Read With Pride: Queer Favorites From the Blue Willow Team

It’s Pride Month, y’all, and we’re ready to celebrate the best way we know how: Giddily pressing books into your hands whenever you come visit us. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the recent and recent-ish titles we most highly recommend for this month, plus a pair of picks from our friend Mandy Giles, founder of local social impact business Parents of Trans Youth. We’ve got great queer authors, great queer stories, and great stories with queer characters below, for readers of all ages and interests. Dive in!


Ages 3-6

Fred Gets Dressed, by Peter Brown

Fred Gets Dressed

by Peter Brown

Fred loves to romp around his house naked. But when he romps into his parents’ closet, his mother’s bright clothes catch his eye. A joyful depiction of a loving family and a gentle introduction to gender nonconforming self-expression.
—Noah

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Ages 4-8

Mr. Watson's Chickens, by Jarrett Dapier; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Mr. Watson's Chickens

by Jarrett Dapier; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

There are too many chickens to count in this charming story for fans of Mo Willems, Click, Clack, Moo, or The 101 Dalmatians. Jarrett Dapier’s text zips along with zany rhythm and refrains, making this a great choice for a read-aloud. Andrea Tsurumi’s intricate illustrations are full of subplots and funny details, which means it’s perfect for one-on-one time, too. A fresh, modern picture book that has the patter and feel of a decades-old classic.
—Noah

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It Feels Good to Be Yourself, by Theresa Thorn; illustrated by Noah Grigni

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

by Theresa Thorn; illustrated by Noah Grigni

I love this cheerful picture book and always recommend it to parents of little ones! It’s a useful and positive tool to introduce gender diversity concepts and vocabulary to the whole family in a simple way. This book also gives young readers the words to explain how they feel inside and helps develop empathy for others.
—Mandy Giles, Founder, Parents of Trans Youth

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Ages 8-12

Ellie Engle Saves Herself, by Leah Johnson

Ellie Engle Saves Herself

by Leah Johnson

Ellie Engle is happy with her ordinary life. While she misses her grandpa, she’s got her one good friend, Abby—who shines brightly and boldly enough for the both of them. But on the first day of seventh grade, an earth-shaking event changes everything. Ellie now has a superpower that she never wanted and has to learn how to use responsibly. Abby is changing too, sitting with her new cheerleading friends and growing more distant. When a video of Ellie accidentally using her power goes viral and attracts the attention of an internet superstar, she must come to terms with her unfair notoriety, her changing friendships, and her new understanding of herself. Middle grade readers will pull for Ellie to make a stand for compassion and friendship as she grows to recognize her own self-worth.
—Cathy

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Camp Sylvania, by Julie Murphy

Camp Sylvania

by Julie Murphy

Maggie and her best friend Nora are excited to be done with 5th grade and ready for their dream summer before they start middle school—three weeks at Camp Rising Star, a camp for kids who love everything theater. When Maggie gets home on the last day of school, she finds out her parents are instead sending her to Camp Sylvania—a weight loss camp. Heartbroken to be away from her best friend for camp, and upset at her parents' criticism of her weight, she braces herself to be miserable at the same "wellness camp" her mother attended when she was a kid, the one her mother credits for helping her get past her "chubby phase." Arriving at camp, Maggie is pleasantly surprised to enjoy her new friends. But the camp is not exactly as advertised, and the campers all soon realize that the odd diet and the mandatory blood donations are pointing to the owner of the camp, Sylvie, maybe being a vampire! The kids must save themselves, save their parents, and stop Sylvie's nefarious plans to use kids as a source for bottled vampire drinks in this very funny summer camp adventure—and Maggie must gather the confidence to tell her parents she's happy in her own body, too.
—Aerie

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King and the Dragonflies, by Kacen Callender

King and the Dragonflies

by Kacen Callender

Grieving the sudden loss of his older brother Khalid, King struggles to make it through each day. When his former close friend, Sandy, goes missing and King realizes he's the last person to have seen him, King's guilt intensifies. Sandy had told King that he thought he was gay and Khalid had told King that he had to end the friendship. Set in the Louisiana Bayou, this middle grade novel beautifully examines a family's grief and a young man's identity.
—Cathy

