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6 New LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids’ Books About Identity, Community, and Adventure

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This week brings us great new LGBTQ-inclusive reads including picture books, a chapter book, and middle grade titles!

Click titles or images for full reviews!

Picture Books

Marley’s Pride, by Joëlle Retener, illustrated by DeAnn Wiley (Barefoot Books). A bright and affirming story about a nonbinary child who learns to overcome their fears so they can attend Pride with their nonbinary grandparent. There’s so much to love about this book: a protagonist and speaking cast entirely of color (though some White people appear in the crowds); a trans elder mentoring a trans youth—in a grandparent-to-grandchild relationship, no less; and a message about the importance of queer community and supportive peers. Wiley’s bright collage illustrations enhance Retener’s text, further showing us the diversity (in many dimensions) of the Pride crowd.

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by James Mayhew (Little Bee). A queer fairy tale evoking the classic Little Mermaid, as Nen, a merman, falls in love with human fisherman Ernest. This is a gentle and sweet love story that both draws on tradition and gives us something fresh and new. The illustrations are full of sweeping curves and fluid motion, and the full-page spreads showing the ocean depths are particularly captivating. (Published in the U.K. in 2021 and in the U.S. in 2024.)

My Mama Is a Work of Art, by Hana Acabado (Running Press Kids). “My Mama is a work of art/That doesn’t need a frame,” says a young boy in this rhyming ode to his large, heavily tattooed, serene, and self-confident mama. It’s unclear whether the mother is queer, but the boy describes her as “proud, out, and unashamed” about her body art, though, which could be seen as a phrasing with an implication of queerness. Regardless, tattoos are definitely a queer thing (though not exclusively), and one background character is more clearly queer-coded with a rainbow, so I’m including the book here for the many queer parents who will likely find resonance with it. A joyous and affirming story of parenthood and community, of being kind despite difference, and of being unafraid to share one’s story with the world.

Chapter Book

Monster and Me 6: The Secret Beneath the Palace, by Cort Lane, illustrated by Ankitha Kini (Little Bee). The sixth volume in this early chapter book series once again stars science-loving Freddy von Frankenstein, monster big brother, F.M., friend Binsa, and were-cat sister, Riya, who live in a palace on a supernatural mountain in Nepal. In this volume, Freddy and company must figure out why a magic force in the mountain is drawing “fantasticals” like sprites and yetis to their palace. As with the rest of the series, there’s plenty of action, excitement, and STEM interest along with gentle social-emotional lessons about being oneself, friendship, and more. Binsa plays a more minor role in this volume and her trans identity is never mentioned (as it was in the fourth and fifth volumes), but readers who met her earlier may appreciate that her queerness is completely incidental in this installment. A fun continuation of the series.

Middle Grade

Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine, by Nicole Melleby (Algonquin). Melleby has made a name for herself with thoughtful, original novels of queer protagonists and queer families, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Twelve-year-old Winnie Nash isn’t happy about spending the summer at her grandmother’s home on the Jersey Shore. But her father is busy at work and her mother needs to focus on her own health during her pregnancy. What’s worse is that her parents have asked that she not talk with her grandmother about her mother’s “sad” days of struggling with depression, or about the fact that Winnie likes girls.

Although Winnie eventually makes two friends her own age, she still longs to be held by a supportive queer community. She sets her sights on going to New York City’s Pride celebration—although she doesn’t know how she’ll get around Grandma or her promise to attend a friend’s family picnic on the same day.

As always, Melleby gives us an insightful exploration of her protagonist’s inner life and growth, going beyond tropes about the challenges of growing up to create nuanced, complex characters. She shows us the harm caused by secrets, even unintentionally; the multiple ways of finding support—from friends, family, and community; and the need to stand up for one’s own wellness even when others are struggling with theirs.

Nightmares in Paradise, by Aden Polydoros (Inkyard Press). In this sequel to Ring of Solomon, an action-adventure drawing on Jewish folklore and mythology, we pick up a year later, after now-13-year-old Zach Darlington has saved the world from three mythic monsters (with a little help from his best friend Sandra, his sister Naomi, and Ashmedai, King of Demons). The use of Jewish legends and symbols is fun and welcome; fans of Rick Riordan’s books will likely enjoy this twist on contemporary, mythology-based adventures. There are deeper lessons here, too, about how every being is capable of both good and evil, and how being a “monster” is sometimes a matter of perspective—but these themes never weigh down the tale.

There are several characters and creatures who die in the course of the book; I don’t feel that any of this is presented inappropriately for the target age in general, but adults may may wish to be aware of it in case of sensitivities among particular readers.


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