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 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!
- Virtual Read-Out: AND TANGO MAKES THREE
- Tango, Two Other Books Banned From Singapore Libraries
- Partial Victory in Singapore: Two Out of Three Books Back in Libraries
- Charter School Censors Penguin Play
- Public Libraries Are for Everyone: A Response to the Illinois Family Institute
- Captain Underpants Leads ALA’s Top Banned or Challenged Books of 2012
- Three Graphic Novels Among ALA’s Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014
- Censorship 2014: Fun Home and LGBTQ Literature Targeted by Censors
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-out, King & King is a book that people continue to defend.
- Virtual Read-Out: KING & KING
- Between the Lines: NC Library Holds Events for Controversial Kid’s Book
- North Carolina Teacher Under Fire for Reading Same-Sex Fairy Tale in Class
- “I Am A Champion for My Kids”: Teacher Battles Burdensome Notification Policy
- School Decision Does Not Make for a Fairytale Ending for Teacher
- NCAC Celebrates 2015 Free Speech Heroes
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.
- WI School District Cancels Book Reading After Lawsuit Threat
- WI Community Takes Matters Into Their Own Hands After School District Cancels Reading Over Legal Threat
- CBLDF Joins Coalition Defending I Am Jazz
- Wasilla Library Challenge Highlights Importance of Age-Appropriate Shelving
Other LGBT children’s books challenges that CBLDF has covered:
Check out all of The Advocate‘s recommendations here!
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!