They say don’t write when you are angry, but I am. I am angry that we still live in a world with homophobia. Every year I say that this post, this book list of inclusive books is not political. It’s a resource for parents and teachers who need it. Well, I’m changing my tune. It is political; it’s not just here if you need it because WE ALL NEED IT. We can’t raise more children who fear people that are not just like them; we must raise sons and daughters who are comfortable and accept diversity. We must raise sons and daughters who are proud of their families, proud of who they are and have books that reflect that. That is on us. Not just us with a transgender student, or us with a gay brother, the US as in all of us. We need to be comfortable and accepting and include books with all types of people in our children’s libraries. Then we might make a dent in breaking the cycle of fearing what we don’t know or understand. Here’s the thing, we all have families, so let’s start there. Here are 26 wonderful books about families to read with your children.
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Morris Micklewhite and The Tangerine Dress By Christine Baldachinno has been a reader suggestion for as long as I’ve been publishing this list. I finally got my hands on it and I can see why. Morris is just who he is and who Morris happens to be a boy who loves to dress up in an orange dress. The adults in the story don’t pass judgment; they support Morris for who he is without labeling or shaming. It takes some time for all the kids to be accepting but soon their similarities and mutual interests overcame the differences and everyone was playing together. Not a bad lesson for the rest of us!
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen is a sweet book about a little guinea pig Chloe and her issues with her uncle getting married. Now you might think that the issues are around the fact that he’s marrying another male guinea pig, but that’s not it at all. The issues are about how close Chloe is to Uncle Bobby and how she doesn’t want that to change. This is a great book that normalizes same-sex weddings and focuses instead on the things that matter most to the children- how they are going to be affected.
ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs is a great alphabet book that doesn’t aim to explain same-sex families it just includes them. I love that it’s not out to explain because the families in this book are just families. The book goes through all different things families do together, and there is a big mix of same-sex parents, single parents, and bi-racial families all doing their thing… being together!
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is a story about a little boy who doesn’t feel like a little boy and dreams of the most amazing dresses every night. He tries to tell his family about his dreams, but they brush them off reminding Bailey he is a boy and boys shouldn’t dream of dresses. His family is NOT accepting at all, and you must know that. For me, I saw this as an opportunity to talk about adversity. What I love about this book is that while the narrator refers to Bailey as she all of Bailey’s family refers to Bailey as a boy. Only Laurel an older girl who accepts Bailey as she views herself calls her a girl. While my three year old is too young to get the various levels of this book she understands that it’s OK for people to dress how they want and my 7-year-old is old enough to understand that gender is not always black and white. The book itself is amazingly creative and a great book about acceptance even if you don’t dive head first into a discussion about transgender issues with your kids they will still like it.
Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden had both my kids captivated when I read it to them at lunch yesterday. The story is about Molly who is in kindergarten and after she draws a picture at school of her two moms she is faced with a classmate telling her she can’t have two moms. There are many things I love about this book but most of all it is the adult reactions to this child saying it’s not possible that drew me in. Molly’s classmate that was sure two moms was simply impossible wasn’t told that he was wrong instead the teacher discussed how different every family was and how Molly’s was just as much a family has his or any other. I loved even more how Molly became shy about displaying her drawing because it gave me a chance to talk to my 6-year-old about the power of words and not listening to others and how dismissing people can hurt. I also loved how the next day the little boy who was so sure that two moms weren’t possible was totally cool with it. He just didn’t know it was a possibility, and I think that is a good reminder for why books like this matter.
George by Alex Gino is a lovely book. The author weaves a beautiful story about George, who is in the 4th grade and hiding something very big from everyone. He’s not a he on the inside at all; she is a she. This story about a transgender girl is especially touching because it’s from her perspective. No article or documentary has given me a deeper understanding of some of the feelings a young transgender person may feel like this book has. It is a chapter book that I would suggest for grades 3 and up. I read it in the bath at one go, and it left me wanting to read more. Great book!
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Micheal Hall is my new favorite book. It made me cry the first two times I read it with my children because it’s so beautiful. All crayons come with a label but is that label always, right? Red came from the factory with a red outside, but even when he tried, and trust me he tried, all he could do was color blue. It’s not until he is asked by purple to draw him a blue ocean that he finally finds a place where he belongs.
