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Children's Fiction Lgbt

My Sister's Girlfriend

by (author) Gail Schwartz & Lucie Gagnon

Rebel Mountain Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
LGBT, Siblings, Emotions & Feelings
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 11 to 13
  • Grade: 6 to 8


Fifth grader Talia Cohen-Sullivan isn't sure how she feels about boys, crushes, and the love thing even though her best friend, Carmen, is already dreaming about kissing--and it's only September. Losing her mom to cancer a few years ago made Talia afraid of change, though she still has her big sister, Jade, to help her through hard times. But when she sees Jade kissing a girl, Talia is suddenly thrust into a world she doesn't understand and faces important decisions. With the help of her therapist, and Carmen, and Jade herself, Talia learns that love has many faces; love might even be something she's interested in soon . . . for herself.

Teacher resources available on publisher website:

About the authors

Lucie Gagnon et Gail Marlene Schwartz sont passionnées de livres pour enfants. Elles sont les co-auteurs de Clémence au temps du coronavirus (Facile à Lire, 2020) et L'amoureuse de ma sœur (Rebel Mountain Press, à venir). Lucie est retraitée du réseau des Bibliothèques Publiques de Montréal. Elle est un parent-éducateur qui adore les jeux, les pâtes et aime apprendre comment les choses fonctionnent. Gail écrit pour les adultes et est éditeur professionnel. Elle aime chanter, faire du pain challah, et travailler avec des amis sur des projets d'art salissants. En plus d'écrire ensemble, Lucie et Gail partagent une maison, un fils et un chien, tous pleins de sons, à St-Armand, du Québec.

Gail Schwartz's profile page

Lucie Gagnon et Gail Marlene Schwartz sont passionnées de livres pour enfants. Elles sont les co-auteurs de Clémence au temps du coronavirus (Facile à Lire, 2020) et L'amoureuse de ma sœur(Rebel Mountain Press, à venir). Lucie est retraitée du réseau des Bibliothèques Publiques de Montréal. Elle est un parent-éducateur qui adore les jeux, les pâtes et aime apprendre comment les choses fonctionnent. Gail écrit pour les adultes et est éditeur professionnel. Elle aime chanter, faire du pain challah, et travailler avec des amis sur des projets d'art salissants. En plus d'écrire ensemble, Lucie et Gail partagent une maison, un fils et un chien, tous pleins de sons, à St-Armand, du Québec.

Lucie Gagnon's profile page

Excerpt: My Sister's Girlfriend (by (author) Gail Schwartz & Lucie Gagnon)

Chapter 7

On Tuesday, I have Arts and Crafts Club. I'll try to finish my special project for Jade because of stuff with Emily and us being in a fight.

Last week, I started with the idea of an elephant--Jade's favourite animal. I used papier mâché to make it 3D. Then this week, I'm painting the whole thing teal and then gluing on cut-outs from a magazine for the legs and the feet. In one of the buckets on the table, there are these tiny metal circles and I make three holes in each ear and use the circles for earrings. I paint the trunk plum with glow-in-the-dark spots and add metallic gold stripes to the body, from the back down to the bottom of the feet. Finally, I tie some fishing line around the body so Jade can hang it from her doorknob, if she wants to. I know she'll like something that could never exist in nature but only in someone's imagination; mine, to be precise. I pick glue off my fingers and daydream about Jade with her new elephant.

Carmen has a dentist appointment, so after Arts and Crafts, I walk home by myself. I stop at Marda's, and for snacks I buy pretzels, and bugles, and apple juice because it's on sale. Marda gives me a huge smile.


"Where's the other cutie?"

"At the dentist, or at the orthodontist for her braces, I think."

She shakes her head. "I never went to the dentist a day in my life and my teeth are fine." Inside my head, I think about talks I've had with Carmen where we try to figure out the exact colour of Marda's teeth. They are somewhere between steel wool and double latte.

"How's my girl today, anyhow?"

I grin and hold up one finger. Digging into my backpack, I find Jade's elephant and bring it out to show her. Normally, I wouldn't do something like that because most people would think it was weird, but Matda not only doesn't say mean things, she also knows Jade.

