Jun 012020
Inclusive Books that Introduce Gender Identities, All Kinds of Families and Self Acceptance to Children (3-15 years)
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Long ago a kbc member asked for books to introduce her children to the topic of the LGBTQIA+ Community. [My teen insists on using the abbreviation LGBTQIA+ to be totally inclusive. It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual]. We curated an amazing thread in our facebook group and as time passed many of us ordered these books and were blown away by how brilliantly each author, each illustrator taught us how to be inclusive.

All of these books have been incredible conversation starters on gender fluidity, but most important, they have been designed so that they are child-friendly and age appropriate to be introduced to kids as young as four onwards – depending on their emotional maturity.

pc: aarini arora

While we wish to raise our children in a gender neutral environment, talking about LGBTQIA+ topics or relationships is still not very common in most Indian homes. But we are getting there. And the sooner we introduce inclusive books to our children, the easier it will be for them to accept the beauty in diversity around us.

Here are some wonderful books that we have come across that that talk about gender identities, self acceptance, all kinds of families and being inclusive.

[Note from Asha: We have updated this post with newer releases and we will keep updating our curated list with our members’ recommendations. Please consider this a work-in-progress curation.]

4-8 years (unless mentioned differently)

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton. Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

Quoting Asha: “This book is one of my favourite books on the planet -for its sheer simplicity. We as adults overcomplicate things especially when it comes to gender identities. This book is about how easy it is to accept your friends as they are. Whether they are Thomas or Tilly. It’s also about accepting who you are.

The cover has a line below the title that says,

A story about being yourself.

And that sums it up. The cover image is the most powerful image that conveys this very message in the most simple way ever. (I want people to guess from the image shared above!)

Errol and Thomas the Teddy are friends and they play together every single day. One day Thomas the Teddy is unhappy. He is afraid if he shares what is bothering him with Errol, Errol won’t be his friend anymore. But Errol says,

I will always be your friend, Thomas.

Thomas the Teddy trusts Errol and opens up to him saying:

I need to be myself, Errol. In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.

I melted and I’m sure so did you and everyone who reads this book. Errol’s answer is equally heartwarming and they call Ava their friend to join in. Ava is just as warm and welcoming to Teddy’s new name and identity. Her line,

Wear whatever makes you feel happy!

is a reminder that nothing matters most than what makes each one of us feel ourselves and of course, happy!

The illustrations are so beautiful they make you wish you were an artist too!

I think this one book that everyone should have in their personal collection. Everyone.”

Julian is a Mermaid: Asha has this one and highly recommends it to everyone. Sabah shared an incredible review of the book in our fb group. Excerpts:

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, can I honestly say, is a must have for all children AND all adults! The book tells a sweet sweet story of a little boy who sees ‘mermaids’ on his journey home. He wants to be just like them! And so he decides to dress up like one for his Nana. And what he receives from her is what I wish I am able to give my kids, every day forever. Absolute acceptance, and then guidance on how to embrace it in the most simplest way! Nana takes him for a mermaid parade, allowing him to be what he so wants to be.

My limited (sadly) knowledge of the LGBTQ communities tells me this book is about Transgender acceptance. And I was all set to answer my older one’s questions on why the men are dressed as women, and why mermaids. But the beauty of it, his mind isn’t filled with those stereotypes so the acceptance was instant and I recieved none of those questions. Instead, I think he may just want to go visit the Mermaid Parade with us one day!

Such a heartful feeling and such a heartful book!

Priyanka, too has reviewed this book in our fb group and has shared inside pages. Some excerpts:

My mind is completely blown away..

Inclusion and Acceptance is something I firmly believe in. There is nothing more beautiful than accepting someone for who they are, without having any stereotypical barriers or prejudices.

This book is one stop to crash so many different stereotypes including gender and yet incredible in story telling. I repeat, I am deeply touched and smitten by the finesse of the illustrations.

Julian is a boy and he LOVES Mermaids. He sees three women in the Mermaid attire while travelling with his ‘Nana’. He is seen reading a book and meanwhile is thinking of the beautiful atmosphere where mermaids live and imagines to have become one. He confesses to Nana that He IS a Mermaid. While they reach home, Julian has all thoughts crossing his mind, what would Nana think of him? What’s going on in her mind? Nana’s acceptance in precious.

Julian at the Wedding is the other book in this series.

Guthli Has Wings (for 6 years+) written and illustrated by Kanak Shashi. Asha has this book and highly recommends this, both for parents and children. In her words:

This is a bold book on gender identity and acceptance, told through a gentle story. In fact, it’s the first book I personally read on the topic and I was blown away by the direct message. My daughter who was 12 when we read this book was equally awestruck (she supports all themes around LGBTQIA+) and felt so much respect for Kanak’s work.

The story revolves around Guthli, who is born a boy, but who calls herself a girl. Guthli, a happy child becomes sad and withdrawn when not allowed to wear girl’s clothes. How the family reacts initially and how they navigate through Guthli’s feelings as well as their own gets conveyed in a very uncomplicated child-friendly way. Do they accept Guthli’s wish to be identified as a girl? You’ll need to get the book to know.

The illustrations are vibrant with bold strokes that compliments the gentleness of the story. The language is simple and straightforward so parents won’t have to do much explaining after reading it. Will it be a conversation starter? Maybe, maybe not. But it will surely help children understand and accept the concept of gender identities.

From The Stars In The Sky To The Fish In The Sea (says 3-8 years) 40 pages

Jerome By Heart  (this book is acclaimed)

I Am Jazz

My Princess Boy

Love, Violet  (acclaimed and shortlisted for awards)

When Kathy Is Keith

Jacob’s New Dress for 5 years+

The Boy & the Bindi for 5 years+

Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity (4-7 years)

8-12 years

The Boy in the Dress  by David Walliams for 8-12 years

Drama (Graphix) by Raina Telgemaeier for 11 years+

Aarini enjoys reading books by this author and recommends tweens to add her books to their collection.

This is the next level of all the tween graphic novels I’ve read. To me, the author Raina Telgemaeier is the ninja for teen reads. Her other books are must reads as well.

This book is about a middle school girl named Callie, who loves theatre and is a member of her school’s drama production crew. Callie goes through ups and downs with relationships, friendships – when she finds out her friend is gay, and with her inventions and ideas for their middle school drama performance.

The book is very interesting and intriguing. This is the first tween book I read that explores LGBTQIA+ issues.

George  by Alex Gino. (All of the other books by this author are here on Amazon). This is an award winning debut novel by Alex Gino.

Rick by Alex Gino. Asha has this one for her teen as they both are big on inclusive books. She has yet to read this though. These books by Alex Gino can be ordered from Scholastic India via our kbc storefront as well. Scholastic India always has special offers on.

#kbcMember Anusha Sundaram who works for a publishing house, says

“Alex Gino’s books are perfect as they speak about identity and being who you are.”

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy for 12 years+

The Art of Being Normal for 12 years+

Friends under the Sun and I want to ride my Motorbike – storyweaver.

13 years+

It Has No Name by Payal Dhar

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Aparajita recommends this one.

Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar

Bill Konigsberg also has some great YA reads like Openly Straight (award winning for 14 years+) ,
The Porcupine of Truth (14-15 years) and
The Music of What Happens.  (15-16 years)

These books by Bill Konigsberg can be ordered from Scholastic India via our kbc storefront as well. Scholastic India always has special offers on.

Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio (14-17 years)

Inclusive Books on different kinds of families

pc: asha

Quite often we get queries about books that show different kinds of families. It’s so heartening to see parents wanting to raise their children as inclusive and sensitive humans. Here is a list of books that our kbc parent members recommend:

The Girl with Two Dads (for 3-5 years)

The Family Book by Todd Parr (for 3-5 years)

The Same but Different: From the bestselling author of How Are You Feeling Today? (Molly Potter) – a book about inclusion. (3/4-6 years)

All Kinds of Families by Sophy Henn (Winner of Derby Children’s Picture Book Award 2021) – Love is the common denominator in the variety of families that exist in our world around us! (3-6 years)

Heather Has Two Mommies for 3-7 years

And Tango makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Illustration: Henry Cole

Priyanka has this book and recommends it for “4 years up (or a bit earlier if the concept of families as well as boy-girl dynamics in every which way have been introduced).” She has shared inside pictures of the book here in our fb group. Excerpts from her review:

When we got our hands on this one, I was totally moved and I think this is by far the story that has touched my heart this instantly and this deeply. The best bit- it’s a true story!

One of the most important virtues for me on a personal front is Inclusion. There is nothing more beautiful than loving, honoring and respecting people/ any being for that matter, for who they are.

This book tells a story that so beautifully conveys the message of two same sex individuals that are in love and want to start a family of their own. The innocence of these two beings is unparalleled and the love that they express in wanting to parent is no different that what one sees in stereotypical families raised by heterosexual individuals.

Roy and Silo, two of the male chinstrap penguins that lived with other chinstrap penguin families are intrigued when they see girl penguins and boy penguins unite to have families of their own and make their respective homes. They so want to have a family of their own as well! So they carefully and very observantly do all that the other penguins do to make a home. They would have made the best parents to a young penguin, and yet, they don’t have any egg to sit on. Would their wish be fulfilled? Would Roy and Silo be two Fathers to a beautiful penguin baby? Who would help them in getting an egg?

Worm Loves Worm (for 4-8 years)

King & King (for 5-8 years)

My Chacha is Gay by Eiynah (not available on amazon).

Home recommended by Bijal V:

“Closer home, Nina Sabnani’s Home by Tulika Books was perhaps the first to show different kind of families.”

Ritu Weds Chandni an award winning book for 6 years+ Excerpts from Asha’s detailed review which you can read here.

pc: asha

“The story, as the title suggests, is about Ritu getting married to Chandni. It is narrated and seen through the eyes of a child, Ayesha, who is super excited about her favourite cousin sister – Ritu didi, getting married.

“Ritu didi was going to be the first bride in the Kapoor family to lead her own baraat…”

The excitement in the tone of the child can be sensed and almost heard. As a reader, as soon as you read this line you smile at the thought of how easily children accept the fact that two people who love each other can get married! No questions. No doubts. No prejudice. It’s that simple when you are brought up in an inclusive family, right?

Wrong.

This book has simplified everything parents need, not just to sensitise their children on being inclusive or introducing the concept of different kinds of families, but also to enable everyone in the family to be on the same page. It will initiate conversations that many families don’t have. It will make you want to attend a wedding with two brides riding two mares and leading their own baraats! Which is exactly why you need to attend Ritu and Chandni’s wedding.”

Reva and Prisha by Shals Mahajan, illustrated by Lavanya Karthik for 6-8 years

“This is one book many many of our kbc members have and recommend. It’s fun, engaging, brilliant for parents to give them about creative parenting ideas if they have run out of them”, says Asha who loves this book dearly for the creative brilliance. She adds that, “If there is one book published in India that normalises a family with two moms, it’s this one.”

Shipra’s 7yo Sharav reviewed the book. Excerpts from his review:

Reva and Prisha is a hilarious book about the unconventional Sahil family with two mommies (Amma & Momma) and twins Reva and Prisha. I found the characters of the book very lovable, funny and relatable.

It has a collection of short stories that talk about everything from dreams to morning walk to school stories to food. I loved Reva and Prisha because they are so much like me – they get weird dreams, collect flowers on their morning walk, their dinner table conversations are fun, and they ask a thousand questions and keep bothering Amma & Momma (just like I do).

Quoting Shipra:

The thing that impressed me was how the author touched atypical topics with subtlety, whether the two mothers family dynamics or a difference in religion. It offers a unique, unadulterated view of the world through a child’s eyes.

It is delightful to read how the two mothers parent the twins; they are liberal, loving and offer them space to explore and learn. This book wins our hearts with its humour, love, and gentleness. The warmth and love of the family can mend anything. The illustrations by Lavanya Karthik add more vividness to the story.

This book can be ordered from Scholastic India via our kbc storefront as well. Scholastic India always has special offers on.

Related Reading – Books on busting Gender Stereotypes:

The Unboy Boy by Richa Jha. Illustrated by Gautam Benegal for 4 – 8 years

What Sabah likes about this book:

“There’s honesty, and there’s honesty that tugs on a thread. When Gagan shows us that bravery is just as gender neutral as the things he loves, you know the book is one for keeps. Best of all, at the end of the book my older one asked me,

But mumma what is a boy boy?

And it truly warmed my heart that it was one thing he hadn’t learnt. And hopefully won’t ever! (I did explain what it meant though, and he seemed positively surprised that there was a time Papas didn’t cook and girls didn’t like blue!)

In Asha’s words: “Both kids and grown ups need to read this one for sure. Because we all are trying to raise caring & sensitive childoos. Not everyday you come across a book that deals with both bullying and that busts gender stereotypes. The scenes are relatable because it happens in every family, every park, every playground, every classroom, every building complex. The language is familiar because it’s what we have grown up hearing. Choohaa, billi, and the whole zoo…And that’s why books by indian authors are so close to home. Late Gautam Benegal’s illustrations tug you just as hard as the words do.”

We at Kids Book Café are Pickle Yolk Books’ Community & Affiliate Partners! So should you wish to buy this book, please feel free to use our Special Promo Code KBC50 to avail a discount of Rs. 50 on any book you purchase from the Pickle Yolk Books Shop (on their website here). . You can read reviews of all the other acclaimed books by Pickle Yolk Books here.

Many thanks to Aanchal Garcha, Sabah, Priyanka, Shipra, Aparajita, Author Bijal V, Anusha Sundaram and Aarini for helping us curate this post.

[Note from Team Kids Book Café: For your convenience, affiliate links (MARKED IN PINK) to some of the book titles & images have been added to enable you to buy the books from AMAZON, should you wish to! A very small amount of money comes to kidsbookcafe.com when you purchase a book via the amazon affiliate link provided (at absolutely no extra cost to you!). Do let us know if you need information about other children’s books by writing to asha@kidsbookcafe.com.]


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