Today, schools and children’s organisations across the country are celebrating World Book Day – Ireland’s biggest annual event promoting the enjoyment of books, designed to get kids reading through exciting events and by giving them vouchers with which to buy a book of their own. And we want parents and young people looking for LGBT+ books to join in the celebrations.
With the rights of LGBT+ families still under debate and campaigners struggling to achieve inclusive sex education in Irish schools, it’s never been more important to educate kids about the value of diverse identities. Much of that education, especially given the inconsistency of our religious schools when it comes to LGBT+ inclusion, takes place at home – through representation in TV, digital media and literature.
Queer poet and LGBT+ book club founder Rosamund Taylor tells us what LGBT+ books for kids mean to her: “I find it so heartening every time I see an LGBT+ book for children. When I was a child, I didn’t know the word ‘gay’ was anything other than pejorative, and it would have made a huge difference to me had there been representation in books.”
Kids’ stories that spotlight queer characters and stories are essential, so to celebrate World Book Day we’ve picked out some of the best LGBT+ books for young readers.
Remember those gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo? And Tango Makes Three tells the true story of penguin couple Roy and Silo. After incubating a rock as a substitute for an egg, the couple won the sympathy of their zookeepers and were given a spare egg from another nest. They took turns sitting on the egg until it hatched, and baby Tango went on to warm hearts around the world.
First published in 2007, this is one of the few LGBT+ books available to help parents and teachers introduce the idea of a nontraditional family at home or in school.
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one little boy full of wonder.
While riding the subway home with his abuela, Julián notices three women in beautiful dresses that end in fishtails. All he can think about is dressing up like them, in a mermaid costume of his very own – and so begins a story of family, identity and self-expression.
Drawing on the popular mermaid image that saw the founding of transgender children’s charity Mermaids, Julian Is A Mermaid was published by Candlewick Press last year.
In Neil Gaiman’s fairytale retelling The Sleeper And The Spindle, the kiss that awakens a sleeping princess is not from a prince but from a young queen, who rides to the rescue in chain mail.
What makes this book so special is that, at its centre, it’s not a gay love story. Instead, a kiss between women is included as one plot point among many – not even a big deal, and not a problem but an act of rescue.
Rachel Plummer’s poetry collection Wain, aimed at teen readers, reimagines Scottish myths as stories of LGBT+ identities. It features kelpies, selkies, and lesser-known mythical creatures such as the Cat Sìth.
Published just a week ago, Wain has already been victim to online backlash – but publishers The Emma Press have responded with a scheme encouraging buyers to donate an extra copy to a Scottish school.
In her poem ‘Nessie,’ Plummer writes of a non-binary Loch Ness Monster:
“The Loch Ness Monster isn’t a boy or a girl.
Nessie doesn’t have much use for words like that.
Nessie’s much too busy scaring fishermen
and posing for blurry photographs that nobody will believe in.”
This essential book reminds LGBT+ teens that their identities are real, whether anyone else believes in them or not.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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