"It's for my sister," I say proudly. I turn it around so she can see all the angles.

"You and that big sister have quite the creativity," she says, clucking like a turkey.


I giggle and put the two snack bags on the counter.


When I walk by Carmen's, I wave even though nobody is home. Weird how much I can miss her, even though we spent most of the day together at school.

I turn the corner onto Hickory and see the edge of our dark grey roof from a distance. I hope I'll have Jade to myself so I can give her the elephant right away. In my mind, I imagine her hugging me, telling me I am the best sister in the world and it's just icing on the cake that I am also a wonderful artist.

As I pass our next door neighbours, I see their cat chase a squirrel into our yard, which makes me look at the bottom of our house. Our basement has two very small windows, and the curtains on the front one are closed, which is strange because we always keep them open. The curtain on the side window is open and I see movement.

As I get closer, I keep looking at the window on the side of the house. I can see our washer and dryer, the hanging lightbulb with the string, and the tattered couch. On the couch are two people. Obviously one is Jade, but who is the other?

As I get closer, I step back. They probably don't want anybody looking if they pulled the curtains in front. Which just makes me more curious. I approach the house from the side of the window, out of their view. When my shoulder presses against the bricks, I lean forward to peek.


The other person is Emily. And she and Jade are kissing. On the lips.

I freeze, not able to pull myself up, not able to stop looking. Jade has her hands on Emily's cheeks and they kiss, and kiss, and kiss. I feel my heart race. Then I see Emily wrap her arms around my sister's waist.

I finally pull myself back against the house and stand up. Sweat beads on my temples and I'm breathing hard. Another squirrel runs past me and jumps onto the tree. I slowly turn and walk around to the front door. Open it with my key. Strain to hear sounds from the basement but the door is shut and the house is silent.


I put the snack bags on the kitchen table, take off my coat, and go into the bedroom. Lay face down on the pillow and Mom's face appears. But I can't think of one thing to say to her. Then, something comes. "Mom, I think Jade is in love. With Emily."

Editorial Reviews

My Sister's Girlfriend by Gail Marlene Schwartz and Lucie Gagnon was chosen by CBC as one of the top Canadian middle grade books to watch for in fall 2022.

A heartwarming story to help children understand the coming-out process of those they love. My Sister's Girlfriend is as much a story about a family coming out, as it is about a young girl opening up and learning to share a beloved family member with others. LS Stone, author of What's in it for ME?

Talia is a likeable character who has lost her mother and is very close to her sister, Jade. When she discovers that her sister has a girlfriend, she struggles with acceptance of this new relationship. This well-written book is a positive introduction for readers who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community. Acceptance is the key theme - not just of others but ourselves." Chantal Hughes, author in Breaking Boundaries- LGBTQ2 Writers Coming Out and Into Canada

Growing up is hard, especially when everyone around you is ready for relationships and having crushes. This couldn't be truer for Talia Cohen-Sullivan, a fifth grader just trying to make it through each day without the guidance of her mother.

Luckily, Talia has Jade, her 16-year-old sister who makes her feel like the centre of the universe. The calmness of Talia's world takes a sharp turn when she sees Jade kissing a girl in their basement. Shocked by this secret part of her sister's life, Talia's world seems to spin out of control as she wonders what this means. She feels like the life her sister has built for her is changing faster than Talia's ready for.

Gail Marlene Schwartz and Lucie Gagnon's novel creates a heartwarming introduction to allyship for middle-grade readers. This story is geared towards readers who are new to the LGBT02+ rainbow. They will find this especially poignant because it tackles some of the misunderstandings that often surface around these types of relationships for those who have not been exposed to them before, such as homophobia.

As the story progresses. Schwartz and Gagnon introduce many trusted adults for Talia to talk to and work through these concepts with. which is a wonderful model for middle-grade readers who are often presented with protagonists who must figure it out for themselves because of absent adults. Schwartz and Gagnon create a welcoming novel for all readers who are looking to better navigate relationships and changes that they may be experiencing through this charming story.

