Taking the pulse of LGBTQ+ children’s books makes me a little jealous of my colleague Laura Simeon, who works with books for teens—there is an embarrassment of riches for readers of queer YA. However, “fewer” does not mean “none,” and some of what we’ve seen recently is quite terrific. In addition to Rob Sanders and Robbie Cathro’s Two Grooms on a Cake (Little Bee, May 4), which uncovers the true story of a 1971 wedding of two men and is the subject of one of our Pride Issue features, we’d like to shine the spotlight on a few other great recent LGBTQ+ releases.
Essie and Ollie meet when Essie’s dad temporarily moves to North Carolina in Ami Polonsky’s Spin With Me (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb. 16). Both kids are involved in the school’s LGBTQ+ club, cis girl Essie as an ally—but Essie’s crush on nonbinary kid Ollie has her questioning her orientation. Their romance plays out twice: first from Essie’s point of view and then from Ollie’s, a device that emphasizes the importance of looking through others’ perspectives. Ollie’s comfort, from the book’s outset, with their nonbinary identity makes for a sweet and necessary complement to coming-out narratives. Both Ollie and Essie are White; their friends are diverse.
Alba, too, explores gender identity in Tanya Guerrero’s All You Knead Is Love (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 30), along with family dynamics and abuse, when she’s sent to Barcelona to stay with the grandmother she hasn’t seen in years. Abuela Lola gives Alba the love and kindness the 12-year-old so badly needs, and Alba further gains confidence by learning to make bread in a local bakery. Alba is biracial, with a White American father and Spanish and Filipinx heritage on her mother’s side; Abuela Lola’s Barcelona neighborhood is vigorously multicultural.
In Grandad’s Camper (Little Bee, April 6), Harry Woodgate gently pushes the boundaries of what’s considered a queer family with a sweet story of grandfather-grandchild bonding. The narrator, a child of color, is visiting Grandad, who reminisces about his youth with the now-deceased Gramps and their adventures in their VW microbus. This spurs the rehabilitation of the old vehicle and a new road trip, with Grandad at the wheel and grandchild riding shotgun. That Grandad and Gramps were an interracial couple simply adds to the book’s appeal.
Stonewall Award winner Kyle Lukoff moves from picture books to middle-grade fiction with his debut novel, Too Bright To See (Dial Books, April 20), a ghost story. As if looking ahead to middle school weren’t hard enough, Bug needs to do it without beloved Uncle Roderick, a gay man who recently died of cancer. But is Uncle Roderick lingering somehow? And what is he trying to tell Bug? Bug’s gender journey unfolds naturally in the context of these other transitions, with the tender support of both mother and friends. Major characters are White. (Lukoff is a freelance contributor to Kirkus.)
The littlest readers will get some practice with their ABCs even as they attend a joyous, boisterous Pride parade with the central family of Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin’s Pride Puppy! (Orca, May 11). From morning (“A for awake”) to night (“Z for zzzs”), this interracial family of four and their rainbow-kerchiefed dog experience a day full of love and fun, punctuated by some chaos when the titular dog gets loose. McLaughlin’s illustrations celebrate the racial, gender, ability, and body diversity of the queer community even as they put a special spin on tired abecedarian tropes: “Q for queen” rarely looks so fabulous.
Vicky Smith is a young readers’ editor.