Ten books for children – LGBTQ Books
Some children’s books that do not perpetuate the white princess syndrome.
There are so many different reasons to be proud to be LGBTQ or an ally, and June, aka National LGBTQ Pride Month, is the perfect time to share that pride with the kids in your life. Children, after all, are the future of the world (cue adorable, cheesy song here), and don’t you want that future to be filled with accepting, tolerant, and loving human beings?
Books are a great way of showing them how to be just that. When Leslea Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommiesin 1989, it became the first children’s book to depict lesbian parenthood. A few years later, Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite sent waves through the kids’ lit world with its story of a divorced father and his new male partner. These two pioneering works laid the important groundwork for all of the LGBTQIA children’s books that came after. Despite the negativity and backlash surrounding this kind of literature, the world has spoken and #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
LGBTQIA-positive children’s books have something to offer every kind of kid and every kind of family. Children who come from homes that don’t fit traditional stereotypes can find their families in the stories, and tiny humans who don’t fit traditional stereotypes can find themselves. For other youngsters, books are a window into the diverse lives and experiences of the world around them, and they can help explain family dynamics outside of their own. Whether a book’s plot is centered around LGBT-related issues or it feature a character who is a positive LGBT role model, they teach children to be not just tolerant, but to be loving.
Pride can never start too early, so here are 30 LGBTQIA-positive books to share with the young readers in your life. Or, hey, maybe yourself.
10,000 Dressesby Marcus Ewert
Bailey loves dresses of all kinds — dresses that sparkle, dresses that shine, dresses that have all the colors of the rainbow — but his parents are there constantly reminding him that he’s a boy, and boys don’t wear dresses. Luckily, he befriends Laurel, who shows him that it’s OK to be whoever he is. This imaginative and cheerful picture book is an inspiring story any kid can relate to, but especially those those who refuse to conform.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Two male penguins, Roy and Silo, start their own family when a zoo keeper gives them an egg all their own to hatch. Though frequently banned for “promoting a homosexual agenda,” And Tango Makes Three is charming tale based on a true story celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and its message about the meaning of family is just as heartwarming as ever.
What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg
A truly all-inclusive book, What Makes a Baby uses bright, bold illustrations to teach children about all the different places children come from, including adoption, IVF, and surrogacy. Every kind of family can find their own origin story on its pages, whose characters aren’t specified in color or gender, while learning about others’ stories, too. The newly released follow up for older children, Sex is a Funny Word, uses a comic book format to tackle the topics of sex, boundaries, gender identity, and much more.
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
Another all-encompassing picture book, Families, Families, Families!uses lovable and utterly adorable animals to demonstrate all the different shapes and sizes that families come in. Colorful spreads depicting family portraits of chickens, turtles, bears and more celebrate every kind of family — because whether yours have two moms or one dad, a family is a family.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dressby Christine Baldacchino
When Morris Micklewhite’s classmates won’t let him on the spaceship they’re building because of his love for a certain tangerine dress, his dreams inspire him to build his own. When he invites two of his classmates to join, they go on an adventure that shows Morris — and readers — that you can reach the stars just by being who you are. A 2015 Stonewall Award Honor Book, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dressis a testament to importance of embracing each other’s uniqueness.
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco
There may not be a dad in Marmee and Meema’s house, but there is more than enough love and support to go around. Even when some of the neighbors don’t accept the family, Marmee and Meema’s daughter, who narrates the book, learns that her family is perfect the way it is. In Our Mothers’ Housetactfully interweaves the important topics of growing up with same-sex parents, adoption and multicultural families into moving family story.
All I Want To Be Is Me by Phyllis Rothblatt
Every child should have a chance to read Phyllis Rothblatt’s beautifully written picture book about learning to accept and express your own gender identity. Touching and inspirational, All I Want To Be Is Meencourages children to explore who they are and to honor their true selves.
Donovan’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman
From the author of such LGBT-friendly picture books as Mommy, Mama, and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me comes the story of Donovan’s big day as the ringbearer at his two moms’ wedding. Without being preachy, Donovan’s Big Daytakes a stand for same-sex marriage and teaches readers that “Love makes a family.” This book is not only enjoyable for children with same-sex parents, but it is a great story about love, family, and marriage that every kid can learn from.
