Every year that I sit down to write this list of LGBTQ children’s books, I think about the comments from the years prior. A common one is “This should be left to the parents.” This is a point I thoughtfully and calmly debated with my preschool director. The thing is a lot of topics that parents aren’t sure how to handle or that they are against, like gay marriage, are not best left to them if our goal is to teach children about the world around them. I want to raise and teach children who are inclusive and empathetic. Excluding whole populations of families and people is not the way to do that. We can not tell our children everyone is worth the same, everyone deserves respect, and then make these books “a sensitive subject” to be discussed (or not) at home because some think they are inappropriate for school. That teaches our children that these topics are shameful, that these books are taboo, and in turn that the families and people portrayed in them are. That gets us nowhere. Two dad and two mom families are a fact, transgender children and adults are real, and all LGBTQ individuals and their families deserve to be represented, celebrated, and included in all parts of life, including school and home bookshelves.
This list is long and while some of these books would be perfect for a toddler or young preschooler, like Families by Todd Parr, others like Zak’s Safari or Home At Last would be better for slightly older kids. As with any book list, read multiple reviews and choose books that fit your audience.
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Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian is a wonderful book about what really matters when two people or worms want to be married – love. Worm and Worm are deeply in love, and although they don’t fit into the conventional wedding customs, they still make it work. All their bug friends join in with wedding planning, and as they hit questions like who will be the bride or groom, they accept Worm and Worm’s decisions on how to do things their way. Cute book that helps to drive home the point that there is not only ONE way to love or have a wedding.
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 plays 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 she is afraid that when he is married, that will change. This is a great book that normalizes same-sex weddings and focuses instead on the things that matter most to the children. Kids don’t care that their uncle is marrying a man, they just want to know 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. This is a powerful way to normalize all different family structures. 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!
A Peacock Among Pigeons by Tyler Curry is a humorous and touching look about standing out from the crowd when you aren’t necessarily trying to. Peter, the peacock, tries to blend in with the pigeons but he can’t no matter how hard he tries. The story is about how after he had left the pigeons he met colorful birds that accepted him and themselves for the ways they were unique and from that Peter started to love himself. Great story for every child!
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. 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 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. My daughter begged me to read it to her in kindergarten, and I thought she’d get bored, but instead, it remains one of her favorite books to this day. She loved it at 5, though the suggested age is middle elementary and up.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Micheal Hall is one of my very favorite books. 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. While this book doesn’t specifically speak about being transgender, if your child has any understanding of it, they will make the connection; I know mine both did. Also, the book is a wonderful introduction to the idea of what being transgender means.
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 icebreaker 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. My now 7-year-old loves Jazz and will often choose this story as a bedtime selection.
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. 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 doesn’t fit into a binary definition of gender. It explores how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at supporting 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 even if it doesn’t fit the narrow definition we have given it. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was nonfiction. It opened a great dialog with my son when he was five 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, this book makes no bones about being aimed at boys. Girls will like it, too (my daughter certainly did), but elementary aged boys are its target. I know because my son gobbled 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, and for a good reason. I think this book may be even better than the first, and we loved the first. My son connects with this family so well. 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 Kindergarten through 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. As a toddler, my daughter pointed 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”? The answer is nothing. That’s not 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. In my classroom, over the past three years, this book was a favorite for children who were having separation anxiety. I would calmly sit down, get this big board book and we’d look at the babies. It was such a great tool to help the child transition from fear to be calm and ready to be cared for.
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 and is still challenged today, along with other books on this list. 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 being horribly offensive or graphic, 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 new edition has wonderfully colorful illustrations as is a major improvement on the black and white ones from the previous editions.
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; 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. But 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 families may not all look alike but that all families are made with love. Great book, cute illustrations, and children love it. I used this book in every preschool class I have ever taught from ages 2-5, and all kids loved 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. That gives parents an 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 and 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. 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.
Two Dads by Carolyn Robertson is a simple rhyming book about life with two dads. A little boy takes readers through a little snapshot of his life with two dads, which is unsurprisingly just like other two parent families for the most part. I love that this book not only has two dads but also includes adoption and an interracial family. There are so many different kinds of families out there and the more we can include on our bookshelves the better.
Stella Brings The Family by Miriam B. Schiffer is a really sweet book that my daughter immediately wanted to read again, 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.
Zak’s Safari by Christy Tyner is a book about how Zak’s family became a family with the help of donor sperm. The book talks about how babies are made in a very age-appropriate way, saying daddies have sperm and mamas have eggs and they come together to make babies. There is no discussion about sexual acts, just that. I think this book does a great job with this subject which some parents feel very bashful about discussing. One of the things I adore about this book is how there are illustrations of the two moms snuggling and being affectionate. Often books about same-sex parents don’t show that, and I was happy to see that wall broken with this book. My daughter loved this book, and we used it to talk more about same-sex families and how children come about. She had assumed that all babies in same-sex families were adopted, so I was excited to share this with her.
Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton is a FANTASTIC book. What makes this book, about a teddy bear who is transgender, so amazing is that it really reflects most young children’s view and acceptance of someone who is transgender. When a member of our church came out as transgender, my then 4-year-old was like “Cool can I have some cookies.” and my 7-year-old said ” So I shouldn’t say she anymore? OK.” and that was IT. I had already explained what transgender meant, and that was all they needed to accept someone. That is exactly what this book is like; Teddy is all sad and worried that her friends won’t accept that inside, she is a girl teddy even though outside she looks like a boy. She spills the beans, and everyone accepts her and her new name Tilly. I love how frank and simple this book is, and its focus on friendship is lovely. It’s perfect for any preschool and early elementary aged kiddos.
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 it 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 book’s explanation of what gay means is really simple and perfect for the book’s 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.
Home At Last by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka is a story about a little boy Lester, who after being in foster care, is adopted by two dads. He knows he should be happy with all these wonderful new things, but at night he is still scared. This is a great look at what anxiety looks like and how loving parents respond. Eventually, the dog becomes his security buddy, and he can sleep at night and fully enjoy his new life and new family.