Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LGBT Friendly Children's Books

We are throwing a baby shower for A & C, and they have asked for LGBT friendly children's books. I was looking up what is available on Amazon, and found these, and thought I'd share. Let me know what you think of these books, or if you know of others. The only one of these that I've read is And Tango Makes Three.

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell (Author), Justin Richardson (Author)
PreSchool-Grade 3-This tale based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City's Central Park Zoo will capture the hearts of penguin lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are "a little bit different." They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too. Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations set the tone for this uplifting story, and readers will find it hard to resist the penguins' comical expressions. The well-designed pages perfectly marry words and pictures, allowing readers to savor each illustration. An author's note provides more information about Roy, Silo, Tango, and other chinstrap penguins. This joyful story about the meaning of family is a must for any library.

King & King by Linda De Haan (Author), Stern Nijland (Author), Linda De Haan (Author)
When a grouchy queen tells her layabout son that it's time for him to marry, he sighs, "Very well, Mother.... I must say, though, I've never cared much for princesses." His young page winks. Several unsatisfactory bachelorettes visit the castle before "Princess Madeleine and her brother, Prince Lee" appear in the doorway. The hero is smitten at once. "What a wonderful prince!" he and Prince Lee both exclaim, as a shower of tiny Valentine hearts flutters between them. First-time co-authors and artists de Hann and Nijland matter-of-factly conclude with the royal wedding of "King and King," the page boy's blushing romance with the leftover princess and the assurance that "everyone lives happily ever after." Unfortunately, the multimedia collages are cluttered with clashing colors, amorphous paper shapes, scribbles of ink and bleary brushstrokes; the characters' features are indistinct and sometimes ugly. Despite its gleeful disruption of the boy-meets-girl formula, this alterna-tale is not the fairest of them all. For a visually appealing and more nuanced treatment of diversity in general, Kitty Crowther's recent Jack and Jim is a better choice. Ages 6-up.

King & King & Family by Linda De Haan (Author), Stern Mijland (Author), Stern Nijland (Author)
PreSchool-Grade 2–In this follow-up to King & King (Tricycle, 2002), King Lee and King Bertie have just married and embark on a honeymoon. As they fly off to jungle country, the two men soon discover that their cat has stowed away in their suitcase. The travelers happily tramp through the wilderness and paddle down a river, observing the wildlife as they go. Before long, they have a strange feeling that something is following them. Upon returning home, they discover another stowaway in their suitcase–this time it's a young girl from the jungle, whom they joyfully adopt and everyone lives happily ever after. The mixed-media collage illustrations are colorful with lots to look at on each page–perhaps too much, as some of the spreads are a bit cluttered. Bertie's travel diary is reproduced on the book's centerfold, hinting at the surprise ending. The text is brief and fun, and the relationships are treated matter-of-factly. However, children may wonder why the men do not try to find the little girl's family, or check to see if anyone is searching for her. All in all, this story about a nontraditional family is a bit heavy-handed.

One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine (Author), Melody Sarecky (Illustrator)
PreSchool-Grade 2-The message that all people are basically the same whatever their skin color or sexual orientation is a worthy one, but this book, despite its cheerful pictures, is too didactic to have much appeal. In rhyming text, two children discuss a boy's two blue dads. He points out that, aside from their color, they are the same as other fathers-they work, play, and laugh. His friend wonders how they got that way and offers numerous explanations, but he tells her that they are blue simply because they are. The only trouble with the situation is that they are hard to see against the sky. "But except for that problem,/our life is routine,/and they're just like all other dads-/black, white, or green." And when the girl declares that she has never seen a green dad, a new child appears, stating that her two fathers are both green. Children young enough to take the tale at face value will probably think it is silly (since people are neither blue nor green), while older readers would be better served by a straightforward presentation of the subject matter.

The Family Book by Todd Parr (Author)
PreSchool-Grade 2-As he did in The Mommy Book and The Daddy Book (both Little, Brown, 2002), Parr introduces children to an array of families. Whimsical illustrations featuring neon colors and figures outlined in black show big ones and small ones, and families that look alike and relatives who look just like their pets. The art features both human and animal figures; thus, pigs depict both a family that likes to be clean, and one that likes to be messy. Some families include stepmoms, stepdads, stepsisters, or stepbrothers; some adopt children. Other families have two moms or two dads, while some children have only one parent. Interspersed with the differences among families are the ways they are alike: all like to hug each other, are sad when they lose someone they love, enjoy celebrating special days together, and can help each other to be strong. This concept book celebrating the diversity of family groups is distinguished by its sense of fun.

