February is LGBT History Month in the UK and to celebrate, we’ve pulled together a list of brilliant books (including already published books and upcoming releases) with LGBTQ+ characters and themes; books that explore gender, sexuality and what it means to be a young LGBQT+ person in the UK and worldwide. From a story about a young boy who wants to dress up as a fabulous mermaid to an illustrated book about 52 queer heroes, there is something for everyone to add to their reading list.
Julian is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, published by Walker Books
While riding the subway home with his nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?
Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly – and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think? Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat. But hiding the thing that makes you different proves tricky and upsetting. Can Norman ever truly be himself? A poignant yet uplifting story about individuality and being free to be yourself, even if that isn’t quite the same as everybody else.
The Girl with Two Dads, by Mel Elliott, published by Egmont
Pearl cannot wait to meet them and imagines how different life must be, but she soon realises that it is just the same as having a mum and a dad!
A wonderful book to celebrate diversity.
Introducing Teddy, by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson, published by Bloomsbury
Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do together.
One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can’t figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: ‘In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.’ And Errol says, ‘I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.’
A sweet and gentle story about being true to yourself and being a good friend, Introducing Teddy can also help children understand gender identity.
Little People, Big Dreams: David Bowie, by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Ana Albero, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
As a child, young David had a head full of songs and ideas. He was inspired by the pop and mod scenes in Britain to pick up the saxophone. After earning his stripes in some of the coolest bands in London, David splashed onto the solo scene. His songwriting talent and musical skill made him one of rock and roll’s all-time greatest artists. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the musician’s life.
To Night Owl From Dogfish, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, illustrated by Meg Wolitzer, published by Egmont
A reverse Parent Trap for a new generation from New York Times bestselling authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.
Avery (Night Owl) is bookish, intense, likes to plan ahead, and is afraid of many things. Bett (Dogfish) is fearless, outgoing, and lives in the moment. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and their dads are dating each other. Against all odds, the girls soon can’t imagine a life without each other. But when the worst happens, and their dads break up, Avery and Bett must figure out a way to get them to fall in love again. Is keeping a family together as easy as they think it is?
Sometimes zany, often touching, always funny, this novel told in emails and letters is about friendship and family – and making the most of both.
This beautiful, bold book celebrates the achievements of LGBT people through history and from around the world. It features full-colour portraits of a diverse selection of 52 inspirational role models accompanied by short biographies that focus on their incredible successes, from Freddie Mercury’s contribution to music to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, this title will show children that anything is possible.
Rainbow Revolutions, by Jamie Lawson, published by Hachette Children’s Group
What happened that night would come to be a defining moment in the LGBTQ+ rights movement and for queer people everywhere.
From the impassioned speeches of bold activists Karl Ulrichs and Audre Lorde to the birth of Pride and queer pop culture, Rainbow Revolutions charts the dramatic rise of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and celebrates the courageous individuals who stood up and demanded recognition. With bold and beautiful illustrations by pop artist Eve Lloyd Knight.
Meet 30 positive male role models from throughout history. From people of peace like Gandhi, to artists like David Hockney, musicians like Prince, poets like Kit Yan, and fashion icons like Edward Enninful – all are talented and diverse. These men have fought conventional stereotypes to prove that modern day masculinity can be cool – and defined freely. Role models hand-picked to inspire a modern generation of boys.
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, by Kelly McCaughrain, published by Walker Books
Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school.
Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are – all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic.
The Cradle of All Worlds, by Jeremy Lachlan, published by Egmont
A spell-binding middle grade adventure with a budding LGBT romance. Stranger Things meets Pullman’s Northern Lights in this dark and magical fantasy adventure.
Fourteen years ago, Jane Doe and her father arrived on the steps of the Manor – the entrance to a dangerous labyrinth connecting the island of Bluehaven to many other worlds. That was the same night the earthquakes started, and Jane and her silent, troubled father, John have been feared and despised ever since. When the strongest quake yet strikes and John disappears back into the Manor, Jane embarks on a perilous adventure to find her father and save her world – perhaps all worlds – from destruction . . .
