LGBT Children’s Books honoring love and identity in all their beautiful forms are becoming more and more plentiful, and we have curated a list of our favorites. Check it out!
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The Importance of LGBT Children’s Books in Our Modern Society
My close friend spoke about the dangers of sexting to a middle school classroom packed with adolescent boys. The discussion was met, of course, with a healthy of dose of snickering, some good old fashion blushing… and, surprisingly, a remarkable amount of maturity.
The message was simple: do not ask a girl to send you a nude picture of herself. And do not send a nude picture of yourself to her. My friend went on to discuss the dangers and legalities of sexting, and the boys, naturally, were a bit horrified. But then one of the kids raised his hand.
“What if a guy sends a naked pic to another guy?”
“Same rules apply,” my friend said, not skipping a beat.
She waited for the taunts, the snarky comments, the laughter.
But they never came.
You could hear a pin drop, Lauren, she said.
These middle school kids didn’t flinch at the prospect of two young males in a romantic relationship. And my friend left the room both astounded and amazed.
We’ve come so far, she said. Yet we have so much more work to do.
I couldn’t agree more.
And this is where books come in.
LGBT Children’s Books Are Vital Mirrors for Many Children
I’ll lose readers with this post.
I always do, whenever I post about Pride and the importance of respecting the many beautiful forms of love and identity. But even though there continues to be a lack of respect for the way some people live and identify, our team here at Happily Ever Elephants will never stop sharing diverse books that celebrate all people.
LGBTQ children’s books are critically important for children, for a myriad of reasons:
For kids that are grappling with who they are, how they identify, and who they have feelings for, seeing characters like them in stories is like finding a trusted confidante. Books provide safe spaces for children, allowing them to exhale freely knowing they aren’t alone with their feelings.
For kids who may struggle because their families look different from the “norm,” books help children recognize that love makes a family, and if love is the foundation of a home, nothing else should ever matter — especially not how parents and siblings identify.
For LGBTQ youth who are met with disapproval at home, books may be the only resource to help them feel supported through a challenging time, helping to prevent serious harm to a child’s mental health and self esteem.
Books are powerful, life changing tools, and when a struggling child reads a story and finds himself within the pages, the effects are profound. Worlds open, walls come down, and a child who was floundering suddenly feels a ray of light shining just for him. We cannot underestimate the value of LGBT children’s books that so proudly celebrate all people, because there are children that need to see their realities reflected in books so that they don’t just feel less alone, but valued and important, too.
LGBT Children’s Books Are Windows Through Which we Build Empathy and Community
Yet, LGBT children’s books are more than just mirrors. They are important windows through which we build empathy and community.
So what? you say. This isn’t the way I live, you say. I don’t support this and my children won’t either, you say.
May I counter those thoughts?
Even if you don’t identify as part of the LGBT community, it is critically important to support the notion that love is love.
By turning your head in the opposite direction, you are missing a key opportunity to teach your children the fundamental notion of respecting others.
We fear the things we do not know and understand. Yet, when we expose our children to all kinds of experiences and lifestyles, even those we may not personally adopt or comprehend, we are teaching them not to fear others, but to treat all people with dignity.
This is what each and every one of us deserve. When we teach our children respect for all humans, we lead the way towards bridging divides.
We — you and I — can singlehandedly do our parts to help rid communities of fear and create instead a nurturing, welcoming home where all people are honored and celebrated.
Isn’t this the world we want to leave for our children?
Share LGBT Children’s Books with Your Kids and Students, and Together we Can Honor All Forms of Love and Identity
I wish our world was a bit more like the class my friend led, one where tweens and young teens don’t flinch at the idea of same sex relationships, where a child grappling with his identity or sexual orientation feels safe and supported at home, school and in her community.
We may not be there yet, but by making a conscious effort, by being intentional about the books we read to our children and by having the important conversations those books spark, we can all do our part to get there.
The books we’ve compiled below are those we hope will help you teach your kids and students that love is love, and that each and every one of us are unique and so very special. These are books we hope will not only eradicate stigma, but empower children to stay true to who they are.
For more information on supporting LGBTQ children at home or in your classrooms and communities, I encourage you to check out the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union on LGBT Youth.
