Tag: Missed

16 LGBTQ-Inclusive Picture Books and Board Books You May Have Missed

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I’ve been adding books fast and furiously to my database and haven’t mentioned them all individually on the blog—so here are a few newish ones that are worth a look!

16 LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids' Books You May Have Missed

Click the links to see the database entries for each book, including longer reviews. All are picture books except when noted. Click the headers for even more books from the database on these topics.

Two-Mom Families and Queer Women

  • A Mother’s Day Surprise, by Lindsay B and illustrated by Kate Phillips. A young Black girl is excited about surprising her two moms (one Black, one White) on Mother’s Day—two mothers mean “two times the fun,” but also “twice the work.”
  • Mom Marries Mum! by Ken Setterington and illustrated by Alice Priestley (Second Story Press). The simplified board book version of Setterington’s 2004 Mom and Mum Are Getting Married. A young girl wants to help on her moms’ wedding day, and she ends up being the flower girl as her brother carries the rings.
  • A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas, by Evie Robillard and illustrated by Rachel Katstaller (Kids Can Press). A biography of Gertrude Stein and “her partner Alice Toklas” that focuses on their life together in Paris. The poems of the title are free verse and addressed directly to the reader (“The next time you go to Paris…”), and interspersed with bits of Stein’s own writings. Quirky and charming, just like its subjects. Best for the older end of the picture-book age range.

Two Dads and Queer Men

  • Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustin, by J. P. Miller and illustrated by Markia Jenai (Discovery Library). A biography that focuses on Rustin’s work with the Black civil rights movement, but that also notes “Some people treated Bayard unfairly because he was gay, but that did not stop him.”
  • Aalfred and Aalbert: A Love Story, written and illustrated by Morag Hood (Peachtree). Aardvarks Aalfred and Aalbert each sometimes longed to be part of a pair, but each had his own life, one nocturnal and one diurnal, so they never met. When a little bird notices, wordlessly, that they might do well together, it sets out to nudge them into encountering each other. While I tend to prefer books with human LGBTQ characters, who often provide more authentic representation, this book is just darn cute, and would make a nice addition to a collection that already has books with human LGBTQ characters. (Additional observation: The hardback version is titled just Aalfred and Aalbert, but the 2020 paperback version is Aalfred and Aalbert: A Love Story. In its review, School Library Journal called the book “a lovely book about finding a new friend.” Clearly they missed the point—the original U.K. publisher’s own blurb calls the bird a “matchmaker” and says the story “will appeal to families with LGBTQ parents and family members.” The two aardvarks have obviously found aamor.)

Queer Parents and Divorce

  • Two Moms, Two Houses, by Jessica Wexler and illustrated by Jeric Tan (Pride Fairy Press). A young child of unspecified gender introduces readers to their divorced mommy and mama, to the separate houses they live in with each one, and to the different routines they have with each. I like that it doesn’t try pedantically to explain what divorce is, but just focuses on the positive things that the child does with each mom.
  • My Family Is Changing: A Drawing and Activity Book for Kids of Divorce, by Tracy McConaghie and illustrated by Karen Greenberg (Rockridge Press). This interactive book is intended to help children better understand and cope with the changes that come with having divorced parents. In it, seven (fictional) children of various skin tones, including one with two moms and one with two dads, share their own stories of having divorced parents. Each story is followed by prompts and activities.

