LGBTQ-inclusive children's books can make great holiday presents. Here are some new ones from the past year to add to your kids' collections.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy. LGBTQ-inclusive books for the middle-grade rangeespecially ones that focus on a same-sex-headed family instead of just having an LGBT minor characterare few and far between. Levy's book not only fills this gap, but creates a hysterically funny story about two dads and their four kids that is also full of heart.
The Christmas Truck, by J. B. Blankenship, illustrated by Cassandre Bolan. This seasonal tale is about a child ( of unspecified gender ), who prepares for Christmas with Papa and Dad and then tries to help a child from a less-affluent family, with the help of visiting relatives.
I like this book because although LGBTQ-inclusive picture books have started to show diversity of color, they have largely shown culturally and religiously neutral families, leaving out important aspects of many people's livesand leaving the impression that religion and LGBTQ people are mutually exclusive. ( Alas, I know of no books specific to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa that feature LGBTQ parents, although My Family! A Multi-Cultural Holiday Coloring Book for Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents, by Cheril N. Clarke, includes those holidays ( and Christmas ) in the mix. )
Jacob's New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case. This tale is told from the perspective of a young boy who first wants to wear a dress during dress-up time in school, and later wants to do so for his regular outfit. Despite the teasing of one classmate, he finds support in his parents, teacher, and a friend.
The authors, a couple with a gender nonconforming child, do not position Jacob as transgender, however. The mom in the story tells him, "There are all sorts of ways to be a boy"reassuring if he indeed identifies as one, but leaving no space for the possibility that he doesn't. That's less a criticism than a heads-up so that families can seek out the book if it feels right for them.
I Am Jazz, by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. In contrast to the above, this book by a 12-year-old transgender girl focuses on her own tale of what it means to be transgender. It's a great introduction to the concept, although it leans a little heavily on gender stereotypes in some places to explain how Jazz knew she was a girl. Still, as a personal story and not a generalization, it is wonderful, especially as it shows her parents coming to understand and support her.
Emlyn and the Gremlin, by Steff Kneff, illustrated by Luke Spooner. What do you do if you're sure a gremlin is sneaking into your house at night, but your moms don't believe you? That's the dilemma for the star of this fanciful new picture book in which the fact of her two moms is incidental to the tale. Canadian author Kneff is raising a real-life daughter Emlyn with her spouse, and has also penned two sequels, Emlyn and the Gremlin and the Mean Old Cat and Emlyn and the Gremlin and the Barbeque Disaster.
The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, by Daniel Errico, illustrated by Mo Qovaizi. This is one of two new picture books this year featuring gay princes. In it, a noble young man might marry a princess, but chooses her brother the prince instead. That's basically the same plot as King and King, Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland's 2003 picture book. While King and King focuses on the problem of choosing a spouse, however, The Bravest Knight centers around the protagonist's chivalric adventures, which eventually lead him to his love interest. I especially like that Errico makes it clear the knight knew he was gay from the time he was a boy.
The Princes and the Treasure, by Jeffrey A. Miles, illustrated by J.L. Phillips. This tale features two young men who must learn to combine their individual talents to rescue a princess. In the process, they fall in love with each other. I like the representation of a same-sex relationship in the context of what feels like a classic fairy tale. I am less thrilled, however, with the character of Princess Elena, who is treated as a commodity by her father and must simply wish that someone helps her. One man's mother is also a bit of a nag in telling him to go save the princess. In an otherwise genre-bending children's book, the treatment of women feels oddly old fashioned.
This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten. While most recent LGBTQ-inclusive kids' books show the characters simply as part of the world, and are not centered around the fact that they are LGBTQthis book broke the trend to good effect. The lively and colorful story takes us on a trip to a Pride paradewhere we're introduced to dykes on bikes, people in leather, drag queens and others of varying gender expressions, politicians, marching bands, and parents with their children. The diverse characters in the illustrations jump and dance and swirl in a wonderful celebration of LGBTQ culture.
Happy reading to you and your families, and be sure to pass these book ideas to non-LGBTQ friends and kids as well. Learning about different types of families is good for all children!
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian ( mombian.com ), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.