Books

17 books for kids and teens to read during Pride Month

June is Pride Month in Canada! Here are 17 YA, middle-grade and picture books to check out with themes of gender diversity and acceptance.

June is Pride Month in Canada! Here are 17 YA, middle-grade and picture books to check out.

Pride Puppy! by Robin Stevenson, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin

Pride Puppy! is a picture book by Robin Stevenson (left) and illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. (Orca Book Publishers, Melanie Grisak, Stephanie Hull)

Pride Puppy! is a picture book about love, diversity and acceptance. When a family celebrates the annual Pride Day parade, their puppy goes missing. The rhyming alphabet book helps children learn their letters while following along as the family seeks to reunite with their beloved pet.

Pride Puppy! is for ages 3 to 5.

Robin Stevenson is the Victoria author of more than 25 books for kids and teens, including the board book Pride Colors, the picture book Ghost's Journey: A Refugee Story and the nonfiction books Kid Activists and Pride.

Julie McLaughlin is and artist and illustrator from B.C. Her other books include Little Cloud and The Art of the Possible. She won the 2015 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction for Why We Live Where We Live.

The Bare Naked Book by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Melissa Cho

The Bare Naked Book is a picture book by Kathy Stinson (left) and illustrated by Melissa Cho (right). (Annick Press)

The Bare Naked Book is a classic picture book that has been revised with gender diversity and inclusion in mind. The book highlights different types of bodies, including people with visible disabilities, queer and trans people.

The Bare Naked Book is for ages 3-5.

Kathy Stinson is a prolific Canadian children's writer from Ontario. She is the author of more than 30 children's books, including Red is Best and The Man with the Violin.

Melissa Cho is a Canadian designer, illustrator and animator.

Mom Marries Mum! by Ken Setterington, illustrated by Alice Priestley

Mom Marries Mum! is a picture book written by Ken Setterington and illustrated by Alice Priestley (not pictured). (Second Story Press)

This picture book celebrates the diversity of family. In Mom Marries Mum! two siblings are over the moon when they learn that their mom and mum have decided to get married. 

Mom Marries Mum! is for ages 0-3.

Ken Setterington is a writer, storyteller, children's book reviewer and librarian from Toronto. He is also a columnist for CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. His other children's books include Mom and Mum are Getting Married and Branded by the Pink Triangle.

Alice Priestley is an artist and illustrator from Toronto. She has illustrated several children's books, including Rainbows in the Dark by Jan Coates, Winning the Girl of the Sea by Brenda Silsbe and Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore. 

Leopold's Leotard by Rhiannon Wallace, illustrated by Risa Hugo

Leopold's Leotard is a picture book by Rhiannon Wallace (left) and illustrated by Risa Hugo. (Orca Book Publishers, Aleisha Smith)

Leopold's Leotard is about a boy who loves to dance. The picture book is about what happens when Leopold learns more about acceptance and overcoming fears in time for the year-end recital.

Leopold's Leotard is for ages 3 to 5.

Rhiannon Wallace is a children's author, librarian and archivist from Vancouver.

Risa Hugo is an artist and illustrator from B.C. She is also the illustrator of the picture book Why Are You So Quiet?

A Plan for Pops by Heather Smith, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan

A Plan for Pops is a picture book by Heather Smith and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan. (Orca Book Publishers)

A Plan for Pops is a picture book about a child named Lou who loves spending Saturdays with Grandad and Pops. Grandad reads books about science, Pops listens to rock and roll and Lou loves learning about both. But when Pops falls and needs a wheelchair, it's up to Lou and Grandad to lift his spirits.

A Plan for Pops was a finalist for the 2020 Blue Spruce Award.

A Plan for Pops is for ages 3 to 5.

Originally from Newfoundland, Heather Smith, also known as Heather T. Smith, is a YA author based in Waterloo, Ont. Smith is the author of books The Agony of Bun O'KeefeAngus All AglowBaygirl and Ebb & Flow.

Brooke Kerrigan has illustrated over 10 picture books and splits her time between Ontario and France.

