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Find more Rainbow List
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association are pleased to offer the 2021 Rainbow Project bibliography of recommended titles for youth from birth to age 18 that contain significant and authentic gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (GLBTQ) content. Titles published in late 2019 are noted; all others were published in 2020. Below are 20 exceptional choices from the list. For the complete list, visit glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/archives/1341.
Top 10 Titles for Young Readers
Ana on the Edge. By A. J. Sass. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316458610).
Ana, a champion figure-skater, hates her new princess-themed program even though she isn’t sure why it bothers her. When she finds the word nonbinary, she realizes why the program doesn’t fit.
The Deep & Dark Blue. By Niki Smith. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown, $24.99 (9780316485982).
In this affirming graphic novel, twins preparing for lives as noblemen flee a political coup and disguise themselves as Hanna and Grayce, two girls living in the Communion of the Blue, an order of priestesses. For one twin, however, being Grayce isn’t a disguise.
Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring. By Matthew Burgess. Illus. by Josh Cochran. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 (9781592702671).
This colorful picture-book biography traces the life and art of Keith Haring.
The Every Body Book: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids about Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families. By Rachel E. Simon. Illus. by Noah Grigni. Jessica Kingsley, $19.95 (9781787751736).
Filled with self-affirming information, this guide uses inclusive language, illustrations, and facts to cover a number of important topics for young people including consent, relationships, gender, sex, puberty, and hormones.
King and the Dragonflies. By Kacen Callender. Scholastic, $17.99 (9781338129335).
King’s family has strong opinions about what it means to be a Black man, and they don’t allow for being gay. But King admires his friend Sandy for living his truth no matter what. If King comes out, too, can his father learn to change? A 2021 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, a 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and a 2021 Notable Children’s Book.
The Magic Fish. By Trung Le Nguyen. Illus. by the author. Random/RH Graphic, $23.99 (9780593125298).
A young Vietnamese American boy literally can’t find the words to tell his parents that he’s gay, but cross-cultural fairytales help bridge the language barrier in this beautifully illustrated graphic novel. A 2021 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.
My Maddy. By Gayle E. Pitman. Illus. by Violet Tobacco. Magination, $14.99 (9781433830440).
Pittman’s heartwarming story shows readers that not all parents are boys or girls; some parents are just themselves. Here, a young girl lives with her Maddy, a loving, caring parent who lives outside the gender binary.
My Rainbow. By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal. Illus. by Art Twink. Penguin/Kokila, $17.99. (9781984814609).
Autistic, trans girl Trinity wants to have long hair, but the process of growing it out is too itchy! None of the wigs in the store is quite right, so Mom makes Trinity a special rainbow wig.
Our Subway Baby. By Peter Mercurio. Illus. by Leo Espinosa. Dial, $17.99 (9780525427544).
Loving illustrations help tell the story of how an infant abandoned in an NYC subway station was found and adopted by a man and his partner.
Snapdragon. By Kat Leyh. Illus. by the author. First Second, $12.99 (9781250171115).
Snap gets to know the town witch, Jacks, in this captivating graphic novel, wherein she discovers that Jacks may in fact have real magic and a secret connection to Snap’s family’s past. A 2021 Notable Children’s Book, a 2021 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and a 2021 Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Top 10 Titles for Teen Readers
All Boys Aren’t Blue. By George M. Johnson. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374312718).
“Memoir-manifesto” is a well-chosen label for this book, which relates stories from the author’s youth and contextualizes them within his queer Black experience. Although Johnson’s family is loving and supportive, pervasive heteronormativity, queerphobia, and anti-Black racism threaten his mental, emotional, and physical safety.
Camp. By L. C. Rosen. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316537759).
For Randy, summers at Camp Outland are a time for him to be the flamboyant theater kid he can’t be at school. But this year he plans to become the type of bro Hudson would want to date, even if that means leaving some friends—and parts of himself—behind.
Cemetery Boys. By Aiden Thomas. Feiwel and Friends/Swoon Reads, $17.99 (9781250250469).
When Yadriel accidentally summons the wrong ghost in an attempt to prove himself a real brujo to his family, who struggle to accept his gender identity, he finds himself with two mysterious deaths to investigate. A 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
The Circus Rose. By Betsy Cornwell. HMH, $17.99 (9781328639509).
Ivory and Rosie are twins, yet half-sisters, raised in their mother’s circus. After a long foreign tour, they come home to find themselves under attack by religious zealots. As tragedy follows tragedy, will Ivory be able to save her circus family?
Elatsoe. By Darcie Little Badger. Illus. by Rovina Cai. Levine Querido, $18.99 (9781646140053).
In this #OwnVoices novel, Elatsoe is on a mission to discover who killed her beloved cousin and why. Using her ability to raise ghosts from the dead, a skill passed down through the generations in her Lipan Apache tribe, she must also employ vulnerability, wit, and the legends of her people. A 2021 Notable Children’s Book and a 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
I’ll Be the One. By Lyla Lee. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99 (9780062936929).
Skye Shin dreams of becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and a reality TV competition may just be her chance. To win, she’ll have to deal with fatphobic beauty standards, fierce competition, and intense media scrutiny—as well as unexpected attraction to one of her competitors. A 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
Miss Meteor. By Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062869913).
Lita is a star—literally. After falling to earth several years ago, she’s now living life as a teenager and has plans to enter the annual Miss Meteor pageant. Will this be what repairs her friendship with former-bestie Chicky and helps Lita be honest about who she really is? A 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
War Girls. By Tochi Onyebuchi. 2019. Razorbill, $17.99 (9780451481672).
In a not-so-distant future, climate change and nuclear disasters have made much of the earth unlivable. In the midst of war in Nigeria, two sisters, Onyii and Ify, are torn apart and only reunited after living through years of untold violence.
When We Were Magic. By Sarah Gailey. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99 (9781534432871).
This firecracker of a novel follows a group of friends who attempt to correct the accidental murder of a classmate. Magic, unique characters, awkward moments, and quirk blend into a captivating story.
You Should See Me in a Crown. By Leah Johnson. Scholastic, $17.99 (9781338503265).
Shy, awkward, Black, and low-income, Liz has never felt like she belongs at her affluent high school, making her decision to run for prom queen (for the college-scholarship money) unexpected. More unexpected still is her competition (new-girl Mack) running off with her heart. A 2021 Stonewall Honor Book, a 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and a 2021 Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
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