Picture Books Families Can Read During Pride Month and Beyond
It’s time to celebrate confidence and fulfillment in oneself, equality for queer people, and visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexuals, non-binary, pansexuals, intersex, and all other colors of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. We mean, that’s every day of the year for us, but June is Pride Month, so it’s the time to celebrate even harder.
This past fall, Quirk released author and illustrator M. L. Webb’s debut picture book The GayBCs, a joyful LGBTQ+ vocabulary book for kids of all ages, and it got us thinking about other picture books that help educate families about concepts of gender, identity, and inclusivity. Here’s some picture books that will serve as helpful starting points for discussions surrounding queer identity. Enjoy!
The GayBCs by M. L. Webb
This alphabetized vocabulary book introduces young readers to LGBTQ+ terminology through playful illustrations and memorable poems. It includes words like G is for Gay, F is for Family, and T is for Trans. There’s also a useful glossary in the back that can be used for further discussion.
The fun thing about this book is that it functions as a quick cheat sheet for young readers, but as you read with your child, you’ll want to prepare yourself for the best response you can ask for from a kid—questions. Yes, this is the perfect opportunity to dive into subjects of embracing oneself and delighting in our differences by showing your child that asking questions is the first step towards defining and understanding.
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Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
A Stonewall Book Award winner, this picture book tells the story of a young boy riding the subway with his abuela and who is awe-struck by three costumed mermaids, their billowing hair, and their joyful radiance. Wonder-filled imagination takes over, and upon arriving home, Julián cleverly utilizes a curtain and potted plant to mimic his new idols.
The beauty of this story is in the limited words that allow the art to speak for itself, and the brown pages really make the colors of the art pop. Julián’s daydreaming sequences are easily digestible for beginner readers, and the message of self-love is important to instill in any young child, whether they’re LGBTQ+ or not. And Julián’s abuela’s reaction is a great example of showing how to not only accept a child’s individuality but to actively nourish and celebrate it.
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Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack & Isabel Galupo and illustrated by Becca Human
This one’s for those kids who can’t get enough of knights and balls and all things medieval. A young maiden, friendly with the prince and praised for her intelligence and bravery, is invited to the royal ball, but instead of falling for her friend, she finds fairy tale true love with another.
The concept of being other than you’re told to be is explored in a simplistic but understanding way. The cute rhyming also helps keep the attention of reluctant readers and listeners, and the small touches in the story make for a romantic ride. Not only do the maiden and princess meet iconically on a balcony, but they also ride off on a sparkling dragon at the end.
If you like this book, also check out Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.
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And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole
Based on the true story of two male penguins from the Central Park Zoo, And Tango Makes Three tells of Roy and Silo’s partnership and their raising of penguin chick Tango together.
Although it features a story that’s longer than other picture books on this list, the detail put into the narrative and the specificity of the wording is what makes this a great gateway for further discussion. You can talk with your young reader about the validity of same-sex couples or more in depth topics like the challenges a same-sex couple may face. You can also just enjoy how adorable this family of three is.
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I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Also based on a true story, but this time about transgender teen activist Jazz Jennings and her experience growing up as a transgender child.
It’s important for young readers to see themselves represented in fiction, but for some children, there’s an extra layer of comfort when they know there’s a real life person out there who’s gone through the things they’re going through. This story emphasizes the normality of trans experiences without ignoring the unique challenges of trans children coming out to their parents and community. Parents and educators may also appreciate the realistic details in the book like Jazz’s parents seeking professional help and getting Jazz what she needs to feel most like herself.
You can watch Jazz read her own book via Human Rights Campaign’s YouTube!
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Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
Through repeated “Love is…” phrasing, Beer summarizes a day of waking up, jumping in puddles, and reading one more book before bedtime.
The concept of this book is simple enough, but what makes it appropriate for a Pride Month story time are the bright illustrations that feature families of all kinds. There are families of different colors (including multiple interracial couples), familes with grandparents instead of parents, families with adopted children, families with different cultures (including a women with a hijab), and of course, families featuring same-sex couples. Nothing is ever stated explicitly about the cultures or sexuality or differences of these families. The pictures speak for themselves, and in doing so, normalizes the differences between the families.
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When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
A refreshing take on the “now you’re a big sibling” picture book, When Aidan Became a Brother follows young Aidan telling his parents he’s a trans boy and Aidan’s parents telling him he’s going to be a big brother. Aidan wants so badly to be the best big brother and does all he can to make things as perfect as possible for his new baby sibling.
The illustrations are uniquely styled in color, shaping, and detailing, and like other books mentioned on this list, the wording specificity is what separates this book from other LGBTQ+ picture books (though there are so many good ones!). Aidan mentions not liking girl stuff, but he also knows some girls don’t like dresses and some girls like activities mistakenly labelled for boys (like science) and he still doesn’t feel like those sorts of girls. This introduces the concept of masculinity and femininity as traits that don’t necessarily correspond to gender and sexuality. Aidan’s parents also seek help from other families with trans children, and this small detail could comfort parents and show that there are other children like theirs out there.
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My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
Based off of Kilodavis’ own experience with her son, My Princess Boy calls for tolerance and understanding through its depiction of a young boy who wears tiaras and dresses and all things princess-related.
The simplistic illustrations may be the perfect introduction to a boy who likes to wear princess clothing. Towards the end, Kilodavis blatantly asks the reader questions starting with, “If you see a Princess Boy, will you laugh at him?” and ending with, “Will you like him for who he is?” The addition of these questions will open up a great discussion with young readers.
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Gabrielle likes a lot of things and dislikes very little. Retired ice cream cake decorator, occasional farmhand, and reminiscing library worker, she spent her childhood dreaming of fighting fires and her college days writing about Bong Joon-ho before he was cool. Now, she preaches the importance of dental hygiene; chats up books, movies, and comics via the Quirk blog; and legally climbs silos. Whether the legality of the silo climbing makes her more or less interesting is up for debate. Email [email protected] if you want to review our titles or feature our authors.