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  • Writer's pictureMegan Humburg

24 LGBTQ+ Books you NEED for your Classroom Library

Adding these books to the shelves of your classroom is a great way to help LGBTQ+ students and their families feel seen. They can also help students of all identities to learn more about the diversity of gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality that exist in the world.


The recommendations are categorized based on reading level, but if you’d like recommendations listed by target LGBTQ+ identity, see our identity-specific lists at the bottom of this article

 

Picture Books for Young Readers

#1. My Shadow is Pink

Scott Stuart

A lovely story about a gender-questioning child trying to understand why they don’t feel the same as their father, told by comparing the “blue” shadow of the father with the child’s “pink” shadow. While the blue/pink binary might feel limiting to some, the book presents at its core a story of parents loving their children and supporting their interests, and it helps kids understand that toys and hobbies don’t have genders. The author wrote this book for his trans child, and it is clearly infused with a parents’ deep love.


#2. Stella Brings the Family

Miriam B. Schiffer

This story is great for students to see representations of LGBTQ+ parents, and it is also a gentle reminder for teachers that mother’s day and father’s day celebrations can be complicated for some kids. In the story, Stella decides to bring in all the different people who care for her (including her two dads, her nonna, and her aunts and uncles) to be with her during her class’s mother’s day celebration.


#3. My Maddy

Gayle E. Pitman

A rare gem of a book (that I wish wasn’t rare) which offers beautiful, heartfelt representation for students who have a nonbinary parent. The story is lovingly narrated by the daughter who calls her parent Maddy (a combination of Mommy+Daddy), and the child talks sweetly about other ideas that break binaries, like how Maddy’s hazel eyes are not quite green and not quite brown. With lovely illustrations and simple explanations for young readers, this book will do wonders to help your students who have parents outside of the gender binary feel more at home in your classroom.


#4. Call Me Max

Kyle Lukoff

This is the first in a series of picture books that follow the story of Max, a transgender boy, as he introduces himself to his school community. The book presents the idea of being transgender in a child-friendly and simple way, and it offers readers an expansive view of gender that doesn’t put kids into stereotypical boxes (e.g., Max has a male classmate who loves dresses and a female classmate who loves bugs, and their likes/dislikes don’t define their gender). The first book kindly explores common issues trans kids face in school, such as figuring out what bathroom to use, and the later books focus on more general kid topics like friendship and field trip shenanigans with Max and his friends.


#5. My Shadow is Purple

Scott Stuart

From the same author who wrote My Shadow is Pink, this story focuses on a nonbinary child who identifies with both traditionally masculine and feminine toys and clothes, and is trying to explain how gender does (or doesn’t) play a role in who they are. Though colors are used to help explain identities, the story challenges gender stereotypes, noting that Mom is still strong even though her shadow is pink, and Dad is still kind and caring even though his shadow is blue. The overall message is that gender is complex, and you don’t have to fit yourself into boxes to feel like you belong.

Chapter Books for Elementary Kids

#1. Riley Reynolds Crushes Costume Day

Jay Albee

The Riley Reynolds series explores the classic elementary chapter book themes of friendship, family, and community through the eyes of nonbinary fourth grader Riley. In this particular installment, Riley and their friends are creating their own costumes for a special day at school where they can dress up like their favorite characters. These books are sweet and funny, and importantly they show young readers a nonbinary character just having fun and being a kid, with full acceptance from their family and friends.

#2. Rick

Alex Gino

Rick gives us a story that we don’t often get for young readers, which is an honest and gentle portrayal of what it is like to grow up questioning your sexuality before you have the terminology and understanding to figure out exactly why you feel different. 11-year-old Rick is starting to get the sense that he’s different because his friends are all developing crushes as they enter middle school, but he doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel the same. As he learns more about the LGBTQ+ community and explores his own identity as possibly aro-ace, Rick has to figure out how to deal with toxic friendships and adults who tell him he’s too young to know who he is.


#3. The Deepest Breath

Meg Grehan

This book hovers between elementary and middle grades, with a suggested reading age of 8-12 years. From the publisher: “An accessible and beautifully written middle grade novel-in-verse about Stevie, a young girl reckoning with anxiety about the many things she has yet to understand—including her feelings about her friend Chloe.” This book explores the confusion of a first crush as Stevie tries to navigate both her anxieties and her “fizzy” feelings that appear when her friend is around.

