Author Spotlight: An Interview with CK Malone

Spooky season is upon us, so this month’s Author Spotlight has a Halloween twist! Today, I’m thrilled to be chatting with my friend CK Malone today about their debut picture book A Costume For Charly.

C.K. Malone (they/them) is a bigender award-winning educator and literature coach at the secondary level. When not grading essays or helping students, they’re busy helping design culturally and LGBTQIA+ responsive units for the district and working as a climate and culture coach. When they’re not writing, they’re coaching and advising through alignment with the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network. C.K. continues this work in the literary world by advocating for all to be given the space to tell their own stories. Though they love the many hats they wear, their favorite is as an advocate for diverse voices.

How did Charly come to be? What inspired you to write this book and how did your experiences with your own identity impact the story?

Charly is much braver than I am, to be honest. I dream of being this strong. Charly came to be because when I was 11 going on 12, I made a mishmash of costumes for myself to show a select group of friends who I was. It didn’t turn out to be as joyous a situation as Charly’s, though. So Charly’s experience is very much how I *wish* it would have been. My own identity is Bigender (technically Intersex but Bigender is the easiest explanation for people) and I wanted to show readers this identity doesn’t have to cause strife when choosing how to express it. Like myself, the easiest way was to choose binary costumes and combine them. 

Author: CK Malone
Illustrator: Alejandra Barajas
Published: September 6, 2022
Publisher: Beaming Books
Format: Picture Books

Writing stories so close to our hearts can be both difficult and rewarding. What has been the biggest challenge in writing A Costume For Charly? What has been the biggest reward?

The biggest challenge was having to omit some items from the story because I was told Charly needed their own agency. There was a person near and dear to my heart in the LGBTQIA+ community who helped me along the way. She has since passed. But I keep my original draft in my home office in a frame next to her picture. The biggest reward is hearing how my book is helping people to not only understand the identity a bit more, but also that they are sharing CHARLY with their kiddos.

Speaking of rewarding, how was it seeing Alejandra Barajas’ amazing illustrations for the first time? It must be such a thrill to see your words come to life on the page!

Alejandra is SUCH a talented artist. I loved seeing how she emulated Charly’s moods through the illustrations. The colors start off muted when Charly is experiencing a lot of lows then become vibrant as they realize they can make their own costume and celebrate it. It was amazing seeing the illustrations for the first time. I cried. A lot.

If children only take one thing away from reading A Costume For Charly, what message would you hope they get?

I hope they receive the message that they are not wrong in how they feel or how they identify. Find a trusted adult to speak to about feelings. So often, kids are told by the wrong people “this is just a phase” and other such nonsense. One of my middle school GSAs is 36 children strong with over 60 who identify who cannot attend meetings due to transportation, so now we hold them virtually as well. I have students at the elementary level sending me emails because they know they are coming to my school someday. There is no “phase” about it. Children know they are different.

You are such a vocal advocate for diverse voices in the kidlit community. What advice would you give those still learning to find their voice and speak up for others?

That’s a hard question. I’m still learning daily how to speak up and out for others without putting myself in danger and without making huge mistakes because I have done both. Both have left scars on an already scarred heart. I’d say joining platforms that support as well as giving money to verified platforms that support helps immensely. Celebrate diversity in all its intersections because it is truly beautiful. And if you have any kind of privilege–even if you are intersectional yourself–use that privilege to help others whenever possible.

What are your plans for Halloween this year? Do you have any creative costumes planned?

I’m going as a bat tap dancer. It’s going to be weird, but kids will like it. Oh, and I can’t even tap dance. Soooo…there’s that. I hope to read at a local bookstore as well as hand out candy. One of the schools is doing a haunted house, so I look forward to joining in on that!

A Costume For Charly is your debut, so I have to ask, what’s next for you?

I have a short story coming out in a literary magazine and we’re waiting to announce my next book. It’s not LGBTQIA+ because I don’t want to write only about my identity since I’m so much more than this. My experiences extend beyond identity. Looking forward to everyone hearing about both!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?

If you read this blog, then I know you must be amazing and want the best for your kiddos. Keep being you!

I love that! Thank you so so much for joining us today, CK. It’s been an absolute delight chatting with you!


To learn more about CK and their work be sure to visit them online at carlislemalonebooks.com and follow them on Twitter @CKMalone2 and Instagram @writre_ckmalone.

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Review: Kind Like Marsha

Today I’m sharing a book that I’m certain will be on my list of favorites for 2022. Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager and Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is a fantastic book that fills a huge hole in the picture book market.

Title: Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders
Author: Sarah Prager
Illustrator: Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Published: August 2, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Kind Like Marsha is a picture book biography collection that shares the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ leaders throughout history for readers ages 4-8. I’ve seen lots of picture book biography collections with biographical information in the backmatter, but Kind Like Marsha is the first one I’ve seen that presents biographical information upfront in an approachable way for the youngest readers.

Beginning with Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman whose activism supported LGBTQ+ youth in her community in New York, each spread has a portrait on the left and a biography on the right. The biography includes the subject’s name, dates, one sentence explaining their accomplishment, a quote from the subject, and the lesson we can all learn from them. I absolutely adore this format because it is SO approachable. Nonfiction can feel intimidating for so many young readers, but Sarah Prager has laid the information out in a way that invites young readers in.

