Kids Need Queer Books

Apr 25, 2021 | Essential Conversations, LGBTQIA+ Voices

Queerness exists in kids’ lives, but too often, queerness is equated with sexuality and placed in the province of “adults only.” Books for kids with any kind of queer content are often seen as unwelcome or inappropriate. Each year, The American Library Association’s list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books is filled with books about queer kids, teens and parents, keeping books with queer representation away from kids that need them.

Books that depict queerness across the wide spectrum of everyday life, are crucial for all kids.

This censoring of books is the censoring of lives and we do not agree. Books that depict queerness across the wide spectrum of everyday life, are crucial for all kids. At the Highlights Foundation we are proud of our family members and staff who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. We strive to amplify the voices of storytellers working to make children’s books—and the world—more inclusive.

In recent years, there have been more queer-centered middle grade and young adult novels published, but picture books seem to be lagging behind.

Our workshop Writing the Rainbow: Crafting Picture Books With LGBTQIA+ Themes aims to bring LGBTQIA+ writers and allies together to craft picture books with clear LGBTQIA+ themes–books that celebrate joy, respect, and appreciation to children in today’s world, showing beauty and strength in our rainbow of experiences. Picture books that:

  • provide positive, loving, and affirming stories for queer kids and allies
  • parents can share with children, celebrating all families
  • inspire and learn from the histories and biographies of LGBTQIA+ past
  • become part of schools and libraries so educators can include all children, families, and histories in their teaching

Some examples of picture books with queer themes:

Picture Book Stories Portraying the Gender Spectrum

  • When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
  • Sparkle Boy, by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola
  • Julian is a Mermaid, written and illustrated by Jessica Love
  • Bunnybear, by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña
  • Ho’onani: Hula Warrior, by Heather Gale and illustrated by Mika Song
  • Jacob’s Room to Choose, by Sarah & Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case
  • Call Me Max, by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Picture Books about the gender spectrum

Picture Book Stories Featuring LGBTQIA+ Parents and Grandparents

  • My Maddy, by Gayle Pitman and illustraged by Violet Tobacco
  • Stella Brings the Family, by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
  • Donovan’s Big Day, by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Mike Dutton
  • Home at Last, by Vera B Williams and Chris Raschka
  • A Plan for Pops, by Heather Smith and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
  • Plenty of Hugs, by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Kate Alizadeh

Books about LGBTQIA+ families

Nonfiction Picture Books

  • Pride Colors, by Robin Stevenson
  • It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni
  • Our Subway Baby, by Peter Mercurio and illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Nonfiction LGBTQIA+ picture books

Picture Books Featuring LGBTQIA+ History & Biography

  • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno
  • This Day in June, by Gayle E Pitman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten
  • Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Levi Hastings
  • I am Billie Jean King, by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph

LGBTQIA history

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The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.