Who's in a Family? by Robert Skutch (Author), Laura Nienhaus (Illustrator)
Beginning with a traditional nuclear family and ending with blank spaces in which the child reader is instructed to "draw a picture of your family," this slight book catalogues multicultural contemporary family units, including those with single parents, lesbian and gay parents, mixed-race couples, grandparents and divorced parents. Kevin and his brother like their kimono-clad grandmother to help them with their jigsaw puzzles, while Ricky lives with two families. "Aunt Amanda and Uncle Stan," pictured riding in a blue convertible with their pets, "don't have any children at all" but are "still a family," says the narrator, because "they say Mouser and Fred are their 'babies.'" Because "animals have families, too," the text describes elephant, lion, chimpanzee and dog families as well as human families. (A human family headed by a mother is "like the chimpanzee family. Mama chimp raises the babies by herself, with the help of any older children she may have.") Nienhaus's lackluster illustrations, the schoolmarmish tone of the text and the comparisons with wild animals all tend to undercut the final definition of a family as "the people who love you the most!" Ages 3-7.

Heather Has Two Mommies (Alyson Wonderland) by Leslea Newman (Author), Diana Souza (Illustrator)
This handsome 10-anniversary edition of a minor classic presents the story of Heather, a preschooler with two moms who discovers that some of her friends have very different sorts of families. Juan, for example, has a mommy and a daddy and a big brother named Carlos. Miriam has a mommy and a baby sister. And Joshua has a mommy, a daddy, and a stepdaddy. Their teacher Molly encourages the children to draw pictures of their families, and reassures them that "each family is special" and that "the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other." In the afterword, the author (whose other children's books include Matzo Ball Moon) explains that although she grew up in a Jewish home, in a Jewish neighborhood, there were no families like hers on the television or in picture books. She came to regard her family as somehow "wrong," since there was no Christmas tree in the living room and no Easter egg hunt. Whatever the religious right may wish to think about nontraditional families, there is no denying that any child enrolled in an American school will encounter friends with single parents, gay parents, stepparents, or adoptive parents. This new, revised version of Heather Has Two Mommies offers an enjoyable, upbeat, age-appropriate introduction to the idea of family diversity. The book is essential for children (ages 2 to 6) with gay parents or family members, and a great addition to a Rainbow Curriculum.

Molly's Family by Nancy Garden (Author), Sharon Wooding (Author)
PreSchool-Grade 1-To get ready for kindergarten Open School Night, Molly draws a picture of her family to hang on the wall-herself, Mommy, Mama Lu, and their puppy. After seeing the picture, her classmates tell her, "No one has two mommies." Despite her teacher's efforts to be supportive, the child is still concerned. That night, her parents explain, "we decided we had so much love that we wanted to share it with a baby." Thus, one of them is her birth mother; the other an adoptive parent. Still, Molly leaves her drawing home the next day. With further matter-of-fact reassurance by her teacher and the budding understanding that all families are different, Molly, and indeed the whole class, grows to accept her own family, and she proudly hangs her picture on the wall. While the children in the story are not shy about expressing their feelings, the author diffuses any tension by remaining focused on logic: Molly's family is as she claims. By tying this specific household to the general diversity within all families, Garden manages to celebrate them all. The soft colored-pencil drawings with their many realistic details depict a room full of active kindergartners. There is a squat sweetness to the characters as they work together to make everything look and feel right.

ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs (Author), Desiree Keane (Illustrator), Brian Rappa (Illustrator)
It's family fun from A to Z in this alphabet book that shows kids and their parents laughing, playing and enjoying family life. All of the brilliant watercolors depict families headed by gays and lesbians. "C is for cookies. Both of my dads know how to make great chocolate chip cookies." "L is for lunch. We always pack a picnic lunch when my moms take me to the beach."

