Not only has the number of LGBTQ-inclusive picture books increased greatly over the past few years, but also more are being published, even for the youngest children. Here are some new ones aimed at babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
Robin Stevenson’s “Pride Colors” board book (Orca Book Publishers) takes the original meanings of the colors in the Pride flag, as envisioned by creator Gilbert Baker, and turns them into a poem from parent to child.
We’re treated to a celebration of self and relationships, coupled with images of babies and toddlers, and sometimes their two moms or dads. “Yellow sunshine, smiles so bright. / I’ll hug you, kiss you, hold you tight,” reads one spread. There’s a mention of “Pride Day fun” at the end, but the book is less about LGBTQ history and more about the sentiments that extend far beyond a single day or month. Parents will enjoy reading Stevenson’s loving words as much as children will enjoy the uplifting statements, gentle rhythms and bright photos.
“Rainbow: A First Book of Pride,” by Michael Genhard and illustrated by Anne Passchier (Magination Press), which comes out in May, uses essentially the same concept, but in a more literal way. “Rainbows!” it begins, with a page showing waving rainbow flags. “Every color means something.” It continues, “Red means life,” and shows a red-heavy image of two dads happily holding their newborn. “Orange is healing,” says the next spread, showing two parents, one of whom is gender ambiguous, helping a child who has fallen off a bike. It continues through all the colors of the rainbow and ends with a spread showing the families from the book waving rainbow flags and walking together, perhaps in a Pride parade. It’s not as warmly personal as Stevenson’s book but makes a bright introduction to the colors of Pride and images of LGBTQ families.
“Love Makes a Family,” by Sophie Beer (Dial Books), is a cheery board book, in the vein of many other children’s books, showcasing a range of family diversity. Beer’s stands out for the fun, dynamic and gently humorous illustrations — she is an award-winning illustrator and it shows. “Love is ...” begins each spread. “Waking up bright and early” finishes one, showing two dads yawning in bed as their children march in playing drums and maracas. “Watching from the front row,” concludes another, as two moms enjoy their children putting on a backyard performance. Other pages show single and different-sex parents and their children in this joyful look at family life.
“My Two Moms and Me,” and “My Two Dads and Me,” by Michael Joosten, with illustrations by Izak Zenou (Doubleday), are board books that depict the everyday lives of children with two moms or two dads. “When I open my eyes each morning, I see my smiling moms,” the mom version begins. While the first-person text reads as if it were a single child narrating the whole, however, the illustrations show a different family for each spread. This may be disorienting at first, though ultimately it’s good to see images of families from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The families in these books all wear very stylish clothes (not surprising, given Zenou’s background as a leading fashion illustrator) and seem well off — two of the moms have a pool, and two of the dads buy organic kale at the farmer’s market, which feels very trendy. This may resonate more for some families than others. (Remember that LGBTQ couples with children are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ peers to have incomes near the poverty line, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.)
These books are also almost identical in concept to two other existing board book pairs about children with same-sex parents: Lesléa Newman’s “Mommy, Mama, and Me,” and “Daddy, Papa, and Me” (Tricycle Press, 2009) and Stacey Bromberg and Joe Taravella’s “Hugs of Three: My Mommies and Me” and “Hugs of Three: My Daddies and Me” (Forward Footsteps, 2012). Each offers a slightly different mix of racial and ethnic diversity, though, so you may want to check them all out to see if one better fits your family.
All three pairs nevertheless have an essentially similar narrative of daily family life. I hope that in the future, publishers push themselves to offer a greater variety of LGBTQ-inclusive storylines. Brian Bigg’s delightful 2017 board book “I’m a Librarian” (Abrams) shows one way of doing this. It focuses on the town librarian going about his job. Along the way, it shows him getting out of a bed in the morning where his husband is sleeping, then coming home to read in bed next to him at night, but it’s not “about” LGBTQ families or even families per se.
Another original storyline for young children came recently in “They, She, He easy as ABC,” by Pura Belpré, Honor Award winner Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez. The book is a follow up to their 2017 “They She He Me: Free to Be!”and is a joyous celebration of pronouns and identities. Maya Gonzalez’ dazzling illustrations also populate this new work as we meet an alphabet of friends who dance their way from A to Z. “Ari loves to arabesque. They hold their pose with ease,” it begins. Each new letter introduces us to another child with a different dance and pronoun. Most are children of color, which feels needed and refreshing in a literary world that’s mostly white. It ends with an invitation to the reader to “Join the dance. There’s always room.”
While there is always room for more LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books, these selections offer a good starting place.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.