The best LGBTQ+ books for children and young adults

Rob Sanders Author Of Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt
By Rob Sanders

Who am I?

Rob Sanders writes fierce and funny picture books. From fiction to nonfiction, Rob’s unique style and voice rings with clarity. Rob is a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes. Every school day he teaches elementary school kids about books and words and reading and writing. Rob also mentors other writers, leads writing workshops, critiques manuscripts, and spends time collaborating and learning with others who share the same passion.


I wrote...

Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt

By Rob Sanders, Jamey Christoph (illustrator),

Book cover of Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt

What is my book about?

Cleve Jones' extraordinary life was pieced together, then stitched tightly into different types of quilts. From the blanket that his great-grandmother made for him as a boy, to the friends he gathered in San Francisco as young man, it is almost as if he was destined to bring the art of quilting to a new public awareness. Mentored by Harvey Milk, Jones debuted idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt during a candlelight memorial for Milk in 1985 and created the first panel for the quilt in 1987. The AIDS memorial quilt, one of the largest public arts projects ever and an iconic symbol of hope that remembers 94,000 lost souls, is Jones' shining achievement. It has since toured the world and been seen by millions of people.

This evocative biography is a touching tribute to Jones' life of advocacy and an inspiring message for young readers to take away. Includes a timeline of the quilt and other useful backmatter. 

The books I picked & why

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Heather Has Two Mommies

By Lesléa Newman, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Book cover of Heather Has Two Mommies

Why this book?

If you want to read an LGBTQ+-themed picture book for Pride, why not start with the first one? When Heather Has Two Mommies was released more than 30 years ago, it was groundbreaking and it continues to be heartwarming to this day. Heather is a girl whose favorite things come in twos—two pets, two gingersnaps, two moms. On the first day of school, Heather tells her classmates about her moms and the class discovers the uniqueness of each other’s families.


The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

By Ashley Herring Blake,

Book cover of The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Why this book?

Sunny is a 12-year-old with a new heart and new plans for the summer—have amazing experiences, find a new best friend, and kiss a boy. Sunny takes readers on one heart-racing adventure after another as she navigates difficult family situations, goes on a first-kiss quest, and learns to surf. When she makes a new best friend, she discovers that maybe it’s not a boy she wants to kiss after all. Three words to describe this book: humor, heart, and hope.


Cemetery Boys

By Aiden Thomas,

Book cover of Cemetery Boys

Why this book?

The stakes couldn’t begin any higher—a night in a cemetery, summoning spirits, and the mystery of a dead cousin (and that’s just the first three chapters). The main character of Cemetery Boys is a transgender, gay sixteen-year-old boy who is excluded from the rite of passage that would firmly cement him in his close-knit, diverse, East LA community. There’s romance, suspense, and more than a few spine-chilling moments as well as the main character, Yadriel, who will grab your heart and not let it go.


Flamer

By Mike Curato,

Book cover of Flamer

Why this book?

Growing up in the 60s and 70s I never saw a character like me in a book. I finally found that character in Flamer. If you ever wondered what it’s like to be queer, closeted, chubby, and bullied—or if you experienced it yourself—then you need to meet Aiden Navarro. If you remember a first crush who broke your heart and crushed your spirit or felt you couldn’t go on until you found out you could, then you might just see yourself in the pages of this book, too. 


Gay & Lesbian History for Kids, 60: The Century-Long Struggle for Lgbt Rights, with 21 Activities

By Jerome Pohlen,

Book cover of Gay & Lesbian History for Kids, 60: The Century-Long Struggle for Lgbt Rights, with 21 Activities

Why this book?

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up learning LGBTQ+ history. Everything I’ve discovered, I’ve learned on my own as an adult. It’s time for that to change. This book can help kid readers (and adults) learn that LGBTQ+ history is part of American and world history. Our stories aren’t controversial, but not teaching history sure is. This book will give you an introduction to the LGBTQ community’s heart—our history.


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