Happy Pride Month, everybody! This week we’re talking about queer picture books, and it’s been a long time coming. I love a good picture book, and it can be hard to find queer-friendly ones. My first thought was to make a list, but plenty of people have done that, and if you’re super serious about a comprehensive list there’s a whole reference book for that. I’ve noticed some stuff in my reading, though, so we’re taking this week to examine the give types of LGBT+ picture books I’ve seen. I’m interested in what’s not there, but of course I’ve got recommendations too!
The first, simplest kind of queer-friendly picture book is what I’m calling the “inclusive family lists” genre. These are usually for the younger kids, and they spend time counting and ABCing and listing types of things. These types of books become queer-friendly by including a visibly same-gender couple or two in the list. Some of these date from the nineties, like One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads. Others are more recent and more aesthetically pleasing to modern eyes, like ABC: A Family Alphabet Book, The Family Book, and All Families Are Special. But then it’s always hit-and-miss what your toddler will want to hear over and over.
That said, my personal favorite in this genre is A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel. I’ve mentioned it before in a Christmas favorites list. It’s about Bad Kitty learning to appreciate her family, but she does that by hearing about a little old lady’s family, which is super diverse. So, it includes various lists as Bad Kitty books usually do, and the casual mention of a lesbian couple, but it also offers more of a story and more read-aloud appeal for adults.
This kind of representation is pretty much a baseline. We can certainly debate whether or not it’s homonormative — whether or not it encourages a middle-class “gays and lesbians are just like straight couples” narrative that flattens diversity and excludes bisexual and trans* people — but still, a baseline for toddlers. Tomorrow we’ll take the next step to stories about those gay and lesbian couples, which is where things get a little more complicated.