Both my girls have been loving the extra dose of rainbows popping up around NYC for Pride this month. NYC is the official host of World Pride this weekend and our city has really outdone itself. Rainbows are EVERYWHERE. The girls have been pointing out colorful displays of pride everywhere we go— from store windows to pop-up art installations to the colors of the skyline at night. And just when I was thinking it was all about the rainbows, Mazzy pointed out a light blue and pink flag and said, “Oh cool! They have the transgender flag too!” I didn’t even know there was a transgender flag. NYC kids are pretty amazing. I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot.
We already have a few children’s book lists on the blog about love, self-love, and non-traditional families. In honor of Pride Month, I asked our kid lit specialist Lauren Bercuson to share a list of books that specifically celebrate the LGBTQ community. Lauren reviews everything from board books for your youngest kids to books for your newest readers to novels for tweens. She put together a comprehensive list of her favorites, separating the books into a few categories— books about pride, books about gender identity, books about LGBTQ relationships and families, and books for tweens.
33 Children’s Books that Celebrate Pride:
Books about Pride:
1) Pride Colors
by Robin Stevenson
Did you know that each color of the pride flag stands for something special and meaningful? This beautiful book is a celebration of the love parents have for their children, told through gentle rhyme and colorful photographs that also convey the meaning of the flag’s many colors. It contains a powerful message, too: be true to you, and you will always be loved.
by Michael Genhard and illustrated by Anne Passchier
This sweet book, an ode to LGBTQ families, pride and also reveals the meaning and symbolism behind each stripe on the rainbow flag. This is a beautiful testament to a parent’s unwavering love between children and their parents. A lovely way to show kids that just as there are many colors of a rainbow, families come in all different colors, too.
by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph
There is a rich history surrounding New York City’s Stonewall Inn, and its role in the LGBTQ movement is unparalleled. Narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, this is the story of the police raid on the Inn on June 28, 1969, and the manner in which the empowered members of the LGBTQ community in and around the Inn began to demand equal rights as United States citizens. Powerful, poignant and dynamic, this one belongs in every library and classroom around the country!
by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno
Harvey Milk had a dream to create a global symbol of unity and inclusion, one that would allow LGBQT people to be proud of not just who they are, but also who they love. This beautiful book tells the story of the Gay Pride Flag from its inception in 1978 thanks to Milk’s activism, all the way to the present day, describing how it became an important symbol worldwide. This is a story of love, hope, and equality that has an important place on every book shelf!
by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten
This is a whimsical, lively and energetic celebration of pride. Taking place at a joyful parade, all are invited, all are excited, and all are united! Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this is a fabulous portrayal of pride that also contains excellent resources for parents and caregivers to speak with children about sexual orientation and gender identity in sensitive, age appropriate manners.
Books about Gender Identity:
6) Sparkle Boy
by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola
Casey loves “boy” things — but he also loves things that sparkle. When his sister has glittery nails, Casey wants them too. When she has a shimmery skirt, he wants one too. When Abuelita has an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey wears one too. Though some of the adults around Casey embrace his expression and allow him to be true to himself, Casey’s big sister isn’t so sure. Will it take a bully to help big sis embrace her brother’s interests? We love this story of acceptance!
by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Oh, how we love this own voices book! When Aidan was born, she had a beautiful name and a beautiful room and beautiful dresses. But even though there is no one way to be a girl, Aidan knew he wasn’t a girl at all. When he realized he was a trans boy, his parents helped him settle into a new life. But then his parents tell them they are expecting a baby – and Aidan wants to do whatever he can to make things right for his brother or sister. But what does that even mean? And does anything else matter besides loving his new sibling with his whole heart? A new about gender identity we absolutely love!
by Jessica Love
While Julian, a young boy, rides the subway one day, he is dazzled by a glorious sight: three women dressed up as beautiful mermaids. Julian can think of nothing better than dressing up just like them, with his own tail and a magical headdress, so he attempts to do just that. But what will Abuela think about the way Julian sees himself? Such an important book, so perfectly executed!
by Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case
Jacob gets chased out of the boy’s bathroom because the other kids say he looks like a girl. Sophie has a similar experience – she goes to use the girls bathroom, but the other kids don’t want her in there, either. Upon learning about these incidents, their teacher helps these children pave the way for change, and with the support of administration, the students learn to respect everyone, no matter their chosen form of gender expression.
by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew SG
If your kids have questions about gender and pronouns, this is the perfect book to use as a springboard for discussion! This tender little book depicts many gender presentations under each pronoun, doing it gently and beautifully while allowing children to expand upon what they know about gender. I love the way this unique book celebrates all forms of personal expression.
by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
This is such a wonderful book for challenging gender stereotypes! Morris has a wonderful imagination and he also has a penchant for wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center in his classroom. But everyone else says dresses are for girls, and he cannot go into the spaceship the other boys are building because astronauts definitely don’t wear dresses. Will Morris take off the dress, or will he find a way to be true to himself and accepted by his classmates?