King and King by Linda de Haan is a fairytale and a funny one at that. The queen is old and cranky and wants her son to take over the kingdom, but he must be married to do so. He tells her he’s not really into princesses, but Mama doesn’t take the hint. After finding fault with every princess presented to him, he falls in love at first sight with a prince and they live happily ever after. I like the whimsical illustrations, and my kids thought the prince was funny. My son thought the book had a twist at the end with the princes falling in love, but just like the queen in the story, there was no debate over why. I like that this book uses the familiar fairytale structure to make an important statement about the existence of same-sex marriage and can be a great ice breaker to talk about it with your kids.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel is a book all about Jazz a real-life little girl who is transgender. The book is a wonderful introduction to what being transgender means on a level children can relate to. In my experience children accept Jazz and her story easily. There might be some giggles but after the initial” Wow, I never knew that was possible.” they just see a kid being a kid.
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman is about Jacob, who likes to wear dresses. Unlike Bailey in 10, 000 dresses Jacob is accepted by the majority of his peers and family. His parents encourage him to be himself cautiously, and I liked that throughout the story his parents softened their stance as Jacob became more confident about how he felt and how he’d handle teasing. Jacob was teased, but he was also accepted which makes this book a great discussion starter with any child whether they have a child in their school who may dress in gender non-conforming ways or a family member who is transgender. Not all boys who wear dresses are going to identify as transgender or gay, and this book doesn’t say they will. Instead, it says to be yourself whoever that may be.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis has been talked about so much I think I had inflated expectations. Don’t get me wrong I think the message is so important, and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different, to how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at accepting him. I like how simply blunt the book is, and it should be because the lesson should be about acceptance and allow people, especially children to express their true self. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was nonfiction. It opened a great dialog with my 5-year-old son about how he would treat a male friend if they wanted to dress in a dress- good discussion at our house, worth the read for sure!
The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner is a wonderful story about being proud of who you are. The author uses the story of Queen Ester along with the character’s two dads as examples of finding strength in showing your true self. Those examples help Nate decide what he will be for the Purim costume parade. I won’t give away the story, but it’s awesome, original and perfectly true to who he is. I love that this book packs in so much diversity without any over the top preachiness. Kids love the story!
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy is a wonderful early chapter book about a family with four adopted sons and two dads. What I love about this book is that in a subject matter that is so often shared more with girls it seems this book makes no bones about being aimed at boys. Girls will like it to, but elementary aged boys are its target. I know because my son is gobbling it up! It’s not just about having two dads, it’s more about how no family is ever perfect, how making mistakes is part of growing up, and all the trouble four boys and one imaginary jaguar can get into.
My son was so excited to read the 2nd installment of the Family Fletcher! The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island was just released, and so far we LOVE it. My son connects with this family so well, and that is such a statement about the power of books because the family in this book is comprised of two dads and four sons of all different races. Our family is as Leave it to Beaver as it gets, but that doesn’t matter. The power of diverse books is real! Grab these two books for your 3rd – 5th graders, they will love them, but be prepared for a lot of laughs, they are really funny!
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee .This book celebrates all sorts of babies and all the every day things babies do. My daughter points out all the babies on each page as I read the rhyming text. So maybe you are thinking ” What’s so great about babies and text that rhymes?” nothing, that isn’t what makes this book so awesome. I love this book because of its diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of all babies and families. The illustrations are full of depictions of all sorts of families showering their smallest most precious member with love. What I adore about the diversity of the illustrations is that readers are left to put whatever assumption we wish on the families in the book. What I assumed were two mommies my husband thought was a husband and wife, I thought a lady was a grandma, and my son said it was just an older mom. This is why I love this book, my daughter doesn’t see why this message is outstanding, what she does see is all sorts of happy babies in all sorts of families being the norm, and this is the world we want her to know.
Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman is a book about Donovan’s day leading up to being the ring bearer at his moms’ wedding. The book does a fantastic job at showing that children in same-sex families are just like children in any family. This day is a big day for Donovan but before he hands them the rings and kisses the brides he has a bunch of other things to do. I adore the illustrations by Mike Dutton and how he brings this little boy to life. Like so many of these books this book is not about politics it’s about a family celebrating a special day.
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman was widely banned when it was first released. It is probably the best-known picture book about a family with same-sex parents. When you read it, the first thing you will probably think is that it doesn’t live up to the banning. I always imagine banned books to be truly out there, and this book is about a family with a doctor, a carpenter, and their daughter. Heather is starting a new school, and she is nervous and exploring all the possibilities of what a family looks like just as her classmates are. She recognizes that her family is different but not less than. The illustrations are black and white, and a little dated but the story is on the right track.
Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman is a book about the everyday life of a family with two moms. What I love about this book is that it showcases parts of the day that young toddlers through preschoolers can relate to easily. They have bath time, they go to the park, they cook dinner, in other words, they are a family like any with a small child. My son loved this book and related easily to the baby in the book and to the experiences that they share.The book makes no political statement, no explanation of two mommies and it shouldn’t, it’s a book targeted to toddlers about one loving family and nothing more. There is also a version with two dads called Daddy, Papa, and Me .
A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager is a book about a little girl with two daddies. She is playing with a friend who is asking her how it works to have two daddies. He asks her the type of questions any young child might and she answers them as they play together. I like this book because it addresses the sorts of questions young kids have about same-sex families and most of all it explains how similar all families are no matter who is a part of it. I love that the illustrations are done from the perspective of the young children only showing the adults from about knee level and down. Cute, bright book and my daughter loves it.
A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager got my kids out of their seats at the table and glued next to me because they wanted to be that close to the illustrations by Mike Blanc . They were so vibrant, and the perspective was so great that both my kids ( 6 and 3 ) were immediately smitten. The story is great too; it’s really a collection of questions from two friends asking a third about how his family with two mommies work. Sometimes adults go straight for the big deep issues when really kids just want to know which mom is the one to coach little league and which one bakes cakes. The overall feeling readers are left with is that this little boy’s life isn’t all that different at all.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family; it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher, I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. It makes mention of some families having two moms or two dads in the same vein as all the other similarities and differences. Kids see that families are not all like theirs, and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while families may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book, cute illustrations , and children love it.
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is the first picture book I have ever read that is all about an LGBTQ Pride parade. I loved the book and both my children loved the illustrations. If you have never been to a pride parade read this book to see what you are missing, I took my son to the pride parade in San Francisco when we lived there in 2007, and it was amazing. Children can learn a lot from experiencing the joy and community of a pride parade, learning that just marching in a parade like this was once impossible. There are families and children at the parade and that gives parents and opportunity to teach their own children who might be unfamiliar with pride why they are there.
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco is a lovely story of a family of two moms, three kids, and a big house in Berkley California that was witness to their years and years of love. Like many families that don’t fit the “normal” stereotype these two moms and their kids faced opposition. The illustrations in this book show so well the emotions any parent would experience when an angry adult was threatening their family with children present. This book is about love, it is a window into a family that might be similar to yours or very different but one thing this family has in common with every family is the love that holds it together.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson is a much debated book. It’s the true story of two male penguins in central park zoo who didn’t have any interest in the girl penguins but definitely liked each other. When the zoo keepers noticed that they were in every way a matched pair they also noticed that they prepared for a baby just like the other penguins. Time after time they were sad until they were given an egg to care for. Just like all families love and care is what matters when creating a family and baby Tango and his two daddies have thrived . My son loved this book and asked me to please go see the penguins when I was in NYC. I didn’t have time to but I wish I had. Their story simplifies a very debated topic and I think it’s a great book not only to explain how all families are different but also how love and care are really what makes a family even for penguins.
Stella Brings The Family by Miriam B. Schiffer is a really sweet book that my daughter immediately wanted to read once we were done. In the book we meet Stella who has two dads and no mom to bring to the Mother’s Day party at her school. She frets about it and then decides to bring all the people who fill that role in her life. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t ignore that there are always bumps along the way for families that don’t fit the rigid norms that we so often uphold. This book does a great job at talking about it, recognizing Stella’s feelings and finding a solution.
Daddy’s Roommate by Micheal Willhoite is a little different from the other books in this list in that the child in the book has a mommy, a daddy ,and daddy also has a roommate. The book was written in 1990 and even though we don’t often hear “roommate” as a euphemism for partner or boyfriend anymore but in 1990 is was probably more common. That aside the book does a good job of explaining what this little boys life is like. Bug catching, reading, scary dreams… it’s pretty average stuff but he has three adults to care for him. I also like that the boy’s parents are divorced which will be something many readers will connect with. The books explanation of what gay means is really simple and perfect for the books audience. I do think that the pictures are dated but I don’t think kids will pick up on that as much as adults will.
Are we missing a book you think should be added to the list? Leave a comment and let us know so we can check it out!