the wrong body" explanation and gender stereotyping to explain how she knew she was really a girl, which some people object to, but is probably the easiest way to explain it to a young child.

When Kayla Was Kyle by Amy Fabrikant & Jennifer Levine (2013).

This is the story of Kyle, who looks like a boy, but knows he doesn't fit in with them and doesn't understand why they tease him. Kyle struggles to find the words to express how he feels to his parents, and his parents initially struggle to understand, but eventually help him transition to Kayla.

This is another self-published book with no professional reviews and very few reader reviews, though most were fairly positive. The author is not trans nor the parent of a trans child, but is a literacy specialist and advocate for equality and diversity. I have not seen the book first hand, but from the trailer on the author's website and reader reviews, my gut feeling is that it is well-intentioned, but may be overly simplistic and not that appealing to children.

About Chris by Nina Benedetto (2015)

Chris knows he is a boy, even though his body looks female. This is a self-published book with no professional reviews, and the author is an educator, not a psychologist and does not mention any personal experience with the subject. Some reader reviews mention parts of the story as being confusing or problematic, but I am including it as I did not come across any other picture books about transgender female to male children, and some reader reviewers that identified themselves as parents of transgender children did report it was helpful. The author also has a companion book called My Favorite Color Is Pink.

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr & Bea Rumback(2010). 

One day at school the teacher asks them to draw a self-portrait, and Nick draws himself as a girl, because that how he has always seen himself. Nick's family joins a support group and are supportive when Nick asks to be recognized as a girl, use feminine pronouns, and change her name to Hope.

This is a self-published book, based on the author's own experiences with her children. There are no professional reviews, but reader reviews, including those by parents of transgender children, are overall positive.

Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (2018).

Julián and his grandmother see some people dressed as glamorous mermaids on the subway, and later he decides he wants to dress up as one, too. Instead of being shocked or angry, his grandmother is supportive and takes him to join what appears to be the Coney Island Mermaid Parade on the beach.

Some interpret this as a transgender child, but others (myself included) see it as a child engaging in creative play that is not defined by traditional gender roles, and having a supportive grandparent. Either way, it is a sweet story about unconditional love and acceptance with lovely illustrations, and a recipient of the Stonewall Award.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis & Suzanne DiSimone (2010). 

This story is based on the author's experiences with her son, who is not presented as transgender, but a boy who happens to enjoy dressing up as a princess and stereotypical "girl" things. The story also addresses teasing and bullying, but shows a very supportive family, including the brother and dad. 

One criticism of the illustrations is the blank, featureless faces, that some readers found creepy or disturbing.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino & Isabelle Malenfant (2014). 

Morris is a boy with a vivid imagination who loves to play in the dress-up center at school, where his favorite thing to wear is a bright tangerine dress. The other kids tease him and tell him he shouldn't wear a dress because he is a boy, and should be doing "boy" things, and won't let him play in their spaceship. 

But then Morris uses his incredible imagination to construct his own spaceship, which draws the other children and they begin to accept him as he is.

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert & Rex Ray (2008). 

Every night Bailey dreams of beautiful dresses, but when she tries to tell her family about her dreams, her parents tell her she's a boy, and boys don't wear dresses, and her brother says "Gross!". Finally she meets an older girl who shares her interests and they create beautiful dresses together.

This book could be very confusing to children who don't already have some understanding of transgender, as it is not really explained in the story. Bailey looks like a boy, and everyone else says Bailey is a boy, but the narrator consistently refers to Bailey with feminine pronouns, but no explanation. Some parents object to presenting an older, non-family member as Bailey's "savior."

Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman & Maria Mola (2017). 

Casey loves puzzles, blocks, trucks, AND shiny, sparkly things. While his parents support his experimenting with sparkle, his older sister Jessie doesn't like it when he wears her old sparkly skirt or wants his nails painted. But, when he is teased by other boys at the library, Jessie sticks up for her brother.

This is by the author of Heather Has Two Mommies. One thing worth noting is that the illustrations show a family of color. I am disappointed the author chose the library as the setting for Casey being bullied; kids should be encouraged to see libraries as a safe place!

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah & Ian Hoffman & Chris Case (2014).

Jacob loves playing dress-up and pretending to be anything he wants. He wants to wear a dress to school, even though some kids say he can't because he's a boy. His mother agrees to help him make a dress, and when he is teased about it at school, he tells the bullies that he made that dress and will wear it proudly. His father and teacher are supportive; the teacher gives the example that only a relatively short time ago, girls were not allowed to wear pants, and that everyone should wear what they are comfortable in.

Roland Humphrey Is Wearing a WHAT? by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson & Katrina Revenaugh (2013). 

Roland likes sparkly things, rainbow colors, butterflies and barrettes. But the girls in his class tell him these things are only for girls. Roland questions why there is a double standard for girls and boys; why are the rules for boys so much more rigid? He sticks up for himself and decides to express himself the way that feels right for him.

Annie's Plaid Shirt  by Stacy Davids & Rachel Balsaitis (2015). 

Annie loves her plaid shirt, and wears it every day. But, when her uncle is about to get married, her mother tells her she must wear a dress to the wedding, even though she hates wearing dresses. In the end, Annie comes up with an alternative her mother accepts, by wearing her plaid shirt with one of her brother's old suits.

