In searching for LGBTQ books for kids and teens, I realized how many different permutations a child might encounter and tried to find books for all different kids of LGBTQ families. Personally, I found the concept of Gender Fluidity to be the most confusing, so I’ve included Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series that does a terrific job of depicting this.
How about you? What LBGTQ books are your favorites? What LGBTQ books are missing from this list or need to be published? Thanks for sharing!
Understanding Transgender Books for Kids and Teens
You Need to Chill! A Story of Love and Family by Juno Dawson
Kids keep asking about a little girl’s brother Bill because no one has seen him in a while. She tells them that her brother Bill is now Lily. She looks a little different and has a new name but she’s the same person. Upbeat rhymes deliver this empowering message of inclusivity for transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse kids. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Teresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni
Review by Lee Wind:
“This picture book does a really lovely job of orienting readers to the idea of gender and how that is different from the physical sex our bodies are assigned at birth. Maybe my favorite phrase that repeats throughout is the idea that even though this book is discussing some gender identities, there are so many ways of living so many genders, and for each, there are “too many to fit in a book!
Cheers to Theresa, whose own daughter identifies as Trans, and to the illustrator Noah, who identifies as Non-Binary and Trans, for creating this. Their notes to readers, amid the back matter, are wonderful.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Kapaemahu by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson, illustrated by Daniel Souza
Four benevolent spirits traveled from Tahiti to Hawaii. They were neither male nor female, but both, and they gifted the Native Hawaiians their knowledge of the healing arts, transferring their powers to four sacred boulders. But as the tides of time passed, the stones of Kapaemahu became buried and forgotten, and their power diminished.
Mahu is a Native Hawaiian Indigenous third-gender identity and readers can also draw parallels about how the ancients respected transgender people and how modern society has lost its way. [bilingual Hawaiian picture book biography, ages 4 and up]
This is a great picture book about a trans cat that was assigned as a dog at birth to introduce transgender to very young readers and their families. His young owner follows his dog at night to try to understand his beloved pet’s confusing behavior. Together, they figure out the pet’s true identity which brings them closer together. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
I Am Jazz by J
Even today, there are kids who tease me, or me by a boy name or ignore me altogether. This makes me feel crummy.
Then I remember that the kids who get to know me usually want to be my friend. They say I’m one of the nicest girls at school.
This gentle story gives a simple and thorough explanation of a trans girl and the loving acceptance of this transition. This picture book is based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, a spokesperson for transkids. The straightforward honesty makes this the perfect book for kids to understand what it means to be transgender. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Pair this with I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel. Both picture books are based on true stories about coming out to be their true selves. Born as a girl named Isabel, this is an emotional journey for Sam and his family and they learn to embrace and support who he really is. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
The struggle of a red crayon who doesn’t act like a red crayon is the perfect analogy for trans kids. Even with the support of the entire art supply cabinet, red crayon is still blue. It’s not until berry crayon asks red crayon to draw an ocean that red crayon discovers his true self. His community accepts and praises who he truly is inside which makes for a very happy ending. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson
A friendship between a little boy and his teddy bear isn’t affected when the teddy bear confesses that he’s feeling in his heart that he’s a girl teddy, not a boy teddy, and wants to be called Tilly instead of Teddy. Their friend Ava is accepting of this change too. This book is perfect for the youngest of readers to learn and discuss gender identity. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
My Maddy by Gayle Pitman, illustrated by Violet Tobacco
Review by Children’s Books Heal:
“Gayle Pitman has written a celebratory book about parenthood that is both heartwarming and informative. Look at that gorgeous cover filled with an abundance of love, joy, and rainbow pride. It is so inspiring, as is the text which is filled with positive images and concepts of one’s family. Violet Tobacco’s illustrations are vibrant and magical.
Gayle Pitman creates a parent who is a blend between Mommy and Daddy and gives the parent a name between — Maddy. I didn’t realize that Maddy is oftentimes used in some families to describe a parent who is transgender or gender diverse. Pitman subtly portrays an ordinary and loving relationship between the girl and her parent, emphasizing that a parent can be a little bit of both, like many things in nature.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Want To Play Trucks? by Ann Stott, illustrated by Bob Graham
Jack and Alex play together every morning at the local playground. Jack likes trucks and Alex likes dolls with tutus and sparkles. They combine their toys for a game where dolls drive trucks. When Jack decides Alex’s ballerina can’t drive the crane, they get into a big fight. They work it out because it’s not that Jack thinks ballerinas can’t drive a crane, it’s that her tutu won’t fit in the seat. It’s an easy fix because the doll has overalls under her tutu. This picture book has a subtle message about gender roles and identities, with a message about acceptance. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Dolls and Trucks Are For Everyone by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Eda Kaban
This picture book smashes the idea of gender bias towards toys and activities and instead sends a message of inclusivity. Pair this book with Want To Play Trucks? [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Stacey’s Not a Girl by Colt Keo-Meier, PhD
Thank you to Becky Linderholm of Family Conversation Kits for this great suggestion and book blurb!
