In honor of Pride Month and the wonderfully diverse students and families who come through our classrooms, here are 30 of our favorite children’s books with LGBTQ+ characters.
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Books With LGBTQ+ Characters for Grades Pre-K–3
1. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Two male penguins, desperate to start a family of their own, adopt an egg to hatch. This joyful, true story of the “only penguin in the Central Park Zoo with two daddies” will remind kids of the true meaning of family.
2. In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco
The love and support is palpable in this portrait of family diversity with multiracial adopted kids and same-sex parents. Use this joyful and moving book as a model of inclusiveness for children in same-sex households.
3. Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang
Children will recognize their own families and discover many ways of being a family in this rhyming picture book. Charmingly illustrated animals represent and celebrate all the different forms a family can take.
4. Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman
Same-sex marriage is approached in a gentle way from the perspective of a young boy participating in his mothers’ wedding. Any child curious about weddings and marriage will learn from this universal story.
5. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
This 2015 winner of the Stonewall Book Award captures the exuberance of a Pride Parade from a child’s perspective. The Reading Guide at the end of the book gives context to the struggle for LGBT rights while the whimsical illustrations make this a joyful tribute to gender diversity and expression.
6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning
This true story of Jazz Jenning depicts her early childhood as a girl in a “boy body.” Kids struggling with gender identity questions will find a role model, and the rest of the class will gain understanding and compassion for her experience.
7. The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman
This treasury depicts a wide range of traditional and non-traditional families in their daily lives. Charming text and vibrant, humorous illustrations celebrate our human diversity while reinforcing the universality of family love no matter what it looks like.
8. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders
This picture book biography of the man who commissioned the rainbow flag to be a symbol of the 1970s gay rights movement addresses the ugly antagonism against homosexuals, but still resonates with hope for equality. Biographical notes include more information, time lines, suggested resources, and photographs.
9. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer
Stella has two fathers but no mother, so the school Mother’s Day party creates a worrying problem for her. Her loving, extended family helps her find a solution, proving that mothering happens in many ways by many people in the family.
10. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack
In this rhyming fairy tale, the prince does not want to marry any of the princesses his parents choose for him. Fairy tale fans will enjoy the adventure, while the alternative ending expands the traditional genre to include non-heterosexual love.
Books With LGBTQ+ Characters for Grades 4–7
11. George by Alex Gino
George has no doubt that she is a girl but she can’t get the rest of the world to accept her as she is. She hopes that playing Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web will help her cause. This personal look at one kid’s struggle to be herself will resonate with anyone who has ever felt different.
12. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
Four interracial brothers, two dads, and various pets make up the realistic, loving, and sometimes hectic family Fletcher. Their family celebrations, trips,and daily adventures are laugh-out-loud funny and show readers that all families are alike in fundamental ways.
13. Totally Joe by James Howe
Seventh grader Joe Bunch knows he is gay, and this sequel to The Misfits optimistically chronicles his coming-out to his friends. Joe is refreshingly comfortable with himself and can help guide readers in their own journeys to self acceptance.
14. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
An introverted sixth grader courageously comes into her own as a girl, although her classmates perceive her as a boy. This is a sensitive look at the young transgender experience, and readers will be inspired by Grayson’s bravery.
15. My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
June just wants to hang out with her friends this summer, but a backlash against Vermont’s civil union law threatens her family’s security. Use this book to start a conversation about marriage equality and what it is like to be the innocent child of same-sex parents who are discriminated against.
16. Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley
When her mother dies, the courts don’t allow Fella to remain with her “other mother,” so she is sent away to live with her biological grandmother instead. This thought-provoking story will make readers question what truly constitutes a family.
17. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Eighth grader Nate desperately wants to leave his small town to perform on Broadway, and will let nothing get in the way of his stardom. Young readers will find a hilarious, lighthearted hero in Nate.
18. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
This entertaining graphic novel portrays the questions and confusion of middle school relationships in a realistic but cheerful way, presenting a positive experience of coming out to friends.
19. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
This relatable and engaging story depicts 12-year-old Ivy’s confusing feelings about her first crush. It’s a moving portrait of a girl learning to accept and express her true self.
20. As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
Thirteen-year-old Charlie experiences isolation resulting from racist and homophobic bullying while at an all-girls’ Christian camp. This 2018 Stonewall Award Honor-winning graphic novel sensitively explores issues around race, faith, feminism, and girls’ friendships.
Books With LGBTQ+ Characters for Grades 8 and Up
21. Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson
This detailed account of the history of LGBTQ+ culture and rights includes historical photos, documents, personal stories, and facts. Informative and useful to a general audience but essential to those looking for validation, this book reinforces the idea of pride in a positive way.
22. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
A diverse cast of characters rounds out this fast-paced superhero adventure where the protagonist happens to be an Asian-American lesbian teen.
23. Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
A high school boy falls in love with an undocumented immigrant in this timely and thought-provoking novel. Sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity are all portrayed against a backdrop of police violence and social injustice in an inner-city Oakland setting.
24. The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Plus-sized 15-year-old Abby is obsessed with fashion and is thrilled to get the summer internship of her dreams. Sharing the internship with artsy Jordi Perez turns out to be complicated and exciting in this sweet, teen lesbian rom-com.
25. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Longlisted for the National Book Award and made into a feature film, this coming-of-age, coming-out story has many fans. Without being a stereotype, 16-year-old Simon is a funny, real, and relatable teen that everyone will cheer for.
26. Carry On: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell
Simon and Baz, two wizards at the Watford School of Magicks, fall in love in spite of themselves in this tongue-in-cheek homage to Harry Potter. Teen fantasy fans will love this wizarding mystery adventure with a gay vampire romance twist.
27. Like Water by Rebecca Podos
Loyal, dependable Vanni questions her sexual identity when she becomes friends with mischievous and daring Leigh. Winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, this book explores self-discovery in the context of Hispanic family culture.
28. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Elizabeth knows he is a boy, and uses a gig as radio DJ to try on his new identity as Gabe. His show becomes an underground hit, but when a girl at school outs him, things become difficult and dangerous for him.
29. Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bill Wright
Carlos is fabulous and wants to make it as a makeup artist, but he is not just a gay stereotype. Readers will admire him for his inner strength, his loyalty to his friends and family, and for his dedication to reaching his goal.
30. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
Using details gleaned from interviews, social media, surveillance video, and public records, this Stonewall Book Award winner documents a teen hate crime and its aftermath in a complex way that inspires empathy for both victim and perpetrator.