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Second Dad Summer

Second Dad Summer
Benjamin Klas By (author)
Fian Arroyo Illustrated by
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Red Chair Press

Limited ***

6.0 X 8.0 in
224 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Alternative Family
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101 Great Books for Kids — 2020 — Winner
ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award — 2020 — Short-listed


Jeremiah just wants a normal summer with his dad. But his dad has moved in with his new boyfriend Michael who serves weird organic food and is constantly nagging him. Worst of all, Michael rides a bicycle decorated to look like a unicorn. This is not the summer Jeremiah wanted. But Jeremiah soon learns that being a family comes in many surprising forms.


"A young man learns about Pride, tolerance, and acceptance in this heartwarming debut. Iowan Jeremiah usually enjoys spending summers with his father, Al, a construction worker who lives in Minneapolis. Except now those summers include Al's new boyfriend, Michael, a man with highlighted hair who drinks organic teas, rides around on a unicorn-themed bicycle, and comes across as way too gay for Jeremiah's taste. As the summer progresses, Jeremiah's friendships with Sage, a girl who lives close by with her moms, and Mr. Keeler, an older, gay next-door neighbor who shares his love of gardening, help him rethink his view of Michael and his beliefs about masculinity. Klas' novel is a timely salute to the evolving picture of a traditional American family. The author's mastery of this subject matter is evident in the smallest details of the world he creates, from the urban smells of a big city and the spirit of a Pride festival to Jeremiah's angst over Michael's use of nicknames reserved for his parents. Arroyo's black-and-white cartoon illustrations give further texture to the story. Through Klas' eminently likable young protagonist, readers enter a space where homosexuality and bisexuality are thoughtfully discussed and traditional ideas of masculinity are explored and challenged. The cast is default white, but the diversity within the LGBTQ community is thoughtfully presented, including in the persons of Sage and her mother Lisa, who are Hmong (Sage was conceived via artificial insemination). Touching and unforgettable."—Kirkus ReviewsJournal

"In the thoughtful middle grade novel Second Dad Summer, a boy spends his vacation with his father and his father's boyfriend. Jeremiah likes his summers with his dad. This year, their time together includes Michael, his dad's new boyfriend. Michael eats organic food, rides a bike with a unicorn on it, and has a whole circle of friends that Jeremiah's dad is now a part of, too. Jeremiah's days are spent biking, exploring, and working in
and around the apartment. He makes new friends, including Sage, who lives in the same neighborhood with her two moms, and Mr. Keeler, a grumpy old man who lives in his father's apartment building and who is antagonistic towards Michael. Jeremiah works to adjust to significant changes in his family. He is fine with his father dating men, but he is not comfortable with colorful, flamboyant Michael. He is also not happy with Michael trying to take care of him. As summer progresses, Jeremiah observes the actions and interactions of those around him and is exposed to new ideas about what family means, leading him to consider how both he and Michael might fit within the same family. Slowly, his attitude shifts. Minneapolis is made vibrant by references to its sites and activities, including its library and museum; pride and art festivals; and the city's biking trails. Its citizens are diverse, and Jeremiah meets other LGBTQ+ people and people of multiple ethnicities. The book's characters are vibrant, and the novel is welcoming and inclusive. Insightful and sensitive, Second Dad Summer is a story all about the meaning of family and the value of acceptance."Foreword Reviews, LGBTQ+ Spotlight


"Twelve-year-old Jeremiah is looking forward to spending the summer with his dad—but not so much with his dad's flamboyant, live-in boyfriend, Michael. Surrounding his young protagonist with an adult cast so thoroughly LGBTQ that when one character introduces himself as 'the straight one,' it’s only barely an exaggeration, Klas sends Jeremiah (and readers) to a Minneapolis Pride festival to learn how wide the rainbow is, involves him in conversations on topics ranging from pronouns to bisexuality and (with a new friend, Sage, one of whose moms is also Hmong) artificial insemination, and, significantly, has him witness Michael and his dad unselfconsciously kissing, holding hands, and exchanging tender physical gestures. Moreover, though Michael initially comes off as a standard gay caricature, he turns out to have hidden depths. Jeremiah, being a fundamentally decent sort, eventual accepts Michael with relative ease. Along with a cornucopia of discussion topics and an array of positive alternative role models (reflected in Arroyo's occasional scenes of skinny-limbed but ordinary-looking people, nearly always smiling), this debut never seems overstuffed despite a plot that features a birth, deaths present and past, working together on projects (including breaking ground for a garden), characters and relationships with sometimes surprising nuances, and much adjusting to new family and friendships."—starred, BooklistJournal

Author Bio

Benjamin Klas lives in Minnesota with his partner and their son. His work has appeared in literary magazines and a collection by LGBTQ authors.
Fian Arroyo has been illustrating for more than 20 years. He lives in the mountains of North Carolina. When he is not drawing he can be found fishing or mountain biking.