The illustrations by Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday pair perfectly with the biographies, not just giving the reader a face to put with each name, but capturing each leader’s work in such a beautiful way.

Kind Like Marsha officially releases on August 2nd, and I can’t recommend it enough! You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Running Press Kids for sharing this amazing book with me. I can’t wait to read this one over and over to my little one.

About The Author:

Sarah Prager is the author of Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World and Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History. She came out as lesbian when she was fourteen and feels grateful for her extended LGBTQ+ family and loves telling the stories of our shared history. She’s written for the New York TimesNational GeographicThe Atlantic, and many other publications about LGBTQ+ topics. Sarah lives with her wife and two children in Massachusetts.

About The Illustrator:

Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is an illustrator originally from London and who grew up in New Jersey. Her illustrations are heavily influenced by her Caribbean and Asian heritage and she’s created artwork for various worldwide publications and companies. Cheryl lives in the Tri State area.

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Review: ‘Twas the Night Before Pride

I can’t believe Pride Month is only two days away! While I was trying to figure out where the month of May went, I thought of the perfect book to share as Pride approaches. ‘Twas The Night Before Pride by Joanna McClintick and Juana Medina is a beautiful picture book that honors the history of Pride.

Title: ‘Twas the Night Before Pride
Author: Joanna McClintick
Illustrator: Juana Medina
Published: May 10, 2022
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: Picture Book

‘Twas the Night Before Pride was one of my most anticipated picture books of 2022, and it did not disappoint! Told with the familiar rhyme scheme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, this wonderful book tells the story of a family preparing to celebrate Pride. Sitting on a couch with one mom on each side, the oldest sibling prepares the youngest sibling for their first pride by telling them the history of this celebration.

This joyous story combines a comprehensive history with honest representation, creating the perfect Pride celebration for young readers. Discussing topics like the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS March in simplified terms for young readers, Twas the Night Before Pride pays respect to those in the LGBTQ+ community who fought against injustice and inequality throughout history.

The illustrations by Juana Medina are an absolute treat! Each page perfectly captures the joy and belonging I feel every year at Pride, allowing me to share it with my little one any day of the year. He will be attending his third Pride this year, and I can’t wait to share this wonderful book with him because I know he’s just as excited to celebrate as I am.

You can pick up your very own copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Pride wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Candlewick Press for sharing a review copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Pride. I already know this will become a beloved title in our home that we will read year after year, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it with everyone today.

About The Author:

Joanna McClintick is a debut children’s book author and a licensed social worker at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan. When she was dreaming about building her family, she wrote this poem to honor Pride’s history of resistance and imagined sharing it with her future child one day. It has become a tradition to read it at their annual brunch the day before the Pride March with family and friends. Joanna McClintick lives with her wife and child in Brooklyn. You can learn more about Joanna and her work at her website, joannamcclintick.com.

About The Illustrator:

Juana Medina is the author-illustrator of Juana & Lucas, which won the 2017 Pura Belpré Author Award; Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas; Juana & Lucas: Muchos Changes; and many other titles and has illustrated numerous picture books, including Smick! by Doreen Cronin and I’m a Baked Potato! by Elise Primavera. Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Juana Medina now lives with her family in the Washington DC area. To learn more about Juana and her work, please visit her website at juanamedina.com.

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Pride Puppy

I have another perfect pick for Pride month for you all today! Pride Puppy by Robin Stevenson is a precious LGBTQ+ rhyming alphabet picture book. Unlike most alphabet books, Pride Puppy is not just a collection of words starting with every letter of the alphabet, but a story featuring a family as they attend a Pride parade.

Our story starts with the family waking up and preparing for their big day – packing everyone in the car, including their pup with a cute little rainbow bandana. But during the festivities, there’s an accident and their puppy gets lost, making a big mess of things as everyone tries to catch him. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll just say that by the time they get to Z, young readers will be pleased.

I absolutely LOVED the representation in this book. The illustrations have rainbow flags, trans flags, bi flags, two spirit flags, and more. We see folks with a wide range of ages, abilities, races, and genders all celebrating together. There is even representation for colored hair and tattoos! The level of detail and inclusion is absolutely lovely to see, and all the fun bright colors are just icing on the cake.

As someone who is bi, seeing that flag meant the world to me. I have to admit, this is the first time I remember seeing bisexuality specifically represented in children’s literature. I don’t have the words to describe how much it means to me to point to that flag while reading this book with my son and proudly tell him what it means.

Pride Puppy is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Robin Stevenson is an award-winning author of over twenty-five books based in Victoria, Canada. Please visit her website at robinstevenson.com to learn more about her and her work.

Julie McLaughlin is an award-winning freelance illustrator based in Vancouver Island, Canada. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at whatwouldjuliedraw.com.

I’m so happy to see more books centering the queer community being published today. I want to thank Orca Book Publishers for sending me a copy of this wonderful book. Now I’m going to cry tears of joy because I get to take my son to his first pride parade this year and I have the perfect book to prepare him for it.

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