This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman
Although it is a great educational tool, This Day In Juneis so much more than the facts and figures (which are also included in the Reader’s Guide.) A 2015 recipient of the Stonewall Book Awards in the Children’s and YA category, this tribute to the ongoing battle for LGBTQIA rights is empowering while remaining a fun and fanciful.
The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
Author Jennifer Bryan was “tired of reading LGBT books that ‘explained’ or ‘defended’ our type of family. Those books have served an important purpose, but I wanted to read a book to my kids that is FUN and MAGICAL, a great story,” so instead she made a fantastical book about a boy at bedtime, who just so happened to have two moms. By incorporating that fact into the story in an incidental way, Bryan’s book shows children just how perfectly normal a same-sex household, or any other nontraditional family make up, is.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning
I Am Jazz tells the amazing true story of Jazz Jenning, an American transgender woman who has become an outspoken activist and role model in the transgender community. Even Laverne Cox has said “I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions.” Need I say more?
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman
A family-oriented treasury of stories from all different traditional and nontraditional homes, The Great Big Book of Families shows just how colorful the world can be. Different cultures, races, religions, family make up, and sexual orientations are incorporated into vibrant illustrations that kids will love poring over again and again.
Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book by Jacinta Bunnell
Who says coloring books can’t be fun and revolutionary? In Jacinta Bunnell’s illustrated retelling of traditional fairytales, princes run off with princes and princesses search for other princesses to love.Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon is an interactive way for children to explore diversity.
Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden
A kindergarten class has to decorate their room for Open School Night, and when Molly draws pictures of her family, which has two moms, her classmate Tommy and the other children tell her that can’t be possible. Readers will follow Molly’s emotions as she goes from defensive to confused to downright upset over the course of the picture book, but she finally lands on acceptance when she realizes her mothers’ love is no different than the love from the other families in her class. Relatable and direct, Molly’s Familyis a great starting point for a discussion on bullying and discrimination.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Although not entirely about LGBT families, Everywhere Babies has illustrations that cover just about every different kind of family and parents, some of which are same-sex couples. Seamlessly incorporated into the the more traditional family models, the same-sex couples assure readers that they fit in alongside everyone else, no matter what their family looks like.
One Dad, Two Dad, Brown Dad, Blue Dadsby Johnny Valentine
In this witty and fun picture book, Lou, a young boy with two blue dads compares families with his friend who has a more conventional family. Lou’s friend has so many questions about the unfamiliar family, but Lou explains that his two blue dads are the same as any other dad and that their two families aren’t so different. The clever rhymes throughout help make One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dad both entertaining and accessible to kids, all the while demonstrating the importance of embracing diversity in all its forms.
The Manny Filesby Christian Burch
When it comes to positive LGBT role models, look no further than The Manny. Third grader Keats’s fabulous gay male babysitter is not only fun and interesting, but he always knows just what to do and he always has Keats’s back.The subtle yet loving relationship that blooms between the Manny and Keats’s Uncle Max is touching, sincere show of same-sex romance.
The Skull of Truth: A Magic Shop Book by Bruce Coville
Bruce Coville is a beloved children’s book for many reasons, one of which is his mastery of storytelling. In a subplot of Coville’s fourth Magic Shop book, Charlie’s Uncle Bennie explains that he is gay. The two are able to have an open conversation about love, honesty, and respect, and the takeaway message is a beautiful one: “Love is nothing to be ashamed of.” How can anyone argue against that, am I right?
Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman
In this sentimental book about love and loss, a young Colin tries to save his sick brother anyway he can. In the process, he meets Ted who is also determined to save the life of someone he loves — his partner, Giff, who is dying of AIDS. The book deals with heavier topics of homophobia, harassment, and violence in a frank and unpatronizing way middle grade readers can appreciate. Sad yet hopeful, Two Weeks With The Queen is an honest look the hardships that the LGBTQIA community faces every day.
