The Advocate Lists 21 LGBT Picture Books Every Child Should Read

February 5, 2016
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From schools and libraries in the United States to the countries of Italy and Singapore, LGBT children’s books are a frequent target of challenges and bans. The Advocate has pulled together a list of LGBT picture books that every child should read, including those that stirred controversy in some communities. Let’s take a look at a few of these titles and attempts to ban them around the world…

And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

An award-winning true story of two Central Park Zoo male penguins who “adopt” and raise a baby penguin, Tango, which was published in 2005, And Tango Makes Three continues to be challenged in schools and libraries across the United States. “One of the most banned picture books in recent history,” notes The Advocate, the book was included in the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books in 2012 and 2014 and has been attacked by the Illinois Family Institute and pulled from public library shelves in Singapore.

Despite being deemed “unsuitable” for children by censors, the book has also developed a strong group of advocates. Virtual read-outs like the one done by Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, the Children’s Librarian with the Katonah Village Library, and the adaptation of the book into a school play at Sierra Foothill Charter School are just a couple of ways people have shown support for this family of three!

King&King

King & King by Lina de Hann and Stern Nijland

The story of a prince whose true love turns out to be another prince is another children’s book that has been frequently challenged. It was moved to the adult sections of libraries in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Shelby County, Indiana. In 2005, more than 80 Oklahoma state legislators pressured the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System to restrict the book and several others with LGBT themes.

This past year a teacher in Efland-Cheeks Elementary School, North Carolina, became the target of vicious backlash when he made the decision to read the book to his third-grade students after he noticed one student being bullied for being “a little feminine” — backlash that ended with the teacher resigning.

Although the children’s book hasn’t had a fairy-tale ending in many of the locations that it has been challenged, that hasn’t stopped librarians and even the Mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from standing up to support the title. From the event “Between the Lines,” held at Chapel Hill Public Library, to a virtual read-outKing & King is a book that people continue to defend.

Jazz

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas

This past year, a reading of I Am Jazz in Mount Horeb School District in Wisconsin was abruptly canceled after the Liberty Counsel — a conservative Christian non-profit — threatened the district with a lawsuit over the reading. Based on 12-year-old Jazz Jennings’ own life and her transition from a boy to a girl, the book has been praised and embraced by libraries and in the media. “Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers,” notes The Advocate.

Although most people see including the book in schools and libraries as an important way to “support gender-variant students and their families,”as Dylan Brogan of WORT 89.9 FM reports, others like the Liberty Counsel continue to challenge the title. CBLDF and the National Coalition Against Censorship defended I Am Jazz in Mount Horeb.

Other LGBT children’s books challenges that CBLDF has covered:

My Princess Boy

My Princess Boy in Hood County, Texas

The Family Book

The Family Book in Etiwanda, California

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In Our Mother’s House in Salt Lake City, Utah

Jean Deux Mamans

50 LGBT-themed books banned in Venice, Italy

Check out all of The Advocate‘s recommendations here!

We need your help to keep fighting for the right to read! Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!

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