Family Diversity

  • Federico and All His Families, by Mili Hernández and illustrated by Gómez (Nubeocho). A cat wanders through the neighborhood, visiting families with two moms, two dads, one of each, a single mom, and a grandparent caregiver. Also available in Spanish.
  • Under the Love Umbrella, by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribble US). Several children encounter everyday difficulties—a broken toy; a friend who is unfair; a scary barking dog, a moment of shyness—as a parental narrator (or really, several narrators, as we see several different families) soothingly reassures them that the “umbrella of my love” is always with them. One of the children has two moms.
  • Love in the Wild, by Katy Tanis (Mudpuppy). This board book celebrates the many types of love found in the animal kingdom, “based on scientists’ observations of same-sex couples, adoption, non-binary gender expression and more.” It’s impossible to tell from the illustrations what sex or gender most of the animals are, though, so adults might need this supplemental PDF to launch further discussions of sex and gender, but the book is full of rainbows and the message that “love is love,” making this a sweet addition to storytime reading, regardless.
  • Families Belong, by Dan Saks and illustrated by Brooke Smart (Penguin Workshop). A simple board book about the things that families do that show they belong together. One page includes a two-mom family.
  • I Love Us: A Book About Family (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), illustrated by Luisa Uribe. A board book about different types of families, including one with two dads (and maybe one with two moms; it’s unclear if they’re together or in two separate families). On each page, a narrator (presumably a child in the depicted family) tells us all the things they love to do with their family. Includes a mirror (unbreakable) in the back and a freeform family tree for readers to reflect themselves.
  • Family Is: Count from 1 to 10, by Clever Publishing, illustrated by Katya Longhi. A board book that counts from one to 10 with images of diverse families and the various people in them, including families with two moms or two dads.
  • My Family, Your Family, by Kathryn Cole and illustrated by Cornelia Li (Second Story Press. A board book celebration of different types of families, including ones with same-sex parents and one with a child who uses “they” pronouns (and maybe a nonbinary adult, too). Note, however, that the page for “Blended family” shows a family with a Black mom, White dad, one White kid, and two Black kids, so some children might assume that “blended” always means multiracial. Adults will need to explain.

Gender Identity and Expression

  • Patrick’s Polka-Dot Tights, by Kristen McCurry and illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Capstone Editions). Patrick loves wearing his polka-dot tights and using them imaginatively. They don’t really belong to him, however—they’re his sister’s, though “she failed to appreciate their many uses,” he thinks. When she stains them beyond repair, he’s upset—but both his mom and dad step in to help. Notable for not involving anyone questioning or harassing him for his gender creativity.
  • Rainbow Boy, by Taylor Rouanzion and illustrated by Stacey Chomiak (Beaming Books). A young boy finds it hard to answer the question: “What’s your favorite color?” He loves his pink tutu, red crayon, orange basketball, and more. His mom tells him at the end that his heart is too big for just one color: “You need a whole rainbow to fill it up.” The protagonist clearly identifies himself as a boy, but has an expanded view of what that means.

And don’t forget the many LGBTQ-inclusive books that I’ve already written about here on the blog!

The Queer-Inclusive Hanukkah Picture Book You May Have Missed (and Why We Need More LGBTQ Holiday Picture Books)

The Queer-Inclusive Hanukkah Picture Book You May Have Missed (and

Hanukkah starts tonight, but LGBTQ parents will have to look long and hard to find even a glimpse of a family like theirs in a picture book about the holiday. One book slipped under my radar until recently, and while it still only offers a brief glance, it’s just about all we’ve got.

Dreidels

Hanukkah Books

Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Kar-Ben, 2018), offers a holiday assortment of history, rituals, activities, songs, and recipes. Different families and historical figures are portrayed on each page. On one page, we see two women, wearing yarmulkes, standing on either side of a small table with a menorah on it. One woman is holding a baby; the other is lighting the menorah, with a small dog at her feet. While the two women could in fact be sisters, the scene is domestic enough that I see them as a couple; Publisher’s Weekly interpreted them that way as well.

To the best of my knowledge, the only other Hanukkah book for young children that includes queer people is My Family! A Multi-Cultural Holiday Coloring Book for Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents, by Cheril N. Clarke and Monica Bey-Clarke (My Family Products, 2010). It includes images of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

My Family Products also published The Wonderful Adventures of Benjamin and Solomon, by Elena Yakubsfeld and illustrated by Wei Guan (2013), about two Jewish students traveling in medieval Europe who hope reach their destination by Hanukkah, but the book isn’t really about the holiday per se. Additionally, although it contains beautiful illustrations, the publisher said in a press release that it’s aimed at young adults, so it doesn’t really count as a book for young children. (It’s far too wordy and the protagonists are too old.)