Totally Joeby James Howe
The second installment of the hit Misfits series Totally Joe focuses on the trials and tribulations of gay 7th grader Joe Bunch. Not only does Joe have to deal with the normal headaches and heartaches of middle school, but he also has to face homophobia and bullying. Luckily, he has a tight-knit group of friends who assure him he has every right to kiss whom he wants to. A great tale of tolerance, diversity, and, ultimately, acceptance.
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
To everyone else, Grayson is a boy, but on the inside, Grayson knows her true identity is a girl. Through the support and help of her friends, Grayson is able to find the strength to become who she was meant to be. A beautiful, courageous tale Gracefully Graysonis a story every middle grader, transgender or not, needs to read.
My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
June just wants to hang out with her friends and work on baking the best pie for the Champlain Valley Fair, but when her mother and her mother’s longtime girlfriend decide to wed under Vermont’s civil union law and her town lashes out on them, June is afraid she will loose more than just the pie contest. My Mixed Up Berry Blue Summerexplores not only the emotions of being a child of lesbian parents who are discriminated against, but it also introduces readers to the political side of the fight for LGBT rights.
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
The only thing bigger than Nate’s personality is his dream to star in a Broadway show, where boys can dance with other boys without fear of being harassed. Better Nate Than Ever and the follow-up Five, Six, Seven Nate, which just won this year’s Lambda Literary Award in the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category, are hilarious and triumphant coming of age stories. Complete with a lovable hero worth cheering for, this series is perfect for any young reader questioning his or her own sexuality.
No Castles Hereby A. C. E. Bauer
Augie has a hard enough time surviving his tough guy neighborhood as it is, so he can’t imagine what will happen when the bullies find out his newly assigned Big Brother is gay. Themes of intolerance and discrimination are presented in a straight-forward manner, but the story finds an air of lightheartedness by incorporating elements of magic and adventure. No Castles Here may seem dark and bleak at times, but in the end, it is really about overcoming personal prejudices, fears, and insecurities in order to not only survive, but live.
House of Hades by Rick Riordan
In the fourth installment of superstar Rick Riordan’s best-selling The Heroes of Olympus series, Demigod Nico comes out and admits he is in love with Percy. Riordan has said on the subject of Nico’s sexuality“The idea that we should treat sexual orientation itself as an adults-only topic, however, is absurd. Non-heterosexual children exist. To pretend they do not, to fail to recognize that they have needs for support and validation like any child, would be bad teaching, bad writing, and bad citizenship.” The gay subplot is woven into the ongoing action and adventure in the book in a way that is forthright without overdoing it.
Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum
This historical fiction novel may be set in the late 19th century, but the topics it deals with are more timely than ever. After Amelia, her mother, and her mother’s partner, Estelle, move to San Francisco to start a new, independent life, they find that their new home is far less hospitable women then they had hoped. In order to survive, Amelia has to disguise herself as a boy and her mother and Estelle are forced to leave dressmaking behind in favor of men’s clothing. Both fascinating and well researched, Newsgirltakes a close, important look at gender nonconformity, gender roles, and alternate family structures.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier, who is best know for her wildly popular Smile,presents readers with an accurate depiction of what it’s like to develop those new, messy, confusing, feelings of sexual attraction for the first time in her graphic novel Drama. The main character, Callie, struggles with her own heteronormative feelings for a cute boy at her school, but when she finds out that some of her theater buddies are gay, or at least questioning, her nonchalant response and immediate acceptance of it is a refreshing and positive way of dealing with issues of coming out to your friends.
Alice on the Outsideby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Like all of the other books in the highly acclaimed Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Alice on the Outside deals with issues of identity and sexuality in a frank and genuine way. In this case, Alice’s new friend comes out and tells her she has a crush on her, and Alice reacts with care and respect. Though technically a YA, the Alice series is still appropriate for mature middle grade readers.
Kiss by Jacqueline Wilson
Since she was young, Sylvie has always imagined spending her life with her best friend Carl, but there’s one problem — Carl isn’t interested in kissing girls. When Sylvie learns out that Carl is gay, she has to grapple with her own hurt feelings while learning to support and accept Carl, which she does whole-hardheartedly. Carl’s family, especially his mother who tells him she has no issues with his sexuality, also provides a hopeful example of a supportive family unit. Like Alice on the Outside, Kiss is another great choice for more mature middle grade readers.