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LGBT Children’s Books - Books About Pride
Pride Colors, by Robin Stevenson: Did you know that each color of the pride flag stands for something special and meaningful? This beautiful book is a celebration of the love parents have for their children, told through gentle rhyme and colorful photographs that also convey the meaning of the flag’s many colors. It contains a powerful message, too: be true to you, and you will always be loved.
Rainbow, a First Book of Pride, by Michael Genhard and illustrated by Anne Passchier: This sweet book, an ode to LGBTQ families, pride and also reveals the meaning and symbolism behind each stripe on the rainbow flag. This is a beautiful testament to a parent’s unwavering love between children and their parents. A lovely way to show kids that just as there are many colors of a rainbow, families come in all different colors, too.
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph: There is a rich history surrounding New York City’s Stonewall Inn, and its role in the LGBTQ movement is unparalleled. Narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, this is the story of the police raid on the Inn on June 28, 1969, and the manner in which the empowered members of the LGBTQ community in and around the Inn began to demand equal rights as United States citizens. Powerful, poignant and dynamic, this one belongs in every library and classroom around the country!
Harvey Milk: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno: Harvey Milk had a dream to create a global symbol of unity and inclusion, one that would allow LGBQT people to be proud of not just who they are, but also who they love. This beautiful book tells the story of the Gay Pride Flag from its inception in 1978 thanks to Milk’s activism, all the way to the present day, describing how it became an important symbol worldwide. This is a story of love, hope, and equality that has an important place on every book shelf!
This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten: This is a whimsical, lively and energetic celebration of pride. Taking place at a joyful parade, all are invited, all are excited, and all are united! Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this is a fabulous portrayal of pride that also contains excellent resources for parents and caregivers to speak with children about sexual orientation and gender identity in sensitive, age appropriate manners.
LGBT Children’s Books: Relationships
Worm Loves Worm, by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm -- why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants' favorite book about love. For our full review of Worm Loves Worm, click here!
Jerome by Heart, by Thomas Scotto and illustrated by Olivier Tallec: A young boy named Raphael feels deep affection for his good friend, Jerome. The boys share everything, talk constantly, and plan fun adventures. Though his parents get frustrated with his constant talk about Jerome, Raphael knows that when he is with Jerome he feels happy, special, and understood. Undeterred by his parents, Raphael remains firm in his conviction: “Raphael loves Jerome. I can say it. It’s easy.” Insightful and poignant, this one is so very special.
LGBT Children’s Books: Gender Identity
Sparkle Boy, by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola: Casey loves “boy” things — but he also loves things that sparkle. When his sister has glittery nails, Casey wants them too. When she has a shimmery skirt, he wants one too. When Abuelita has an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey wears one too. Though some of the adults around Casey embrace his expression and allow him to be true to himself, Casey’s big sister isn’t so sure. Will it take a bully to help big sis embrace her brother’s interests? We love this story of acceptance!
When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita: Oh, how we love this own voices book! When Aidan was born, she had a beautiful name and a beautiful room and beautiful dresses. But even though there is no one way to be a girl, Aidan knew he wasn’t a girl at all. When he realized he was a trans boy, his parents helped him settle into a new life. But then his parents tell them they are expecting a baby - and Aidan wants to do whatever he can to make things right for his brother or sister. But what does that even mean? And does anything else matter besides loving his new sibling with his whole heart? A new about gender identity we absolutely love!
Julian is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love: While Julian, a young boy, rides the subway one day, he is dazzled by a glorious sight: three women dressed up as beautiful mermaids. Julian can think of nothing better than dressing up just like them, with his own tail and a magical headdress, so he attempts to do just that. But what will Abuela think about the way Julian sees himself? Such an important book, so perfectly executed!
Jacob’s Room to Choose, by Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case: Jacob gets chased out of the boy’s bathroom because the other kids say he looks like a girl. Sophie has a similar experience - she goes to use the girls bathroom, but the other kids don’t want her in there, either. Upon learning about these incidents, their teacher helps these children pave the way for change, and with the support of administration, the students learn to respect everyone, no matter their chosen form of gender expression.
