27 Trans and Gender Nonconforming Picture Books

This post is a companion piece to Books for Raising and Loving Gender Creative Kids.

I love LGBTQ+ picture books. I love reading them; I love researching their history; I love promoting them in my library; and I love crafting recommended reading lists. Just over the last five and a half years, the number and quality of queer picture books has exploded across publishing. My first Pride Month display in 2016 was pretty sad. Now we’re absolutely overflowing with titles to the point I can create more specific lists, such as the one you’re reading right now.

The following books feature TGNC (transgender and gender non-conforming) characters. In late 2021, I have the luxury of being picky with this list. Every book here explicitly refers to gender. A few include non-human characters, but even those are on a gender journey. No longer do we have to make do with sanitized parables that have nothing to do about gender and everything to do about crayons, animals, or even mythical creatures. This isn’t a “be who you are” list. This is a list, for children roughly ages 4-8, about gender related topics, ranging from drag queens to kids transitioning to non-binary parents to pronouns galore.

The American Library Association keeps records of the most commonly banned and challenged books. In 2019, the top ten list included eight children’s or young adult books banned due to LGBTQ+ content. Of those eight, four specifically deal with transgender topics. It’s vital that this content is made and kept available for all age groups. Gender creative kiddos need to be affirmed and validated through stories that reflect their lived experiences. All children benefit from being exposed to the fullest breadth of human experience possible. I encourage my readers to actively seek out and promote TGNC content in their child’s library. Support educators fighting to keep these titles available for all children. Support authors, illustrators, and publishers producing this content. And most of all, support the children in your life!

Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero

Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero cover
Written by Ellie Royce
Illustrated by Hannah Chambers

Told from the perspective of their adoring nephew, Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero is the story of a courageous drag queen who saves the day, and brings two communities together.

Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | WorldCat

Be Amazing: A History of Pride

Be Amazing: A History of Pride cover
Written by Desmond Is Amazing
Illustrated by Dylan Glynn

Desmond is amazing–and you are, too. Throughout history, courageous people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul have paved the way for a safer, more inclusive society for LGBTQ individuals, and it’s thanks to them that people just like Desmond can be free to be who they really are.

Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | WorldCat

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope cover
Written by Jodie Patterson
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

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The Boy & the Bindi

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.

Beautifully illustrated by Rajni Perera, The Boy & the Bindi is a joyful celebration of gender and cultural difference.

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Call Me Max

Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff and Luciano Lozano
Written by Kyle Lukoff
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by–a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.

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From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea

From The Stars In The Sky To The Fish In The Sea by Kai Cheng Thom and Wai-Yant Li
Written by Kai Cheng Thom
Illustrated by Wai-Yant Li

In the magical time between night and day, when both the sun and the moon are in the sky, a child is born in a little blue house on a hill. And Miu Lan is not just any child, but one who can change into any shape they can imagine. The only problem is they can’t decide what to be: A boy or a girl? A bird or a fish? A flower or a shooting star? At school, though, they must endure inquisitive looks and difficult questions from the other children, and they have trouble finding friends who will accept them for who they are. But they find comfort in the loving arms of their mother, who always offers them the same loving refrain: “whatever you dream of / i believe you can be / from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.”

In this captivating, beautifully imagined picture book about gender, identity, and the acceptance of the differences between us, Miu Lan faces many questions about who they are and who they may be. But one thing’s for sure: no matter what this child becomes, their mother will love them just the same.

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The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish

The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish by Lil Miss Hot Mess and Olga de Dios Ruiz
Written by Lil Miss Hot Mess
Illustrated by Olga de Dios Ruiz

The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish encourages readers to boldly be exactly who they are. Written by a founding member of the nationally recognized Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), this playful picture book offers a quirky twist on a classic nursery rhyme by illustrating all of the ways to work it. The story plays off The Wheels on the Bus as it follows a drag queen who performs her routine in front of an awestruck audience. A fun frenzy of fierceness, this book will appeal to readers of all ages.

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A House for Everyone

A House for Everyone by Jo Hirst and Naomi Bardoff
Written by Jo Hirst
Illustrated by Naomi Bardoff

At lunchtime, all of Tom’s friends gather at school to work together building their house. Each one of them has a special job to do, and each one of them has a different way of expressing their gender identity. Jackson is a boy who likes to wear dresses. Ivy is a girl who likes her hair cut really short. Alex doesn’t feel like ‘just’ a boy, or ‘just’ a girl. They are all the same, they are all different – but they are all friends. A very simple story that challenges gender stereotypes and shows 4 to 8 year olds that it is OK to be yourself. An engaging story that is more than just an educational tool; this book will assist parents and teachers in giving children the space to explore the full spectrum of gender diversity and will show children the many ways they can express their gender in a truly positive light.

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I Am Jazz

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas
Written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

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I’m Not a Girl: A Transgender Story

I'm Not a Girl: A Transgender Story by Maddox Lyons, Jessica Verdi, and Dana Simpson
Written by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi
Illustrated by Dana Simpson

Based on a true transgender identity journey, the picture book I’m Not a Girl is an empowering story from writers Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi about a boy who is determined to be himself, illustrated by Dana Simpson. Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl. His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl .But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

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Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship

Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson
Written by Jessica Walton
Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

Introducing Teddy introduces the youngest readers to understanding gender identity and transition in an accessible and heart-warming story about being true to yourself and being a good friend. 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. One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can’t figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the 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, not Thomas. 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.

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It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni
Written by Theresa Thorn
Illustrated by Noah Grigni

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between .This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity.

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Jack (Not Jackie)

Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman and Holly Hatam
Written by Erica Silverman
Illustrated by Holly Hatam

Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack. Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to accelerate LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.

