In honor of Pride Month, we’re interviewing Mike Curato, creator of Flamer, his debut graphic novel! With five starred reviews, this is a powerful story about a young boy’s path to self-discovery and acceptance. Mike shares more about his inspiration for the story and his advice for aspiring writers and illustrators here.
When describing Flamer, what’s your elevator pitch?
Mike Curato: Flamer is the story of Aiden Navarro, a 14 year old half Filipino, half white mixed kid, who is away at scout camp the summer before freshman year of high school. He is navigating friendships, bullying, racism, religion, and body image, all while confronting his sexual identity.
What inspired you to create Flamer?
Mike: When I was Aiden’s age, I didn’t see myself in books and on screens. I wanted to write a story for queer youth to be able to see themselves and feel validated.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Mike: My high school art teacher, Mrs. Nicholls, was my fiercest advocate at school. She encouraged me to pursue my artistic endeavors, and was always there to talk to. The art room and the periodical room in the library were my refuge (another shout out to the periodical room librarian, Mrs Avery). It made a difference knowing there were people who had my back, people to help keep me safe. I also had an amazing English professor, Dr. Demarest, who really opened my eyes to the importance of literature. I would credit him with shaping me as a reader and early writer.
What is the first step in your creative process?
Mike: I think I often start with an idea and a feeling, then it’s all about experimenting. When the experiment is eliciting more emotions, that’s how I know I’m on the right track.
What advice would you give to young writers and illustrators?
Mike: We need more diversity in youth literature! Tell your story. Tell it honestly. Write it all down.
What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
Mike: I think at 10 it must have been The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also loved the black and white spot illustrations and would just open the book to look at them sometimes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Curato is the author and illustrator of the Little Elliot series and Where Is Bina Bear? He has also illustrated a number of other books for children, including The Sharey Godmother written by Samantha Berger and All the Way to Havana written by Margarita Engle. Flamer is Mike’s first graphic novel.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Flamer by Mike Curato
On Sale Now
Award-winning author and artist Mike Curato draws on his own experiences in Flamer, his debut graphic novel, telling a difficult story with humor, compassion, and love.
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.
Praise for Flamer:
Lambda Literary Award Winner
NPR Best Book of the Year,
NYPL Best Books of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
School Library Best Books of the Year
“This book will save lives.” —Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of National Book Award Finalist Hey, Kiddo
★ FIVE Starred Reviews! ★
★ “This is a story that will be read and reread, and for some, it will be the defining book of their adolescence.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ “Masterfully nuanced and stunningly told, this is visual storytelling at its finest.” —Booklist, starred review
★ “Curato’s incredible art conveys Aiden’s point of view, his thoughts, and his reimaginings of his physical form with compelling beauty and empathy…Curato has created a beautiful story of a teen who must decide if he will force himself into the mold of what he thinks a ‘normal’ boy is, or if he can allow himself to live life on his own terms. An essential book that shows readers that they are never alone in their struggles.”—School Library Journal, starred review
★ “Both heartbreaking and joyous, Flamer acknowledges the brutal weight of hatred, yet inspires the courage to live.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review
★ “Grownup LGBTs will know exactly what Aiden is going through, but this book speaks so well to those kids currently undergoing the ordeal….If you will forgive the editorial intrusion, I wish I had had this book fifty years ago.”—Horn Book, starred review