Isla’s Family Tree (2020), written by Katrina McKelvey and illustrated by Prue Pittock, is a warm and inviting story that manages to be both minimalist and richly specific. The red-haired title character is not excited that her mother is about to give birth to twins. She tells her parents that their family is large enough as is. Her mother patiently and lovingly explains that families, like trees, grow. Continue reading
Natalie Lloyd’s Over the Moon (2019) will have readers immediately rooting for Mallie, the middle-grade fantasy novel’s twelve-year-old protagonist. Mallie lives with her parents and younger brother in Coal Top, a bleak town where joy is scarce. Coal Top’s inhabitants have no hope for a better future. Serving inhabitants of the wealthy valley below is the only option for girls and boys must work in coal mines where they eventually lose their sight, like Mallie’s father. Mallie has already begun serving a family in the valley but she is fiercely protective of her young brother and will do whatever she can so he can avoid toiling in the coal mines. Continue reading
Judith Vigna’s My Two Uncles was published by Albert Whitman & Company in was published in 1995. Vigna has authored a long list of social issue picture books including Black Like Kyra, White Like Me, I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much, Mommy and Me By Ourselves Again, and Saying Goodbye to Daddy. My Two Uncles, like her other titles, seeks to write into children’s books realities too frequently absent from them. In this case she explores same-gender relationships from the first-person point-of-view of a child, Elly, who loves visiting her two uncles. Unlike most books that represent lesbian and gay adults from the period, this one mentions the word “gay.” Continue reading
Mariana Llanos’ timely bilingual picture book Luca’s Bridge/ El puente de Luca tells the story of a boy named Luca and his family as they move from the US, where his parents are undocumented, to Mexico, where they are citizens, so the family can remain together.
The story is told in the third-person from Luca’s point-of-view as he leaves the only home he has ever known for a country whose language he doesn’t speak. The book captures the generational divide that often separates citizens from non-citizens in homes throughout the US as well as the effects of unreasonable immigration policies on families and children. Continue reading
Pija Lindenbaum’s Mini Mia and her Darling Uncle (2007) was originally published in Stockholm but was readily available in the US at the time of its release thanks to distributors like Amazon.com. Like quite a few LGBTQ children’s picture books, this one is told in the first person from the point-of-view of a young girl, Mini Mia, as she gushes about her amazing relationship with her gay uncle. Continue reading
j wallace skelton is the author behind one of Flamingo Rampant’s first children’s picture books, The Newspaper Pirates (2015). The narrator-protagonist is Anthony Bartholomew, a young boy with pale skin, red hair, and big glasses Anthony has an admirable sense of style, often boasting long scarves, pearl bracelets, and large rings. His fathers, Papa and Abba, are as perplexed as he is when their newspapers go missing from their apartment. The story pivots around Anthony trying to solve the mystery of the missing newspaper. Continue reading
The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption (2002), written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki and illustrated by Meilo So, is a story about international adoption that focuses on four North American families bringing their adopted daughters’ home from China. Continue reading
Whisper Whisper Jesse, Whisper Whisper Josh: A Story About AIDS (1992), written by Eileen Pollack and illustrated by Bruce Gilfoy, is an early picture books that explores a young boy’s experience processing grief after losing his uncle to AIDS.
The text-heavy story pairs wordy prose with detailed sketches of a boy as he describes the secrets and whispers that fill his home. Unlike most stories that explore similar themes and foreground the close relationship between uncle and nephew or niece, Jesse is estranged from his Uncle Josh and only meets him after he becomes ill. Jesse’s mother explains that his father and uncle had a fight, but the reader, like the child, never learns why. Jesse’s sick uncle moves in with the family, which makes his mother happy, because she missed her brother, Josh. Continue reading
Written by Robbi Anne Packard and illustrated by Lori Ann McElroy, Two Daddies… and Me! rides the wave of self-published children’s books about gay and lesbian parenting that began emerging in earnest post-2000. Like similar titles, Packard’s book seeks to normalize gay parenting and provide gay and lesbian parented families a book that reflects their family form. Both dads are portrayed as white as is their daughter, the protagonist-narrator. Simple text and images capture the family as they move through their day. To establish the normalcy of gay parenting and dispel concerns that gay men and lesbians will raise gay and lesbian children, the young girl imagines herself grownup with a family of her own comprised of a husband and baby. An unremarkable book that does reflect a particular need that existed before better texts were developed to meet it. Continue reading