It's time for my annual roundup of some of this year's best LGBTQ-inclusive children's and middle-grade books! This is one of the first years when ( happily! ) there were more books published than I can include here, so please visit mombian.com for a longer compilation.
When We Love Someone We Sing to Them/Cuando Amamos Cantamos, by Ernesto Javier MartÃnez, is a lyrical bilingual book celebrating both the love between two boys and the supportive relationship between the boy and his father. Pura Belpré Honor Award winner Maya Christina Gonzalez deserves equal credit for her vibrant illustrations.
Prince & Knight, by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, isn't the first queer prince fairy tale for this age, but it might be the best, and stems from a partnership between LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD and Bonnier Publishing USA.
In the second book from the partnership, Jack ( Not Jackie ), by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam, a young girl comes to understand and accept that her sibling, whom she thought was a girl, is really a transgender boy. Their parents are supportive of Jack's identity throughout.
When the protagonist of Jessie Sima's Harriet Gets Carried Away dresses up like a penguin and goes to find party hats for her birthday, she falls into an adventure with a group of actual penguins. Can she find the way back to her two dads in time for the party? A joyful book celebrating the power of imagination.
The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig, by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Crane, illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, is based on the true story of a two-man couple who adopt what they think is a mini-pigbut who grows to 600 pounds and whom they love despite some mishaps.
The gorgeously illustrated Julian Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, tells of a gender creative, Latinx boy imagining life as a mermaid. One day, his supportive abuela takes them to a festival of grown people dressed as mermaids ( modeled after the actual Coney Island Mermaid Parade ).
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, is an inspiring biography of Milk that stresses his friendship with Gilbert Baker, who designed the rainbow flag as a symbol of inspiration.
The Lotterys More or Less, by Emma Donoghue, continues her series about two same-sex couples ( one male, one female ) jointly raising their seven children. Their nine-year-old middle child, Sumac, feels responsible for organizing their winter holiday celebrations, but an ice storm brings complications for the diverse family and community in this fun holiday-themed romp.
The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, continues actor Neil Patrick Harris' series starring a diverse group of "misfit." friends with skills in the magical arts, including Leila, who has two dads. When a famous psychic and a couple claiming to be Leila's birth parents arrive in town, the friends must uncover the truth while learning to rely on each other. Puzzles and how-to magic tricks are sprinkled throughout.
In You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P., by Stonewall Award-winning author Alex Gino, Jilly, a White and hearing 12-year-old, struggles to support both her new baby sister who is Deaf, and her online friend, a Deaf, Black boy her own age. An aunt who is Black and raising two children with her wife is among those offering guidance. Gino digs into the impact of systemic racism, including the shooting of a Black teen by police, and how White people must work towards dismantling it.
Hurricane Child, by Kheryn Callender, is the lyrical story of 12-year-old Caroline Murphy, born during a hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her mother has left her and her father, her classmates bully her, and she has visions of a mysterious spirit. Then she feels a growing attraction to a new girl at school. Caroline must figure out what these parts of her life mean as another storm bears down.
The tornado that destroys 12-year-old Ivy's home in Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake, serves as a metaphor for the disconnection she feels from family and friends and the "giddy and trembly." feelings she has around classmate June. A warm story about finding oneself while searching for connection with others.
Set in 1977, Shannon Hitchcock's One True Way tells of Allie Drake, trying to find her place at her new middle school in North Carolina after her parents' separation. When she and another girl fall in love, they must deal with the prejudice of Sam's conservative Christian parents, Allie's overprotective mother, the bigotry promulgated nationwide by actor Anita Bryant, and the ramifications for two of their teachers, another a same-sex couple.
In Drum Roll, Please, by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, 13-year-old Mellie spends two weeks at band camp while dealing with her parents' divorce, her best friend deserting her for a boy, and having a crush on another girl, while wondering if she can really be a drummer. It's mentioned that she's had crushes on boys, too; she's not labeled "bisexual,." but could very well be. An insightful first-person narrative of self-discovery.
The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel by Jen Wang, begins in Paris at the dawn of the modern age. Sixteen-year-old Prince Sebastian's parents are hoping to find him a bride, but he knows his love of wearing dresses will make him unsuitable. He finds support in one loyal servant and in a dressmaker with dreams of her own. A tale as fresh and textured as the dresses in it.
Happy reading and happy holidays!
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian ( Mombian.com ), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.