LGBTQ Children’s Picture Books And Its Evolution

Over the last three decades, LGBTQ children’s books have gained in prominence and importance. We owe our gratitude to children authors who were and are brave enough to broach the subject head on despite knowing the backlash that would ensue. Thirty five years on we have seen greater acceptance of these books into a wide cross section of family units. Be it read for awareness, education or the simple pleasure of enjoying the word, they play an important role towards universal same gender equality.

By the same token, we still face challenges. We still face discrimination and injustice toward such literature, aimed at nothing more than to express one’s belief or simply as a resource for children growing up in modern society. Let’s delve into how these books have risen to the occasion against all odds and how they have made a credible contribution to the literary world.

1980 Your Family My Family
Your Family, My Family by Joan Drescher in 1980 was one of the first US children’s picture books to show a same-sex family. The book was published in the hope of educating people on different types of families, only to be met with negative repercussions.

1983
Jenny Lives With Eric and MartinJenny Lives with Eric and Martin by Susanne Bosche was one of the first children’s books that included gay fathers. A Danish book, it was translated into English in 1983. Using real photography, the book depicted five year old Jenny, who resided with her father and his partner.

The book sparked incredible controversy and went against UK’s Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. The book highlighted how the Act forbade the promotion of homosexuality by local government which squashed the book’s attempt at educating people about LGBTQ families. The book was also condemned by UK’s Secretary of State for Education. It is pleasing to note that both Denmark and the UK have now legalised same sex marriage.

1989 Heather Has Two Mommies
In 1989, the most talked about LGBTQ children’s book written by Leslea Newman was released and recently celebrated its twenty five year anniversary. Heather Has Two Mommies is the first lesbian-themed children’s book ever to be published. This book truly heightened same gender family awareness and openly acknowledging that it existed.

As one can imagine, the controversy that emerged from this publication was huge. Libraries banned it, anti-gay groups attacked it, and the Chancellor of New York City’s school was sacked. It even became a subject of debate in the U.S. Senate who banded together to sponsor an amendment stopping federal aid to school districts that supported the literature.

Congratulations Leslea Newman! Your book has lasted the test of time and has come out on top time in the end. We are still here and the U.S. is closer to Federal legalisation of same gender marriage.

Daddy's Roommate1991
Michael Willhoite wrote a children’s book entitled Daddy’s Roommate about a young boy whose divorced father now lived with his same gender partner. It was one of the first books that depicted gay partnerships in a positive manner.

As one would expect, acceptance of the subject matter was difficult when it made second place on the American Library Association’s (ALA) 100 most challenged books of the 90’s.

2003 King & King
The rest of the 90’s remained quiet on the LGBTQ children’s literature front until Dutch authors Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland wrote King & King. The book tells the story of Prince Bertie, who is single despite his mother’s wish that he marry. The queen sends out an invitation to the world’s princesses to come and meet her son, only for her to be disappointed when he declares “I’ve never cared much for princesses.” The prince ultimately meets Prince Lee, whom he falls in love with and they eventually get married.

King & King created an immense amount of scrutiny and challenges.  In 2006, a school in Massachusetts sued a school district after the book was presented in a second grade class, despite same-sex marriage being legal in that state. A judge dismissed the lawsuit stating that diversity was the hallmark of the nation. One big step for equality!

and Tango Makes Three2005
And Tango Makes Three is a 2005 children’s book written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole. The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life when they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

Regardless of the numerous awards and accolades the book had won, it became no stranger to censorship and heated debates about adoption and homosexuality in animals. Conservative groups such as the Focus on the Family Action group stated that the book was inappropriate, misleading and far from the truth and had a political agenda to young children. The ALA reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged. In 2014, it made it to ALA’s “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014.”

Ten years later, it continues to be on Amazon’s bestselling list!

200810,000 Dresses
2008 brings us one of the first children’s books about transgender people and their experiences, entitled 10,000 Dresses. Written by Marcus Ewert and illustrated by Rex Ray, the book is about Bailey who dreams about beautiful dresses and longs to make them and wear them. However, Bailey’s family is not understanding or supportive, as Bailey is biologically male. Although she faces some challenges, she is still strong willed who believes in herself and who looks elsewhere for support.

This book has been described as simple but powerful with strong symbolic illustrations that manage to accentuate the storyline.

The Purim Superhero2013
Author and illustrator Elisabeth Kushner through Kar-Ben Publishing released the first gay-themed Jewish Children’s book. In conjunction with Keshet, a national grassroots organisation that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews in Jewish life.

The book is centered on a Purim holiday theme and is entitled The Purim Superhero. It is a story of a young boy who can’t decide which Purim costume to choose and requires the help of his two fathers.

2014 My Chacha is Gay
In 2014, we have the privilege of seeing Pakistan’s first anti-homophobia children’s book by Eiynah. Eiynah is a Pakistani-Canadian blogger/artist who dreams of a progressive Pakistan as opposed to the extremist state it is close to becoming.

My Chacha Is Gay is about a young boy named Ahmed and his gay uncle. It was originally a post on her blog. It received over 10,000 views and shares over two days with many readers encouraging her to get crowdfunding underway to get the book published. She achieved her goal quickly and she has since received much publicity.

Eiynah has noted that the Pakistani media have been relatively quiet about her controversial book but she has certainly received more than her fair share of hate mail since its posting. But she soldiers on and we can certainly thank her for her courage!

This Day In JuneJUNE – PRIDE MONTH
As we approach Pride Month, many communities around the world host gay pride celebrations to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, when the New York City police raided a gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, and the patrons resisted arrest and fought back over three days.

In 2014, the American Psychological Association published its first children’s book to address sexual orientation and gender diversity. Author Gayle E. Pitman, PhD, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Sacramento City College, wrote the story This Day In June, after noticing students in her psychology of sexual orientation classes knew very little about LGBTQ history.

The book showcases pride parade facts on its pages with each page containing illustrations of part of a parade tied to a group or an event. The reading guide describes the historical and/or cultural significance of each scenario and is aimed at children 4-8 years.

NEWS
Despite the prevalence of LGBTQ awareness over the years, LGBTQ children’s literature is still met with such intolerance.

Last year, The National Library Board of Singapore, which operates twenty six public libraries, deemed children’s gay literature as inappropriate and proceeded to literally destroy them. The conservative city-states’ Information Minister, Yaacob Ibrahim, said he supported the decision. Gay sex remains illegal in Singapore and homosexuality continues to be a taboo subject. This move sparked global outrage and a massive step backwards in the eyes of gay activists.

Just a few weeks ago, Efland-Cheeks Elementary School in North Carolina made headline news when a third grade teacher read King & King in the classroom. Many parents lodged complaints that they had not been notified of the reading and its contents. A public forum was held to deal with the outrage which was highly explosive and lasted over two hours. One parent was even kicked out for being overly disruptive.

2015 Wishful Wedding by A.S. Chung
Just a few weeks ago, Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. What a momentous, historical occasion and superb win for gay rights. As a result of the landmark event, this has now prompted widespread discussion in Australia. How is it possible that this great nation that prides itself on diversity remain homophobic?

Australian author A.S. Chung hopes to highlight marriage equality to children and their families through her picture book entitled Wishful Wedding.

“Papa’s sister is getting married today! Daddy and I get ready, a flower girl I am. We witness in delight and giggle with glee but deep down in our hearts, we’re sad you see? When will my fathers be able to wed? I can only hope for change, in the future ahead.”

OUR WISH – PIGEONHOLE BOOKS
Children’s literature is precious. LGBTQ literature is priceless. Let’s celebrate Pride month and LGBTQ Families Day by embracing all these wonderful books! Created by authors who wish for nothing more than to write, heighten awareness, tell a story and educate the younger generation.

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Top Three Children’s Picture Book Reviewers

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by Jonathan Cohen. Entitled: and read all over

Reviews are the commodity with which all self-publishing authors trade on. It makes our world go round and we depend heavily upon it to give us credibility and an SEO spot in the jungle that is Amazon.

Finding reviewers who are willing to review children’s picture books is like stumbling across a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! As they are becoming lesser by the numbers, it is harder to request for one’s book to be accepted. It is even harder to find reviewers who are willing to accept unsolicited submissions. These reviewers are also getting inundated with requests as their pile of books increases quicker than they can read.

There are however, a few out there that are still active in the reviewing game. I thank them every day for existing and providing this ever so important service to us. Here are three of my favourite blogs that specialise in reviewing children’s picture books and that are currently accepting requests and /or submissions.

THE PICTURE BOOK REVIEW
With over 85,000 views on her blog, Tiffa runs a comprehensive review site. A SAHM, Tiffa reads to her two sons so frequently, she got rid of their television and have since enjoyed literally thousands of books together. The site also features favourites and top ten lists and she also blogs a summary of books she has read. This is usually followed through with a full book review if she deems it worthy.

Disclosure:
Some of the links and images in the posts are AMAZON AFFILIATE links and others are INDIEBOUND AFFILIATE links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. This goes to fund my family’s picture book habit. It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.

