Jonathan Van Ness, the author of Over the Top and star of Queer Eye, has stepped out of his comfort zone. Bringing his signature humor and positivity, Van Ness has written a Children’s Book to inspire kids to celebrate everything that makes them special.
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Looking back on his childhood, Van Ness never understood why he was more over the top than the rest of the children. It came to a point when he realized that there was little to no solace in books to make him feel as though his uniqueness was what made him special. This inspired Van Ness to write a book of his own that focused on a gender-neutral character in the form of a guinea pig.
Peanut Goes for the Gold is a heartfelt picture book that shows the uniqueness of a gender nonbinary guinea pig named Peanut. Peanut never fails to show their uniqueness. As the blurb states, “Whether it’s cartwheeling during basketball practice or cutting their own hair, this little guinea pig puts their own special twist on life.” By using gender-neutral pronouns, Van Ness gives room for children to insert themselves into the story in ways that they wouldn’t normally be able to.
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Although Peanut can love themselves at such a young age, it wasn’t as easy for Van Ness to do the same. In his book, Over the Top, Van Ness shares his experiences with being different from other children. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, his unique personality caused “years of judgment, ridicule and trauma.”
Over the Top gives permission for Van Ness to share a side of himself that others haven’t seen. By sharing the pain and passion he felt at such a young age, it made headway for many to gain more insight into the whole Jonathan.
Through the good and the bad, Van Ness has been able to rise above and uplift children who may be experiencing the same.
Today, October 4th marks the day of two very important birthdays: mine (not to brag) and my personal favorite Hogwarts professor, one who has proven to be the wisest and most badass character in all of Harry Potter, Minerva McGonagall!
Image via Vulture
While this surface-level description paints her in a blindingly positive light, the reality is that deep down (if you do your research), she has been through far more than anyone, muggle or wizard, had ever gone through or could even bear to live with and is actually one of the most tragic characters within the world that Rowling has crafted around the “Boy Who Lived,” all of which just adds an extra layer to her already complex character that came to be an all-round crowd favorite amongst the Potterheads (including me).
So, here are seven facts about Minerva McGonagall that you may not have known about from just reading the books or watching the movies. (Also, Maggie Smith’s strong acting chops adds another layer to the reader’s imagination of McGonagall’s badassery.)
1. Her sorting into Gryffindor took over five minutes
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If you actually counted every time a young witch or wizard gets sorted into a house in any of the movies, then you would get no more than a minute, or two tops.
Very much like Hermione (my personal favorite character of the series and whom the Hat was initially stumped on placing in either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor), Minerva has the special kind of qualities that can really stump – or stall – the Sorting Hat for at least five minutes straight upon placing a new-coming student into a House that it’s quite literally a “Hat-Stall,” until she was finally placed in Gryffindor, just like Hermione, and has really lived up to her House name in more ways than just being the House Head!
2. She was named after the Roman name for a Greek goddess
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Speaking of living up to Gryffindor’s name, if you ever studied Greek/Roman mythology, then you should probably recognize McGonagall’s first name Minerva, which was the Roman name given to the Greek goddess Athena (a.k.a. goddess of wisdom, courage, and justice, especially when it comes to warfare).
As for her surname McGonagall, while it for sure shows off her Scottish lineage and was actually named after the Scottish poet William Topaz McGonagall (a.k.a. the worst poet known throughout the U.K.), it’s actually a name that’s not at all within the Wizarding World, which brings us to this fact…
3. She is a half-blood witch
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While her mother Isobel Ross was a full-blooded witch, Minerva’s father Robert McGonagall, however, was a muggle, and Isobel, sworn by the International Statute of Secrecy not to reveal herself or anything about the Wizarding World to muggles, did not tell Robert until long after the birth of their first child Minerva, who started to exhibit her magical abilities to her parents.
Robert decided to stay and keep Isobel’s identity a secret, showing how loving and loyal her husband really was, and when her parents even later had two boys, Minerva helped her mother out in cleaning up the messes caused by her brothers’ magic.
(Keep her magically-mixed parents in mind: they will pop up again later…)
4. She won awards for Transfiguration and later, the Order of Merlin: First Class
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Not only is she awesome at her job teaching Transfiguration and at being a freakin’ Animagus (a.k.a. a product of Transfiguration that already made her more than qualified in teaching Transfiguration), she won awards for doing what she does best, including her badges for Prefect and Head Girl, top grades for her O.W.L and N.E.W.T exams, and upon leaving school, the Transfiguration Today: Most Promising Newcomer award.
Also, after the Battle of Hogwarts, because of her strong display of bravery (by far, her truest moment of living up to her Head of Gryffindor name) in protecting the Hogwarts grounds against Voldemort and his Death Eaters, she so rightfully earned the Order of Merlin: First Class, an award specifically given for acts of bravery or entertainment within the Wizarding World.