Dr. Colt is a psychologist and transgender man who wrote this book to help children understand gender beyond the binary. Stacey doesn’t feel like a girl but is not sure they’re a boy either. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
George by Alex Gino
A coming out story of a boy who identifies as a girl. He really wants to play the role of Charlotte in the school’s play Charlotte’s Web and hopes by doing so, his family will realize and accept that he’s really a girl inside a boy body. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.
As the twins learn more about Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl. [middle grade graphic novel, ages 8 and up]
Flight + Fight by Jules Machias
Review from Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Avery and Sarah are 8th graders who are dealing with a lot. Avery was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hypermobile type (hEDS), which is painful and can result in serious injuries if she is not careful. Since she loves riding her dirt bike and jumping on trampolines, this has been a hard diagnosis to deal with, and a tumble on her bike has led to her arm being in a sling and some very painful physical therapy. Her mothers are very supportive and give her lots of room to express herself. She identifies as pansexual, which is not a big deal to her Mom, and Tuney, who is a transwoman and transitioned when Avery was small. Her best friend is Mason, whose biracial heritage and small size often make him the target of small-minded classmates, and who tries to watch out for Avery. Sarah has a very traditional family, with a very Catholic mother and father. Her brother James, who is gay, had altercations with the principal Mr. Ritter at their middle school and is at a local private school. Her mother babysits in the home, and Sarah sometimes helps out, especially with her younger sister, Ruthie. She has a lot of anxiety, especially after the death of her Aunt Camila and her cousin Luci’s subsequent move out of town. Her parents think that she should pray more and help out others in order to deal with her anxiety, but she takes far more comfort from her drawing, examples of which fill the book. Avery has a crush on the pretty, calm Sarah, and Sarah wishes she were more outspoken like Avery. After a very dramatic active shooter drill at school, Avery and Sarah get to know each other. The two talk to each other about their fears and become closer. Avery is still very angry about the traumatizing active shooter drill, which Mr. Ritter implemented because some students, especially Avery, were not taking the drills seriously, although Avery claims she was joking around to help Mason’s anxiety. Encouraged by James, she looks for ways to get revenge on the principal, even though her mothers tell her that revenge is not the way to go. Avery and Sarah decide to hang an anonymous poster about active shooter drills and work on a petition to end active shooter drills in their school, although Avery still thinks that a more intense act of revenge is called for. The girls also embark on a romantic relationship that adds a bit to Sarah’s stress, given her family background and the financial discrepancies between her and Avery. Will the two be able to deal with their various issues and remain friends?” [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Bug (Beatrice) is looking forward to spending the summer of 1987 hanging out at Venice Beach with her older brother Daniel, just like they have for the past several years. When Danny wants more “space”, their mother decides that she will instead have to hang out at their apartment. One neighbor, Hedvig, watches out for her, as does Phillip. When Phillip’s nephew, Frankie, shows up from Ohio to spend the summer, Bug is expected to hang out with him, even though he doesn’t like the beach. Instead, he is enthralled by the Midnight Marauder, who is terrorizing the area, bludgeoning unsuspecting victims. Bug’s mother works for the local mayor’s office and keeps assuring them that they are safe, but they doubt her. When gangs of skinheads threaten Bug and her brother because of his Salvadoran looks, and Phillip is beaten up because he is gay, safety seems like a precarious state. Frankie becomes more comfortable in his new environment, and it turns out that he was sent to live with Phillip to get some “nonsense out of his system”– Frankie is transgender, and wasn’t even aware that there was a word for how he identified until he meets others like him in the area. When Aunt Teri comes to watch Bug (and reluctantly, Frankie), family secrets come out, and Bug must learn to make peace with her judgmental aunt and learn to support her new friend.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder. Their powerful story will shred your heart, then stitch it back together with kindness, humor, bravery, and love.
Children’s book author, Tracy Byran, alerted me on Twitter: @tracybryan19 Lily and Dunkin is a MUST READ for every tween, teen, and adult everywhere! [chapter book, ages 1o and up]
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Six transgender kids talk candidly about their experience with their transition from childhood through the present time. Each has a unique story to tell. Some are heartbreaking as they also grappled with special needs, foster homes, and unsupportive parents. A few had a surprisingly easy time transitioning to their new gender, and use their positive experience to inspire others. Each story shares a new layer of understanding of being transgender for those of us still learning. Transgender can be straight or gay, something that always confused me. Male privilege reveals itself to those who went from girl to boy. Body dysmorphia is a separate issue. Bystanders can make a huge difference for trans kids between acceptance and bullying. For this reason alone, everyone tween should read this book. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“While I understand why so many middle grade books about sexual identity are coming out stories, it’s good to have one that is not. Obie has already made the transition and is getting to the point where most people don’t ask questions and just accept him for who he is, with those who don’t understand, like Clyde and the coach, causing occasional problems. The romance with Charlie is sweet and a bit reminiscent of Stu Truly. There are plenty of swimming details for fans of Binns’ Courage or Morrison’s Up For Air, and it’s hard to find books about swimming as a competitive sport.” [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey
The Other Boy is the fictional story of a 12-year-old transgender boy living in stealth and his journey to acceptance. It shows the different ways people react to a transgender child—fathers, mothers, doctors, teachers, friends, bullies—and also walks the reader through what it feels like to be trans. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
My Life as a Diamond by Jenny Manzer
Great review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“10-year-old Caz loves to play baseball and is a big Blue Jays fan, so when his family moves to Seattle, one of the first places he goes to is the park. There, he meets Hank, who encourages him to join the baseball league. Caz ends up being on the Redburn Ravens team with Hank but also Kyle, who isn’t very nice. Since Caz has a big secret to hide, he doesn’t want to take the chance of angering any of his teammates. Back in Toronto, Caz was Cassie. Cassie had always felt like a boy and even mentioned this to his best friend, who didn’t seem all that bothered. But things didn’t go well, and the family decided to relocate. Caz’s father and mother are fairly supportive, and his Nana tells him that “pressure makes diamonds” and that he will do fine. It’s nice to be able to live his life, play baseball (which is super important) and not have to worry about having to explain why he was born female but doesn’t feel that way now, but he knows that it won’t last forever. Eventually, people find out about his ball career in Toronto, there have to be explanations, but things go fairly smoothly.” [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Review by Randomly Reading:
“There’s a rumor that a witch lives in a house on the outskirts of town, but when Snapdragon’s dog Good Boy goes missing, she dares to look for him there. Sure enough, the dog is there, but he’s been injured and is missing a front paw. When the rumored witch returns, she tells Snap that the dog was hit by a car and she patched him up.