Review Policy:
As of January 1, 2015:  I happily accept picture books for review.  If we love the book, I’ll write a review about it.   I accept physical copies only — ARCs, galleys, etc. are fine — it just needs to be something I can sit down and read with my family.

Music to our ears Tiffa!

BONNIE FERRANTE – BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
Bonnie is a retired grade school teacher of thirty-three years, teacher librarian and a traditionally published writer. She currently focusses on reviewing picture books and she has a great love of reading to/with children and writing for children.

Bonnie’s reviews are opinionated, backed up by comprehensive details about the book. She has no qualms in giving a low rating review and will post it on her blog. I admire her courage when most prefer not to post bad reviews. She is however not brutal and reviews are written professionally offering helpful criticism. Although she mentions she won’t post a review that is under 3 thumbs up, I have seen a 2 thumbs up review on her blog!

Here is her rating system:
5 thumbs up – Fabulous
4 thumbs up – Very Good
3 thumbs up – Okay
2 thumbs up – Needs Work
1 thumb up – Yuk!

Review Policy (part thereof):
• If you submit a paperback copy, it will be reviewed first. Ask for my postal address.
• Or send a copy of the book in the body of the email. I will not open attachments. Send to b.ferrante at tbaytel dot net. Please put “request for review” in the subject line
• If you do not send a paperback copy of your book, I will still accept a pdf or mobi copy, but it will go to the bottom of the list.
• NOTE: You must be a follower to submit.

Included with this is a list of questions that needs to accompany the submission. Make sure to follow all her instructions precisely. Check it out here.

CHILDREN’S ILLUSTRATED PICTURE EBOOK REVIEW
Valerie Harmon is a writer, English teacher, play director, and editor. She is the author of the wantstobe children’s book series of which her first six books have hit NUMBER 1 BEST SELLER in category on Amazon Kindle. She maintains a blog whereby she reviews picture eBooks. She believes that illustrated eBooks are a niche and is now a reality however they can be hit and miss in terms of quality. It is her aim to highlight the best children’s picture e-books and do her part to lift the quality within the niche.

This is the rating system she uses:
5 Stars – The best book she’s read in a long time.
4 Stars – A great read, but not the best she’s read in a long time.
3 Stars –  A decent book. She’d recommend it but there were a few flaws (storyline issues, distracting typos, average illustrations).
2 stars and under – She does not write reviews under 3 stars.

She rates specifically on illustrations, cover and storyline with a total score rating.

Review Policy:
1) Valerie will ONLY review fully-illustrated children’s picture e-books. PLEASE do not ask her to review books from any other genre.

2) Please submit following these submission guidelines:
• In the subject line of your email type: Children’s Book Review
• Attach your book to the email in .mobi or .pdf format. Or link to it for free on Amazon.
• Within the email make a formal review request by asking Valerie to review the children’s picture e-book and add a list of links to the website, GoodReads book and author/illustrator pages, Amazon book and author/illustrator pages, and Facebook page (for your book/author, not personal). Add a one paragraph biography about the author and illustrator.
• Submit it to valjeanh [at] gmail [dot]com, and then wait. Depending on Valerie’s backlog, it may take a week or two (or more).

3) These are Valerie’s rules of reviewing;
• She is under no obligation to review your book.
• She reviews it for free. In exchange for the e-book, she gives a fair and honest review, and will not be paid for it.
• She will NOT review a book that she feels rates below a 3. Please remember literature is subjective. Valerie will rate the book according to her opinion. If she can’t get into it, believes the book needs work, and/or is not eligible for a 3-star rating or higher, she is not required to write a review.You may agree or disagree, but remember, in submitting your book you are asking for her opinion.
• Valerie might review the book, if it’s 3 stars or more, on this blog. If she REALLY likes it, she may also review it on Amazon, The Kindle Book Review, GoodReads and Facebook. But she is not committed to so–it depends on how enthusiastic she feels about your book, and how much time she has.
• If your book is about farting or burping, Valerie is not interested in reading it or reviewing it.

Good luck fellow children’s picture book self-publishers! Let’s support them in any way we can as they provide a wonderful service in this highly competitive market.

Personally, thank you Tiffa, Bonnie and Valerie! Your hard work is much appreciated and I hope you will continue to review picture books for many years to come!

Should I Pay For A Kirkus Review?

by Hash Milhan. Entitled: Books to be returned…

That is the million dollar question isn’t it?

Having read and researched a multitude of sites and forums and speaking with authors, I have come to the conclusion that it depends entirely on your objective and understanding the service which Kirkus provides. There are a resounding number of disappointed and even angry authors out there who have felt extremely short changed by Kirkus.

I whole heartedly believe if you decide to enter into this venture, you have to understand a few fundamental facts. This will alleviate some of the negative experiences.

KIRKUS INDIE PROGRAM
Let’s first understand how the Kirkus Indie program really works and why, despite so many unhappy customers, it continues to be a prevalent force within the industry.

  • The Kirkus Indie program is a paid review service dedicated to self-publishing authors. A standard service with a 7-9 week turnaround will set you back $425.00 whilst an express service costing $525.00 will get you your review within 4-6 weeks.
  • They review approximately 3,000 self-published books every year
  • A typical review is about 250-350 words with majority of the review being a summary of the book. The actual opinion about the book is usually only one sentence of about 15-20 words and Kirkus has known to be overly harsh.
  • The magazine is published twice a month and is distributed to over 5,000 industry partners including agents, publishers, buyers, librarians, film executives and foreign publishers. In the publication, the editors will select two Indie reviews to feature. These selections are based entirely at their discretion and have normally been nominated based on receiving the strongest reviews within their genre.
  • It is every self-published authors dream to gain a Kirkus Star, which is awarded to books of exceptional merit. A Kirkus Star is one of the most revered designations in the industry. An average of only 2% of the 3,000 books will actually gain this prestigious recognition.
  • Should you receive a negative review, you have the option of not having it published.

MISCONCEPTIONS
It is important to understand what the program does NOT do.

  • A positive Kirkus review will not give you immediate boost in sales. It is not a promotional website designed specifically to sell your books. Many have been disappointed that it had not and claim to have wasted a substantial amount of money.
  • The review itself will not produce a lengthy opinionated appraisal. It is very short and to the point. Don’t expect anything else and you won’t be dissatisfied.
  • The target audience of your review in the first instance is the publishing industry, not your readers. Understand the bigger picture and how eventually that will benefit you from a customer’s point of view.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST KIRKUS
My research has shown me a few repeated personal opinions of why authors shouldn’t engage in a paid Kirkus review. I felt it important to share these sentiments to aid in the decision making process.

  • The reviews are completely subjective. I know I am stating the obvious however, the minute one is paying for a review it would seem that is no longer an acceptable notion. There is a sudden expectation of objectivity.
  • Paying for a review is considered to be publishing faux pax. It has been argued that once you pay for a review, there is a biased expectation that the review would be positive, to please the client.
  • It is expensive. No doubt! Only you can decide for yourself if your marketing budget will allow for such an expense.
  • The review is more a summary than an opinion. This is consistent throughout their website, for every book they have reviewed. You have to decide for yourself if that one sentence could change your status as an author and bring you much needed exposure
  • Kirkus reviews hundreds of books on a monthly basis and therefore your book is easily lost in a mass of others

WHAT KIRKUS CAN DO FOR SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS
Just as there are a plethora of arguments against Kirkus, there are just as many who defend the service and what it can potentially do for self-published authors.

  • What you are actually purchasing when you pay for a Kirkus review is credibility. What you do with that credibility from a marketing perspective is only limited to your self-promotion capabilities.
  • The most beneficial thing about getting a paid review is that you actually receive a review in the stipulated timeline. There are many review sites who no longer accept books simply because they don’t have the time to read the thousands being sent in.
  • You are also getting exposure and professionalism. The reviewers are literary professionals and Kirkus is a well-known reviewing body. I believe it is important to gain a portfolio of reviews from many different sources to please the many different levels of consumers and readers.
  • Self-gratification. It’s about validation that your book is a winner!
  • It is possible for a self-published author to get tremendous exposure from a Kirkus review. With one million page views monthly, you never know what could come from it if you never try.
  • A positive review enables you to extract that blurb for every marketing opportunity. It should be used in editorials, blogs, media kits, book forewords, email signatures etc. It is reputable enough for consumers to recognize the significance of a positive Kirkus review.

It is imperative to keep in mind that you are paying a business to review your book. These literary professionals have to be remunerated somehow! You are not forking out a large sum of money for a random reviewer with no credible profile.

The ultimate outcome of utilising this service is to get a Kirkus Star and the book becomes well recognised in the publishing industry and it turns into a profitable contract. The likelihood of that happening is not impossible but it certainly is difficult. Unless you give it a go, how will you know if your book is up to par? How will you know if you are worthy of the coveted Star? How will you know your work won’t get noticed?

Kirkus is but one of many book review sites. There are many different avenues you can pursue, paid or unpaid, to get a book review. It’s just a matter of whether you believe Kirkus would give you greater credibility in your review repertoire.

Good luck in your decision making process!