They She He Me: Free to Be!: by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew SG: If your kids have questions about gender and pronouns, this is the perfect book to use as a springboard for discussion! This tender little book depicts many gender presentations under each pronoun, doing it gently and beautifully while allowing children to expand upon what they know about gender. I love the way this unique book celebrates all forms of personal expression.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant: This is such a wonderful book for challenging gender stereotypes! Morris has a wonderful imagination and he also has a penchant for wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center in his classroom. But everyone else says dresses are for girls, and he cannot go into the spaceship the other boys are building because astronauts definitely don’t wear dresses. Will Morris take off the dress, or will he find a way to be true to himself and accepted by his classmates?
I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas: When she was just two years old, Jazz Jennings knew she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. This is Jazz’s story, based on her real-life experiences as a transgender child. Simple, honest and essential, Jazz’s story will resonate with many. It is a perfect tool to help children grappling with gender identity questions, while at the same time helping other children understand the experience of a transgender child.
Angus all Aglow, by Heather Smith and illustrated by Alice Carter: Angus loves all things sparkly, and when he wears his grandmother’s bracelet to school, he is startled by the negativity and teasing he receives from his classmates. He can’t wear bracelets, they say - he is a boy, after all! Angus loses his sparkle as a result of his classmates taunts, but when one little girl sees Angus for who he is and what he loves, her acceptance causes Angus to glow once again.
Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall: This is the story of Red, a red crayon. Or is it? It seems the crayon is having an identity crisis, for though he is wrapped in a red label, there is no debating that every time he colors, he is not red but blue. His parents, his teacher and even his friends try to help him be Red, but no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot be what everyone else thinks he should be. Then one day, something magical happens. The frustrated crayon meets a new friend who tells Red what he really needs to hear: Red isn’t Red at all… he’s actually blue! And so it is that this was just what Red needed needed: a gentle nudge to look inward and listen to what he likely knew all along. He was blue! He was really blue! For our full review of Red: A Crayon’s Story, click here!
Jack (Not Jackie), by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam: I’ve seen few picture books that showcase the experience of a girl transitioning to a boy, and while this book does fall back on some stereotypes, it is an important glimpse into a little girl’s desire to become Jack, not Jackie. Why? Because she knows she identifies with Jack, and she is meant to be a boy. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to advance LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.
The Boy and the Bindi, by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajni Perera: In this beautiful picture book, a young South Asian boy becomes fascinated by his mother’s bindi and wishes for one of his own. Though the bindi is typically worn by Hindu women, his mother does not chastise him, but instead agrees to it and teaches him about its significance. Not only does the boy discover the magic of the bindi, but it also gives him permission to be more uniquely himself. Beautiful, both in story and illustration!
LGBT Children’s Books - Diverse Families
Stella Brings the Family, by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown: We simply adore this story about a young girl with two daddies! Stella is distraught when she learns her class will soon have a Mother’s Day celebration at school. After all, Stella has no moms, so who on earth will she bring to the party? With the help of her classmates, Stella realizes she’s got a whole crew of people who love and support her -- and she might just have to bring them all!
A Plan for Pops, by Heather Smith and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan: This is one of those books for the way it so beautifully showcases a same sex relationship without making it a central focus of the story. In this tender book, Lou visits Grandad and Pops every Saturday and they walk to the library, hand in hand. But one day, Pops has a fall, and he will be wheelchair bound for good. Pops becomes withdrawn, but with help from Grandad, Lou comes up with a plan for Pops, one Lou hopes will bring the smile back to Pops’ face.
My Two Dads and Me, by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Izak Zenou: A perfect board book for a modern, millennial family! Featuring a diverse array of dads with their children, this sweet book showcases dads and their kids as they go about their busy days. Stylish, smart and savvy, this is going to be a winner among new parents. And don’t worry, there is a mom version too — My Two Moms and Me!
Mommy, Mama, and Me, by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Carol Thompson: We love this board book that highlights family diversity and alternative family structures, namely, a toddler with two moms. Though their family may look different on the outside, this trio goes about their day just like any other family — playing games and eating together and snuggling and going to sleep. Such a sweet one! There is also a dad version, Daddy, Papa and Me!
And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole: This is the true story of two male penguins living at the Central Park Zoo. The penguins, Roy and Silo were inseparable. Though they were both males and had a different relationship from the other penguins in their habitat, they had a clear desire for a family. The zookeepers recognized the penguins’ yearning for a baby and thus gave the two a motherless egg. What happened next was surprising, stunning and so incredibly sweet — the two male penguins successfully hatched baby Tango! A beautiful, poignant story to show that a family is a family, no matter what it looks like.
Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jessie Sima: Harriet loves costumes, so much so that when she runs out to get party hats for her upcoming birthday party, she dons her beloved penguin costume. But what happens when a real flock of penguins carry her away? Will she find her way back to her dads before her big party? The beauty of this cute book is that Harriet’s two dads are not a central plot point of the story, which helps normalize same sex relationships. I love seeing diverse families becoming more common in children’s literature!
Heather has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell: Heather loves the number two, especially because she has two mommies! When she is at school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn’t have a dad. When Heather and her classmates are asked to draw pictures of their families, each picture the children draw is different. Does it matter who makes up a family? As long as there is love, their teachers explains, it does not. This one has become a modern classic!
Love Makes a Family, by Sophie Beer: We love inclusive, diverse board books that showcase so fabulously that the most important part of a family is love. It doesn’t matter what your family looks like, or who or how many people live in your home. Instead, family is where the heart is, sharing happy activities together, lending a helping hand, and, our favorite, reading just one more book together before bed. A gem!
LGBT Children’s Books - Books for Tweens
George, by Alex Gino: George knows she is not a boy, even if that’s all people see when they look at her. She knows she’s a girl. Though she once believed she would have to keep her secret forever, her plans change when her teacher announces they will put on a play of Charlotte’s Web. George wants to play Charlotte, and she wants it badly, yet her teacher says the role must be played by a girl and, therefore, George can’t play the part. With the help of her best friend, George comes up with a plan to be Charlotte… and to let everyone know who she is once and for all. A winner among my students!
Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart: There are no words to adequately express my love for this book! This is the story of Lily, a transgender child who looks like a boy but knows she is really a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to town. It is a story of the chance meeting between the two, their unlikely friendship, heartache and heartbreak, and, overall, being true to yourself, despite the naysayers who taunt and fear your differences. Sensitive, authentic, and a book as necessary as it is exceptional, this one has a place on every tween’s bookshelf for the way it challenges stigma, encourages truth, and will undoubtedly cause kids to stop and think before judging another’s choices. Remarkable!
The Best Man, by Richard Peck: Archer is always in search of role models, and he has three great ones — his grandpa, his uncle, and his dad. But then he gains a fourth one - his new school teacher, who happens to be the first male teacher in his school’s history. So what happens when each new day of middle school brings about some new, startling revelations? And what happens when he discovers the biggest one of all — that two of his role models are getting married? Funny, poignant, and a wonderful, insightful look at the world of adults from a child’s perspective, this book is such a winner!
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake: Ivy Aberdeen’s s home is flattened by a tornado. All she manages to save is her pillow which contains her most precious possessions- fancy markers and a journal filled up with drawings, many of which include pictures of Ivy holding hands with an unidentifiable girl. After the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures mysteriously begin showing up in her own locker, together with notes encouraging Ivy to be true to who she is, Ivy hopes the letters are coming from a girl on whom she has developed a secret crush. But is owning her truth as easy as Ivy wants it to be? Ivy’s words and yearnings will be windows for some and mirrors for others, but her burning desire to understand who she is at her core will be loved and cherished universally.
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang: The Prince is having a ball! Why? Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride, of course. Or, rather, his parents are looking for a bride for Sebastian. Sebastian is more wrapped up in hiding a secret from the world. And it’s a big secret: at night, he takes Paris by storm by putting on daring dresses and dazzling the world as Lady Crystallia, the hottest fashion icon in the fashion capital of the world! Sebastian’s dressmaker and best friend Frances is one of the only people who knows his secret — but Frances has dreams of her own. Will she put her dreams on hold to protect Sebastian, or will Frances find her own way to shine? A fabulous graphic novel about love and identity that will have all who tear through its pages swooning!
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, by Jazz Jennings: Jazz Jennings has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens,” and is one of the transgender community’s most important activists for young people. In her memoir, Jazz reflects on her transition to life as a girl when she was just five years old, and how her subsequent experiences — such as interviews with Barbara Walters and other high profile journalists, a documentary, and a YouTube channel — have helped change the narrative surrounding the transgender community. Empowering, haunting and remarkable, Jazz’s story of darkness and light is a testament to how far we have come — yet how far we still need to go.