12) I am Jazz
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
When she was just two years old, Jazz Jennings knew she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. This is Jazz’s story, based on her real-life experiences as a transgender child. Simple, honest and essential, Jazz’s story will resonate with many. It is a perfect tool to help children grappling with gender identity questions, while at the same time helping other children understand the experience of a transgender child.
13) Angus all Aglow
by Heather Smith and illustrated by Alice Carter
Angus loves all things sparkly, and when he wears his grandmother’s bracelet to school, he is startled by the negativity and teasing he receives from his classmates. He can’t wear bracelets, they say – he is a boy, after all! Angus loses his sparkle as a result of his classmates taunts, but when one little girl sees Angus for who he is and what he loves, her acceptance causes Angus to glow once again.
by Michael Hall
This is the story of Red, a red crayon. Or is it? It seems the crayon is having an identity crisis, for though he is wrapped in a red label, there is no debating that every time he colors, he is not red but blue. His parents, his teacher and even his friends try to help him be Red, but no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot be what everyone else thinks he should be. Then one day, something magical happens. The frustrated crayon meets a new friend who tells Red what he really needs to hear: Red isn’t Red at all… he’s actually blue! And so it is that this was just what Red needed needed: a gentle nudge to look inward and listen to what he likely knew all along. He was blue! He was really blue!
by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam
I’ve seen few picture books that showcase the experience of a girl transitioning to a boy, and while this book does fall back on some stereotypes, it is an important glimpse into a little girl’s desire to become Jack, not Jackie. Why? Because she knows she identifies with Jack, and she is meant to be a boy. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to advance LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.
by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajni Perera
In this beautiful picture book, a young South Asian boy becomes fascinated by his mother’s bindi and wishes for one of his own. Though the bindi is typically worn by Hindu women, his mother does not chastise him, but instead agrees to it and teaches him about its significance. Not only does the boy discover the magic of the bindi, but it also gives him permission to be more uniquely himself. Beautiful, both in story and illustration!
Books about Relationships and Families:
17) Worm Loves Worm
by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato
What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm — why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants’ favorite book about love.
18) Jerome by Heart
by Thomas Scotto and illustrated by Olivier Tallec
A young boy named Raphael feels deep affection for his good friend, Jerome. The boys share everything, talk constantly, and plan fun adventures. Though his parents get frustrated with his constant talk about Jerome, Raphael knows that when he is with Jerome he feels happy, special, and understood. Undeterred by his parents, Raphael remains firm in his conviction: “Raphael loves Jerome. I can say it. It’s easy.” Insightful and poignant, this one is so very special.
by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
We simply adore this story about a young girl with two daddies! Stella is distraught when she learns her class will soon have a Mother’s Day celebration at school. After all, Stella has no moms, so who on earth will she bring to the party? With the help of her classmates, Stella realizes she’s got a whole crew of people who love and support her — and she might just have to bring them all!
20) A Plan for Pops
by Heather Smith and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
This is one of those books for the way it so beautifully showcases a same sex relationship without making it a central focus of the story. In this tender book, Lou visits Grandad and Pops every Saturday and they walk to the library, hand in hand. But one day, Pops has a fall, and he will be wheelchair bound for good. Pops becomes withdrawn, but with help from Grandad, Lou comes up with a plan for Pops, one Lou hopes will bring the smile back to Pops’ face.
by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Izak Zenou
A perfect board book for a modern, millennial family! Featuring a diverse array of dads with their children, this sweet book showcases dads and their kids as they go about their busy days. Stylish, smart and savvy, this is going to be a winner among new parents. And don’t worry, there is a mom version too — My Two Moms and Me!
by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Carol Thompson
We love this board book that highlights family diversity and alternative family structures, namely, a toddler with two moms. Though their family may look different on the outside, this trio goes about their day just like any other family — playing games and eating together and snuggling and going to sleep. Such a sweet one! There is also a dad version, Daddy, Papa and Me!
by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
This is the true story of two male penguins living at the Central Park Zoo. The penguins, Roy and Silo were inseparable. Though they were both males and had a different relationship from the other penguins in their habitat, they had a clear desire for a family. The zookeepers recognized the penguins’ yearning for a baby and thus gave the two a motherless egg. What happened next was surprising, stunning and so incredibly sweet — the two male penguins successfully hatched baby Tango! A beautiful, poignant story to show that a family is a family, no matter what it looks like.
