(published in the Raleigh News and Observer, June 20, 2019; https://www.newsobserver.com/living/article231571668.html)
It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and the commemoration of June as Gay Pride month.And it’s been 30 years since I reviewed my first LGBTQ book, Leslea Newman’s “Heather Has Two Mommies.” The book has been re-illustrated, changed publishers, become part of the Congressional Record, been banned, burned and more since it was first published in 1989.
When it was published, it was both pioneering and controversial. A book about a young girl having two lesbian parents wasn’t common. Since that time, picture books with an LGBTQ focus have changed too.
Here are five recently published favorites that reflect those changes.
▪ “It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity,” Theresa Thorn (Henry Holt): Even though this new book on gender identity may be a bit didactic, it’s useful in clearly describing terms that are confusing. even to some adults. Take the terms non-binary, intersex and cisgender. It also stresses important facets of listening and being yourself in the world.
▪ “I Love My Colorful Nails,” Alicia Acosta (nubeocho): Ben loves painting his nails simply because “he loves his colorful nails.” But bullying has forced his habit to the weekends, despite the support of his father In this book, release in April, Ben’s sadness is noted through imagery and illustrations until the surprise colorful ending on Ben’s birthday.
▪ “Jerome By Heart,” Thomas Scotto (Enchanted Lion Books): Young Raphael loves his best friend Jerome who holds his hand, comforts him when kids make fun of him and can make up fabulous stories. The contrast to this easy tender caring comes from his bristling mother and father, who act as if Jerome “is a bad word.” The book describes feelings children may not be able to express, including the hurtfulness of homophobia, and one child’s courage to be honest with his own feelings and loyal to a deserving friend. Colors and metaphors add meaning to an already extraordinary tale.
“Julián is a Mermaid,” Jessica Love (Candlewick): There is nuance in the story of Julián who loves mermaids. A poignant wordless dream sequence shows his desire to become one. While his Abuela naps, Julian uses what’s around to transform himself. In a tension-filled illustration, his Abuela witnesses his changes while readers wonder if she will accept him. She takes an action more spectacular than readers might have hoped.
“When Aidan Became a Brother,” Kyle Lukoff (Lee and Low): In this new book released earlier this month, Aidan, the main character, is a biracial transgender boy. He is vibrant and thoughtful and questions his role as big brother when he learns a baby is on the way. He understands the importance of his new sibling being understood — and not trapped in clothes or a room designed to make the new arrival feel uncomfortable. His caring parents reassure him that they have learned to accept his needs and will do so for his sibling. With their support, Aidan grows, and his mood changes from anxiety to excitement about his sibling-to-be.