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Painting in Rainbow Colors :: A Growing Canon of LGBTQ-themed children's literature

by Torie Dominguez
Sunday Dec 3, 2017
Painting in Rainbow Colors :: A Growing Canon of LGBTQ-themed children's literature

Just in time for the holidays, a number of children's book writers have some thoughtful and entertaining contributions for gift giving for the younger set. Perhaps, one of these newly-released or classic books can add a bit of joy to the season for the children of qnotes readers.

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'Santa's Husband' (2017)
by Daniel Kibblesmith
illustrated by A.P. Quach

Joyfully brought to life by the illustrations of Matthews native and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate Ashley Quach, this new release celebrates the family composed of a gay, black Santa and his white husband, along with the familiar cast of supporting characters who contribute to the couple's joint vocation: bringing merriment to the world. Not a book to shy away from politics or current events, "Santa's Husband" alludes to the battle over legalizing gay marriage, the purported "war on Christmas," and more. But although Mr. and Mr. Kringle feel uneasy at the state of the world from time to time, they have only to sit quietly together in front of a roaring fire to remember they've found their own peace, there at the top of the world.

'And Tango Makes Three' (2005)
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
illustrated by Henry Cole

"And Tango" makes headlines. Few of us might ever have heard of this touching true story were it not for the flurry of publicity upon its release - or more accurately, upon certain outspoken parties' learning of its taking up residence on the shelves of school libraries. "Tango" begins as the tale of Roy and Silo, a devoted pair of male chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo, and the empathetic human keeper who sees a chance to help them make their family complete. Already a classic at a dozen years old, the ASPCA Children's Book Award winner is more than a sympathetic picture of gay childrearing: it is a unique take on the loving, gentle, patient and faithful modern father.

'Daddy, Papa, and Me' (2009) and
'Mommy, Mama, and Me' (2009)
by Leslea Newman
illustrated by Carol Thompson

This pair of charming board books aimed at the preschool crowd follows a baby on a series of everyday adventures with its same-sex parents. Cheerful illustrations show a child's joy not only in being part of a family of three, but in the unique one-on-one relationships shared with each of the parents it loves.

'The Different Dragon' (2006)
by Jennifer Bryan
illustrated by Danamarie Hosler

There's something different about "The Different Dragon." Rather than making the fact of same-sex parenting its sole raison d'être, this two-layer bedtime story - think "Where the Wild Things Are" meets "The Princess Bride" - is driven by the imagination of a school-age boy who just happens to have two moms. "Dragon" isn't necessarily here to talk about capital-L Life with gay parents. It's here to offer a moment out of that life. (And for those whose bedtime stories aren't necessarily told in English, the Spanish-language translation "El dragón diferente" is available.)

'Families, Families, Families!' (2015)
by Suzanne Lang
illustrated by Max Lang

Whimsically drawn animals in framed family portraits show kids (and adults) that despite infinite permutations of sometimes ambiguous relationships, it's love that makes a family, and that makes every family the same. The genius of the Langs' work is that it doesn't treat LGBTQ families as some sort of exceptional case; the baby chickens with two dads are amiably introduced right alongside the quartet of octopuses being raised by a single mom. Your family may be a little bit different, they say, but so is everyone else's.

'I Am Jazz' (2014)
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Having found herself the poster girl for transgender and gender non-conforming kids, the now-adolescent Jennings revisits the early years of her and her family's journey to understand and publicly embrace Jazz's truest self.

'The Sissy Duckling' (2002)
by Harvey Fierstein
illustrated by Henry Cole

A modest chorus rings out from across the Carolinas: "You had us at 'Fierstein.'" Inspired, according to his author's note, by children of New York, the inimitable Harvey spins a yarn in which family, at least initially, isn't the source of affirmation and unconditional love we all wish it would be. But the story of Elmer, "the happiest duckling in the whole forest," demonstrates that the response to gender norms is not only irrelevant to the question of one's worth, but also merely one small facet of who we are.

'This Day in June' (2014)
by Gayle E. Pitman
illustrated by Kristyna Litten

A quirky, joyous journey into annual Pride parades, this picture book captures a certain spirit the like of which is felt in no other kind of celebration. The text is simple and lyrical, the artwork an explosion of color and detail showcasing the beauty of a diverse community. Supplemental materials provided with the book include notes on LGBTQ history and advice for caregivers on age-appropriate discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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