by Jessie Sima
Harriet loves costumes, so much so that when she runs out to get party hats for her upcoming birthday party, she dons her beloved penguin costume. But what happens when a real flock of penguins carry her away? Will she find her way back to her dads before her big party? The beauty of this cute book is that Harriet’s two dads are not a central plot point of the story, which helps normalize same sex relationships. I love seeing diverse families becoming more common in children’s literature!
by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell
Heather loves the number two, especially because she has two mommies! When she is at school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn’t have a dad. When Heather and her classmates are asked to draw pictures of their families, each picture the children draw is different. Does it matter who makes up a family? As long as there is love, their teachers explains, it does not. This one has become a modern classic!
by Sophie Beer
We love inclusive, diverse board books that showcase so fabulously that the most important part of a family is love. It doesn’t matter what your family looks like, or who or how many people live in your home. Instead, family is where the heart is, sharing happy activities together, lending a helping hand, and, our favorite, reading just one more book together before bed. A gem!
27) Love is Love
by Michael Genhart and illustrated by Ken Min
“Love is Love” tackles LGBTQ discrimination in an age appropriate way. It’s about a little boy with two dads whose classmates make fun of him for wearing a shirt with a rainbow heart on it. They call it “gay.” The boy then educates his classmates on all the reasons why he’s proud to wear the shirt, and why his family is just as much a “real family” as anyone else.
Books for Tweens:
by Alex Gino
George knows she is not a boy, even if that’s all people see when they look at her. She knows she’s a girl. Though she once believed she would have to keep her secret forever, her plans change when her teacher announces they will put on a play of Charlotte’s Web. George wants to play Charlotte, and she wants it badly, yet her teacher says the role must be played by a girl and, therefore, George can’t play the part. With the help of her best friend, George comes up with a plan to be Charlotte… and to let everyone know who she is once and for all. A winner among my students!
29) Lily and Dunkin
by Donna Gephart
There are no words to adequately express my love for this book! This is the story of Lily, a transgender child who looks like a boy but knows she is really a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to town. It is a story of the chance meeting between the two, their unlikely friendship, heartache and heartbreak, and, overall, being true to yourself, despite the naysayers who taunt and fear your differences. Sensitive, authentic, and a book as necessary as it is exceptional, this one has a place on every tween’s bookshelf for the way it challenges stigma, encourages truth, and will undoubtedly cause kids to stop and think before judging another’s choices. Remarkable!
30) The Best Man
by Richard Peck
Archer is always in search of role models, and he has three great ones — his grandpa, his uncle, and his dad. But then he gains a fourth one – his new school teacher, who happens to be the first male teacher in his school’s history. So what happens when each new day of middle school brings about some new, startling revelations? And what happens when he discovers the biggest one of all — that two of his role models are getting married? Funny, poignant, and a wonderful, insightful look at the world of adults from a child’s perspective, this book is such a winner!
by Ashley Herring Blake
Ivy Aberdeen’s s home is flattened by a tornado. All she manages to save is her pillow which contains her most precious possessions- fancy markers and a journal filled up with drawings, many of which include pictures of Ivy holding hands with an unidentifiable girl. After the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures mysteriously begin showing up in her own locker, together with notes encouraging Ivy to be true to who she is, Ivy hopes the letters are coming from a girl on whom she has developed a secret crush. But is owning her truth as easy as Ivy wants it to be? Ivy’s words and yearnings will be windows for some and mirrors for others, but her burning desire to understand who she is at her core will be loved and cherished universally.
by Jen Wang
The Prince is having a ball! Why? Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride, of course. Or, rather, his parents are looking for a bride for Sebastian. Sebastian is more wrapped up in hiding a secret from the world. And it’s a big secret: at night, he takes Paris by storm by putting on daring dresses and dazzling the world as Lady Crystallia, the hottest fashion icon in the fashion capital of the world! Sebastian’s dressmaker and best friend Frances is one of the only people who knows his secret — but Frances has dreams of her own. Will she put her dreams on hold to protect Sebastian, or will Frances find her own way to shine? A fabulous graphic novel about love and identity that will have all who tear through its pages swooning!
by Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens,” and is one of the transgender community’s most important activists for young people. In her memoir, Jazz reflects on her transition to life as a girl when she was just five years old, and how her subsequent experiences — such as interviews with Barbara Walters and other high profile journalists, a documentary, and a YouTube channel — have helped change the narrative surrounding the transgender community. Empowering, haunting and remarkable, Jazz’s story of darkness and light is a testament to how far we have come — yet how far we still need to go.
What are your favorite books that celebrate pride?
Lauren Bercuson is a mom of two boys and an elementary school librarian who is passionate about the power of children’s literature to foster empathy in kids. Over on her blog Happily Ever Elephants, she has book lists for everything under the sun, including important topics such as books about autism and anxiety.