Updated June 28, 2021.
If you are signed up for our book club, you’ll know that we featured Sylvia & Marsha Start a Revolution by Joy Ellison, The Bare Naked Book by Kathy Stinson, Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton, and When Aidan Becomes a Brother by Kyle Lukoff. Because you probably loved these books and are craving more, here are more of our favorites to help your child understand gender as a spectrum rather than a binary categorization.
To help you find what you are looking for, we’ve divided this list into three parts:
- Informational books about gender,
- Stories about transitioning, and
- Books about gender presentation and breaking gender stereotypes.
Part 1: INFORMATIONAL BOOKS ABOUT GENDER
We know that gender is a social construct and that socialization starts at a very young age. Rather than shy away from these discussions and allow society and mainstream media to shape our children’s perceptions, these books help form foundational understandings about bodies and identity.
- Best for ages 2-5
Finally, a book that truly bares it all, pun intended. The Bare Naked Book normalizes and celebrates all types of bodies through awesome illustrations and simple questions asking readers to look at and celebrate their own bodies!
What we love: The inclusiveness of this anatomy book is off the charts and allows readers to see bodies as beautiful. We appreciate how the book exposes readers to bodies rarely showcased and teaches love for every body.
Things to know: This book was recently updated from its 1986 version to include more diverse people and presentations of gender. While The Bare Naked Book was novel when it was first published, the author recognized how outdated her work had become. You’ll appreciate her 2021 author’s note, which shares insights like why they decided to feature ambiguous genitals. We love that this title serves as a reminder on our bookshelves to never stop challenging our mindsets and growing our understanding.
- Best for ages 3-6
Following a group of friends, this picture book showcases the many forms of gender identity. It Feels Good to Be Yourself is a wonderfully simple book about gender that normalizes childrens’ experiences.
What we love: This book is very straightforward and explains the terms transgender, cisgender, and non-binary using accessible language and understandable examples. This story both validates our feelings about ourselves and is a great starting off point to discuss how the gender we’re assigned at birth isn’t always right.
Things to know: The author of this book is a parent of a transgender child and the illustrator identifies as non-binary.
- Best for ages 4-8
Perfect for the age when kids are asking a lot of “how’s” and “why’s”, What Makes a Baby satisfies youngsters who are curious about babies and where they come from.
What we love: The text uses gender-neutral language, such as “people with eggs” and “people with sperms,” expanding our ideas about conception. The illustrations reflect this deliberately inclusive approach via Smyth’s bold, multi-colored silhouettes without gendered body parts.
Things to know: A great book choice for kiddos who know someone that’s expecting a child or has a new sibling arriving soon.
- Best for ages 7-10
Looking for a way to discuss gender identity, gender presentation, and what gender even is with your little reader? Maya Gonzalez draws on queer and indigenous scholarship for her framework and accompanies her text with vibrant and expansive pictures.
What we love: The detail and dedication to articulating these complicated concepts for young audiences is clear in the language and in the drawings Gonzalez uses and creates.
Things to know: We originally published this list recommending Who Are You? by Brooke Pessin Whedbee as easier to understand than The Gender Wheel. While we found that to be true then, we now appreciate the decolonizing take on how gender can be taught to kids. More importantly, Maya Gonzalez published an article on her blog detailing how she felt Who Are You? plagiarized her work in The Gender Wheel. We did not learn of this until after we published that version, but now include this note. Our apologies for not catching this sooner. We cannot support nor recommend a book that has possibly plagiarized another person’s body of work, nor one that whitewashes the content, as Gonzalez claims. This is a good reminder that being a conscious consumer is not just about the end product itself, but also about how it is produced.
- Best for ages 8-10
An award-winning comic book, Sex is a Funny Word provides a comprehensive look at what the word “sex” means, in particular, for a diverse cast of characters. Exploring gender, bodies, and sexual orientation, this book discusses respect, boundaries, and safety in an open and thoughtful way that facilitates similarly open and thoughtful conversations
What we love: The four narrators, Zai, Cooper, Mimi, and Omar, ask many questions that are helpful for young readers to consider and respond to. Explanations provided within the book are ungendered (which is extra great when it comes to body parts)!
Things to know: This book is not entirely about the gender spectrum. As the author notes in the beginning, this book is intended to be read over a long period of time, with room for questions and discussions.
