Insta Review: Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart

Insta Review gives you a new book recommendation in under a minute. Go ahead, time it!

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As the country becomes more and more involved with issues like gender equality, mental health, and human rights, it’s important that we educate children and give them a chance to learn about the different sides of each argument in a safe and approachable manner. Enter literature – the best way to step into the shoes of someone different than you and see the world from their point of view. Lily and Dunkin takes on two huge taboo subjects for kid lit by following a transgender fifth grader (Lily) and her new pal, a seventh grader with Bipolar Disorder (Dunkin). It’s clear as you read that both issues are close to the heart of author Donna Gephart, and that she put painstaking time and effort into representing each character as realistically and relatably as she could. While the voice wasn’t my favorite, I was drawn in by Lily’s struggle with her father to be accepted as a girl when she was born in a boy’s body; and similarly interested in Dunkin’s struggle to take his medications when he feels like a better version of himself without them. Lack of information turns into misunderstanding, which can easily grow into intolerance or hate. The more we expose children to the many different kinds of people in the world – people who look differently, live differently, feel differently, and believe differently – the more accepting and open hearted they will grow up to become. The story drags a bit in the middle, and the writing may feel juvenile for the upper end of the age range (SLJ suggests grades 5-8; for me it feels more 7-8), but I see this being a new favorite for my big hearted, accepting, human-interest-loving middle schoolers. Lily and Dunkin is an easy to read, accessible peek into the lives of two tweens living lives that they didn’t get to choose, but that they have to try to do their best to live. #stabsummerreading

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