Go to almost any LGBTQ Pride parade these days, and the number of strollers rivals the number of motorcycles. Somewhat-older children march with their families, schools or religious groups. Unlike other holidays, however, Pride has had few children’s books written about it — but there are two: One that is more than two-decades old, by a seminal author, and a brand-new one just published a few weeks ago.
The older book, “Gloria Goes to Gay Pride,” is by the esteemed Lesléa Newman, author of the classic “Heather Has Two Mommies.” Published in 1991, two years after “Heather,” by the new children’s imprint of LGBT press Alyson Publications, Gloria’s story begins by showing how she celebrates Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Hanukkah and Mothers’ Day with her Mama Grace and Mama Rose. Pride Day is special, though, she tells us, because she “gets to be in a parade.”
She and her moms make signs (hers reads, “I love my mommies”) and head to the parade, where they meet other families with children, the neighborhood mail carrier and Gloria’s music teacher, among others. It was quite a statement to include a gay teacher back in 1991, when sensitivities about allowing gay people around children were even higher and the threat of firing even greater (not that things are better in many places even now).
Not all is perfect in the world she creates, though. Most of the spectators smile and cheer, but on one page, a few sit by a sign saying, “Gays go away.” When Gloria asks why, Mama Rose explains, “Some women love women, some men love men and some women and men love each other. That’s why we march in the parade — so everyone can have a choice.”
Despite being more than two-decades old, the story holds up remarkably well, conveying the celebratory nature of Pride in the context of a loving family and supportive community (despite the few who are opposed). It reminds us that while children may be more prevalent in today’s Pride parades, they’re hardly a new phenomenon. The one thing that makes it feel a bit dated is the term “Gay Pride” rather than the more current “LGBT Pride.”
The black-and-white pencil sketches by Russell Crocker are charming but may feel dull compared to the full-color world of many children’s books. Enterprising parents or children may want to add their own colors if they can find their own copy of the book. Alas, it is out of print, but one can find used copies through some online (and offline) booksellers, or borrow an electronic copy from the Open Library (openlibrary.org).
Just out in May, however, is the lively and colorful “This Day in June,” by Gayle E. Pitman, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Sacramento City College. The bouncy rhymes (“This day in June/Parade starts soon” ... “Motors roaring/Spirits soaring”) convey feelings and snapshots of parade scenes rather than a narrative storyline, but that doesn’t lessen the book’s impact. We’re introduced to dykes on bikes, people in leather, drag queens and others of varying gender expressions, politicians, marching bands and parents with their children. The diverse characters in Kristyna Litten’s colorful illustrations jump and dance and swirl. One gets a better sense of the full range of the LGBTQ community — from staid to queerly flamboyant — than from Newman’s book, but I see that as a factor of the two books’ publication dates rather than a criticism of Newman, who remains a master of sweet, inspiring family tales.
The book is published by Magination Press, an imprint of the LGBTQ-friendly American Psychological Association, so readers can be confident the advice is developmentally sound.
LGBTQ parents, parents of LGBTQ children and any parents whose families may encounter a Pride parade, through family, friends or simply being in the neighborhood, should welcome this upbeat book that shows children what to expect and gets them excited about watching or participating. Teachers, clergy and others leading children in Pride parades will also appreciate having this delightful resource to prepare themselves and their charges. All one needs to add is sunscreen.
“This Day in June” is targeted to children ages 4-8, but even younger children may appreciate the rhymes and colorful pictures. “Gloria Goes to Gay Pride” skews a few years older, in my opinion, as it does touch (however briefly) on antigay sentiment. Parents should decide whether that topic would be introducing or assuaging fears — but for those who want to bring it up, “Gloria” is a gentle first choice.
There’s much more that could be written about Pride for kids. I’d love to see a middle-grade novel centered around a Pride-related mystery (e.g., who stole the banner for the float?). Nevertheless, a fun new picture book and a pioneering one on the topic are both great to share with our kids, even as they whet our appetites for more.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.