20 Must-Read Picture Books With LGBTQ+ Families To Read For LGBTQ+ Pride Month by Margaret Kingsbury
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time to bust out rainbow clothes and celebrate queer culture, history, identities, and families. It’s also the perfect time to stock up on picture books with LGBTQ+ themes to read for the entire year. In light of the pervasive attempts of far-right groups to ban children’s books with queer characters, it’s even more critical to support these authors and illustrators.
The Washington Post recently reported that most book bans and challenges occur over books with LGBTQIA+ characters. A small contingent of the United States is attempting to erase entire identities by banning books. While most Americans are against book bans, bills that support them are being passed. Queer families exist, queer kids exist, and they deserve to see themselves in children’s books. It’s crucial for kids, regardless of their family structure, to see queer families in picture books to normalize LGBTQ+ identities, and to teach compassion and acceptance.
These 20 picture books depict loving LGBTQ+ families. Some of these LGBTQ+ picture books are silly and sure to get big laughs out of little readers; others are reflective and provide a good space for further conversation. While I tried to include a variety of queer families and stories, I couldn’t help but notice some significant gaps.
Where are the stories about queer grandmothers? Why are there so few stories by non-white authors? Where are all the boys with queer families? Where are all the gender-fluid and nonbinary characters? Why do so many picture books center bullying experiences? While I have been seeing more queer joy in picture books over the last couple of years, many attempt to explain or defend queer families. While there is a space for these books, which are needed, there should be more picture books that tell all kinds of stories about queer families.
The first picture book published by a large publisher to depict a queer family was Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, published in 1989, an essential read that nonetheless leans into the explanatory storyline. While queer characters in picture books have come a long way since then, there is still so much room for more.
With increasing book bans, I worry these narratives will never come to be. For now, we can support the books and authors that have been published, and write our legislators asking them to protect books and the freedom to read.
20 Picture Books With LGBTQ+ Families
Bathe the Cat by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by David Roberts
This laugh-out-loud read aloud is possibly the picture book my daughter has read more than any other. A mixed-race family of two dads is expecting Grandma Marge at any moment. First, they need to clean the house. To expedite their efforts, Papa makes a to-do list on the refrigerator. One item on the to-do list is “bathe the cat.” When the mischievous cat overhears the list, it takes matters into its own paws and rearranges the words on the refrigerator. As the family moves through an increasingly bizarre arrangement of tasks, much hilarity and hijinks ensue. This book is a delight to read to children.
Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
In YA author Nina LaCour’s debut, a young girl grapples with the departure of her Mommy for a week-long work trip. Thankfully, she has a caring Mama to help her navigate her feelings. Over the week, they chat with Mommy on video calls, go grocery shopping, and pick out a flower for every day Mommy is gone to give her when she returns. The pastel illustrations beautifully depict the loving, biracial family. Mommy and daughter also have vitiligo. Many children experience similar separations from their parents, and this is a great picture book to help them prepare for and navigate those separations.
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate
In this sweet intergenerational picture book, a young girl and her grandad bond over memories of Gramps. When Grandad and Gramps were young, they went on many adventures together in their camper, and the young narrator loves looking at a photo album of the two together on their travels. However, after Gramps died, Grandad no longer wanted to travel.
After they finish looking at the album, the girl convinces Grandad to help her fix the camper. Together, they put the camper in working order again and go on their own camping trip to the beach. There is a definite lack of picture books depicting LBGTQIA+ elders, and it’s so nice to have this lovely intergenerational story. Be sure to also check out the second book starring Grandad and Granddaughter — Grandad’s Pride! It’s a fun story where the two team up to throw the town’s first Pride parade.
My Maddy by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Violet Tobacco
The young narrator in this picture book doesn’t have a mommy or a daddy but a Maddy. The child’s Maddy enjoys lots of in-between things, like waking up early to enjoy the sunrise, when it’s neither day nor night but something in-between. More in-betweens are shown, like Maddy’s hazel eyes, Maddy’s love of sporks, and their enjoyment of Fall and Spring. Back matter includes more parental names that blend Mommy and Daddy, transitioning as a parent, and more. This is the only picture book I know of depicting a gender non-conforming parent. While more is definitely needed, I’m glad there’s this sweet picture book for nonbinary, trans, intersex, gender fluid, and other gender non-conforming parents.