Snap is a fierce, fearless, precocious black middle schooler not afraid to take on bullies, often standing up for her neighbor and best friend Lu, who is also black and transgender. Living in a trailer park, Snap is the only child of a mother who must work lots of hours to support them, and who is also getting her degree at night.”
Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker
She writes about her book From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors:
“The dark thread was the tragic history of Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl who committed suicide in Ohio in 2014. She left behind an eloquent note on Tumblr, in which she wrote, among other things, “My death needs to mean something,” and “Fix Society. Please.” Leelah’s death hit me hard, and my writer’s brain started working on this question: what needed to be different in order for her to survive? Out of that work came Zen’s backstory. I gave her a family of origin something like the family Leelah described in her note, but I also gave her an escape that Leelah didn’t have—cool Lesbian aunties who become her guardians.
As part of this thread, I have included characters who are transphobic, but I took care not to write them as cartoon villains. No demons. All humans. You can only change hearts and minds, I firmly believe, if you refrain from returning the fear and hate that get pointed at you. And Zen herself feels pulled between worlds. Her old life was killing her, but it was still her life, and she loved her parents.” [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Representation matters. There are children dealing with all sorts of family dynamics, and if we don’t have books that show those experiences, some children will feel left out. Izzy’s father’s experience is not new or that unusual– when my mother was teaching in a small town in North Eastern Ohio in the 1970s, she had a boy whose father transitioned. It seemed odd at the time, since no one I knew even used the term transgender, but the focus was still on helping the student adjust to change and continue on. Hagger-Holt does a good job at showing the challenges as well as the positives of the family dynamics and paints a sympathetic portrait of a family going through changes. The fact that Izzy is also involved in a time-consuming school activity like a play and is also having some friend drama makes this perfect.” [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Understanding Gender Fluidity
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
Riordan introduces a gender-fluid newcomer to Valhalla, Alex Fierro. Sometimes identifying as a girl, and sometimes as a boy, somehow Magnus is able to discern her gender fluidity. Her father is Loki, a shapeshifter that also has assumed both male and female identities in many forms including animals, this character really helps the reader to understand what it means to be gender fluid. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Spin With Me by Ami Polonsky
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Essie is NOT happy when her father takes a four-month temporary post at a university in North Carolina and her mother, an artist, inexplicably stays behind in St. Lewis. She’s angry that she has to leave her friends behind and enter 7th grade as a new student. Luckily, she is fortunate enough to find friends right away, since Savannah reaches out in the cafeteria. She also connects with Ollie and has a little bit of a crush on him. When Ollie shows up in her gym class locker room, Essie is confused. She finds out that Ollie is nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them, but still finds herself attracted. Ollis has a supportive family, and the school has been okay with a Gender and Love Open-Minded Warriors (GLOW) club. Ollie enlists Essie in helping them increase membership and plan activities for the club. Meanwhile, Essie is struggling with her friends back in St. Louis, who at first seem supportive of her crush on Ollie but who eventually show their true colors. Essie is also dealing with her mother being very aloof, her father making new connections with women in North Carolina, and the uncertainty of her parent’s relationship. As her time with Ollie draws to a close, Essie tries to get her parents to allow her to stay for the whole year. We then see the story recounted from Ollie’s perspective, and shedding more light on their perspective and feelings was great.” [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
LGBTQ Transition of Parent with Divorce
Love is What Makes Us a Family by Julia E. Morrison and Laura Knauer
This self-published picture book has drawings that seem like a child drew them. It has an important story that isn’t represented in other picture books. In this book, the parents — dad and mom — get divorced, but both end up getting a new girlfriend. This is a great book for anyone experiencing this family transition as well as for others just to learn about the diversity of families. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World
- Junior Library Guild Gold selection
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- Starred review from School Library Journal
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.