Tag: Rivera

The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera – The Lesbrary

The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera – The Lesbrary

Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam RiveraI already know and love the Goldie Vance comics, but now it is also a middle grade novel series! The premise is that Goldie Vance is a sixteen year old girl who works as a part-time valet, part-time detective at a resort her father manages. She is the assistant to the hotel’s detective–which is apparently a thing?–and aspires to be a full-time detective when she’s older.

It has a 1950s feel, and Goldie is the plucky heroine we expect from a girl detective, except this one is a queer girl of colour! I love the comics, so I had to see how the novel versions compare. Although the main character is 16, she appears to be a little younger, which I think matches the 1950s aesthetic and definitely makes this work as a middle grade novel. When I worked in the children’s department of my local bookstore, I often wished there were more middle grade and YA mysteries–they are very popular for around 6-8 year olds and then inexplicably disappear–so I’m glad to see this will help fill that niche.

I was a bit worried about whether the queer relationship would be included in this middle grade version of the story–the comics are all-ages, but could easily be read by teens as well. Happily, it’s actually a big part of the plot in this volume.

A conference of magicians is happening in the hotel, and the stakes are high. The intimidating owner is demanding everything goes smoothly, because if this because a repeat event, it will be very profitable. Unfortunately, three of the waiters get food poisoning, and Goldie and a few of her friends at the hotel have to fill in. Meanwhile, Goldie is trying to plan the perfect first date with Diane. Unfortunately, she’s forced to be a server that night and has to cancel, and when they reschedule, the restaurant has been reserved for a special event. Goldie invites Diane to come to some of the magician performances happening at the hotel, which she happily accepts. But that’s not the end of her first date complications: someone is sabotaging the magicians’ performances, and she has to figure out the culprit–all while the son of the celebrity magician keeps following her around and telling her how to better do her job.

Was I proud of myself for keeping up with a middle grade mystery’s clues? Yes. I’m not usually a mystery reader because I am terrible at keeping track of details, so apparently middle grade mysteries are my level. I won’t comment on the mystery structure itself, because it seems silly to critique whether a mystery for 10 year olds is sufficiently complex for a reader triple that age, but this was an entertaining read full of memorable characters.

This finishes with a short comic at the end, which was a fun surprise. We see Goldie and Diane finally get to have their date together, and it’s adorable. I do think this translates well in the novel format, and I hope the series is long-running. This is technically the second book in the series, not counting the comics, but you don’t need to have read any of the other Goldie Vance books before this one: it’s a self-contained story.

New Picture Book Celebrates Friendship of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

New Picture Book Celebrates Friendship of Marsha P. Johnson and

It’s Transgender Awareness Week, and hot off the presses today is a new picture book about transgender icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera!

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution, by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley, 2020), tells the story of Sylvia and Marsha by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment by police and others. We see them at the heart of the Stonewall Rebellion, then opening a home for homeless trans girls and continuing to fight “for the survival and rights of transgender people.”

Some of the violence during the rebellion has been tempered for the age group and a few historical details could be argued, but as the authors note, this is only one retelling of what happened. What comes through clearly, though—and is probably most important for young readers—is the bond between Sylvia and Marsha and the overall sense of how they worked to help those in need. To read that they “strode with pride, like two lionesses” down the street after the rebellion, and to see Silver’s image of them smiling confidently, arm in arm, is to know that trans women can be strong and powerful. A few of the narrative transitions are a little jumpy, but the thread of Sylvia and Marsha’s friendship helps hold things together.

One point that may require a little adult explanation is when members of the community call out “Here comes Alice in the blue dress!” to indicate the police are on the way. We’ve learned earlier in the book that the police can arrest trans women for wearing dresses—and the police (all male) are not wearing dresses themselves. Young readers may think the call means the police are chasing someone named Alice until they understand the ironic slang. (Having said that, I’m betting that once young readers catch on, parents may be hard pressed to stop them from shouting this phrase themselves when they see a real officer on the street. Fair warning….)

The back matter offers additional details on the two, a glossary, discussion questions, and activities. There are a couple of errors in the two online resources listed, though: “Queer Kids Stuff” should be “Queer Kid Stuff,” and “The Family Equality Council” should be just “Family Equality.” (Also, I would have added PFLAG and Gender Spectrum as key resources, since they do a lot of work with families of trans kids.) Those are minor issues, though. This inspiring story of friendship, community, and revolution rightly gives Sylvia and Marsha their place on our kids’ bookshelves alongside the mostly White and male figures who have dominated LGBTQ picture book biographies.


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