KT Reads: A list of LGBTQ2S+ books for children and teens

A photo of the very colourful progressive pride flag.
The progress pride flag.

By Kate Odams

There is now such a range of amazing children’s and young adult books amplifying LGBTQ2S+ experiences that it can be hard to know where to start. 

Some young readers love to delve into nonfiction. Others want stories where queer characters are just part of the ‘norm’ of the narrative. Some crave hearing relatable stories that more directly explore LGBTQ2S+ lived experiences. 

Here are some diverse, joyful, and affirming books for children of all ages (and their grownups) that celebrate Queer voices, culture, and history.

The cover of Pride Puppy

Pride Puppy by Robin Stevenson and illustrated by Julie McLaughlin

An alphabetic story of a family’s trip to the Pride Parade and their fun with friends, grandparents and ice cream. When their puppy escapes, many people help reconnect the pup with his family. Families and people in gorgeous diversity are represented in the rich illustrations, and there are little details throughout so you’ll want to read it again and again!

The cover of Pride, the Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride, the Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Where did the iconic rainbow flag first come from? Did you know it originally had a pink stripe? Do the colours mean something? In this narrative nonfiction picture book, readers can trace the history of the Rainbow Flag from its beginnings in 1978 with Harvey Milk, famed US LGBTQ+ activist, and flag maker Gilbert Baker to its status as a global symbol. This is a story of love, hope, struggle and pride, and an informative and accessible read for children and families.

The cover of The Meaning of Pride

The Meaning of Pride by Rosiee Thor, illustrations by Sam Kirk

Another ‘Pride primer’ in the nonfiction picture book category.  Colourful illustrations and simple factual text guide readers through the central question of ‘What does Pride Mean?” This book explores some of the history of the Pride movement, highlighting several pioneering people along the way. Although leaning towards highlighting Americans, the book is definitely diverse, and you’ll see lots of familiar faces, even one or two Canadians! The quick ‘Pride Flags 101’ at the beginning is a useful addition as you head out to the parade and beyond. 

The cover of Pink, Blue and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes

Pink, Blue and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes by Elise Gravel

Many of us are familiar with the writing and wonderfully funny, diverse illustrations of Montrealer Elise Gravel. Pink and Blue and You!, available in both English and French, is a great read aloud about gender, restrictive stereotypes, and the joy in diversity. “Are some things for boys and some for girls? Who made these rules?” asks Gravel as her funny illustrations lead you through a narrative of great conversation-starting questions and ideas.

The cover of A Plan for Pops.

A Plan for Pops by Heather Smith

Full disclosure – I’ve included this book because it made me cry. This story is so gentle and touching I suggest the adult reader proceed with tissues at hand! This is the story of Lou and his beloved Grandpa and Pops. One day, their usual Saturday fun day is interrupted when Pops has a fall. When they learn that Pops will now be confined to a wheelchair, Lou and Grandpa come up with a plan (and a complex contraption!) that has one simple goal: to make Pop’s smile again. 

This beautiful story not only normalizes same-sex couples as family members but shows how feeling sadness and helplessness are not only valid emotions, but ones that can, and will, get better. The power of compassion, led by a child, is strong and meaningful in this lovely story. 

The cover of Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement by Stella Caldwell

This inspiring, colourfully illustrated history of the Queer community enlightens young readers on the true timeline of LGBTQ+ history around the world, the lives of important figures and groundbreaking events. Peppered with first person stories by young Queer writers, this book is easy to dip into. 

The cover of growing up trans.

Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words edited by Dr. Lindsay Herriot and Kate Fry

This accessible anthology shares short stories, essays, art and poetry created by trans youth aged 11 to 18, mostly based in B.C. First-person stories of struggle and joys, both big and small, make this book not only an empowering read for trans or nonbinary youth, but useful and insightful reading for all young people and adults, transgender or not, about what understanding, acceptance, and support for the trans community looks like.

The cover of Melissa

Melissa by Alex Gino

Originally published in 2015 under the title George, many of you may already be familiar with it, but I wanted to include it on this list as it holds an important place in queer middle-grade literature. This book is one of the most borrowed in our school library. It tells the story in the first person of a 4th grade girl named Melissa as she navigates being themselves to her family and the rest of the world, who see her as a boy. What makes it so popular is how the simple realness of the story is relatable to all kids as they explore who they are in the world. This success is solidified by the accessible reading level of the writing. Gino, in all their books, really understands how to catch the interest of the grade 3+ reading crowd. 

The cover of the Sun and the star.

The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

If you are a fan of Percy Jackson, or any of Rick Riordan’s wildly popular fantasy adventure books, then this one’s for you! With appearances by familiar characters, and gripping action, this book will keep you reading. 

A spin-off from The Trials of Apollo series, The Sun and the Star follows two popular characters from the Percy Jackson series. Son of Hades, Nico di Angelo has been through so much, from the premature deaths of his mother and sister, to being outed against his will, to losing his friend Jason during the trials of Apollo. But there is a ray of sunshine in his life – literally. It is his boyfriend, Will Solace, the son of Apollo. Together the two demigods can overcome any obstacle or foe. At least, that’s been the case so far …

The covers of all three books from the witch boy series.

The Witch Boy Trilogy by Molly Knox Ostertag

In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters, but Asher knows this isn’t the right fit. When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practising his skills and dig deep into his courage to save his family.

This book has been flying off the shelves this year. A poignant and exciting read for magic lovers. 

(Also recommended: Girl from the Sea (grade 5+), another fantastic, queer, graphic novel by the same author.)

The cover of the pants project.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

“Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided that girls had to wear skirts while boys were allowed to wear pants is sexist, dumb, unfair… The problem isn’t the skirts. It’s the word girls.”

The cover of the Sunbearer trials

The Sunbearer Trials by Aidan Thomas

Welcome to The Sunbearer Trials, where teen semi-dioses compete in a series of challenges with the highest of stakes, in this new Mexican-inspired fantasy. Teo, a 17-year-old semi-diós and the Trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials … or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya ? daughter of Tierra, the god of earth ? is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. 

Framed by the relevant topic of school dress codes, and featuring Transgender 6th grade boy Liv, this book was a slower burn for me, but by the end I was so invested in the rich cast of characters that I was hooked. Gender diversity, growing up, same-sex parents, friendship, and physical and neurodiversity are all here. To note, while this is an upbeat, funny, and affirming story, there are examples of transphobic bullying, which is called out as such in the story. (This book recommendation comes directly from members of the LEAD club at Broadview PS.)

These elements sound familiar, but this book, where normalizing the fluidity of gender and sexuality was lovely to see, is an engaging, well-executed and gripping fantasy read.

Kate Odams is the school Librarian at Broadview Public and Churchill Alternative schools in Westboro, and has worked in art and literacy education for over 25 years. When she’s not reading, she can be found bobbing around in her kayak, hanging out with her teenage kids, or taking photos. She also once ate a caterpillar. True story. You can find her on Instagram @kate.in.the.library

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