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Ages 12 & Up

Prince of the Palisades, by Julian Winters

Prince of the Palisades

by Julian Winters

When a video of Prince Jadon of Îles de la Rêverie goes viral after a bad breakup with his boyfriend, he's exiled from his island nation to Los Angeles to rehabilitate his image. When he's enrolled in an exclusive Santa Monica high school, he has time to figure out who he is and what he truly wants. A charming coming of age story for fans of Red, White, and Royal Blue!
—Cathy

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Ages 14-18

Flamer, by Mike Curato

Flamer

by Mike Curato

It's the summer before high school and Aiden is spending a week at scout camp - one of his favorite things to do. He's glad to be away from the stress of his family, but he worries about high school. He's biracial and fat and wonders who will bully him this time. Will he continue as an altar server at church? What's he going to do with his feelings for his friend Elias? Is he evil if he likes boys? This coming of age story aches with confusion and pain but ultimately ends with hope.
—Cathy

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Canto Contigo, by Jonny Garza Villa

Canto Contigo

by Jonny Garza Villa

Rafael Alvarez is the stand out star performer in his high school Mariachi band, earning them awards and first place prizes in competitions. He has always been told by his beloved abuelo to never let anything stand in the way of his talent, and he does so by leaving to perform at the Mariachi Extravaganza de Nacional after saying his last goodbye to him. There, he has a fleeting moment with another student in the hotel, Rey, before going on to win, yet again. Flash forward 8 months and his family is moving—Rafael is furious to be leaving his high school before winning one last Extravaganza and to lose the ability to visit his abuelo's grave for comfort. The high school he will attend in San Antonio also has a mariachi band, but they were always a distant second in competition. An even bigger shock comes when the boy he met and kissed last year walks in the door—and is given the spot of top vocalist over Rafael. Rafael and Rey are stuck in an impossible "i hate you/i might love you" loop. Will they be able to move past hurt feelings and hurt egos to let in their true feelings for each other, and work together to help their school win the next Extravaganza? A beautifully-written love story of family, music and culture. And please remove the cover of the hardback to appreciate the beauty that is embossed on the cover and spine!
—Aerie

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Road Home, by Rex Ogle

Road Home

by Rex Ogle

Concluding the trilogy that began with Free Lunch, Rex Ogle recalls being forced from his home and ending up on the streets of New Orleans because he was gay. By turns harrowing, painful and beautiful, we can feel Rex beside us as we read and we know he has survived and lives a full life. The world is a better place because Rex Ogle is in it and he's shared this very personal story. 
—Cathy

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Kindling, by Traci Chee

Kindling

by Traci Chee

A mesmerizing reimagining of the films Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven. Children with magical powers were once taken from their families and trained to harness and use their powers in battle until they burned out and died (often at the age of 18)—they are called Kindlings. But now that the great war is over, the new Queen has outlawed magic, and those child warriors were left to find a new way of life. Set against this backdrop, a small rural village is threatened by raiders and one brave girl leaves to find warriors willing to help them fight. Seven former Kindlings join together with the village—they must all learn to work together to process their past pain and to remember what is worth fighting for. An excellent read for older teens and adults.
—Aerie

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Queer Ducks, by Eliot Schrefer

Queer Ducks(and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality

by Eliot Schrefer; illustrated by Jules Zuckerberg

Combining scientific research, comics, and memoir, Schrefer thoroughly explores queer behavior in the animal world. Delving into research of ducks, primates and doodlebugs, he illustrates that queer behavior in animals is as diverse and complex—and as natural—as it is in humans. The engaging format made me feel like I was sitting next to Eliot in science class, passing notes and comics back and forth—and then going for coffee afterwards!
—Cathy

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Adult Fiction

Open Throat, by Henry Hoke

Open Throat

by Henry Hoke

A mountain lion prowls Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Hungry and alone, he searches for food, avoids hikers, and protectively watches over a small encampment of unhoused people. As food grows more scarce, he fantasizes more and more about human flesh—but when a human-caused wildfire tears through the park, he finds himself reliant on the help of a young self-described witch.