Ashley Pamenter is the co-chair of the Ontario Library Association's Red Maple Steering Committee

MY SISTER'S GIRLFRIEND has made the list of the Canadian School Libraries Journal issue sping 2023 vol. 8 No. 2, "11 Books to Add to Your Classroom If You're Infuriated by Book Bans,"

The MOMBIAN: "A thoughtful story about sibling love, family bonds, and the rippling, sometimes unexpected implications of bias and oppression.
Fifth-grader Talia, who lives in Canada, isn't quite ready to start thinking about crushes and boys, even though her best friend Carmen is. Talia's main attachment is to her high-schooler sister Jade, especially after their mom died several years ago. Jade starts wanting her own space, however, and is spending more time with Emily, another high school student, rather than Talia. When Talia sees Jade and Emily kissing, she isn't sure how she feels.
She knows what being gay is, and her friends seem to think being gay isn't a big deal. But when one friend relates the story of her cousin who was kicked out of his house by his parents who thought his being gay was a sin, Talia gets frightened. She knows Jade hasn't yet told their father about her relationship with Emily. What if that's because he'd kick her out, too? And when Jade and Emily experience homophobic taunting in Talia's presence, Talia is afraid they'll get hurt, even though the two older girls try to explain why they don't want to hide their relationship.
Talia gradually works through her fears, finding support from the therapist she had seen after her mom's death, and unexpected help from a two-mom couple she didn't even realize was within a few degrees of separation. There's also a helpful PFLAG group that makes an appearance. For grown-ups trying to evaluate the book and who want to know, I'll write Talia's dad's actual reaction to Jade's coming out: Their dad is totally fine with it, and had in fact guessed that Jade was queer long ago.
A few references could have been better explained for young readers. For example, Talia tells a queer woman she gets to know about the harassment of Jade and Emily. The woman responds, "It doesn't end. With Matthew Shepard and gay marriage, you'd think we'd be finished, but it just keeps going." The book never explains who Matthew Shepard is; even readers who do know may be confused as to why a young man who was brutally murdered is being paralleled with gay marriage, a good thing. (Presumably the authors intended the reference to be about how Shepard's death has increased awareness about the horrors of homophobia and the need for change, but that's never stated.)
In another instance, Talia's saying that a friend has "two moms. Lesbian moms," might have been better as just "two moms," leaving open the possibility that one or both could be bisexual. (Talia herself might be at too early a stage of understanding to differentiate, but the authors could have set a good example here for their readers about not assuming.) Additionally, one of the characters mentions that while they're lucky living in Canada, "it's not like homophobia just disappeared.... LGBTQ teenagers still have the highest suicide rate in North America." True, but the fact is, trans youth consider suicide at a rate higher than that of LGB youth, and bi youth at a rate higher than of LG youth. It's thus not just homophobia, but also transphobia and biphobia. Listing all that out might be a lot (especially since the book doesn't get into what it means to be trans or bi), but saying something like, "it's not like anti-LGBTQ activity just disappeared" might have been more inclusive.
These are minor tweaks, though, in an engaging narrative that thoughtfully explores the far-reaching impact that bias and hate can have, even in a community that is generally supportive of queer folk. The mere knowledge that it exists can trigger fears, especially in a child's mind. That's a nuance we don't often see, and it is commendable that authors Gail Marlene Schwartz and Lucie Gagnon, queer moms themselves, center this story around it. At the same time, I love that they show Talia's immediate family and friends being nothing but supportive of the queer people they know. Bias may cast a long shadow--but the model of how Talia works through her fears within a circle of support, and how the relationship between her and her sister is ultimately strengthened, should be welcomed by readers and their grown-ups. The publisher, Rebel Mountain Press, is an independent queer press in Canada. They don't have the marketing budget of the industry giants, so if you know someone who might enjoy this tale of sibling love, coming out, and overcoming fear, make sure to pass along a recommendation.
Talia and her family are cued as White. Talia is Jewish on her mom's side and identifies as "half Jewish." (The family seems to be culturally Jewish, but casual about observance. They celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.)"

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