5. She was engaged to a muggle (for less than a day)
Image via Radio Times
Now, here is just a taste of what makes Minerva a tragic character of the series…
The summer after graduating from Hogwarts, Minerva returned home to Scotland and met Dougal McGregor, who was the son of a muggle farmer and with whom Minerva fell deeply in love. In fact, later that very summer, she accepted his proposal to marry him!
However, and this is the part where I get back to her parents, not willing to make the same mistake her mother made but still not willing to risk the secrecy of the Wizarding World, Minerva broke off the proposal the very next morning after their engagement, but she very much later regretted her decision to do so: during Voldemort’s rise, McGregor was murdered in the crossfire of an anti-muggle attack by the Death Eaters.
Try looking at her the same way you did before…
6. She married her former boss (for three years)
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If you thought the previous point about Minerva’s tragic life was dark (but then again, this is the world of Harry Potter we’re talking about), here’s an extra dark layer…
While Elphinstone Urquart (Minerva’s boss from her first job working at the Ministry of Magic, a fact that I didn’t much room to make for on this list) over the years had asked Minerva to marry him, even while she was briefly engaged to McGregor, at one point, she finally accepted his proposal and of course, married and lived with him in a cottage at Hogsmeade. However, their marriage only lasted three years, as Urquart died from a Venomous Tentacula bite, and Minerva moved back to her Hogwarts chambers, leaving behind the home she shared with her last love.
I swear Minerva can never catch a break with her personal life!
7. She got to be permanent headmistress after Voldemort’s defeat
Image via The Book Addict’s Guide to MBTI
Well. At least she’s got one of many things going for her: after the Battle of Hogwarts, she was appointed Headmistress of Hogwarts. Permanently! And that is where we see her today…
I don’t think it’s too much of a coincidence that she and I both share a birthday: we’re both smart Libras with so much to offer the world. Happy Birthday, Minerva, my Hogwarts kindred spirit.
Also, to anyone out there in the U.K. if you ever find a normal-looking tabby cat looking down at a map, then you know where Minerva McGonagall is…
Today’s world can often seem extremely anti-LGBTQ, with society feeling oppressive toward people who fall outside the line of heterosexually. But there is still a lot of good news, especially with the recent news about the book called Julian Is a Mermaid.
The book is a children’s picture book that tells the story of a young boy called Julian who comes to terms with his queer identity, showcasing his attempts at dressing in woman’s clothing and how his nana reacts to his attempts to embrace his new identity. The author and illustrator Jessica Love, who was partly inspired by a trans friend, never expected it to be published. After all, many U.K. and U.S. imprints are yanking books off shelves who have gay or trans protagonists, with children’s work a big victim of this unfortunate practice.
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On Sept 11, Jessica Love was proven wrong when her book won the much coveted Klaus Flugge prize. The prize goes to the most exciting newcomer in children’s book illustration and on Wednesday night, Jessica Love took it home. The judges called the book ‘astonishingly beautiful’ and were further quote as saying:
‘Julian Is a Mermaid reminds us that picture books can make us understand the world differently and better; that they are for everyone. It is a groundbreaking book.’
Love went onto note that the recaption had been mostly positive but there was some hostility toward her work for supposedly spreading the ‘gay agenda.’ She noted Julian is a Mermaid was drawn from her own personal life, with Julian’s nana based off her own queer role modes, her aunt and her aunt’s wife. She wanted a book that could provide the support she received to millions around the world.
Image VIa Letstalkpicturebooks.com
She is extremely humbled to win the prize and is now working on a sequel, again featuring Julian and his nana. She found the book’s success totally gratifying and paralyzing at the same time. She hopes to continue to give her characters further life, while hoping the success doesn’t overwhelm her. But with the amount of joy and praise she has received from the LBGTQ community, she is likely to continue to soar upward much like Julian himself.
It tells the story of a group of children who are working on planting a garden. Each of the children has something different about them, but are afraid of talking about it. The book then encourages the kids to break down barriers and ask their friends about what they need in hopes of becoming better friends.
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Sotomayor drew inspiration for the book from an incident after she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 7. When she was giving herself an insulin shot, someone accused her of being a drug addict. Holding back frustration, Sotomayor told the person the truth and encouraged them to ask if you don’t understand something, before making a horrible assumption.
The book features a young Sotomayor talking about her diabetes diagnosis, along with other characters that have blindness, ADHD and several other illnesses. Sotomayor hopes to use these characters to show that being different isn’t a bad thing.
Differences provide not just beauty in life, but they’re important to the quality of the world we live in. It’s richer because of our differences. We’re not lesser because of it. We’re stronger because of it. My book celebrates the many ways in which kids and adults are different and do things differently.