Arts & Culture » Books

For the children

by Jim Piechota

For the children

A Storytelling of Ravens by Kyle Lukoff; Groundwood Books, $18.95

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love; Candlewick Press, $16.99

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick & David Serlin; Scholastic, $16.99

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders; Random House, $17.99

When thinking about books, LGBTQ adult contemporary fiction or tried-and-true cult classics often come to mind. But for gay readers cultivating families of their own, there remains a distinct need for literary nourishment, especially written for the young ones. Here is a selection of some of the best, brightest, and newest books out on shelves today, just in time for Pride 2018!

The zany debut picture book from Brooklyn school librarian and bookseller Kyle Lukoff "A Storytelling of Ravens" is a curious oddity wonderfully illustrated by the mixed-media talents of Atlanta artist Natalie Nelson. Aimed at children ages 5-8, the story focuses on the collective nouns of animals, and the situations colorfully splashed across the double-wide pages are creative and wonderfully fun to read aloud to kids (and adults). The opening pages find a "nuisance of cats" blaming something on the dog. What could it be? A "knot" of toads aims for a passing fly, a "storytelling" of ravens awaits a bird to finish his longwinded story, a "sloth" of bears gets table service, and a "bloat" of hippopotamuses deliciously awaits the result of an "explosion at the cupcake factory!" Silly, fun, and expressive, this book is a true winner for children's bedside tables.

Perfectly appropriate for this same age range is affirmed water-lover Jessica Love's gorgeous tale of individualism and personal expression, "Julian is a Mermaid." Julian, an Afro-Latinx child, discovers he has a mermaid tail. Once he begins to believe himself to be a goddess from the sea, his remarkable transformation becomes a reality. His Abuela may be perplexed at first, but things merge together beautifully. Here's an effective new entry in trans literature for children that addresses issues of gender nonconformity, acceptance, and the transformative powers of water.

Husband-and-husband creative partners Brian Selznick and David Serlin collaborate on an inventive storybook featuring an adorable, tiny animal named Baby Monkey. Illustrated in pencil, the story explores the mystery of missing objects, and encourages children to discover them while reading about Baby's sleuthing adventures. Visual clues, mystery guests, and hours of entertainment await readers of all ages (but mostly kids) in this romp with Baby Monkey and his gaggle of kooky clients.

Sharing the important life and work of gay rights leader Harvey Milk with children is schoolteacher Rob Sanders' empowering story "Pride." As the opening pages suggest, it's all about hope and having a dream to cling to, even in the darkest days. This book tells the revolutionary history of the gay pride flag, and its importance to the LGBTQ community and the globe, as an example of the power of community and solidarity. Milk's political legacy is at the center of the book, a story built on pride, unconditional love, acceptance, and fighting the good fight for equal rights. Illustrated by the talented Steven Salerno, the book is a perfect teaching tool for classrooms and living rooms.


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