Part 2: Books about transgender children and the process of transitioning
Gender does not mean sex, yet we live in a world that equates them anyways. The books in this section showcase children living their gender! The process of transitioning takes so many different forms. These tiles exemplify the representation transgender children (and adults) deserve, and the exposure cisgender children (and adults) need to both celebrate and advocate for their peers.
- Best for ages 3-6
So many kids can relate to having a stuffed animal they love. This book lovingly challenges how we can make assumptions about someone’s (or some stuffed animal’s) gender identity and encourages acceptance for loving people and stuffies just as they are.
What we love: This book gently demonstrates for young readers what it’s like to share who you are and accept others as they are.
Things to know: The author identifies as queer and wrote this story after noticing her childrens’ bookshelves “didn’t reflect the diversity of her family.” We love this story and the only thing we would change is the title to “Introducing Tilly” as that is teddy bear’s true identity.
- Best for ages 4-8+
Jazz likes the color pink, playing with dolls, and wearing a mermaid tail. While she likes to talk to her older sister about her “girl thoughts,” Jazz was designated as a male at birth. This story describes Jazz’s struggle as a young child feeling like she was in the wrong body, and the challenges she and her family face.
What we love: Jazz co-authored this story, making it both an authentic and easy-to-understand story for kids. We think every family should have at least one book that has a transgender protagonist, and I am Jazz is that classic!
Things to know: Keep in mind that I Am Jazz does designate certain activities as “girly”, which reinforces gender roles. Be Who You Are! by Jennifer Carr is another great book for the same age range about a child assigned male-at-birth who transitions to female. It is a little longer and perhaps not as exciting for young readers, but covers the process of transitioning in a more comprehensive way.
Part 3: Books about gender presentation and breaking gender stereotypes
- By Airlie Anderson
- Ages 3-7
In a world full of blue bunnies and yellow birds, a baby that is not quite a bunny or a bird hatches. In the land of This and That, what happens to those who don’t fit either?
What we love: With colorful pictures and clear, simple text, this book provides solace for those who feel as though they don’t fit in. A wonderful stopping point for discussion occurs when both the bunnies and birds ask what the creature is, and it responds with “I am both!” The bunnies and birds then reply, “No, you are neither!” What a perfect opportunity for children to learn that being neither can also mean being both.
Things to know: This story allows you to tailor your discussion with your child to a variety of situations such as what it means to be gender non-conforming, intersex, or genderqueer. The story lends itself to discussions about multiracial families too!
- By Stacy Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis
- Ages 3-8
It’s Annie’s uncle’s wedding! Annie plans to wear her favorite plaid shirt, the one that she always wears, every day. Annie’s mom says girls wear dresses to weddings, but dresses make Annie feel like she isn’t herself. What will she do?
What we love: Annie’s Plaid Shirt addresses how her mom worries about Annie and wonders if she made the right decision in asking her to wear a dress. This shows that parents and adults aren’t always sure of themselves, which presents a good opportunity to talk with your little reader about this topic.
Things to know: Annie’s Plaid Shirt contains relatively simple text and is somewhat lacking in depth of character and storyline. The ending, while mostly satisfying, feels a bit forced. Nonetheless, we’ve kept this book on our list because there are so few books about girls presenting as masculine in their choice of clothes. Is That for a Boy or a Girl? by S. Bear Bergman is another option if you’re in the market for these specific stories.
- By Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo
- Ages 4-8
The school parade is coming up and Danny knows just what he wants to be: a princess! He even has the perfect dress in mind. The problem is, he can’t find it!
What we love: With the help of his mom, Danny creates the dress of his imagination, sewing together a curtain and a bathrobe. When parade day comes, some kids comment on his attire, stating that they’ve never seen a boy princess before. Danny humorously relieves the tension by responding that he’s never seen a walking butterfly or a talking pineapple.
Things to know: There are a good number of other books that address boys being into stereotypically “girly” things. We liked Sparkle Boy which would be particularly helpful for children who might be struggling to understand their sibling’s presentation. My Princess Boy, Morris Micklewhite and The Tangerine Dress, 10,000 dresses, and Jacob’s New Dress are other reading options. Our first choice is One of a Kind, Like Me because Danny is free to be himself and the book does not focus on overcoming bullying like other books on this topic do. While it’s always important to share stories of overcoming bullying, normalizing acceptance can be just as powerful!
Want more? Sign up for the Little Feminist Book Club. We send new favorites to our members every month!