I have to confess, I'd be fine with the suit, but I still wouldn't let her wear the old plaid shirt to a wedding if it were my child!

All I Want to Be Is Me by Phyllis Rothblatt (2011). 

This book explores the various ways children can experience and express gender, presenting a positive image of gender diversity. 

This is a self-published book, and some reviewers felt the physical quality of the book was lacking, and some felt it was too repetitive, though that was a plus for young children. The author is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Chapter Books (ages 9-13)

George by Alex Gino (2015). 

George knows she's a girl, but everyone else thinks she's a boy, and she thinks she will have to keep this secret forever. She looks at magazines for teen girls and imagines having the freedom to express herself the way she feels as "Melissa". Then one day the teacher announces they will be putting on a production of "Charlotte's Web", and George's strong desired to play Charlotte gives her to motivation to show her true self, and finds support from her best friend and brother.

This is considered to be a ground-breaking book, the first with a transgender character, written by a gender-queer author. However, some reviewers have found the writing to be weak, and gender is rather rigidly-portrayed: girls wear skirts and makeup and are sensitive and cry easily; boys cannot be sensitive, must be tough, and enjoy playing 1st person shooter games. The plot is also somewhat similar to Gracefully Grayson, published the year before.

Gracefully Grayson  by Ami Polonsky (2014). 

Twelve-year old Grayson has a secret; she is a girl, stuck in the body of a boy. She generally keeps to herself for fear of someone figuring out her secret, until an unlikely friendship gives her the courage to try out for the part of Persephone in her school play and deal with the bullies and disapproval from adults.

This book came before the very similar George, and is perhaps better written. However, the author is not transgender and relies on the more simplistic "born into the wrong body" explanation of transgender, rather than the more nuanced explanation of being a girl but being perceived as a boy by everyone else in George.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016). 

Lily is an 8th grade transgender girl who has not yet come out, but knows she must if she is to start hormone blockers to prevent male puberty. Dunkin is a boy who recently moved to the area and has bipolar disorder, plus is hiding a family secret. The two meet and form an unlikely friendship.

This book has received many positive reviews, though some feel the author tried to cover too many issues in one book. A few also feel that the author should not have written about a transgender character as she is not transgender herself and feel her portrayal showed a lack of understanding.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke. (2017).

Eleven-year old Liv looks like a girl, but inside knows he's a boy. To make matters worse, his new school has a ridiculous dress code requiring all girls to wear skirts! Liv is not quite ready to come out to everyone as a boy, so instead launches a campaign against the outdated, sexist dress code. Also includes same-sex parents.

From the sample I was able to read and several reviews, I think this book is not as heavy as some of the others, and has a fair amount of humor. It is told in first person, avoiding the issue of pronouns. 

The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey. 

This book is a bit different than many others in that the main character is already living as his true gender. Shane is a typical boy: he plays baseball, writes a sci-fi comic, and has a crush on a girl named Madeline. But, he also has a secret. Shane appeared to be female at birth, and his father is still treating his transition like a phase, not his true identity. Then, someone finds out and outs him to the whole school, and Shane has to deal with prejudice and hate, but is surprised by who is left standing by him in the end.

I like that the author's endnotes explain that this is only one fictional character's experience, and that not every person experiences being transgender in the same way; each person's journey is unique to them.

Non-Fiction Books

Who Are You? by Brook Pessin-Whedbee & Naomi Bardoff (2016). 

This book is not exactly a book for kids, but more of a tool to guide parents in a discussion of gender with young children. It makes a distinction between sex, gender identity, and self expression. There is a part to be read to the child, followed by a page-by-page guide with more information on key points for the parents. This book should definitely be read cover to cover by the parent in advance to be sure they are prepared for what questions may come up. For ages 4-8.

Sex Is a Funny Word  by Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smyth (2015). 

In comic book form, this book uses a diverse cast of children and families to help educate children about their bodies, gender, and sexuality. It gives opportunities for parents to discuss their values and beliefs, as well as safety and setting boundaries. The book places emphasis on thinking for yourself and forming one's own opinions, as well as showing respect for yourself and others. It does not specifically talk about sexual intercourse, but provides a foundation to build on. I personally find the illustrations to be a bit garish, but kids may find that appealing. For ages 7-10.

I would like to re-iterate that these are NOT recommendations, merely suggestions. As M. G. Hennessey stated in the author notes at the end of The Other Boy, there are many different ways people experience being transgender, and the preferred terminology is rapidly evolving. Some object to the "wrong body" explanation as being overly simplistic and not an accurate portrayal of how they feel, while others say that is exactly how they feel. I personally am concerned with how some of these resort to, and thus reinforce, traditional rigid gender stereotypes in trying to explain or portray how a character knows they are one gender over another. 

Each situation is different; therefore, there may be objections voiced about any of these books, and not every book is right for every family. I would *strongly* encourage parents to read any book carefully before reading/giving it to a child and consider if it is the right book for them. For example, many of these books address teasing and bullying, but some children have not experienced that, and a book that describes it may cause them to become fearful and anxious that they will be bullied. For others, it may help empower them to handle it if it does happen. A parent is usually the best judge for what book is best for their child.