#4. Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

Kit Rosewater

This is another series that is billed as middle grade but is great for an older-elementary classroom. This first book follows Kenzie and Shelly as they try to put together the perfect roller derby team, and it touches on the awkwardness of a first crush as Kenzie tries to hide her feelings for new teammate Bree. The series is wholesome and sporty and offers readers plenty of casual and lovely intersectional representation with its supporting characters.

Graphic Novels and Longer Books for Middle Grades

#1. The Girl From the Sea

Molly Knox Ostertag

A gorgeous graphic novel featuring small town coastal life, magical sea creatures, and a cute lesbian love story. The stunning art drew me in but the story is what kept me hooked, as the novel follows 15-year-old Morgan as she struggles to hide both her queer identity and her magical new girlfriend from her unsuspecting friends and family. As someone who struggled to accept my identity for a long time and was terrified of the potential backlash from those I love, I loved the way this story perfectly hit the emotional notes surrounding coming out and coming to terms with who you are.

#2. The Witch Boy

Molly Knox Ostertag

We’re starting this section strong with two recommendations from Molly Knox Ostertag, and there’s a reason for it – her stories are always a home run. This graphic novel is the first in a series of three, which follow a young boy named Asher who is struggling to find where he fits into his magical family. In Asher’s family, all the boys grow up to be shapeshifters, and all the girls grow up to be witches. But Asher is having no luck triggering the shapeshifting powers his family expects, and in secret he learns the magical spells studied by his sisters. The story is a lovely metaphor for trans identities, and over the course of the series it explores the harm that we do to each other when we refuse to let the ones we love be their truest selves.

#3. Across a Field of Starlight

Blue Delliquanti

A great read for sci-fi lovers who also want some beautiful nonbinary representation – this novel has two nonbinary main characters, Lu and Fassen, who grew up in separate solar systems but found each other by chance and forge a secret friendship as their communities wrestle with the impacts of colonialism and war. The story is at once both a sweeping sci-fi epic about clashes between space empires and a hopeful exploration of queer love and working towards a kinder future.

#4. Ana on the Edge

A.J. Sass

This story follows Ana-Marie Jin, a young champion figure skater who goes on a journey of gender identity exploration while reluctantly preparing for a princess-themed skating program that feels misaligned with the gender presentation that Ana is comfortable with. The book explores themes around nonbinary and trans identities through the friendship between Ana and Hayden, a transgender boy who is new to the skating rink. Reviewers love the gentle and nuanced exploration of what it feels like to question gender norms and expectations, paired with themes of family, friendship, and self-discovery.


#5. The Best at It

Maulik Pancholy

A heartfelt story about fitting in and finding yourself that explores themes of cultural identity, queer identity, and anxiety through the eyes of Rahul, an Indian-American 7th grader who is desperately trying to find the “one thing” he is best at. Reviewers rave that the story made them laugh out loud and tear up in equal measure, and that the book does a great job demonstrating to young readers how to handle discrimination and stand up for themselves as Rahul learns to embrace his culture and his multiple identities.


#6. The Trouble with Robots

Michelle Mohrweis

This story is great for students who are interested in STEM because it centers on two 8th graders and their struggles to work together as a part of the school robotics team. It also casually explores identities including autism, bisexuality, asexuality, and aromanticism via the two main characters, Evelyn and Allie. The girls must work through their own individual problems (perfectionism, anger, grief) while also figuring out how to help their team succeed in the upcoming robotics match.


#7. Drum Roll, Please

Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Teenager Melly is about to head to a rock’n’roll camp with her best friend Olivia to practice her drumming for two weeks when her parents drop the news that they are getting a divorce. When her best friend ditches her, Melly has to navigate confusing feelings swirling around family, friendship, and a growing crush for a girl at camp. Readers adore Melly’s emotional and heartfelt journey as she learns to work through her anxiety and stand up for herself.


#8. Cattywampus

Ash Van Otterloo

Middle grade novels are a particularly wonderful place to find lovely LGBTQ+ representation these days, which is why this section is so jam-packed with recs. Cattywampus is a delightful story about two young witches, Delpha and Katybird, who are so desperate to learn forbidden magic that they accidentally resurrect their angry, feuding ancestors. Katybird is intersex, and the story gently explores her struggle to figure out what this means for her magic and her identity. The novel also has some great representation in its supporting characters, such as Katy’s younger brother who is Deaf and uses sign language.


