Transgender Awareness Month

This past week, November 14-20, 2021, was Transgender Awareness Week, culminating in Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th and the whole month of November is Trans Awareness Month. Here are a few picture books and middle grade novels to get the conversation started!

Note: for the purposes of this list, we’ve included books with non-binary characters in addition to trans characters but we recognize that not all non-binary folks fall under the trans umbrella!

Bodies are Cool
By Tyler Feder
32 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593112625 | Dial Books
From the acclaimed creator of Dancing at the Pity Party and Roaring Softly, this picture book is a pure celebration of all the different human bodies that exist in the world. Highlighting the various skin tones, body shapes, and hair types is just the beginning in this truly inclusive book. With its joyful illustrations and encouraging refrain, it will instill body acceptance and confidence in the youngest of readers. “My body, your body, every different kind of body! All of them are good bodies! BODIES ARE COOL!”

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
By Jodie Patterson
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123638 | Crown BFYR
Jodie Patterson, activist and Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board, shares her transgender son’s experience in this important picture book about identity and acceptance. Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

Calvin
By JR Ford and Vanessa Ford
Illustrated by Kayla Harren
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593108673 | Putnam BFYR
Calvin has always been a boy, even if the world sees him as a girl. He knows who he is in his heart and in his mind but he hasn’t yet told his family. Finally, he can wait no longer: “I’m not a girl,” he tells his family. “I’m a boy – a boy in my heart and in my brain.” Quick to support him, his loving family takes Calvin shopping for the swim trunks he’s always wanted and back-to-school clothes and a new haircut that helps him look and feel like the boy he’s always known himself to be. As the first day of school approaches, he’s nervous and the “what-ifs” gather up inside him. But as his friends and teachers rally around him and he tells them his name, all his “what-ifs” begin to melt away.

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. . . . Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Julián at the Wedding
By Jessica Love
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212389 | Candlewick Press
Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. Jessica Love returns with a joyful story of friendship and individuality in this radiant follow-up to Julián Is a Mermaid.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
Illustrated by Art Twink
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Obie is Man Enough
By Schuyler Bailar
352 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379462 | Crown BFYR
Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs. As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water – to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

The Little Library
By Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525578338 | Schwartz & Wade
Everyone in Mr. Tiffin’s class couldn’t be more excited that the new school library has finally opened. Everyone except Jake. Jake is a slow and careful reader. Sometimes he reads the same page more than once to figure everything out. And he often feels left behind on class Library Day. All that changes when Librarian Beck notices Jake running his fingers across the grooves of a brand-new bookshelf and offers him an old, worn book: Woodworking for Young Hands. Jake checks the book out, studies the pictures and instructions, and renews the book again and again. When the school year comes to an end, Jake has the perfect gift idea for the librarian who changed his life – and he makes it with his own two hands.

The Ship We Built
By Lexie Bean
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525554837 | Dial Books
Rowan has too many secrets to write down in the pages of a diary. And if he did, he wouldn’t want anyone he knows to read them. He understands who he is and what he likes, but it’s not safe for others to find out. Now the kids at school say Rowan’s too different to spend time with. He’s not the “right kind” of girl, and he’s not the “right kind” of boy. His mom ignores him. And at night, his dad hurts him in ways he’s not ready to talk about yet. But Rowan discovers another way to share his secrets: letters. Letters he attaches to balloons and releases into the universe, hoping someone new will read them and understand. But when he befriends a classmate who knows what it’s like to be lonely and scared, even at home, Rowan realizes that there might already be a person he can trust right by his side.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.

Too Bright to See
By Kyle Lukoff
192 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111154 | Dial BFYR
It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn’t particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there’s something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont . . . and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light – Bug is transgender.

Books for Pride Month

June is Pride month when the spotlight is on celebrating and honoring all types of love – to start, here’s a list of everything from picture books to middle grade that recognize people’s different orientations.

Almost Flying
By Jake Maia Arlow
352 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593112939 | Dial BFYR
Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding – meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

Big Bob, Little Bob
By James Howe
Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
32 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536215922 | Candlewick
It’s not easy to become friends with someone who is nothing like you – but surprising things can happen when you give it a try. Despite the fact that they share a name, Big Bob and Little Bob are different. Big Bob likes trucks and throwing balls and being loud. Little Bob likes dolls and jingling bracelets and being quiet. No matter what they do, they do not do it the same. Could they possibly be friends despite these differences? With humor and tenderness, James Howe and Laura Ellen Anderson beautifully depict the struggles and rewards that come when friendships are forged between different kinds of people.

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
By Jodie Patterson
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123638 | Crown BFYR
Jodie Patterson, activist and Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board, shares her transgender son’s experience in this important picture book about identity and acceptance. Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. . . . Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Julián at the Wedding
By Jessica Love
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212389 | Candlewick Press
Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. Jessica Love returns with a joyful story of friendship and individuality in this radiant follow-up to Julián Is a Mermaid.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
What does “skinnamarink” mean? You may not find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing, community and, ultimately, love. This song has been sung in weddings and in classrooms. It can be fun and silly – especially with the accompanying actions! And it has a way of bringing people together. Based on the classic folk song made famous by a beloved trio of children’s entertainers, this picture book is best sung aloud! “Skinnamarink” is a timeless anthem of love and inclusion.

The Legend of Auntie Po
By Shing Yin Khor
304 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525554882 | Kokila
Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan – reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch. Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in America.

Too Bright to See
By Kyle Lukoff
192 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111154 | Dial BFYR
It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn’t particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there’s something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont . . . and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light – Bug is transgender.

Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day
By Elliot Kreloff
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823448913 | Holiday House
The girl in this story has two rooms: one at Mommy’s house and one at Daddy’s apartment, which he shares with his partner Harry. All that’s lacking is a puppy! Daddy picks her up after school on Tuesdays. But mommy is here instead! What’s going on? Becky likes everything to be the same. But sometimes change can lead to a happy surprise! Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day is a reminder that family comes in many forms, but always comes with love. In this book, best-selling author-illustrator Elliot Kreloff writes from the heart, as the story is based upon his own family.

The Unbelievable Oliver and the Sawed-in-Half Dads
By Pseudonymous Bosch
Illustrated by Shane Pangburn
208 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525552352 | Dial BFYR
Oliver is new to the magical arts. In fact, he has only performed one act so far, and that one was interrupted by a theft-in-progress that he, his friends the twins Teenie and Bea, and his wisecracking rabbit, Benny, managed to thwart. Now Oliver has been hired for an even more important gig: a wedding. Teenie and Bea’s fathers are finally getting married, and Oliver is supposed to entertain at the rehearsal brunch. He has chosen the classic sawed-in-half trick, which will be especially amusing when he calls up the grooms as volunteers. What could go wrong? Except that weddings are supposed to be about bringing people together, not splitting them up . . . and before the trick is over, one of the fathers will have disappeared. Luckily, Oliver seems to be a better sleuth than a magician!