The shifting landscape of seventh grade combines with the unseen magical battles in the nearby woods.
Every Bird a Prince
by Jenn Reese
Henry Holt, 2022
Read from library copy. Ebook and audiobook available on Libby.
Eren Evers loves riding her bike through the woods near her house, finding it the best way to clear her head. Especially lately, when her two best friends have decided they’ll declare their crushes to each other. Eren doesn’t have or want a crush, but she does want to keep the friends who have been her anchor for years, so she decides to say that she has a crush on Alex Ruiz based on an analysis of all the boys in class.
When she’s struck by a partly-frozen bird during her ride, she’s drawn into an age-old struggle between the animals and the evil wolf-like beasts made of ice known as the Frostfangs. Normally, the battle against them is carried out without human knowledge, but now, the bird kingdom is the last one standing. The bird, who introduces themself as Prince Oriti-ti, asks Eren to be a champion for all the birds against the Frostfangs.
Soon, Alex is involved, too – her analysis having been correct in finding they’d have a lot in common, even if there are still no feelings. But as they train their strengths to fight the Frostfangs, they find that the frost of self-doubt is spreading throughout the community to their parents and teachers, visible only to the two of them because of their work with the birds. They were only supposed to have to save the birds – but now, Eren and Alex will have to find a way to keep them away from their friends and family as well. This grows increasingly difficult, as one of the main effects of the Frostfangs’ self-doubt on adults is to make them more authoritarian and punitive. And if Eren keeps blowing off her friends to spend time with the birds, will she still have friends to go back to?
This is a satisfying adventure with cute and spirited birds and terrifying monsters, blended perfectly with the ever-present friendship struggles of middle school, as romance becomes more of an issue. Here, part of the battle is both Eren and Alex figuring out that what they want for themselves isn’t something they’ve been able to be honest with either with themselves or their friends – a sensitive and age-appropriate exploration of non-hetero sexualities.
There are still not nearly enough middle grade fantasies out there from these perspectives, and this has more than enough to appeal to kids looking either for epic contemporary fantasy or middle school relationship issues.
Here are a few more recommendations for contemporary middle grade fantasy with LGBTQ protagonists:
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
And more books by Jenn Reese I’ve enjoyed: