Happy Pride! Here are some Canadian books featuring characters and stories from across the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum to add to your collections.
For the youngest reader, Pride Puppy (Orca Book) is an alphabet book that takes readers through the day of a Pride parade. The vibrancy of the illustrations captures the celebratory spirit of the book, which shows a diversity of people heading to the parade, and there is a seek and find activity included, encouraging multiple reads.
A Plan for Pops (Orca Books) doesn’t explicitly address gender or sexual orientation but is a charming family story involving two gay grandparents. The relationship between Lou and his grandfathers is really sweet, and this is a great example of casual or incidental diversity, meaning the central issue or theme of the story is not about being gay, but shows a gay couple just living their lives.
The Boy and the Bindi (Arsenal Pulp Press), written by multi-platform artist Vivek Shraya, is about a boy who loves his mother’s bindi and eventually decides to wear his own. I love the intersection of cultural identity and gender expression in this book. The light, rhyming verse is paired nicely with whimsical art.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Groundwood Books) is another take on gender expression. Morris loves everything about the tangerine dress from his classroom’s dress-up trunk. At first, the kids in his class don’t understand why a boy would wear a dress, but ultimately they learn to accept Morris for who he is. The art here, particularly the use of tangerine, is dreamy and captures Morris’ imaginative spirit.
Middle Grade, Ages 9-12
In Thanks A Lot, Universe (Amulet), Brian is desperately trying to keep his life from unraveling, with his father on the lam, his mother hospitalized for an attempted suicide, and his anxiety threatening to take over his life. Meanwhile, his friend Ezra is developing feelings for Brian, but is concerned that coming out will not only ruin their friendship, but destroy his delicate place among the tough talking basketball players he hangs out with. Told in both Brian and Ezra’s voices, this is a very tender, internal story from debut author Chad Lucas.
Days That End in Y (Scholastic) is the third book in a series I wrote about best friends Benji & Clarissa. Benji is an amalgam of kids I knew growing up and friends of mine. I always knew Benji was gay, but I discovered that a lot of my readers did not, and so I wanted to honour Benji’s identity by giving him a coming out scene in this book. At the time, there were a lot of gay characters in YA, but not many in middle grade fiction, which I wrote about here. I thought it was really important to include because many kids start questioning their identities before high school and I wanted those kids to feel seen. It’s told from the perspective of his friend, Clarissa.
YA, Ages 12+
In When You Get The Chance (Hachette), cousins Mark and Talia are from either side of the country and don’t really see eye-to-eye on much, except in this case they both want to be in Toronto for Pride. This is a fun, contemporary road trip story and if you can’t be at Pride physically, this is a nice alternative!
Bruised (Simon and Schuster) is a poignant and raw story about Daya, daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants, who is grieving the loss of her parents who died in a car accident. She discovers roller derby and gets involved thinking it will be the perfect way to keep bruising herself, but instead she finds an empowering community and learns to heal.
Aetherbound (Dutton) takes place in a harsh science-fiction world and centres on Pendt, whose particular gifts are useless to her family. Instead of waiting for them to trade her for profit, she escapes when they dock at a space station. There she meets a pair of siblings, finds community, and a brand new life. This book is about starting over again, found family and body autonomy, another unique offering from ‘The Meryl Streep of Canadian YA,’ E.K. Johnston.
A Dark and Hollow Star (Simon and Schuster) is an epic fantasy told in four voices that draws on traditional faery lore and is set in contemporary Toronto. A series of murders threatens the destruction of both the human and faery realms, and four unlikely allies come together to save both worlds.
Happy reading and happy PRIDE, friends!