I Promise by Catherine Hernandez, illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware

I Promise is a picture book by Catherine Hernandez (right) and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Dahlia Katz)

I Promise is a portrayal of all the joys and challenges of parenting and a celebration of the many different forms that loving families come in.

 I Promise is for readers aged 3-8.

Catherine Hernandez is a playwright, performer and the author of the novels Scarborough and Crosshairs.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, activist and scholar whose work has appeared in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Globe and Mail and in Nuit Blanche. Ware is also an editor for the nonfiction book Until We Are Freewhich reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada. They contributed the piece Emmett to 21 Black Futureswhich you can watch now on CBC Gem.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. (House of Anansi Press, Shawnee Custalow)

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is a YA graphic novel about a teenage girl named Freddy who can't seem to quit her girlfriend, the popular, enigmatic Laura Dean. Though they keep breaking up and getting back together, Freddy frets over whether to forgive Laura's many indiscretions — all the while taking her friendships for granted.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is for ages 14 and up.

Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian comics writer, contributing to Marvel and DC Comics. She's based in California. Her other books include Skim(you) Set Me On Fire and This One Summer.

Valero-O'Connell is an American illustrator and cartoonist. 

The Fabulous Zed Watson! by Basil Sylvester & Kevin Sylvester

The Fabulous Zed Watson! is a middle-grade novel by Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester. (HarperCollins, Laura Carlin)

The Fabulous Zed Watson! features a non-binary lead character who embarks on "the literary scavenger hunt and road trip of a lifetime."

When lead character Zed discovers a mystery surrounding an unpublished novel called The Monster's Castle, they become a member of a small but dedicated legion devoted to finding the long-buried text. When a breakthrough discovery leads Zed to the route that they are sure will take them to the treasure, they embark on a road trip with their shy, flora-loving neighbour, Gabe, and his sister, Sam, a geologist who is driving back to college in Arizona.

The Fabulous Zed Watson! is for ages 9 to 12.

Basil Sylvester is a non-binary writer based in Toronto. Their father, Kevin Sylvester, is a broadcaster and the award-winning illustrator and writer of middle-grade books such as the Neil Flambé Capers series and the MiNRS space adventure series.

Father and son duo, Basil and Kevin Sylvester, talk to Shelagh Rogers about their book The Fabulous Zed Watson! 17:03

Green Glass Ghosts by Rae Spoon, illustrated by Gem Hall

Musician Rae Spoon (left) is the author Green Glass Ghosts, a YA novel with illustrations by Gem Hall (right). (Arsenal Pulp Press, Rae Spoon, Gem Hall)

Green Glass Ghosts is a YA novel about gender identity and seeking a better life. When a queer young person leaves behind a troubled home situation, they arrive in downtown Vancouver with a dream of becoming a successful musician. But the protagonist must navigate jealousy, abuse and trauma to reach their desired outcome in life — playing live music in front of a crowd.

Green Glass Ghosts is for ages 14 and up.

Rae Spoon is a non-binary musician, producer and author from Calgary, who currently lives in Victoria. Their other books include First Spring Grass Fire and Gender Failure, which was co-written with Ivan Coyote. 

Gem Hall is an interdisciplinary artist currently based on Coast Salish lands.

The Street Belongs to Us by Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez is an American-Canadian writer and academic. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Hilary Cellini Cook)

The Street Belongs to Us is a middle-grade book about queer identity featuring two best friends in 1980s Los Angeles. When "tomboy" Alex and troubled kid Wolf find that their street is under construction one hot summer, they see an opportunity to start a street war with the rival kids in the neighbourhood. But Alex and Wolf find themselves in over their head when the friendly battles start to get out of control.

The Street Belongs to Us is for ages 8 to 12.

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez is an American Canadian writer and academic. She is a professor of education at Trent University and is the creator of Tomboya film about a young tomboy who is bullied.

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Bruised is a YA novel by Tanya Boteju. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Greg Ehlers)

Bruised is a YA novel about Daya Wijesinghe, a teen girl who navigates first love and gender identity after a family tragedy. After a tragic accident results in the death of her parents, Daya has taken to bruising herself as a way to cope with her grief. It leads her to the physical and colourful world of roller derby. Bruised explores Daya's healing process and journey to wellness. 

Bruised is for ages 14 and up.

Tanya Boteju is an author and educator based in Vancouver. She is also the author of the YA novel Kings, Queens and In-Betweens.

Tanya Boteju on her latest YA book, Bruised. 3:01

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

A Dark and Hollow Star is a YA novel by Ashley Shuttleworth. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Ashley Shuttleworth)

A Dark and Hollow Star is a YA novel about four LGBTQ teens who have a magical connection to a series of unspeakable crimes that happen in Toronto. The quartet must join forces to uncover the identity of the mysterious culprit — and failure is not an option, unless they wish to destroy the tenuous balance between the human and faerie worlds.

A Dark and Hollow Star is for ages 14 and up. 

Ashley Shuttleworth is a YA author originally from British Columbia and now based in Ontario. A Dark and Hollow Star is their first book.

Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain is Here is a YA novel by Sabina Khan. (Scholastic Canada, Tanya Kuriyedath)

Zara Hossain is Here is a YA novel that features themes of love, culture and gender diversity. Zara Hossain is the only Muslim teen at her Texas high school, which makes fitting in a bit of a challenge. When a bullying incident escalates into a violent crime, Zara is forced to choose between the only home she's ever known or finally making a stand.

Zara Hossain is Here is for ages 14 and up.

Sabina Khan is a Muslim author and educator based in British Columbia and originally from Bangladesh. She is also the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali.

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

Indivisible is a YA novel by Daniel Aleman. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Indivisible is a YA novel about an American-born LGBTQ teen named Mateo Garcia of Mexican descent. Mateo's parents are undocumented immigrants and, when they are taken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Mateo must quickly learn to understand who he is and his place in the world.

Indivisible is for ages 14 and up.

Daniel Aleman is a Toronto-based author and writer originally from Mexico City. Indivisible is his debut YA novel.

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

When You Get the Chance is a YA novel by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson. (Running Press Kids)

In When You Get the Chance, Mark and his cousin Talia are teens who live on opposite coasts — Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria. The cousins, who are both queer, reunite after a family argument had separated the cousins for years. When they decide to go on a road trip to Toronto, they embark on an adventure where they meet friends old and new and figure out their identity along the way.

When You Get the Chance is for ages 14 and up.

Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers including I Hope You're Listening. He spends his time living between Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Stevenson is the Victoria author of more than 25 books for kids and teens, including the board book Pride Colors, the picture book Ghost's Journey and the nonfiction books Kid Activists and Pride. Her book Pride Puppy! is also on this list.

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Aetherbound is a YA novel by E.K. Johnston. (Dutton Books)

Aetherbound is a story of space survival. While on a long-haul space cruiser, Pendt Harland discovers that she is destined for something more when it is revealed that her DNA has mutated. During a layover at a space station, Pendt manages to escape and hatches a plan to take over the facility and realize her true destiny.

Aetherbound is for ages 14 and up.

E.K. Johnston is a YA novelist and forensic archaeologist from Statford, Ont. She is the author of The Story of Owen, A Thousand Nights, Spindle and Exit, Pursued by a Bear, which won the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2017.

The Boi of Feather and Steel by Adan Jerreat-Poole

The Boi of Feather and Steel is a YA novel by Adan Jerreat-Poole. (Dundurn Press)

The Boi of Feather and Steel is a YA fantasy about a supernatural assassin and an adventure involving a stolen magic item. Tav is a non-binary, purple-haired, motorcycle-riding teenager who can see magic. But they struggle with their abilities and identity — just as an army of witches emerge to create conflict in the world they live in.

The Boi of Feather and Steel is for ages 14 and up.

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a writer from Kingston, Ont., and a PhD candidate in English and cultural studies at McMaster University. They are also the author of The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass.

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