Young Adult Books for High School and Beyond

#1. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Becky Chambers

This short novella is not necessarily marketed as young adult, but I would recommend it for teen readers as well as adults for how short yet beautiful it is. The story is a hopeful, solarpunk spin on sci-fi futures, with a nonbinary main character, Sibling Dex, who introduces us to a world where robots have gained consciousness and chosen to leave human society, leaving us with a quieter, more sustainable world that has been rebuilt to live more harmoniously with nature. Sibling Dex is a monk who has grown weary of their calling and leaves the city to explore the untamed wilds, and in doing so becomes the first human to meet a robot in centuries. In this book and its sequel, Chambers paints a lovely picture of a kinder, more peaceful world, where balance and mutual respect are built into the very foundations of our communities.


#2. How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual

Rebecca Burgess

A great addition to the classroom bookshelf that centers the oft-forgotten “A” in LGBTQIA (hint: it doesn’t stand for “ally”). This memoir, told via a gorgeous graphic novel format, explores what it is like for young asexual people to grow up in a culture that is obsessed with sex while not understanding how to put their own lack of interest in sex into words. With vulnerability and humor, the author tells the story of her struggles to understand herself and her body in a world that was constantly telling her that she just hadn’t found the right person yet. Reviews from asexual and aromantic readers note how validating it was to see their often-overlooked experiences centered in this book.


#3. If You Still Recognize Me

Cynthia So

A new release that I haven’t read myself, but that already has stellar reviews. From the publisher: “With a beautifully earnest voice and a dash of fandom, this wistful and delightful novel is a love letter to queer coming-of-age, finding community, and finding yourself.” The story follows Elsie as she navigates her own relationships with lost friends and also helps her grandmother reconnect with a pen pal she lost touch with long ago. The story explores both queer identities and Elsie’s Chinese heritage and culture, and offers some lovely representation across the cast of characters.


#4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Benjamin Alire Saenz

This is a novel that has gained numerous accolades since it was published in 2014, and it just recently won “Best YA Book of All Time” in 2021 from Time. The story follows the growing friendship between two gay Latine boys (Ari and Dante) and their intertwined coming of age journey. The reader gets to witness the growing bond between the two boys through Ari’s eyes, as he learns to move through his sadness and anger to find connection, love, and joy. Reviewers rave about the beautiful writing and the way the book will stay with you weeks after you finish it.


#5. Cemetery Boys

Aiden Thomas

A wonderful mixture of fantasy and powerful LGBTQ+ representation, this novel follows Yadriel, a trans brujo (witch) who is struggling to earn his family’s full and unconditional acceptance for his gender identity. On the surface, Yadriel’s Latine family seem supportive and use his name and pronouns, but under the surface, they make it clear they don’t fully see him as a brujo. After accidentally summoning a ghost in an attempt to prove himself to his family, Yadriel has to work together with ghost-boy Julian to figure out what happened to him and put his spirit back to rest.


#6. Just Ash

Sol Santana

It is annoyingly difficult to find a novel that features an intersex character and is also written by an intersex author, but Just Ash gives the LGBTQ+ book world a much-needed addition to our libraries to fill that particular void. With a story that is dark but hopeful, this novel follows the journey of a young intersex teen named Ash who identifies as a boy but has both male and female genitalia. When his body begins changing and he gets his first period, Ash must deal with the fallout and the pressure from his family and friends to change his identity to make the people around him more comfortable. Recommend with care, as the book tackles some heavy themes of familial abuse and cruelty towards the main character because of his identity, but it is nonetheless an important story that can help intersex teens feel less alone and help other teens develop a deeper understanding of this often-overlooked LGBTQ+ identity.

#7. Going Bicoastal

Dahlia Adler

This lovely novel centering the bisexual experience was just published in June 2023, and it already has rave reviews. Bisexual high-school senior Natalya is trying to decide whether to spend her last summer before college with her dad in NYC or with her estranged mom in LA. Rather than making a choice, the book splits into a dual-timeline story where the reader gets to see what unfolds for each version of Natalya’s summer. In NYC, Natalya finally musters the courage to talk to a girl she’s been crushing on, while in LA she meets a new guy at her summer internship. The story also highlights Natalya’s Jewish identity and her complicated family as both romances unfold with equal rom-com joy and sweetness.
 

Book Recommendations by Character Identity

Lesbian

The Deepest Breath

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

The Girl from the Sea

If You Still Recognize Me

Gay

Bisexual and/or Pansexual

Transgender

Nonbinary

Asexual and/or Aromantic

Intersex

Questioning Gender

Questioning Sexuality

 

This list is just the beginning – we will continue updating our lists as we find new literary gems!

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