The very odd “What’s ‘gay’?” asked Mae (2018) written by Brian McNaught and illustrated by Dave Woodford, tracks a conversation two children have with a variety of birds about the meaning of the word ‘gay.’ Beyond the awkward set-up—Mae asks her cousin Ray what ‘gay’ means and birds respond—the text is poorly formatted, and the illustrations do not reflect a consistent style. The short book is jarring and uncomfortable to read aloud. Although the message of acceptance is commendable, this short picture book isn’t a good vehicle. Continue reading
Felicia’s Favorite Story (2002), written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Adriana Romo, nestles one family’s origin story in a snapshot of their bedtime routine. At the story’s opening, two moms clean their kitchen as their daughter, Felicia, plays with a puzzle. Soon it is the little girl’s bedtime.
Mama Linda tells Felicia she’ll read her a book if she gets ready for bed quickly, and Mama Nessa promises to join them soon. Continue reading
Queer-affirming children’s book Large Fears (2015) is the product of a collaboration between writer Myles E. Johnson and illustrator Kendrick Daye. Each two page-spread is a vignette combining prose-poetry, photographs, black and white sketches, and color blasts that provide readers with access to the witty, whimsical, controlled chaos of young Jeremiah’s mind. Jeremiah is a queer black boy who loves pink and wants to go to Mars but his fears are almost as big as his dreams and they keep him Earth-bound. Continue reading
Tiger Flowers (1994)*, written by Patricia Quinlan and illustrated by Janet Wilson, is an emotionally engaging story told from the point of view of a boy who loses his uncle and his uncle’s partner from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS. The warm and accessible picture book directly engages HIV/AIDS but has a more subtle approach to addressing homosexuality.
Readers are introduced to the young boy, Joel, as his sister wakes him up to ask about their uncle Michael. Joel reminds her that Michael has died. Continue reading
Best Best Colors/ Los Mejores Colores (1999), written by Eric Hoffman, illustrated by Celeste Henriquez, and translated by Eida de la Vega, is the story of a young boy named Nate who has recently decided only one color, friend, and mom can be his “best best.” Continue reading
Flying Free (2004), written by Jennifer C. Gregg and illustrated by Janna Richards, is a sweet story told from the point-of-view of a firefly after it’s captured by a little girl. The child, Violet, is excited to show her catch, the firefly, to her two moms. Violet plans on using the firefly as a night light. At the suggestion of her moms, and with their help, Violet helps make the jar a bit more comfortable for the imprisoned firefly. But, the firefly isn’t comfortable and keeps trying to escape eventually deciding not to glow so Violet will let it go. Her moms are able to convince her the firefly will only glow if it is free, and Violet release it. Continue reading