Summer is well underway, and your young ones might already be getting a little restless on their break from school. With the city opening up fully, there is plenty for them to do outdoors, but for quiet time at home or on the beach or even on the long-overdue plane rides, it might be a good idea to bring along a good book. Since June is Pride Month, we’ve asked the staff at The Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine to recommend some of their favorite reads featuring LGBTQ themes or protagonists. We’ve focused on books that are written by authors of color or center black and brown characters, given our continued commitment to the conversation around racial justice and equity.
For our friends just beginning to read, we love A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, an ABC board book that teaches them the alphabet while also introducing them to vital ideas and concepts of equality, environmental justice, and feminism in a fun, light-hearted manner. The pictures are vivid and the examples diverse and educational for both parents and kids.
Several parents may be pleasantly surprised to discover that the celebrated queer feminist activist and thinker bell hooks has written several books for children, among which Be Boy Buzz, co-written and illustrated by Chris Rashka, is a joyous celebration of black boyhood in all of its complex richness for our preschool-aged readers. It reminds us with kinetic pictures and alliterative, poetry-like text that boys are both noisy and quiet, that it is fine for them to laugh and cry, that they can ask to be held and loved.
For readers under six, Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is an early introduction to the lovely ways in which family support can help us break away from gender stereotypes and be our most authentic selves. Julián Is a Mermaid, through the simple story of a boy who embraces his vision of himself as a mermaid with the help of his abuela, will delight and affirm readers of all ages, whether they have it read out to them or read it with their own loved ones by their side, and its Illustrations of scenes from both the ocean and the streets of Brooklyn are unforgettable.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas is a favorite for readers in the 8-and-under age group. It tells popular Youtuber Jazz’s true story of overcoming gender dysphoria as a young trans girl in her own words and cheerful pictures. It is a great way to get a conversation around gender identity started with the young people in your home.
Kacen Kallender is beloved by several members of the Lurie staff for their deeply felt, poetic coming-of-age novels aimed at readers of various age groups that focus on the experiences of black youth. Their debut novel, Hurricane Child explores themes like first crushes, colorism, bullying, and abandonment through the eyes of a twelve-year-old on the Virgin Islands and is the perfect balance of meaningful and easy-to-read that makes a great summer read for middle schoolers.
For teenage readers, Callender’s Felix Ever After depicts the journey of a queer, trans, black artist as he deals with transphobia, insecurities about his intersecting identities, and the messy, thrilling process of self-discovery.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera is another fun recommendation for high schoolers. Featuring a queer young Puerto Rican woman with writerly aspirations as its protagonist, this novel for young adults is both funny and moving and covers ideas that may be new for teenage readers with humor and an absence of pretension and through an unapologetically queer lens.
We hope our suggestions will get your families started on an enjoyable and illuminating shared reading journey this summer. Let us know what some of your favorite LGBTQ+ books are, and have a joyful and safe Pride!