Pride celebrations are happening in isolation this year, and with all that’s plaguing the world right now — illness, injustice, unrest and oppression (hello Poland), it’s a good time to reflect on all the victories of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement and dive into how change happens.
“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard,” said Harvey Milk. The books that follow turn up the volume on those voices, taking us through the struggles, sacrifices and successes that led to the joyful Pride celebrations and freedoms we know today. It’s an inspiring lot — you might just find yourself having your own “I Will Survive” kitchen dance party and plotting a revolution with your little ones.
It’s a primer that goes deep into the meaning behind the colors of the rainbow flag and an exaltation of the values of love, diversity and acceptance. Warm friendly illustrations paint a rosy picture of a caring, harmonious world, comforting for littles and something to aspire to for the rest of us.
Also Great: It’s Not the Stork, The Family Book, A Tale of Two Mommies, A Tale of Two Daddies
With gorgeous illustrations, and a classic, rhyming fairy tale structure, Prince & Knight’s twist — two heroes fall in love after battling a dragon and live happily ever after — is a great place to launch conversations about how love isn’t just between men and women. I’ve read this one to classes full of first graders and invariably one calls out “Boys can’t marry boys,” launching debates about the nature of love. Very fun for groups.
Also great: Sparkle Boy, Stella Brings Her Family, Backwards Day, The Different Dragon
When a boy is teased for wearing a rainbow shirt in honor of his two dads, he learns a powerful lesson in shame, pride, discrimination and speaking up. Lovingly crafted and packed with resources — discussion questions, definitions, and notes from author-psychologist Dr. Michael Genhart — Love Is Love is also an exquisitely thoughtful guide to age-appropriate discussions around what really makes up love and friendship.
Also Great: The Boy and the Bindi, I am Jazz. The Boy with Pink Hair, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
One of the most challenged, frequently banned books according to the American Library Association is also one of the sweetest. The true story of a male penguin couple in the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo’s attempts to hatch a rock shaped like an egg don’t go unnoticed by their keeper. He finds a real egg in need of a home and leaves it for the couple, who nurture and raise it together. Little zoologists will love the epilogue which goes deeper in to Roy and Silo’s long term relationship.
Also Great: In Our Mother’s House, Drama, Princess Princess Ever After
The story of Harvey Milk and his dream, that gay equality could be realized in his lifetime, is also shows how change is made from inside local government and out, through marches, inspiration and the power of hope. Milk’s story is interwoven with the origin story of the flag, and while sensitive kids might blanch at Milk’s assassination, the ultimate messages of community and love will leave readers inspired and empowered.
Also Great: Better Nate Than Ever, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, Felix Yz, Unicorn Power!: Lumberjanes Book 1
Part history of a neighborhood, part activist handbook, this book chronicles the raids, riots and resistance that led to the Rainbow flag, the Pride Parade and Stonewall’s place in history as the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement. It sounds drier than it is, thanks to the substantive, power-to-the-people story and Jamey Christophs stylish illustrations, which perfectly capture the polish, grit and fashions of the neighborhood’s different eras.
Also Great: The House You Pass On the Way, George, Lily and Dunkin, Zenobia July
Suicide, depression and anxiety rates are alarmingly high for queer teens. Determined to do something about it, writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller uploaded a YouTube video titled It Gets Better about their own experiences with bullying and discrimination. It launched a viral phenomenon of encouraging, healing videos with everyday people (the collection of gay Orthodox Jews is a personal favorite) and luminaries like Sia, Barack Obama and Stephen Colbert. The book adds original essays to transcribed videos, but all of them have the same, important message — you are definitely not alone, there are ways to stand up to bullies and it does get better.
Also great: A Queer History of the United States for Young People, Symptoms of Being Human, Dress Codes for Small Towns