By Elisabeth Schmitt
Representation is important. It is essential for children to see reflections of themselves and their loved ones in the characters they encounter in books and other media. However, in spite of the importance of representation, there are still several groups of people who remain underrepresented in the world of children’s literature. Specifically, the LGBTQ+ community has only recently become commonly represented in children’s books.
Stories of LGBTQ+ people and their lives are important to share with children, especially those with family members in the LGBTQ+ community. Representation shows children and adults that the presence of the community is present and valid. Children’s books that contain LGBTQ+ stories and themes can help the child to learn about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and how valuable it is to understand the people in the world around us.
If you are looking to expand your child’s library to include books with LGBTQ+ stories, you will find that such books are sadly hard to come by. There are more books like this now than ever before, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to representation of this community.
Here are five children’s books featuring LGBTQ+ characters that will make great additions to your child’s library!
Children’s Books Featuring LGBTQ+ Characters
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1. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
And Tango Makes Three is a picture book written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. It tells the story of two male chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo are based on two real penguins from the Central Park Zoo who helped hatch an egg together.
In the book, Roy and Silo are given an egg to raise. After their daughter hatches, they name her Tango. Tango completes their family of three. And Tango Makes Three was published in 2005 and has faced backlash over the years.
In spite of this criticism, the book has won several awards including the ASPCA Henry Bergh Book Award. This book is a great way to introduce children to the existence and validity of LGBTQ+ couples, relationships, and families.
2. My Two Moms and Me by Michael Joosten
Written by Michael Joosten, My Two Moms and Me is the companion to another popular children’s book, My Two Dads and Me. This book follows several families going through daily activities like going on a playdate and going swimming. The families featured in this picture book are all diverse families with two mothers.
My Two Moms and Me is a fun celebration of the reality of LGBTQ+ families and the joy and love that they carry with them. This book is perfect for young children with two mother figures; its companion book, My Two Dads and Me, has the same theme for families with two father figures.
3. I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
I Am Jazz tells the true story of one of its authors, Jazz Jennings. Jazz Jennings is a famous transgender activist and public speaker. When she was a young child, Jennings came to the realization that although she was told she was a boy, she was actually a girl. The book explains what this means in terms simple enough for children to understand, with colorful illustrations that add to its positive energy.
This book is popular among parents and educators who seek to inform children and promote the understanding of what it means to be transgender. Though it has often been met with controversy and has landed itself on a few banned book lists, I Am Jazz remains a valuable resource for parents and children of all backgrounds.
4. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
For children of a chapter-book reading level, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is a quirky and fun series chronicling the Fletcher family and their adventures. This book focuses on two sons of the family as they navigate through the new school year with hilarious disasters happening at every turn.
The Fletcher boys’ two dads and adopted siblings make up their loving, positive, and funny family. There are currently two books in the series and hopefully more to come. Though the LGBTQ+ presence is just the backdrop for this story, it shows young readers that there are many different types of families in the world, each one capable of its own crazy misadventures.
5. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Finally, Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a picture book following the story of a boy embracing his identity and defying gender norms. In the book, the protagonist Julián wishes to dress up as a mermaid after seeing three beautiful women in mermaid costumes. With the help of his Abuela, he comes to accept and celebrate his identity and walk alongside the other mermaids in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
While this book does not say outright exactly how its protagonist identifies, it shows that there should be no fear in expressing yourself. Even though Julián wants to do something he has not seen his peers doing, he embraces his individuality and is happier because of it. This book is perfect for young children who have trouble expressing themselves out of fear of rejection because it shows how much happiness can come from being your true self.
Overall, children’s books featuring LGBTQ+ characters are hard to come by, but not impossible to find. Once you find them, however, they are sure to be treasured by children and families of many backgrounds.
Representation of the LGBTQ+ community in children’s literature is essential to the furthering of awareness and acceptance of diverse people and their families. If you are looking to expand your child’s or student’s library to include LGBTQ+ stories, these five books are the perfect ones to include!
You can check all these titles and more books for youngsters in our Bookshop.