It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (Author)
For anyone who ever doubted it, Todd Parr is here to tell us all that it's okay to be different. With his signature artistic style, featuring brightly colored, childlike figures outlined in heavy black, Parr shows readers over and over that just about anything goes. From the sensitive ("It's okay to be adopted"--the accompanying illustration shows a kangaroo with a puppy in her pouch) to the downright silly ("It's okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub"), kids of every shape, size, color, family makeup, and background will feel included in this gentle, witty book. In this simple, playful celebration of diversity, Parr doesn't need to hammer readers over the head with his message.

Families by Susan Kuklin (Illustrator)
Kindergarten-Grade 4–This book consists of interviews with the children from 15 different families, including mixed-race, immigrant, gay, lesbian, and divorced, as well as single parents and families for whom religion is a focal point. The children may be adopted, have special needs, be only children or have multiple siblings, and, of course, the characteristics frequently overlap. The interviews focus on the youngsters' feelings about being part of their family: adults do not interfere. The voices are natural, and the children come across as individuals, not just representative of a particular lifestyle or ethnic group. According to an author's note, Kuklin allowed her subjects to choose how they would be photographed, including the clothing worn and what family mementos would be shown. Working with those constraints, Kuklin has composed sharp and vibrant photos that capture the essence of each of them. This book will be both attractive to browsers and an excellent impetus for discussing relationships and diversity in America.

The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan (Author), Danamarie Hosler (Illustrator)
This bedtime story about bedtime stories shows how the wonderful care and curiosity of a little boy, with some help from his willing moms, can lead to magical and unexpected places. Join Noah and his cat, Diva, on this nighttime adventure and you too will leave with an unforgettable new dragon friend!

Flying Free
A picture book for children of LGBT and diverse families. Flying Free is narrated by a firefly captured by a five-year-old girl named Violet. Violet plans to use the firefly as her very own nightlight. Her mommies, Mommy Blue and Mama Red, go along with the idea, but the firefly refuses to live in a glass jar. After several attempts, the firefly devises the ultimate escape plan. . .what will her fate be? Flying Free is suitable for children age 2-6.

Felicia's Favorite Story by Leslea Newman (Author), Adriana Romo (Illustrator)
PreSchool-Grade 1-In a story set in a loving family with two women as parents, a little girl asks for her favorite bedtime story-the tale of how she became part of the family. As Felicia asks questions and fills in the blanks, her mothers playfully relate the tale of their decision to share their love by bringing her into their lives. The gentle, rhythmic text perfectly mirrors the give-and-take that occurs with preschoolers when parents extend the story: Did they decide to adopt a giraffe, a mouse, or a baby? Did they take a boat or a car to Guatemala to pick her up? Was she as small as a button or a cookie when she was a baby? In the cozy conclusion to her own story and the book itself, Felicia's moms tell her that her name means "happy" in Spanish-a feeling shared by all. Each piece of art is framed by a stylistic geometric border reminiscent of stained glass. The smiling child and parents are drawn in a somewhat static style that is softened by the use of pastel colored pencils. This is a comforting book for children in alternative families as well as a pleasant tale for all children who rejoice in sharing their own life story.

Mom And Mum Are Getting Married by Ken Setterington (Author), Alice Priestly (Illustrator)
Kindergarten-Grade 3–Rosie's two mothers are going to get married. When Mom tells her daughter about their plans, the youngster asks if she can be a bridesmaid or a flower girl, but Mom just wants a small celebration. Rosie offers another option–she and her brother, Jack, will carry the rings. Predictably, when the big day arrives, the rings are temporarily misplaced (by the couple). Rosie comes up with a solution to prevent them from getting lost a second time, and the wedding comes off without a hitch. "A perfect day," says Mum. The ink-and-colored pencil drawings are somewhat flat but colorful. While the story is slight and not particularly engaging, libraries needing to augment their collections on gay lifestyles may want to consider it.–


J* said...

I have some of those books! I'm trying to collect as many as I can

queerstork said...

I like www.printakid.com too. You get to make the main character of the book match your child's hair/eye/skin colour and hair texture and have your child's name (as well as the name of your child's friend)... and you get to use any parent genders you want (the parent characters are in each story). It's nice because the stories aren't "you're in a different kind of family" stories.. just regular kids stories starring your kid and your family.

The company is Canadian but they ship to the US and it's reasonably priced.