There are happily now many children’s books about Pride, but Robin Stevenson may be the author who has taken up the subject for the most age groups. Over the past few years, Stevenson, an award-winning author of more than 25 books in total, has published a board book, a picture book, a middle grade nonfiction book, and a young adult novel, all revolving around Pride.
She told me via e-mail, “Pride has always been important to me but it has had different meanings for me at different times in my life—coming out as a young adult, taking my own child, talking to queer activists around the world in researching my book—and I think all of those meanings have filtered into my writing.”
Her most recent book, “Pride Puppy!” (Orca Books, 2021) is an alphabet book and more, bursting with diversity across LGBTQ and other identities. “A for awake, animals and all,” it begins, as a young child, a baby, and their two parents (one Black and female; the other White and nonbinary) wake up in the morning and get ready for the Pride march.
Each rhyming page takes us onward through the alphabet and the day, where Julie McLaughlin’s colorful drawings show people of various ages, body types, skin tones, cultures, physical abilities, religions, and LGBTQ identities. At one point, the puppy gets loose and romps across subsequent pages with the family in pursuit, offering an engaging narrative arc lacking in many ABC books. The book also incorporates a fun “seek-and-find” activity, with additional items to discover on every page.
Stevenson reflected, “When I wrote ‘Pride Puppy,’ I was thinking about families like mine, who look forward to the Pride Parade every year … all the kids who love getting dressed up in fancy outfits, meeting up with friends, eating ice cream in the park, watching the floats go by, listening to music on the stages, and feeling like a part of it all. But I was also thinking about kids who haven’t had that chance and I wanted to give them a glimpse of our beautiful, diverse, creative community. I tried to write this as a child’s eye view of Pride, focusing on the things that might be relevant to a small kid.”
“Pride Puppy!” is an energetic delight—but those who want something more soothing for the very youngest children should try Stevenson’s board book “Pride Colors” (Orca Books, 2019). It takes the original meanings of the colors in the Pride flag, as envisioned by creator Gilbert Baker, and turns them into a poem from parent to child: “Yellow sunshine, smiles so bright./I’ll hug you, kiss you, hold you tight.”
“Board books are all about the relationship between the little one and the adult reader, and with ‘Pride Colors’ I wanted to write a book that conveyed a message of absolute love and acceptance from caregiver to child,” Stevenson explained. “It includes the line ‘Be yourself, love who you choose’—I think that is one of the meanings of Pride, and I love to think of children hearing that message from the very beginning of their lives.”
For middle grade children ready to learn more specifics about Pride, however, Stevenson’s nonfiction “Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle (Orca Books, 2020)” does the trick. It blends a history of the event with a broader look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality, plus information about what it means to come out, what to expect at Pride events around the world, fun facts, profiles, a glossary, and more.
“‘Pride’ offers a factual overview of LGBTQ+ history and community, and lots of stories to encourage and inspire young activists,” Robinson said. “It’s an outward-looking book, because middle grade readers are at an age when they are often wanting to know more about the world and how they can make a difference in it.”
In contrast, her recent young adult book “When You Get the Chance” (Running Press Kids, 2021), written with fellow Canadian author Tom Ryan, “is more about the emotional experience of Pride and what it can mean to a young person—who may be grappling with questions about family, relationships, identity—to feel that they are a part of something bigger.”
In that novel, a grandfather’s death brings cousins Talia (18) and Mark (17) together at the Ontario cottage where they used to spend their summers. They haven’t seen each other in years because their parents are estranged. Both teens are queer and struggling with the status of their romantic relationships. Even though they don’t really get along, Mark convinces Talia to take a break from family obligations and sneak off with him and his 10-year-old sister on a road trip to Toronto Pride. They get help from several older queer folks, meet new friends, and learn more not only about LGBTQ culture but also about themselves. Told in alternating chapters by Talia and Mark, this is a fun yet thoughtful book about family, community, and growing up. Mark and Talia are presumed White; supporting characters are of various skin tones and queer identities.
While “When You Get the Chance” and “Pride” are very different, Stevenson said, “They actually touch on some similar themes…. In my non-fiction book, I explained the history of Pride very directly, while in this teen novel, facts about the Stonewall Uprising and changing ideas about identity are woven into intergenerational conversations between queer adults, teens, and kids.”
No matter what age your kids are, Stevenson’s books may even spark real-life intergenerational conversations about Pride and identity as well.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com). Join her June 1 for the 16th annual #LGBTQFamiliesDay: post and share on all social media in support and celebration of LGBTQ families!