Today at work one of our reference staff mentioned that The Advocate had been moved and hidden for the third time in recent weeks. I don’t know if this is a homophobic patron or a reader who moves it someplace private to read. Either way, I thought it was a good time for this post, as I was already working on a booklist of picture books about children with gay parents. I read a lot of reviews for books on this theme, and I was surprised how few I was able to find in the collections of my library and those in surrounding counties and towns. But I think this is a decent start. If I can track down some more of the interesting titles, like A Different Dragon and The Not-So-Only-Child, I’ll write a Part Two.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (2005). A great, accessible kids’ story about two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who fall in love and want to be just like all the other penguin families and have a baby. When the zookeeper notices the penguins trying to hatch rocks, he decides to give them a baby penguin from a family with too many to raise. This is Tango, and this book is based on a true story. It’s a heavily challenged book that I think is just a wonderful story of a family with a lot of love to share.

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden (2004). Little Molly draws a picture of her family for Open School Night and is told by her classmate Tommy that she can’t have two Mommies. Kids only get one mommy each, that’s just the way it is. This upsets Molly, who becomes ashamed of the picture she drew. But after talking to her parents, Mommy and Mama Lu, and her teacher, she decides to display her picture. When she looks at everyone else’s drawing she sees that everyone’s family is different and that’s okay. This is a pretty simple story with pleasant illustrations, but I think it’s real strength is dealing with Molly’s emotions about how her family is different.

Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Wilhoite (1990). I think books about same sex parents have come a long way since this one was written, but I still think it’s an important addition to the list as one of the oldest picture books on the subject. A young boy discusses his parents’ amicable divorce and his father’s relationship with his roommate Frank. They “live together, work together, eat together, sleep together.” The dynamic in the boy’s family is presented as very natural, but it reads more like a brochure than a children’s book. It’s an explanation of their day-to-day lives more than a story where the child’s parent or parents happen to be gay. As a tool for teaching tolerance, I can see its value. But I think children who actually have same sex parents might enjoy some of the other titles more. The illustrations are dated, but it is still a classic in this genre.

King & King by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland (2000). This is an extremely fun fairy tale about a queen who is sick of being queen and wants her son to marry so he can take over. The prince does not like any of the princesses his mother sets him up with. Then the last princess brings her brother the prince along, and the two young men instantly fall in love. They live happily ever after, and his mother finally gets a break from running things. Great, lively illustrations, fun text arrangement, and an entertaining story make this my personal favorite of the group. I would use this in a program or lesson about modern fairy tales. There’s a sequel, King & King & Family, that I haven’t been able to get my hands on yet.

ABC: A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs (2000). Because I’ve got alphabet books on the brain, I’m adding this one to the list. It’s a great alphabet book featuring alternative families. Every letter has activities that kids like to do with their moms or their dads. The illustrations depict lots of different, happy same sex parent families. It’s not as deep as some of the others, but it is a fun, casual addition to the list.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman (1989). This is the title that everyone thinks of around this theme. Another classic, and I prefer it to Daddy’s Roommate. The illustrations are better, fluid black and white illustrations with simple white backgrounds. And I like the story about a little girl with two mothers who goes to a play group and learns about all different kinds of families. Before the play group, Heather doesn’t seem to know that other kids don’t have two mothers, and her introduction to different kinds of families is pretty gentle. This won’t reinforce any ideas about dealing with prejudice from other kids, like Molly’s Family does, but it’s still a good title almost twenty years later.

We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr (2007). I loved this one. Todd Parr’s colorful, childlike, Keith Haring-esque illustrations simply show all different families who come in all shapes and colors (like yellow, purple, green) and just has a simple, positive message about adoption. This is a great, bright choice for talking about adoption and alternative families with younger children.