Written in verse from the point of view of the lion, Open Throat is clever and feral, with an explosive ending. You’ll whip through this novella in one sitting, only to find yourself wishing it was longer. (Very) loosely inspired by Los Angeles’s famous puma, P-22.
—Noah

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Iris Kelly Doesn't Date, by Ashley Herring Blake

Iris Kelly Doesn't Date

by Ashley Herring Blake

Ashley Herring Blake back again with a queer romance! Iris Kelly is a bi woman and the token ‘disappointment’ of her family for failing to have a steady partner. At her favorite queer bar she meets Stevie, who is determined to have a fling to prove that she’s moved on, just like her ex. The two end up in a fake dating trope that is to die for. I very much enjoyed this book.
—Cat

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The Guncle Abroad, by Steven Rowley

The Guncle Abroad

by Steven Rowley

All of the characters from The Guncle return in this absolutely delightful follow up. Patrick's brother Greg is engaged and his kids, Grant and Maisie, struggle with the idea of their father remarrying. Greg asks Patrick to take the kids on a vacation before the wedding in Lake Como. Thus begins a trip through Europe only Patrick O'Hara could arrange that culminates at the wedding. Along the way, Patrick tries to explain to Grant and Maisie why their father might get remarried and all the different kinds of love there are. It's a delight of a novel full of humor, grief, and moving forward.  
—Cathy

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Somewhere Beyond the Sea, by TJ Klune

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

by TJ Klune

In the sequel to The House in the Cerulean Sea, Linus, Arthur, and the children fight for their family to stay together. After the events of the previous book, Linus Baker lives on Marsyas Island with his boyfriend, Arthur, and the six magical children they plan to adopt. Arthur must testify before a Council of Utmost Importance and fight for the rights of magical beings to be able to live without being under the control of other government organizations. Arthur and Linus must deal with the pressure from both the press and the government while introducing a new magical child to their home. A great addition to an already great book! I love all of the characters, and I was so happy to see them again. Fans of TJ Klune will be excited to read this satisfying sequel that will leave them with a sense of home and belonging.
—Lucy

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Adult Nonfiction

Mama's Boy, by Dustin Lance Black

Mama's Boy: A Story from Our Americas

by Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black, who was born into a Mormon home outside of San Antonio, is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Milk and an LGBTQ activist who worked to overturn Proposition 8 in California. He intertwines his story with that of his mother, who grew up in rural Louisiana, contracted polio when she was a child, and struggled through two abusive marriages before escaping to California and finding a career in the civil service. Lance's life would seem to be in direct contradiction to his mother's, and at times it was. The beauty in the story comes when they work to understand and accept one another and as Lance does the same with his religion and his family of origin. Heartbreaking and affirming, this memoir reminded me that so many Americans are willing to build bridges of understanding—we just have to look for them.
—Cathy

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My Child Is Trans, Now What?, by Ben V. Greene

My Child Is Trans, Now What?: A Joy-Centered Approach to Support

by Ben V. Greene

This book is a must-read for parents of trans kids! Trans author Ben Greene gives practical tools to find the joy in parenting gender-diverse kids, even sprinkling “Joy Exercises” throughout the book. Greene writes with compassion, and reading this book feels like getting advice from a trusted friend.
—Mandy Giles, Founder, Parents of Trans Youth

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Transformer, by Simon Doonan

Transformer: A Story of Glitter, Glam Rock, and Loving Lou Reed

by Simon Doonan

Released to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Lou Reed's iconic album Transformer, this slim book combines music history, LGBTQIA+ cultural criticism, and author Simon Doonan’s personal recollections of coming of age and coming out in the era of glam rock. Doonan’s writing is dishy and witty, and he sheds fascinating light on the cultural and personal forces that led Reed to the studio with the intent of recording a “gay album.” It’s a time-capsule that hums with the buzz of societal change, and a fitting tribute to an album whose queer roots are much deeper than “Walk on the Wild Side.”
—Noah

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