Pride begins at home. Children feel empowered when the picture books they read reflect their lives, family and city. Hearing positive stories about LGBTQ characters can also make it easier for kids to articulate their own identity, in due course. So, we’ve put together a list of notable LGBTQ-friendly titles, in honour of Canada’s first-ever Pride Month, 2016:
Based on the true story of two male Chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, who raised a chick in Central Park Zoo, And Tango Makes Three is one of the most challenged books in the U.S. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell‘s text conveys complex social ideas in an emotionally direct manner. They situate Roy and Silo’s unique desire to create a family together alongside that of the other animals in the zoo. Bigots may see red. But readers see two male characters build a loving home for their daughter, Tango. These three flightless birds teach kids a memorable and vital lesson in human nature.
One of the first-ever picture books to address ‘trans’ issues, 10,000 Dresses remains a staple of LGBTQ-themed KidLit. Bailey adores dresses and dreams of crafting beautiful, magical gowns out of everything from rainbows to windows. “You’re a BOY!” say Bailey’s Mother and Father. “You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all.” An older girl named Laurel shows Bailey it’s OK to be your authentic self. They pursue their shared passion for fashion, and make exquisite dresses. Marcus Ewert’s inspiring tale, and Rex Ray’s vibrant illustrations, will resonate with any kid who refuses to dress like everyone else.
Morris loves to wear a tangerine dress from his classroom’s tickle trunk. The kids in the schoolyard taunt him, and won’t let him on board their imaginary spaceships. Morris refuses to let the bullies win. At home, he makes a painting of himself wearing the dress and having an incredible interplanetary adventure. When he shows it to two classmates, they join him on a playtime space voyage towards a galaxy of acceptance. A 2015 Stonewall Honour Book, Morris Micklewhite and The Tangerine Dress testifies to the importance of embracing our own dreams and one another’s differences.
From the author of Mommy, Mama and me and Daddy, Papa and Me comes the story of Donovan’s turn as ring-bearer at his two moms’ wedding. Even a decade ago, themes like having two moms or same-sex marriage would likely be presented as “issues” that the characters must resolve. Instead, Leslèa Newman treats the lesbian wedding as the starting point for Donovan’s story. By focusing on a son performing his role, Newman captures how bewildering public rituals like weddings can be for kids (and all involved). Readers learn that, “love makes a family.” A wonderful story about love, family and marriage, Donovan’s Big Day will appeal to the entire wedding party.
Nate’s friends are dressing as superheroes in the Purim costume parade, but he wants to be an alien. Even though his two fathers and sister encourage him to dress up the way he wants, Nate suspects that doing so will make him feel too different. Much like Newman’s approach to same-sex marriage in Donovan’s Big Day, Elizabeth Kushner doesn’t justify Nate’s family set-up. Her insightful story focuses instead on Nate’s feelings and his anxiety about fitting in. The Purim Superhero is one of the few LGBTQ-friendly picture books on our radar to feature a character who isn’t Christian.
King and King is a whimsical variation on the classic fairy tale trope of dashing Prince meets-and-weds a beautiful Princess. A Queen decides that it’s time for her son to get married. Uninspired by the eligible Princesses she invites to their castle, the Prince only perks up when Princess Madeline stops by with her brother, Prince Lee, in tow. The two Princes fall in love at first sight, marry and everyone lives happily ever after. Stern Nijland‘s multimedia collages add a playful, improvised tone to the otherwise formulaic story. And the DIY tone invites kids to put their own spin on other fairy tales.
What Makes A Baby explains conception, gestation and birth in a way that includes trans folks and people who conceive through non-traditional means such as adoption, IVF, and surrogacy. Sex educator Cory Silverberg’s story outlines the reproductive process but doesn’t gender people or body parts. And Fiona Smyth’s illustrations don’t specify the characters’ colour or gender. Parents from all backgrounds are thereby given room to draw upon their own experiences, when reading to their kids. What Makes A Baby gives kids the tools to start addressing a key, related question – one that appears in countless other LGBTQ-friendly picture books: what makes a “family” in today’s world?