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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 2020 are noted; all others were published in 2021. Below are 20 exceptional choices from the list. For the complete list, visit glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/archives/1429.
Top 10 Titles for Young Readers
Bodies Are Cool. By Tyler Feder. Illus. by the author. Dial, $17.99 (9780593112625). PreS–K.
A rhyming celebration of body positivity featuring detailed and inclusive illustrations. Perfect for a fun and inclusive read aloud! A 2022 Notable Children’s Book and a 2022 Rise: A Feminist Book Project Top 10.
Both Can Be True. By Jules Machais. HarperCollins/Quill Tree, $16.99 (9780063053892). Gr. 3–6.
Nonbinary Ash and sensitive Daniel both have trouble fitting in, but when they come together to help rescue a stray dog, they find affirmation and belonging.
Calvin. By Vanessa Ford and JR Ford. Ilus. by the Kayla Harren. Putnam, $16.99 (9780593108673). PreS–Gr. 3.
Calvin has always known he is a boy, and with the support of his family and school, he proudly starts the new school year with his new name.
The Deepest Breath. By Meg Grehan. Clarion, $16.99 (9780358354758). Gr. 3–6.
In this novel in verse, 11-year-old Stevie is learning what it means to love someone, even if that person is not who your family or even yourself expected.
Frankie & Bug. By Gayle Forman. Aladdin, $17.99 (9781534482531). Gr. 3–6.
Bug is sure that her summer is going to be the worst, but a new friendship with Frankie and some realizations about her own family make it a transformative one.
Grandad’s Camper. By Harry Woodgate. Illus. by the author. little bee, $17.99 (9781499811933). PreS–Gr. 1.
A little girl’s curiosity sends Grandad down memory lane, talking about all of the adventures he and Gramps went on before Gramps died.
The Insiders. By Mark Oshiro. Harper, $16.99 (9780063008106). Gr. 3–6.
When Héctor Muñoz feels like he needs to disappear at his new school, a janitor’s closet becomes the unlikely site of a safe space and connections with true friends.
Thanks a Lot, Universe. By Chad Lucas. Abrams, $16.99 (9781419751028). Gr. 5–8.
After Brian ends up in foster care, popular Ezra notices he’s pulling away from the rest of the basketball team. Can Ezra help Brian, even if it means revealing his crush on him? A 2022 Notable Children’s Book.
Too Bright to See. By Kyle Lukoff. Dial, $17.99 (9780593111154). Gr. 5–8.
Eleven-year-old Bug is dealing with typical coming-of-age questions while a haunting presence in the house helps Bug navigate his gender and identity. A 2022 Newbery Honor Book, a 2022 Stonewall Book Award winner, and a 2022 Notable Children’s Book.
What Are Your Words: A Book about Pronouns. By Katherine Locke. Ilus. by Anne Passchier. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316542067). PreS–Gr. 3.
Ari uses different pronouns, so when Uncle Lior comes to visit, he always asks “what are your words?” A celebratory introduction to pronouns for readers of all ages.
Top 10 Titles for Young Adults
Ace of Spades. By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (9781250800817). Gr. 9–12.
Anonymous texter Aces leaks private information about honor students Chiamaka and Devon, threatening their status as prefects in this boarding-school thriller. A 2022 Morris Award finalist and a 2022 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
Boys Run the Riot. By Keito Gaku. Art by the author.
Ryo, who’s trans, starts a clothing line with surprising ally Jin, who shares his love for boundary-breaking fashion in this excellent manga. A 2022 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.
The Darkness Outside Us. By Eliot Schrefer. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99 (9780062888280). Gr. 8–12.
Alone in space with only their ship’s operating system to guide them, Ambrose and Kodiak must learn to trust each other when their mission goes awry. A 2022 Stonewall Honor Book and a 2022 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
Each of Us a Desert. By Mark Oshiro. 2020. Tor Teen, $17.99 (9781250169211). Gr. 8–12.
Xochitl is the cuentista for her village, and when she learns a powerful secret, she embarks on a journey with a strange girl to understand her world.
The Girl from the Sea. By Molly Knox Ostertag. Art by the author. Scholastic/Graphix, $24.99 (9781338540581). Gr. 7–12.
In this beautiful graphic novel, Morgan keeps lots of secrets, especially falling in love with a selkie girl named Keltie. But secrets have a way of coming to the surface. A 2022 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens and a 2022 Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. By Abida Jaigirdar. Page Street, $17.9 (9781645672579). Gr. 8–12.
When Hani’s friends question her bisexuality, she impulsively tells them Ishu is her girlfriend. Hani and Ishu keep up the façade for both their sakes, but soon real feelings start to grow.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club. By Malinda Lo. Dutton, $18.99 (9780525555254). Gr. 9–12.
In 1954 San Francisco, Lily Hu gradually realizes that she’s a lesbian while the Red Scare puts her family’s citizenship status under threat. The 2022 Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature winner, a 2022 Printz Honor Book, a 2022 Stonewall Book Award winner, a 2022 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and a 2022 Rise: A Feminist Book Project Top 10.
Legendborn. By Tracy Deonn. 2020. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $19.99 (9781534441606). Gr. 9–12.
While at a residential program at UNC–Chapel Hill, Bree is introduced to a secret society called “Legendborn,” descended from the Knights of the Round Table, and learns more than she ever thought possible.
The Passing Playbook. By Isaac Fitzsimons. Dial, $17.99 (9781984815408). Gr. 7–11.
Spencer’s parents decide to send him to a liberal, private school where no one knows he’s trans. When his coach learns the truth, will he have to spend the soccer season on the sidelines? A 2022 Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
This Poison Heart. By Kalynn Bayron. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (9781547603909). Gr. 8–12.
Briseis, who can magically grow plants, inherits a huge estate from a long-lost relative, where she discovers deep and powerful secrets about her identity. A 2022 Best Fiction for Young Adults.
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