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
And Tango Makes Three (2005), written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, is a Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers publication. The book is based on an event that took place at Central Park Zoo. Two male penguins, Roy and Silo, raised a chick together. It made the American Library Association’s most banned book list eight times between 2006 and 20017, in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017. Censors, most often moralistic parents, were and continue to be concerned that the book is homosexual propaganda.
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
Eric Jon Nones’ Caleb’s Friend (1993), published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, offers a queerly seductive representation of same-gender desire.
Caleb, a tan-skinned boy of about twelve, is an orphan who works on a boat. One day an icy-blue skinned merboy approaches the ship to return a harmonica Caleb has accidentally dropped into the sea. The human boy and merboy continue to meet, but they exchange objects like shells and flowers instead of kisses. Continue reading
Hello, Sailor, by Ingrid Godon with words by Andre Sollie, was originally published in the Netherlands before being translated into English and published by MacMillan Children’s Books in 2003.
It is a beautiful story about a man named Matt who lives in a lighthouse and works nightly to guide ships safely home with the hope that the sailor he loves and longs for will be on one of the ships. Continue reading
Written by Jason Martinez and illustrated by Karen Winchester the self-published My Mommy is a Boy (2013) is a short picture book told from the point-of-view of a little girl named Amaya whose parent is transitioning. The amateurish illustrations and use of the “she” pronoun throughout detract from the story and confused the four-year-old I shared it with. He didn’t understand why Amaya kept referring to her parent as “mommy” and using she/her/hers pronouns, since he was a man.
It is a bit jarring.
Although the author notes on the back cover that he wrote the book for his daughter to “show her that I care about how she feels and to show her how much I love her” the confusion his daughter may have experienced, confusion he tried to convey, doesn’t translate well to helping other children understand the gender transition of a parent. Continue reading