Best Picture Books to Share with Children on Gender Identity, Gender Expression and to Build a Foundation for Conversations

Best Picture Books to Share with Children on Gender Identity, Gender Expression and to Build a Foundation for Conversations

The “Don’t Say Gay” law is set to go into effect here in Florida on July 1st. This is a “grave abuse of power,” as NPR puts it, an abuse of power that will hurt kids in Florida — most especially kids who are already vulnerable — but in reality all Florida kids. It will hurt Florida teachers — who I think we can all agree have enough on their plates right now and instead of this, deserve more independence and respect.
And it will hurt Floridians, who trust our leaders to uphold our democracy. A democratic state should not be in the business of censorship or book banning — that is what authoritarian states do, states like Putin’s Russia, not Florida in 2022.
My nephew was talking with his friends in class in middle school about the new law and was told by his teacher not to discuss it, as she “didn’t want to get in trouble.” This chilling effect is expected to be widespread.
To assist those who want to talk to children on issues related to gender identity and gender expression, we have done an exhaustive search and curated the best of the best picture books that explore these topics for kids age 3 to 10 — in groups of five books.
We’ve also curated books to help build a foundation for these conversations, books that address gender stereotypes or approach the topics through metaphor. We’ve detailed some of our picks here — the curation titles link to all five recommended books on each topic. Enjoy!

5 Best Picture Books About Gender Identity


Call Me Max
This is an excellent book, plain and simple. It is straightforward and explanatory, told from the point of view of a small child entering school for the first time. The teacher calls the little boy Max, as the name on the class list doesn’t seem to fit. He doesn’t know which bathroom to use, as the other kids don’t seem to want him visiting either. Even though he makes friends easily, all the other kids keep asking if he is a boy or a girl. The word “transgender” is introduced on the first page, and we are walked through exactly what that means. A stellar choice for children of all ages.
Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
The chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation offers this true story of her child’s struggle to tell his family that he doesn’t “feel like a boy,” he IS a boy! We feel like we’re going through his journey with him — we hear about how he feels before his revelation, then about his brother’s, friend’s and grandfather’s reaction, then how he competes in karate as a boy. A relatable, touching tale.

5 Best Picture Books About Gender Identity for Young Children

Peanut Goes for the Gold
Looks to us like Jonathan Van Ness has derived his likeness in animal form — in the shape of Peanut, a bouncy, lovable gerbil obsessed with rhythmic gymnastics. This selection stands out for its use of “their” as the pronoun of choice, introducing (some) kids to the concept of children being non-binary — and, just as importantly, that fact being something routine and unremarkable. Cuteness is an understatement here. Young children will love this warm embrace of a book.

Sam Is My Sister
We were excited to learn this selection, which we liked instantly, was written by an author who lives not far from us on the west coast of Florida. This personal tale — based on the author’s own family — initially follows three brothers, one of whom doesn’t know which line to join when the teacher tells the boys and girls to form two lines, one for boys and one for girls. We see the small questions and challenges confronted by the siblings and the family — one by one — and watch them address each one, making this story relatable and intimate. A solid choice, especially for the very young.

5 Best Picture Books About Gender Expression

Julián Is a Mermaid
When Julian walks by and sees three women dressed up as beautiful mermaids, he wants to emulate them. Follow the gorgeous illustrations to see his nana come out of her bath to discover him dressed up in a costume he has gathered from around the house. Watch — as this story is told mainly through striking visuals — as she not only accepts him, but helps him to find his way.
I Love My Purse
We love how the main character in this book, a child named Charlie, influences the adults and children around him to overcome fear of social backlash and be more like themselves. This selection challenges gender stereotypes in the broader context of being true to yourself, making it a book everyone can relate to — children and adults alike. The intricate artwork by Sonja Wimmer will wow you, paving an easy path for the book’s important message.

5 Best Picture Books to Build a Foundation for Conversations on Gender Identity with Children

Lulu is a Rhinoceros
This adorably illustrated book about a bulldog who sees herself as a rhinoceros touches on important themes such as identity, self-acceptance, social norms and tolerance. Lulu’s story encourages us to accept ourselves the way we are.

Red: A Crayon’s Story
We absolutely adore this metaphorical story about a blue crayon that has been wrapped in a red crayon wrapper. After spending a lot of time feeling “wrong,” he realized that he isn’t coloring red, because he is in fact blue inside. Of course, after this realization, he proudly shares his blue with the world.

5 More Best Picture Books to Build a Foundation for Conversations on Gender Identity with Children

How many ways are you lovely? This sweet, simple book sheds light on all the ways that we are beautiful, highlighting that in essence, we are all perfect.

The Magic Hat Shop
The gorgeous illustrations help to tell this funny and wonderful story about how important we each are as individuals. A magic hat store creates hats that are just perfect for each person and tell who they are… until a giant wind comes and blows all the hats away.
We hope you enjoy these selections as much as we do! For more information, please contact Katherine Hubbard, Founder of BKB, at
For more resources on this topic, we recommend:
Best Kids’ Books — #Gender Identity
Best Kids’ Books —  Curations on Gender
Best Kids’ Books — Curations on Family (for books on Same-Sex Parents)
HRC — Education Censorship, Book Bans, and Attacking Free Speech…
The Trevor Project — Understanding Gender Identities
Equality Florida — Equality Florida Joins Lawsuit to Challenge Don’t Say Gay Law
NPR — These kids’ authors are telling the stories of trans youth. Book bans won’t stop them
PBS New Hour — How Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law regulates school lessons on gender, sexual orientation
Time — ‘I Hope This Law Is Obliterated.’ Plaintiffs in the First Lawsuit Challenging ‘Don’t Say Gay’ in Florida Speak Out
NPR — What Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law Means for Teachers
Newsweek — Oscars Opening Monologue Takes Aim at Florida “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
NPR — LGBTQ groups sue Florida over the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law
Parents — Queer Youth Joy Is A Radical Act
Politico — Florida’s fight over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ is getting more heated. And it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.
Family Equality — Florida Parents and Students Challenge “Don’t Say Gay” Law as Harmful and Unconstitutional
Parents — Here’s What You Need To Know About the Bill That Bans Sexuality and Gender Discussions In Florida Schools
GLSEN — GLSEN Condemns the Passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

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