20 exceptional LGBTQ+ children’s books your kids should read immediately

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Diverse children’s literature can shape young minds. Through the power of storytelling, they inspire young readers to embrace their own identities, respect others, and create a future where love knows no bounds.

Books play a vital role in representing different identities and experiences, allowing young readers to see themselves reflected and learn about the world around them. These exceptional LGBTQ+ children’s books serve as windows to a world of understanding, compassion, and self-discovery.

1. Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Illustration from Jessica Love's "Julián Is a Mermaid" picture book
Sample Illustration from Jessica Love’s “Julián Is a Mermaid” picture book

Julian Is a Mermaid is a heartwarming tale that follows Julian, a young boy captivated by the allure of mermaids he sees on the subway. Fueled by his creativity, Julian transforms into a mermaid using household items. With the support of his abuela, he finds the courage to embrace his imagination and authentic self, leading to a powerful and affirming moment.

Jessica Love, the author and illustrator of the book, crafts a story that beautifully showcases the importance of acceptance and unconditional love within families. Love’s vibrant and evocative illustrations vividly capture Julian’s emotional journey and connection with his abuela. By exploring the themes of self-expression and identity, she empowers young readers to embrace their uniqueness.

2. Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian

Illustration from Worm Meets Worm
Illustration from Worm Meets Worm

Worm Loves Worm challenges traditional gender roles and stereotypes through the story of two worms who decide to get married. As their friends question the roles and traditions associated with weddings, Worm and Worm remain steadfast in their love and determination to celebrate their union on their own terms. The book elegantly shows that love knows no boundaries and that anyone can be whoever they want.

J.J. Austrian’s narrative, complemented by Mike Curato’s engaging illustrations, creates a delightful and inclusive world where the characters’ love is at the forefront. By offering an alternative perspective on marriage, Austrian and Curato encourage readers to challenge societal norms and embrace the diversity of love. Worm Loves Worm is a celebration of love and a call for acceptance, and it has garnered widespread acclaim for its simple yet profound message.

3. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman

Illustration from Heather Has Two Mommies
Illustration from Heather Has Two Mommies

A groundbreaking classic, Heather Has Two Mommies introduces young readers to Heather, a girl with two moms. As Heather prepares to show her classmates her family tree, the story beautifully emphasizes that families come in all shapes and sizes. The book celebrates diversity and challenges societal norms by showcasing the love and care that Heather’s family provides her.

Lesléa Newman’s thoughtful storytelling and Laura Cornell’s whimsical illustrations make this book a timeless favorite. By presenting an inclusive narrative, the book fosters understanding and acceptance among young readers, while Cornell’s vibrant artwork adds a layer of warmth to the story.

4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Cover of And Tango Makes Three
Little Simon And Tango Makes Three is one of the most popular LGBTQ+ children’s books

Inspired by a true story, And Tango Makes Three introduces readers to Roy and Silo, two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who form a loving partnership. When they’re given a chance to care for an egg and raise a penguin chick named Tango, the story beautifully illustrates that love and family transcend traditional norms and can be found in unexpected places.

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s heartwarming narrative, complemented by Henry Cole’s charming illustrations, celebrates the resilience and love exhibited by Roy, Silo, and Tango. The book gently introduces the concept of same-sex couples and families to young readers, while Cole’s soft and endearing artwork captures the emotion of the penguins’ journey. The authors’ commitment to depicting diverse family structures has made And Tango Makes Three a beloved choice for parents and educators seeking to promote understanding and inclusion.

5. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer

Illustration from Stella Brings the Family
Illustration from Stella Brings the Family

In Stella Brings the Family, young Stella faces a dilemma as her class prepares for a special event celebrating families. With two dads and no mother, Stella feels unsure about who to invite. As she navigates her feelings, she discovers that family isn’t limited to a traditional structure. The story beautifully emphasizes that love, care, and support define a family.

Miriam B. Schiffer’s heartfelt narrative sensitively addresses the complexities children like Stella might experience. Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations capture Stella’s emotions and interactions with her classmates, portraying a diverse cast of characters. Together, the author and illustrator create a touching story highlighting the importance of accepting and celebrating different family dynamics.

6. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke

A child reads The Princess Knight
A child reads The Princess Knight

The Princess Knight takes readers on an empowering journey with Princess Violetta, who defies traditional gender roles by becoming a knight. As she dons armor and embarks on heroic quests, Violetta challenges the notion that certain roles are limited by gender. The book sends a powerful message that every child should be free to follow their dreams.

Bestselling author Cornelia Funke delivers a modern fairy tale encouraging young readers to question societal expectations and stereotypes. Kerstin Meyer’s dynamic illustrations portray Violetta’s courage and determination, helping children visualize the strength of pursuing one’s passions regardless of preconceived notions. The Princess Knight encourages children to embrace their interests and aspirations without limitations.

7. Introducing Teddy by Jess Walton

Illustration from Introducing Teddy
Illustration from Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy is a tender exploration of friendship, understanding, and gender identity. Teddy, a teddy bear, confides in his friend Errol that he is actually a girl bear named Tilly. Errol’s supportive response models the importance of acceptance and respecting others’ identities, fostering a heartwarming connection between the characters.

Jess Walton’s touching narrative approaches the topic of gender identity with sensitivity and simplicity, making it accessible to young readers. Dougal MacPherson’s illustrations bring Teddy/Tilly, and Errol’s emotions to life, capturing the nuances of their relationship. It gently introduces the concept of gender identity and underscores the significance of unconditional friendship and understanding.

8. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag
Random House Books for Young Readers Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag chronicles the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement through the life of Harvey Milk and the creation of the iconic rainbow flag. The book highlights Milk’s advocacy for equality and the enduring symbol of hope and inclusion represented by the rainbow flag.

Rob Sanders’ informative narrative, accompanied by Steven Salerno’s vibrant illustrations, educates young readers about the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Through Harvey Milk’s story, the book imparts the message that individuals can make a positive impact by standing up for justice. Pride serves as a testament to the importance of equality and the power of unity.

9. They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Illustration from They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!
Illustration from They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!

They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! explores gender pronouns and the fluidity of identity. The book introduces readers to different pronouns through playful language and interactive elements and encourages a respectful understanding of gender diversity.

Maya Christina Gonzalez’s empowering text is accompanied by Matthew SG’s lively illustrations, creating an inclusive and dynamic learning experience. Gonzalez’s background as an LGBTQ+ advocate and artist infuses the book with authenticity, while Matthew SG’s artistic interpretation complements the narrative’s interactive and educational approach.

10. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite

lgbtq+ children's books daddy's roommate

Michael Willhoite’s 1990 book is an adorable story about a boy spending time with his divorced father and his partner. The two men are explicitly gay, as near the end of the book, the boy says, “Mommy says Daddy and Frank are gay. At first I didn’t know what that meant. So she explained it. Being gay is just one more kind of love. And love is the best kind of happiness. Daddy and his roommate are very happy together. And I’m happy too!”

Ten years later, Willhoite wrote a sequel, Daddy’s Wedding, where Daddy and Frank get married. Since it’s pre-Obergefell v. Hodges, it’s officially a “commitment ceremony.” The little boy narrator is asked to be Daddy’s best man. And the book has a dog eating some wedding cake — what more could anyone ask for?

11. My Daddies by Gareth Peter

my daddies gareth peter lgbtq+ children's books
A two-page spread from My Daddies

English author Gareth Peter’s 2021 picture book is about two dads who have an adopted child. He says he wrote it after seeing that there weren’t a lot of picture books that reflected families like his, with his partner and two adopted children. So he wrote this one — a nice story about what parents do with their kids to make them feel loved.

There was sadly a backlash from the folks you’d expect, but Peter didn’t let that stop him, and he’s written a sequel, Adventures With My Daddies, and a companion volume, My Mommies Built a Treehouse

12. I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown

The cover of Karamo Brown's childrens book, "I Am Perfectly Designed"
The cover of Karamo Brown’s children’s book, I Am Perfectly Designed Amazon

Queer Eye culture host Karamo Brown wrote a picture book with his son about accepting oneself. The story is about a dad and son walking through the city, and, according to Amazon, “discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other.”

13. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino

morris micklewhite lgbtq+ children's books

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a picture book about a little boy who loves to put on a dress from his class’ costume bin. Unfortunately his classmates mock him, saying dresses aren’t for boys, and they won’t let him play with them.

Eventually he gets sick of the bullying and stays home from school where he has a dream about going to space with his cat. He paints the scene and brings it to school, which wins over his classmates. It’s a nice little book about being accepting of gender nonconformity.

14. This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman

this day in june lgbtq+ children's books

Gayle E. Pitman’s 2014 This Day In June is a primer for 4- to 8-year-olds about what Pride celebrations are about. It’s an age-appropriate guide to Pride, and it even comes with a note to adults about how to speak to kids about queer issues in age-appropriate ways. 

Despite being a cute picture book, it was one of the American Library Association’s 11 Most Challenged Books. Pitman also wrote a children’s book in 2018, Sewing the Rainbow, all about Gilbert Baker, the creator of the first rainbow Pride flag.

15. Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith and AP Quach

lgbtq+ children's books, santa's husband
A page from Santa’s Husband Twitter/@kibblesmith

Santa’s Husband started out as a joke. Author Daniel Kibblesmith tweeted in 2016 that his future kids would be told that Santa is Black, and “If they see a white one we’ll say ‘That’s his husband.'”

He ended up getting a book deal and took the story seriously. In the book, adorably illustrated by A.P. Quach, the Clauses go through the Christmas checklist of feeding the reindeer and checking Santa’s list (and checking it again), and just celebrating each other at home. Santa’s husband even helps out at the mall posing as his partner so more kids can meet Santa.

16. Promised Land by Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris

Promised Land is a fairytale about a prince who falls in love with a farm boy. The prince’s evil stepfather wants to control the nearby magical forest — which also encroaches on the farm boy’s land. The book is available in a number of languages including English, Spanish and Portuguese. The authors went on to write two more books, Maiden Voyage and Raven Wild.

17. Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

love makes a family lgbtq+ children's books

Sophie Beer’s Love Makes a Family is a board book for younger audiences, up to 3 years old. Still, it helps explain the different types of families out there — for kids who might not see other families like theirs around, or perhaps ones who have questions about friends’ families. Spoiler alert: it turns out the thing that defines a family is love.

18. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings 

i am jazz lgbtq+ children's books

I Am Jazz is a picture-book version of Jazz Jennings‘ life as a transgender child. She says that she knew she was a girl from when she was 2 years old, and her parents accepted her and let her live as she wanted. The book is great for kids who are experiencing gender identity issues, or have a friend who is and wants to understand them better.

It’s been praised by many people, including Laverne Cox, who said, “I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions. I found it deeply moving in its simplicity and honesty.”

19. You Need to Chill! by Juno Dawson

you need to chill lgbtq+ children's books
A two-page spread from You Need to Chill!

Juno Dawson may be known for her young adult books This Book Is Gay and What’s the T?, but in 2023, she wrote a children’s book, You Need to Chill! It tells the story of a little girl whose classmates are all concerned that her older brother Bill hasn’t shown up to school in a while. 

The kids all speculate that something horrible has happened to Bill — perhaps he’s been devoured by a shark. But it turns out the answer is much simpler and less exciting: Bill is now the narrator’s sister Lily, and she’s doing fine.

20. My Two Dads and Me by Michael Joosten

My Two Dads and Me LGBTQ+ Children's books

Michael Joosten’s 2019 My Two Dads and Me is another board book for babies and toddlers, but its intriguing illustrations by fashion illustrator Izak Zenou makes the story pop. The book is just about a family doing all the normal stuff families do. They eat breakfast, get dressed, go to the park, and go to bed after playing all day. There’s also a companion book, My Two Moms and Me.

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