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Julián Is a Mermaid

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Written and illustrated by Jessica Love

Winner of a 2019 Stonewall Book Award

In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

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Julián at the Wedding

Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love
Written and illustrated by Jessica Love

The star of Julián Is a Mermaid makes a joyful return–and finds a new friend–at a wedding to be remembered.

Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. Jessica Love returns with a joyful story of friendship and individuality in this radiant follow-up to Julián Is a Mermaid.

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March with Marsha

March with Marsha by Katie Hall and Veronica V. Jones
Written by Katie Hall
Illustrated by Veronica V. Jones

Marsha wants to celebrate her birthday at the one place she and her friends can be themselves: the Stonewall Inn. When the police show up and arrest people for being there, Marsha and Sylvia know this isn’t right and decide to do something. Soon five hundred– no, a thousand others join in. Together they stand up for what is right and start a movement that continues to this day.

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Max and the Talent Show

Max and the Talent Show by Kyle Lukoff and Luciano Lozano
Written by Kyle Lukoff
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Max’s friend Stephen is great at many things. But more than anything else, Stephen can tell a story. His stories have the ability to change listeners’ initial impressions of people and situations. When Stephen signs up for the school’s talent show, Max signs up to be his assistant. After selecting that just-right dress and those just-right shoes for the show, the moment arrives. Stephen steps onto the stage. The lights shine brightly in his face. He looks out into the crowd knowing he has prepared everything, except the one thing that matters–his performance. What will Max, standing in the wings, do to help his friend?

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Max on the Farm

Max on the Farm by Kyle Lukoff and Luciano Lozano
Written by Kyle Lukoff
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Max and Teresa, one of his best friends, wind up having more fun (and a little trouble) than they bargained for on a class fieldtrip to a farm.

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My Maddy

My Maddy by Gayle E. Pitman and Violet Tobacco
Written by Gayle E. Pitman
Illustrated by Violet Tobacco

ALA’s 2021 Rainbow Book List Top Ten Title for Young Readers

Most mommies are girls. Most daddies are boys. But lots of parents are neither a boy nor a girl. Like my Maddy. My Maddy has hazel eyes which are not brown or green. And my Maddy likes sporks because they are not quite a spoon or a fork. Some of the best things in the world are not one thing or the other. They are something in between and entirely their own.

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My Rainbow

My Rainbow by Deshanna Neal, Trinity Neal, and Art Twink
Written by Deshanna Neal and Trinity Neal
Illustrated by Art Twink

A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal.

Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is.

So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is.

With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

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Peanut Goes for the Gold

Peanut Goes for the Gold by Jonathan Van Ness and Gillian Reid
Written by Jonathan Van Ness
Illustrated by Gillian Reid

Jonathan Van Ness, the star of Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, brings his signature humor and positivity to his empowering first picture book, inspiring readers of all ages to love being exactly who they are.

Peanut Goes for the Gold is a charming, funny, and heartfelt picture book that follows the adventures of Peanut, a gender nonbinary guinea pig who does everything with their own personal flare.

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Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! by Joy Ellison and Teshika Silver
Written by Joy Ellison
Illustrated by Teshika Silver

Sylvia and Marsha are closer than sisters. They are kind and brave and not afraid to speak their truth, even when it makes other people angry.

This illustrated book introduces children to the story of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the two transgender women of color who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. It introduces children to issues surrounding gender identity and diversity, accompanied by a reading guide and teaching materials to further the conversation.

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10,000 Dresses

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert and Rex Ray
Written by Marcus Ewert
Illustrated by Rex Ray

Every night, Bailey dreams about magical dresses: dresses made of crystals and rainbows, dresses made of flowers, dresses made of windows. . . . Unfortunately, when Bailey’s awake, no one wants to hear about these beautiful dreams. Quite the contrary. You’re a BOY Mother and Father tell Bailey. You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all. Then Bailey meets Laurel, an older girl who is touched and inspired by Bailey’s imagination and courage. In friendship, the two of them begin making dresses together. And Bailey’s dreams come true

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They, She, He Easy As ABC

They, She, He easy as ABC by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Sg
Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Sg

Ari loves to arabesque. They hold their pose with ease.
Brody is a break dancer. Brody loves to freeze.”

Fast-paced rhyming keeps the flow of text upbeat and rhythmic, and naturally models how to use a wide range of pronouns. There’s no room for stereotypes on THIS dance floor with spirited imagery that keeps names, clothes, hair and behavior fresh and diverse. The combination creates a playful and effortless practice to expand ideas about gender while learning the alphabet and makes being inclusive as easy as A-B-C.

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They She He Me: Free to Be!

They She He Me: Free to Be! by Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Sg
Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Sg

Award winning children’s book author and artist Maya Gonzalez is joined by her partner, Matthew, in their first children’s book together.

With virtually no reflection for different gender presentations in children’s books available, together they created a book to do just that. They She He Me, Free to Be shows many gender presentations under each pronoun and invites even more. A go-to place to help keep the conversations alive, break down assumptions of who is “she” or “he” and expand beyond the binary to include “they” and more.

The back offers a playful narrative about pronouns, inviting kids to know themselves inside and out, claim the pronouns that express the spirit of who they are and respect that in others. Also included is some discussion for grown-ups on how to hold a supportive space for kids (and for themselves).

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What Are Your Words?: A Book about Pronouns

What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke and Anne Passchier
Written by Katherine Locke
Illustrated by Anne Passchier

Follow Ari through their neighborhood as they try to find their words in this sweet, accessible introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns that is perfect for readers of all ages. Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away–sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you. Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages.

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When Aidan Became a Brother

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita 
Written by Kyle Lukoff
Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 

Winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award!

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does making things right actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | WorldCat

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