Tuesday Is Daddy's Day by Elliot Kreloff
This picture book is excellent for children whose parents share custody. The protagonist loves schedules and routines and keeps a detailed shared custody schedule on her calendar. She does not love surprises, so when her mother picks her up on Tuesday — a day she spends with Daddy and his partner Harry — she’s immediately thrown off. Tuesday is Daddy’s day! However, that evening she gets a big surprise when Daddy and Harry bring her a puppy. It turns out some surprises are actually good!
The Best Bed for Me by Gaia Cornwall
Parents will empathize with the two moms in The Best Bed for Me. It is bedtime for Sweet Pea, and while Mommy takes care of the baby, Mama is attempting to put the child narrator to bed. With every attempt, the child pretends to be an animal, insisting they need something else to go along with their animal persona, whether it’s a tree to hang from like a koala, a hand to hold like an otter, or to stand up and sleep like a penguin. With infinite amounts of patience, Mama gently redirects the child until, finally, Sweat Pea is in bed.
Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
This essential picture book takes place in India. Ayesha is so excited to attend her favorite cousin Ritu’s wedding. When she arrives, however, she notices many family members are missing. Her parents tell her that some members of their Hindu family are upset that Ritu is marrying a woman. Ritu leads the baraat, a traditional wedding parade, which the groom typically leads. At first the baraat is going well, but then protestors arrive and spray the wedding party with water hoses. Will the wedding be ruined? Not if Ayesha has anything to say about it. This refreshing picture book is one of the few I know of depicting queer families in a non-Western country.
Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
This heartwarming picture book is based on a true story. Papa Pete addresses the story to his son, describing how he and Daddy Danny came to adopt him. Danny was leaving the subway station when he found an abandoned infant. He called the police, and the baby was taken to the hospital. However, Danny and Pete couldn’t stop thinking about the baby. The story hit the news, and a judge saw how much Danny and Pete already loved the baby. The judge rushed an adoption, and for Christmas the two men were able to bring their baby home. An author’s note provides more details and pictures of the dads with their son, who is now an adult.
The Rainbow Parade by Emily Neilson
Based on the author’s childhood, in this heartwarming picture book, a young Emily attends her first Pride parade with her two moms in San Francisco. Emily loves how colorful and exciting the parade is, but she’s nervous about joining the parade during the family portion, which both her moms want to do. She doesn’t think she’s special enough to be in the parade. However, with encouragement from her moms, she joins the parade and celebrates with all the other queer families. This is a great picture book to read before and after attending a Pride parade.
Papa, Daddy, and Riley by Seamus Kirst, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth
It’s Riley’s first day of school, and she’s so excited as Papa and Daddy drop her off. However, another student immediately asks her how she could have two daddies and who her mother is. This makes Riley feel worried and anxious for the rest of the day. She has so much in common with Daddy and Papa, how could they not be her real fathers? When she gets home from school, both parents reassure her that families can look like many things, but they all have one thing in common — love. This is a gentle picture book perfect for reading before school starts in the fall.
My Footprints by Bao Phi, illustrated by Basia Tran
Thuy is Vietnamese American and has two moms. After kids make fun of her at school, she feels sad and angry, stomping away and leaving deep footprints in the snow. At home, she and her two moms pretend they are mythological animals in the backyard leaving their unique footprints, dragons and phoenixes and the Sarabha. In the end, Thuy makes up her own creature, and he anger transforms into joy and she and her moms spend a fun afternoon in the snow. This is a beautiful winter picture book.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer
Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day party, and the teacher asks all the students to invite their mothers. Stella has a big problem, though; she doesn’t have a mom, she has two dads! The students ask her lots of questions about the things their mothers take care of at home. Who packs Stella’s lunch? Who takes care of her boo-boos? Stella’s Papa and Daddy surround her with love and care at home, as well as several other family members. When the day of the party arrives, Stella has come up with the perfect solution: she’ll invite everyone! She doesn’t have a mom, but she does have endless love and support from her unique family. This picture book is a modern classic.
Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Qin Leng
This intergenerational wordless picture book, dedicated to trans activists of all ages, deliberately portrays characters in ways that transcend gender. An exuberant grandchild and grumpy grandparent run a small store together. Despite their disparate personalities, it’s clear this is a loving home. When the grandparent decides to rent the derelict space above the shop, many potential tenants come and dismiss the space. When a queer couple arrives, they see its potential and turn the area into a happy, inclusive home that also brightens up the shop. This picture book celebrates the found families that are so vital in queer communities.
My Mommies Built a Treehouse by Gareth Peter, illustrated by Izzy Evans
When a young boy decides he wants a treehouse more than anything, his two mommies drop everything to make his dream come true. While one mommy shops for supplies, another designs the treehouse. Building and painting are challenging and require patience, but the end product is worth it. In the end, the treehouse becomes a meetup for the boy’s neighborhood friends, though at the end of the day, when all the friends return home, the boy and his two mommies can enjoy it together. This STEAM-themed rhythmic read aloud shows the value of teamwork and patience.
Love is Love by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Ken Min
Different child narrators of various races and genders who wear the same shirt with a rainbow heart reflect on why having two dads isn’t so different from kids who have a mother and father. It opens with children bullying a child for wearing such a shirt and calling him gay. But as the text shows, there’s nothing wrong with being gay; many wonderful people are gay. The picture book ends with the children converging at a Pride celebration, where many people are joyfully wearing rainbow hearts. This direct and empowering picture book is an excellent introductory text about queer love and acceptance.
Plenty of Hugs by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Kip Alizadeh
This tender picture book written in gentle rhyme celebrates the love two moms have for their toddler. The family of three spends the perfect day together: riding bikes to the farmer’s market, going on a zoo adventure, enjoying a tasty noodle dinner, and watching fireflies at night. From the time the toddler wakes up in the morning to being tucked into bed at night, the toddler’s day is full of love and hugs. This would make an excellent gift to new lesbian moms.
My Moms Love Me by Anna Membrino and Joy Hwang Ruiz
This sweet, simple picture book centering two biracial moms and their new infant would also make an excellent gift to new moms. Baby begins the day with hugs and toe tickles. No matter how messy the day is, Baby knows they are loved. From storytime to visiting pigs at a farm and twirling in the sun, the luminous illustrations depict this caring family spending a lovely day together. The rhyming text makes this a lovely and reassuring bedtime read.
A Plan for Pops by Heather Smith, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Lou loves spending Saturdays with her Grandad and Pops. They go to the library, do science experiments, snuggle, and more. But then one Saturday Pops has a bad fall and can no longer walk. He becomes depressed and doesn’t want to leave his room, not even on Lou’s special Saturdays. How can Lou and Grandad cheer Pops up and show him life in a wheelchair will be just as fun? This is a lovely intergenerational picture book addressing elderly mental health and disability.
Princess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl by Susin Nielsen, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Princess Puffybottom the cat has the perfect life with her two moms until Daryl the puppy arrives. Daryl is so destructive! As the weeks pass, Princess Puffybottom can find very few redeeming qualities in Daryl and hopes her moms will return him. While, alas, that does not happen, the two do bond over shared mischief. Meanwhile, in the background, one of the moms has a growing belly and is given a baby shower. In the end, both cat and dog are surprised when their moms bring home an infant. This hilarious picture book is a big hit with animal-loving kids.
Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen, illustrated by Lucia Soto
Chloe has a great relationship with her Uncle Bobby, but when she finds out he will be marrying his fiance Jamie at a family picnic, she worries Uncle Bobby won’t have time to play with her anymore. However, the more time Chloe spends with Uncle Bobby and Jamie — getting ice cream, watching theatre, learning to sail — the more she realizes that gaining another uncle might not be so bad. By the day of the wedding, Chloe, who is the flower girl, is happy to see her two uncles marry. This is a delightful picture book to assuage any child who feels nervous about a wedding and to celebrate queer marriages.
I hope you found some excellent picture books about LGBTQ+ families to check out for LGBTQ+ Pride Month and beyond. If you’d like to follow more of my reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, and I write one of Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletters.