By Holly Allwright, Rosie Pinder, Emma Rogers and Ekta Rajagopalan
June in the UK is Pride Month – a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community and a great reason to seek out some Queer Children’s authors to diversify your collection. We’ve selected a few of our favourite children’s authors who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community to give you some ideas for what to read this month. Of course, a big part of Pride Month is about raising awareness of the issues and prejudices that queer people have faced throughout history and still face today. As a result, some of these recommendations are particularly important because they present these issues in a way that is both accessible and thoughtful for younger audiences.
The iconic series Frog and Toad was written by the gay author Arnold Lobel, and depicts two male frogs happily living their lives together. The pair was never confirmed to be in love, but did present an alternative way of living to a generation of children. The series was published between 1970 and 1979, and Lobel came out to his family midway through in 1974. His stories of friendship and love remain a staple today, although Lobel tragically passed away in 1987 due to complications from HIV/AIDS.
The writer and illustrator of the bestseller Where the Wild Things Are lived out a large portion of his life with his partner Eugene David Glynn, until Glynn’s death in 2007 and later his own in 2012. The American author was outspoken about his dislike of the creation of perfect worlds within children’s literature, believing that the world was more complex and so stories should be, too. He frequently wrote about issues pertinent to childhood, of belonging and understanding, and always included a tone of hopefulness, despite his aversion to perfectly innocent endings – all tied up in a bow. Sendack lived with Glynn for fifty years and while he kept his relationship hidden from the world until he was eighty for fear of the effects on his career, he died proud of his identity, having left a huge mark on the world.
A key presence in the childhood of many readers, Dame Jacqueline Wilson revealed her long-term relationship with her partner Trish, along with the announcement of her new book Love Frankie which follows a queer protagonist as she falls for another girl in her class. Author of the beloved Tracey Beaker and Hetty Feather series along with many more, she played a huge part in both the book and television world of today’s young adults. Wilson is known for tackling difficult and often controversial issues within her books, including bullying, parent loss and poverty. She says that she had never focused on a queer character before, as she tends to write about issues in the world of children and she, of course, never saw an issue with being gay.
William Hussey is a new addition to the world of queer books. After travelling to the UK to visit students to share his own experiences as a gay man, Hussey decided to publish his first LGBTQIA+ novel, Hideous Beauty, in 2020. His aim was to address the discrimination young people face today and show that there is still a lot of room for progression. This book was the winner of the North East Teen Book Award 2020. His success in the LGBTQIA+ genre continued with further publications, including The Outrage and Broken Hearts and Zombie Parts. His next book, Jericho’s Dead, will be published in February 2024.
The author of books for both adults and children, Woodson had the honour of being named Young Peoples’ Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, and then the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2018 to 2019. In terms of picture books, she is known for creating stories centred around the struggles of life through the eyes of young black girls. The Year We Learned How to Fly, for example, focuses on the incredible powers of the imagination. Her middle-grade and young adult contributions are equally as powerful, along with her stunning poetry collections. Woodson lives in Brooklyn with her partner Juliet Widoff and their two children.
As the director of Pop’n’Olly (also a YouTube channel with 30K subscribers) – an LGBTQIA+ educational resource used by children, teachers and parents alike to teach about diversity and acceptance – Pike is at the forefront of empowering queer kids. He is the author of six published books including Jamie, a Cinderella-esque, trans-inspired tale. He creates bright, joyful and inclusive worlds, something he would never have seen while growing up.
According to him, children are smart and intuitive; they understand diversity and acceptance. He has made it his personal goal to ensure that his books reach all the primary schools in the UK so that teachers and students alike can help young LGBTQIA+ people to know that it’s okay to be authentically who they are. In 2020, Pike made it to the UK’s Pride Power List and in 2021 he was awarded an Attitude Pride Award.