As I said before…reading with my kids is one of my favorite things, and I love finding diverse books to share with them. It can feel very validating and inspiring to see someone like you or your family on the pages of a book. And, books that show families and people that are different from you can help expand your child’s world and build empathy. To kick off June Pride, we’re sharing a couple of lists of book that show and celebrate LGBTQ families and individuals.
This second list is a collection of books that celebrate and show LGBTQ individuals – most of these are for the preschool to early elementary ages and are great for reading aloud together. I’ve grouped the books based on whether or not they have an aspect of being teased or overcoming being bullied. I don’t think we should (or even can) shield our children from the sad fact that there are mean people out there, but we may want to be mindful of how we introduce that part of everything. For example, both of the boys that like to wear dresses in the books below are teased by their classmates about this. My daughters had male classmates at their preschool that enjoyed playing dress-up with dresses (which is the scenario in these books), and no one was teased for this. For now, I am holding off on reading those two books to my kids because they would find this aspect of the plot very confusing and because I don’t want to have the book plant the idea that this is something that someone would tease about. Eventually, these are topics to broach as we teach our kids how to stand up to this type of cruelty – either for themselves or for their friends. You just may want to be intentional with when or how you do this, so I’ve separated the books on our list.
Alright, so here’s the list! We’ll start with the full celebration books – no teasing or negative ideas expressed here.
- Lovely – This is a beautiful book celebrating overall diversity. “Lovely is different. Lovely is you, lovely is me.” A collection of cartoon people are shown to demonstrate diversity and all are celebrated for being “lovely.” It’s simple and sweet and…lovely.
- Prince and Knight – This is a classic fairy tale story with princes, princesses, knights, and dragons. The prince sets out looking for a princess, but does not find any that are a good match. He states that he is “looking for something different in a partner by his side.” When a dragon suddenly attacks the castle, the Prince battles the dragon along with another Knight. When the Prince falls from the Dragon, the Knight rushes to catch him. They fall in love and live happily ever after – as fairy tales tend to go.
- King and King – This is another fairy tale story where the Queen is trying to find a Princess for her son to marry. She says that the Prince needs to get married before he can take over the kingdom and she brings a whole crowd of princesses through to meet the prince. None of them seem quite right and then he meets one of the the princesses’ brothers, Prince Lee. It was love at first sight and they have a wonderful wedding and live happily ever after.
- Julián is a mermaid – The pictures are gorgeous in this book. It’s a sweet story about a little boy named Julián who lives with his Abuela. They see women dressed as mermaids while riding the subway, and Julián decides that he also wants to be a mermaid. He uses ferns and a bed sheet to dress up as a mermaid. Abuela frowns when she sees him, but we quickly learn that she is not unhappy. She just thinks he needs some jewelry to complete the outfit (which she goes to get). They then go for a walk so Julián can hang out with a group of people also dressed as mermaids.
- Red: A Crayon’s Story – This is a story about a blue crayon that has a wrapper saying it is red. He keeps drawing in blue, and all the other crayons have ideas on what the blue crayon should do to try to draw in red (as the label says he should). They acknowledge, though, that “even with all our help and all his hard work, he just couldn’t get the hang of it.” He meets a new crayon friend that asks him to try to draw in blue. At first he says he can’t because he’s red. He finds that while it was very hard to draw in red, it is very easy to draw in blue. He realizes that he’s not a red crayon. Once he realizes that he is blue, he is very very good at being blue. He can draw blue birds, blue jeans, and blue water. Children may not connect this story to gender identity (without help), but the point should be clear that we are who we are no matter what our “wrapper” says and that we can’t match our “wrapper” by trying harder.
- A normal turtle – This is a story about a fox that falls and lands in a turtle shell as a tiny baby. The fox doesn’t know any different and believes that he is a turtle. He never feels like a “normal” turtle, though. They move so slow and he wants to go fast, etc. Eventually he comes out of his shell to live as his true self.
- Introducing Teddy – Errol’s best friend is his Thomas the Teddy. One day they wake up and Thomas is in a sad mood. Errol is concerned, but Thomas is afraid to tell him what is wrong. “If I tell you, you might not be my friend anymore.” Errol reassures Thomas that they will always be friends, so Thomas then shares that in her heart she has always known that she is a girl teddy not a boy teddy. She introduces herself as Tilly. Errol and Tilly continue to play and they go around and introduce Tilly to all of their friends.
