A holiday guide to LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and YA books

“When Langston Dances,” by Kaija Langley, illustrated by Keith Mallett (SImon & Schuster). “This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us,” ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (Alfred A. Knopf). “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” by Malinda Lo (Dutton).

Below are just a few of the many great LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books this year. Please visit the online database at mombian.com/database for many other books and for longer reviews.

Board and Picture Books

”What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns,” by Katherine Locke and illustrated by Anne/Andy Passchier (Little, Brown), stars a nonbinary child and their nonbinary uncle, and presents pronouns as one of many types of words that can be used to describe oneself.

“Pride Puppy!” by Robin Stevenson, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin (Orca), is an alphabet book with a fun story arc about a queer family’s day at a Pride celebration, bursting with diversity across LGBTQ and other identities.

“Over the Shop,” by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Qin Leng (Candlewick), is a beautifully illustrated wordless tale about found family, featuring a queer couple.

“Bodies Are Cool,” written and illustrated by Tyler Feder (Dial) is a joyous exploration of the many different types of human bodies, in various shades, sizes, ages, genders, and abilities. Queer couples and transgender and nonbinary people are plentiful.

The latest edition of “The Bare Naked Book,” by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Melissa Cho (Annick Press) is a celebratory book about all the different parts of a human body, seamlessly inclusive of many physical differences and all genders.

“Calvin,” by JR Ford and Vanessa Ford, illustrated by Kayla Harren (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), tells of a transgender boy who transitions w/the love and support of his family, teachers, and friends.

“When Langston Dances,” by Kaija Langley, illustrated by Keith Mallett (SImon & Schuster), stars a boy who dreams of dancing like his hero, Alvin Ailey. Langston isn’t explicitly queer, but his gender atypical activity and queer hero make this a book that may appeal strongly to queer children, while the message of self-acceptance is for all.

“The Spectacular Suit,” by Kat Patrick, illustrated by Hayley Wells (Scribble US), features a gender creative girl who wants a “spectacular suit” for her birthday party. Her family helps realize her wish.

“Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman,” by Sharice Davids with Nancy K. Mays, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (HarperCollins), is a strikingly illustrated autobiography by the first openly lesbian Native American elected to Congress.

“Lola Sleeps Over, by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge), shows a young girl excited about her first sleepover, with her cousin and cousin’s two moms, Lola’s aunts.

“They’re So Flamboyant,” by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Tony Neal (Magination Press), depicts various groups of birds (like a “charm” of finches) apprehensive when a “flamboyance” of flamingos moves into their neighborhood. Can they learn to value their differences?

“The Little Library,” by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade), tells of a boy who “is a slow and careful reader” and a librarian (who happens to be nonbinary) helping him find just the right book for his interests and abilities.

“Mr. Watson’s Chickens,” by Jarrett Dapier, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi (Chronicle Books), is the hilarious tale of one man, his 456 mischievous chickens, and his patient (to a point) partner/husband.

“Grandad’s Camper,” written and illustrated by Harry Woodgate (Little Bee Books), features a granddaughter who convinces her Grandpa to go out again in the camper that he used to adventure in with Gramps before Gramps died.

“Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America’s First Gay Wedding,” by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Robbie Cathro (Little Bee), is the true story of the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to legally wed—in 1971—told entertainingly by the two groom figurines on their wedding cake.

“Early One Morning!” and “Bedtime, Not Playtime!” by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Elina Braslina (Orca), are bright board books showing slices of life in a two-mom and two-dad family, respectively.

Early Chapter Books

The Mermicorn Island series by Jason June, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley (Scholastic), stars Lucky, a half mermaid, half unicorn mermicorn, who lives in a magical undersea world. Lucky seems somewhat gender creative, and one of his friends has two dads.

The Popcorn Bob series by Maranke Rinck, illustrated by Martijn Van Der Linden (Levine Querido), centers on a girl (who happens to have two dads) and a piece of popcorn that comes to life—hungry, cranky, but somehow lovable.

Middle Grade and Up

“This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us,” ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (Alfred A. Knopf), is a superb middle grade anthology with stories across the LGBTQ spectrum.

“Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words,” ed. by Kate Fry and Lindsay Herriot (Orca), is a vibrant collection of stories, essays, art, and poems by trans youth ages 11 to 18.

Three LGBTQ-inclusive titles were shortlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

“Too Bright to See,” by Kyle Lukoff (Dial), is a middle grade coming-of-age story about a trans boy and a ghost story rolled into one.

“The Legend of Auntie Po,” by Shing Yin Khor (Kokila) is a middle grade graphic novel about a Chinese American girl living at a Sierra Nevada logging camp in the late 19th-century. Mei, who has a crush on the foreman’s daughter, finds strength in the face of camp politics and systemic racism by reinventing the stories of Paul Bunyan to star an elderly Chinese matriarch.

“Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” by Malinda Lo (Dutton) is an evocative young adult lesbian love story starring a Chinese American girl and set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1954.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory, with a searchable database of 800+ LGBTQ family books, media, and more.

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