Freedom to Read – Celebrating LGBTQ+ Identities in Banned Books

Picture Books
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – Jill Twiss
This picture book imagines the life of a famous second pet- Marlon Bundo! In this story, Marlon lives happily in love with another boy bunny. Continuing its message of love and pride, all proceeds from this book support LGBTQ+ mental health and wellness organizations.

Prince and Knight – Daniel Haack
Prince and Knight and its equally adorable sequel Tale of the Shadow King are beautifully illustrated stories of a prince finding the person he wants to share his life and his kingdom with in a knight who saves them from a vicious dragon! Regarded as “the premier queer-friendly fairy tale” by Kirkus Reviews, these stories are sure to be beloved by readers of all ages and identities.
I am Jazz – Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings came out as trans at a young age and was fully supported by her family. She wrote this picture book with the co-author Jessica Herthel for other trans kids and their families in hopes to better understand their own experiences.

And Tango Makes Three – Peter Parnell
And Tango Makes Three is one of the best-known picture books of the 21st century and for good reason! It’s based on the true story of two male penguins who became partners and raised a baby chick at the Central Park Zoo!

This Day in June – Gayle E. Pitman 
Gayle E. Pitman has written several books for children that explore LGBTQ+ topics, and all are bright, informative, diverse, and include a reader’s guide to give parents and caregivers the tools they need to have important and age-appropriate conversations with their children; This Day in June is no exception. It focuses on the experience of a Pride celebration with simple rhyming text and vibrant, heartwarming images by Kristyna Litten. The reader’s guide in this book explains the images and text referring to LGBTQ+ history in a way that is informative and easy to understand. 

The Family Book – Todd Parr
Todd Parr is known for his bright and colorful illustrations which are put to great use in this picture book about family. Parr perfectly illustrates the many ways families can be- two moms, two dads, grandparents, or any combination of. Love is what makes a family!

Jacob’s New Dress – Sarah Hoffman
This picture book explores gender nonconformity and expression through its loveable protagonist Jacob who loves his new dress and wants to wear it to school!

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding – Sarah S. Brannen
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding is a beautiful picture book about Chloe and her conflicted excitement about her beloved uncle’s upcoming wedding- will she still be his favorite? Chloe is delighted to find out the only thing that changes is that she now has TWO favorite uncles who love her completely!

Red: A Crayon’s Story – Michael Hall
Red is the story of a crayon the world saw a certain way and had expectations for that Red just couldn’t match, until one day, he met a new friend who encouraged him to color in a different way. Red is a surprisingly effective metaphor for never feeling right in your own body, and what it means to be supportive of people of all genders.

Worm Loves Worm – J.J. Austrian
Worm Loves Worm is a sweet and perfectly-written book that celebrates love in all its forms! Readers are invited to attend the wedding of Worm and Worm, surrounded by their winged, invertebrate, and many-legged loved ones.
Middle Grade
Melissa – Alex Gino
Alex Gino’s groundbreaking novel, George, was recently republished with the title “Melissa” to honor its protagonist’s identity as she begins to live a complete life as the girl she always knew she was.

Sex is a Funny Word – Cory Silverberg
This book explores the changes young people experience as they grow up and learn about their bodies. This book is intended for kids ages 8-10 and explains the processes their bodies are going through in an age-appropriate and accessible way- through illustrations and simple facts, that encourage discussion between children and their caregivers.

Drama – Raina Telgemeier
Chances are, the young people in your life have read and loved Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels Smile, Sisters, or Guts. Drama does a fantastic job of introducing young readers to the complicated parts of growing up and navigating friendships and love interests.
Better Nate Than Ever – Tim Federle
This middle-grade fiction novel introduces Nate, whose personality and aspirations are larger than life- certainly larger than his middle school in the small town of Jankburg, PA! Join Nate on his brave journey to NYC to audition for a Broadway show that could be his chance at stardom!

The Breakaways – Cathy G. Johnson
This graphic novel features the diverse and wonderful players in a ragtag soccer team known as the Breakaways, as they negotiate their changing worlds, friendships, and love interests! This book is perfect for anyone who read and loved Drama, The Derby Daredevils, or Track!