Lily’s Just Fine, by Gill Stewart, published by Sweet Cherry Publishing
Lily couldn’t have planned life better herself. She lives in the best house in town and she’s dating the most popular boy in school. Everything else she can fix. Mum’s apathy? On it! The stuffy gala committee? Watch this space! Tom has enough on his plate without trying to drag Newton St Cuthbert into the 21st century. His sister is sick and there’s nothing anyone can do. Not doctors, not his parents, and certainly not Lily Hildebrand.
Sail away this summer with the unexpected romance of Scotland’s most determined teenager.
The Hand, The Eye & The Heart, by Zoe Marriot, published by Walker Books (April 2019)
Zhilan was assigned female at birth. Despite a gift for illusions, they know they are destined to live out their life within the confines of the women’s quarter. But when civil war sets the empire aflame, Zhilan is determined save their disabled father from the battlefield. By taking his place. Surviving brutal army training as a boy – Zhi – is only the first challenge. In the glittering court of the Land of Dragons, love and betrayal are two sides of the same smile, and soon the fate of a nation rests on Zhi’s shoulders. But to win, they must decide where their heart truly belongs…
Yay! You’re Gay! (Now what?), by Riyadh Khalaf, illustrated by Melissa McFeeters, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Yay! You’re gay! Or maybe you’re bi. Or maybe you just feel different… in time, that difference will become the greatest gift you could ask for. It will bring you love, a sense of identity, a new community, and eventually the freedom to be yourself. I promise!
In this personal, heartfelt go-to guide for young queer guys, YouTuber and presenter Riyadh Khalaf shares frank advice about everything from coming out to relationships, as well as interviews with inspirational queer role models, and encouragement for times when you’re feeling low. There’s a support section for family and friends written by Riyadh’s parents and LOADS of hilarious, embarrassing, inspiring and moving stories from gay boys around the world.
Includes chapters on: Labels – what does it mean to be gay, bi, trans or queer?; Coming out; Your first crush; Dealing with bullies; Learning to love your body; Sex ed for gay guys; Coping with embarrassing moments; Finding your tribe
What If It’s Us, by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, published by Simon & Schuster
Set against the backdrop of the frenzied Edinburgh festival, Out of the Blue tackles questions of grief and guilt and fear over who we really are.
Noah Can’t Even, by Simon James Green, published by Scholastic
Poor Noah Grimes. His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyoncé tribute act is an embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is… Well, it’s pure hell. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. And that’s when things go from bad to utter chaos! A madcap coming-of-age (and out!) story sure to have readers cringing and snorting with laughter to the very last page.
Someday, by David Levithan, published by Egmont
Every day a new body. Every day a new life. Every day a new choice.
For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day has ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who was like this. A was wrong. Someday starts where Every Day left off. David Levithan takes readers further into the lives of A and Rhiannon, exploring more deeply what Every Day and Another Day had originally asked: What is a soul? What makes us human? And does gender matter when it comes to love?
Levithan’s powerful novel explores the complexities of first love, in a way that will capture anyone who loves Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Jandy Nelson.
The Quiet at the End of the World, by Lauren James, published by Walker Books
How far would you go to save those you love? Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking and looking for treasure – until a secret is uncovered that threatens their entire existence. Now Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide what to sacrifice to save the whole human race.
All the Invisible Things, by Orlagh Collins, published by Bloomsbury
A warm, witty, important story about being a young woman today, and what it’s like to find a real connection amid all the noise. Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.
With Pez, the days felt endless – cycling, climbing trees, sucking sour sweets till our tongues burned. I’d give anything to be that girl again.
For four years Vetty Lake has been keeping her heart in hiding. Since her mum died and her family moved out of London, it’s felt so much safer not to tell people how she really feels. She’s never even told anyone she’s attracted to girls as well as boys. But now Vetty’s seventeen and coming back to London she’s determined to start living out loud. She’s convinced that reconnecting with her childhood best friend Pez is the key. She was always fearless around him. But when she sees Pez again, he’s different. Guarded. It’s like their special connection never existed. And suddenly Vetty’s sure he’s been hiding too…
Things a Bright Girl Can Do, by Sally Nicholls, published by Andersen Press
Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for women’s votes.
Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom. May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit.
Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?
Shortlisted for the National Book Award and the YA Book Prize
Download the discussion guide here
If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo, published by Usborne
Amanda Hardy is the new girl at school. Like everyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she’s falling in love with. Amanda has a secret. At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out…
A book about loving yourself and being loved for who you really are. Meredith’s new YA novel Birthday is due this summer.
Red Scrolls of Magic, by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, published by Simon & Schuster (April 2019)
All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.
Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been side-tracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.
To Be Perfectly Honest, by Jess Vallance, published by Hot Key Books (the follow-up to You Only Live Once)
But total honesty doesn’t always go down well when you’ve got a family dinner to go to, a job interview to get through and a new girlfriend to impress.
And when Gracie finally goes too far, she realises she’s going to have to think creatively if she’s going to put things right.
Skylarks, by Karen Gregory, published by Bloomsbury
‘We watch the bird as it flies high above us, singing like it’s the only thing in the world that matters. And I feel it – that life can be beautiful. That there are possibilities.’
Keep your head down and don’t borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it’s seen her family through some tough times. It’s not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad’s bad back, or the threat of losing their house. So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni’s sure they’re destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged – the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy. But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver.
Odd One Out, by Nic Stone, published by Simon & Schuster
Courtney Cooper and Jupiter Sanchez have been best friends and neighbours since they were seven years old. And despite Courtney’s best efforts to suppress it, he can’t help being hopelessly in love with Jupe. But a relationship with the girl next door isn’t in the cards because Jupiter has been out of the closet for almost as long as she’s known Courtney. Then Rae Chin moves to town, and Courtney thinks he’s finally found a girl he could fall for who isn’t Jupiter. The only problem: Jupiter is falling for Rae, too.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, by Sabina Khan, published by Scholastic
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that impossible to do. She rolls her eyes when they blatantly favour her brother and saves her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. If she can just hold out another few months, Rukhsana will be out of her familial home and away from her parents’ ever-watchful eyes at Caltech, a place where she thinks she can finally be herself. But when she is caught kissing her girlfriend Ariana, her devastated parents take Rukhsana to Bangladesh, where everything she had been planning is out of reach. There, immersed in a world of tradition and arranged marriages, Rukhsana finds the perspective she’s been looking for in her grandmother’s old diary. The only question left for her to answer is: Can she fight for the life she wants without losing her family in the process?
Only the Ocean, by Natasha Carthew, published by Bloomsbury
The two girls sat at opposite ends of the boat and Kel dug and stretched the oars into the ocean like her life depended upon it because it did. ‘Just so you know,’ said Rose, ‘everything, and I mean everything, is your fault.’
Kel Crow lives in a dead-end swamp with her deadbeat family and a damaged heart. But she has a plan to escape. It’s a one-two-three fortune story that goes: stow away on the ship, kidnap the girl, swap the girl to pay for passage to America and a life-saving operation. But the ocean is an untameable force, and wrecks ships and plans alike. Sweet, raw and uncompromising – this is the story of an unforgettable relationship forged on an epic journey.
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera, published by Simon & Schuster
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness but with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron starts hanging out with a new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s friends notice, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is…
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan, published by Egmont
The two boys kissing are Craig and Harry. They’re hoping to set the world record for the longest kiss. They’re not a couple, but they used to be. Peter and Neil are a couple. Their kisses are different. Avery and Ryan have only just met and are trying to figure out what happens next. Cooper is alone. He’s not sure how he feels.
As the marathon progresses, these boys, their friends and families evaluate the changing nature of feelings, behaviour and this crazy thing called love under the watchful eyes of a Greek chorus of a generation of men lost to AIDS. David Levithan connects recent history with the present moment in a novel that is both a celebration of equality and a memorial to a lost generation.
Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they’ve never met … until one day when they’re made to sit together. They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance.
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realised.