I’ll also put in a good word for The Lotterys More or Less, by Emma Donoghue, the second in her series about two same-sex couples (one male, one female) jointly raising their seven children. This one revolves around the holidays, and there are characters celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah in their diverse community. It’s delightful–but it’s a middle grade book, not a picture book.That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. Even though I try to stay very attuned to the world of LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, the fact is that Light the Menorah flew under my radar for several years, since the LGBTQ representation is so incidental. It’s an ongoing problem that I’ve written about before; we need more books that show LGBTQ families simply as part of a wider world, but there’s a catch-22 between treating queerness as an everyday thing and having those books be invisible to those specifically seeking LGBTQ-inclusive titles. And the brief glimpse of a same-sex couple in Light the Menorah, while welcome as one of the various families depicted, is hardly enough. Granted, Hanukkah is really a very minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has taken on added meaning in modern times as a sort of counterpart to Christmas (which it isn’t really, but that’s another topic). There are a lot of great Hanukkah picture books available now, and some are even happily showing the racial and ethnic diversity of Jewish families. It’s time for one that shows LGBTQ people and families as well.

What About Christmas and Kwanzaa?

Christmas fares just marginally better, with

The Christmas Truck, by J. B. Blankenship, which stars a child with two dads; Santa’s Husband, by Daniel Kibblesmith; and Rachel’s Christmas Boat, by Sophie Labelle, about a child figuring out what name to put on her transgender parent’s present. Nondenominationally for the winter holidays, we have Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure, by Linda Ashman.

You’ll see quite a lot of gaps here. There are no Christmas picture books about a two-mom family, for example, and no LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about Kwanzaa (except for some pages in the My Family coloring book).

And Other Holidays?

Overall, LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about holidays of any type are in short supply. Just a few other Jewish holidays now have queer-inclusive books related to them: The Purim Superhero

, by Elizabeth Kushner (Kar-Ben); Love Remains: A Rosh Hashanah Story of Transformation, by Rabbi Ari Moffic; and The Last Place You Look, about Passover, by j wallace skelton (Flamingo Rampant).  There’s also the 1985 book Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!), by Patricia Schaffer, a book about all the Jewish holidays, which may have shown a two-mom family. (Look on the Havdalah page and decide for yourself.) Lesléa Newman, author of the classic Heather Has Two Mommies (Candlewick), has also written many wonderful picture books about the Jewish holidays, but the only one I know of with LGBTQ characters is  Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail (Charlesbridge), where two minor male characters have their arms around each other in one scene. The only queer-inclusive book about a Muslim holiday is Moondragon in the Mosque Garden, by El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson (Flamingo Rampant), in which three children encounter a magical creature on Eid al-Fitr. And Christmas aside, there are no LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about other Christian holidays, even Easter or Halloween. (And yes, there are a few other LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, including this very recent one, that show Jewish life, but not holidays per se.)

My suspicion is that there have been so few holiday picture books showing LGBTQ families because so many LGBTQ-inclusive picture books have been focused on the “issue” of LGBTQ identities per se. Pride, as an LGBTQ holiday, has a fair number of picture books devoted to it now, but other holidays get short shrift. I do believe it is important, however, for LGBTQ families and non-LGBTQ families alike to see images of LGBTQ families celebrating holidays from a wide variety of traditions, too. This offers representation for the former and can help build bridges across difference for the latter. And besides, picture books about holidays should simply be fun and joyous reads for anyone.

It’s notable that both Moondragon and Rachel’s Christmas Boat are from micro-press Flamingo Rampant; Love Remains and The Christmas Truck are self-published; the My Family! coloring book is from the My Family micro-press, owned by the authors. This shows the importance of small and self-publishers in addressing content gaps—like holidays—that larger publishers have mostly not touched.

I’d like to see many more holiday books with LGBTQ characters for all the major (and even minor) holidays of all traditions. I want them from small publishers who know the LGBTQ community well; I want them from large publishers who can still find #OwnVoices authors and illustrators and use their marketing clout to push the books out to a wide audience. I want books that are more about the holidays than about LGBTQ identities, so they are more likely to find readers among non-LGBTQ families, too. I want them to be more than just an image of maybe-kinda same-sex parents on one page (though in books about diverse families, we should be there, too). I want representation across the LGBTQ spectrum and across race, ethnicity, family structure, socioeconomic status, ability, and other dimensions of identity.

That’s a lot to ask, yes. But this is a season of rededication and miracles.


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