The Best at It – Maulik Pancholy
Parents might be more familiar with Pancholy from his role as Jonathan on 30 Rock, but his novel, The Best at It, is loosely based on his own experience as a gay Indian American boy growing up in a small US town. This charming debut novel has already been nominated for several awards, including being a Stonewall Honor book in 2020!

It’s Perfectly Normal – Robbie Harris
Young people experience an incredible amount of changes in their lives in an unimaginably short time, and Robbie Harris has one message for them- it’s perfectly normal. It’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable in your own body, it’s normal to have romantic feelings for people of your same gender, it’s normal not to have them at all! This book explains the processes undertaken by the human body during puberty in an appropriate and accessible way for young readers. 

Lumberjanes – Noelle Stevenson
This graphic novel series is written and illustrated by a wonderful and diverse collection of authors, and their protagonists reflect that perfectly! The Lumberjanes are adventurous, nonconformist, spirited teens enjoying a Summer of magical quests!

P.S. I Miss You – Jen Petro-Roy
Jen Petro-Roy’s debut novel is written through letters from Evie to her sister, who was sent away after her family discovered she was pregnant. Evie is navigating faith, friendship, identity, sisterhood, and questioning her sexuality and desperately seeks her sister’s guidance- if she would only write back…

King and the Dragonflies – Kacen Callender
King and the Dragonflies is a middle-grade novel that explores the complicated grief of losing a loved one, the damage of homophobia on young children, and the meaning of friendship to anyone who needs support. Kacen Callender handles each difficult topic with love, beauty, and a story deserving of all its accolades. 
Young Adult
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
Fun Home is Bechdel’s graphic memoir, which discusses her rather unique upbringing in a funeral home, returning as an adult after coming out, and discovering her father was also gay.

Lawn Boy – Jonathan Evison
Mike Muñoz is a critical point in his life after graduating high school and discovering who he is, navigating class and cultural discrimination, and making some mistakes along the way in this funny, important, and relatable novel.

All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a Johnson’s memoir written for young adults as they experience and discover truths about themselves and the world they too live in. 
This Book is Gay – Juno Dawson
This book is dedicated to “anyone who has ever wondered”. Dawson was compelled to write this after surveying over 300 individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and sharing their experiences on everything from stereotypes, coming out, and sexual health.

Gender Queer – Maia Kobabe
Non-binary artist and illustrator Maia Kobabe (e, em, eir) allows readers to experience with em eir voyage of discovering eir identity, being misgendered, and becoming who e was always meant to be in this lovingly written, intimate graphic novel. Read this for a better understanding of non-binary identities and how to support people in your life who are questioning.

Beyond Magenta – Susan Kuklin
Beyond Magenta focuses on the experiences of young people who identify as trans or non-binary from when they began to question their gender identity as children, came out to family, and transitioned as teens and adults. This book gives hope for young people who don’t identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and serves as a helpful guide for all teens and adults who want to create a better world for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Flamer – Mike Curato
Mike Curato is known for his Little Elliot picture book series and as the illustrator of beloved titles like Worm Loves Worm, The Sharey Godmother, and What if, but Flamer is his semi-autobiographical YA debut. It’s a graphic novel about Aiden Navarro as he navigates friendships, bullying, and self-discovery at scout camp. Curato’s simple, but evocative illustrations help explore the teenage years that are difficult for anyone, but magnified for a person who identifies as LGBTQ+. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo
Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a work of historical fiction set in San Francisco in the 1950’s which explores the limits of the LGBTQ+ experience of nightclubs featuring male and female impersonators, the Red Scare, and the intersectionality of being a Chinese American who identifies as LGBTQ+.

More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera
More Happy Than Not is Silvera’s debut novel which discusses family loss, questioning sexuality, and an experimental conversion therapy which threatens to erase the love, identity, and happy memories in an effort to conform with the rest of society.

This One Summer – Mariko Tamaki
This One Summer is an award-winning graphic novel featuring two teens enduring family conflict, uncomfortable interactions with the opposite sex, and self discovery in one everlasting Summer.
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