This next section of books does include themes of teasing and bullying. The books in this section are listed in order from least (just introduces the idea that someone may not be supportive) to most (not very nice classmates and hesitant family support). I am intentionally not including any books that have bullying from their own family, but those books are out there too.
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – this is John Oliver’s book about Marlon Bundo, a bunny that lives at the White House. Marlon meets and falls in love with another boy bunny, Wesley. They hop around all day and decide to get married because they never want to hop without each other again. There is very minimal teasing, but they are met with resistance from a stink bug (a la Mike Pence) who is in charge that tells them boy bunnies can only marry girl bunnies. The stinkbug tells them they are different and that different is bad. All of the other animals rally around Marlon and Wesley and share ways that they are different too. Different isn’t bad. They all vote that the stink bug should not be in charge or make decisions anymore, so Marlon and Wesley get married and live happily ever after.
- I am Jazz – This is story about a little girl named Jazz that was born in a boy’s body. She talks about all of her favorite things and how much fun she has. She says that she is not exactly like her friends because “I have a girl brain but a boy body.” She describes how her family thought she was a boy and how she would try to tell them that she was a girl. It made her mad to have to wear boy clothes. After a visit to a new Doctor, her parents understand. They tell her, “Be who you are. We love you no matter what.” It does mention some of the challenges at school and how some kids are not very nice and how that feels crummy, but it focuses much more on loving yourself and being who you are. “I am happy. I am having fun. I am proud!” (Based on true story about Jazz Jennings.)
- From the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea – This is a story about baby Miu Lan who was born when the moon and sun were both in the sky. Because of this, they say that the baby couldn’t decide what to be – a boy or girl? A bird or fish? A cat or rabbit? The baby’s mother wraps the baby in her arms and sings, “Whatever you dream of, I believe you can be. From the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea. You can crawl like a crab or with feathers fly high and I’ll always be here, I’ll be near standing by. And you know that I’ll love you til the day that I die.” Even though the baby couldn’t decide, they felt loved. When the baby gets older and goes to school, all the other kids are boys or girls and no one invites them to play. The kids are not very nice and ask are you a boy or a girl? Miu Lan says that they don’t know and why do I have to be just one thing? Miu-Lan can also wear feathers or other animal traits. There is some teasing, but it’s mostly a message of love and self-acceptance and unwavering parental love.
- Neither – This story starts in the “land of this and that.” Rabbits are “this” and chicks are “that.” A baby that is half rabbit and half chick is born and says that they aren’t “this” or “that.” They are “both.” The other rabbits and chicks say that he can’t be “both.” He is “neither.” He eventually leaves the “land of this and that” and goes to the “the land of all” where he can be “both” and all are welcome.
- Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress – Morris loves going to school – he loves to paint, do puzzles, drink apple juice, sing during circle time, and he loves the tangerine dress at the dress-up center. Sometimes the kids make fun of him and are mean to him because he wants to wear this dress. He pretends he can’t hear them, but it hurts his feelings and by the end of the week he feels sick and doesn’t want to go back to school. Over the weekend (with love from his mother), he feels better and goes back to school feeling brave. He is still teased and told that “Boys don’t wear dresses,” but he proudly answers, “This boy does.”
- Jacob’s New Dress – This one, honestly, made me pretty sad – proceed with caution and definitely read it on your own before sharing it with your kids. It’s another book about a little boy, Jacob, that wants to play dress-up with dresses. The kids are pretty mean and the parents seem to struggle with their support. (Mom doesn’t want him to wear a dress to school. And, Dad says, “Are you sure?” and then finally settles with, “It’s not what I would wear, but you look great.”) Jacob loves a sparkly pink dress, but his classmates tease him and tell him that he should dress as a knight like “the boys do.” He does get support from a friend, and the teacher intervenes to say that dress-up corner is where you can use your imagination and be anything that you want to be. When Jacob gets home, he wants to wear his own dresses to school, but his mom doesn’t let him at first. Eventually, she changes her mind and they get out their sewing machine and she helps him make his own dress to wear to school. He still gets teased, but some of the friends love his dress and he feels brave.
Hope you enjoy these! Be sure to let us know what other favorites you have.