Rainbow Book List - GLBTQ Books for Children & Teens
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11th Feb 18

The Rainbow Book List Committee is proud to announce the 2018 Rainbow Book List. The List is a curated bibliography highlighting books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, aimed at children and youth from birth to age 18. This List is intended to aid youth and those working with youth in selecting high-quality books published between July 2016 and December 2017.

As a committee, we evaluated over 260 books and selected 48 from 18 different publishers. Starred titles indicate the Rainbow Book List’s Top Ten choices, which are books that the committee considers to be of exceptional merit.

The committee members noted an increase in a range of gender and sexual identities across the queer spectrum, with a number of books challenging assumptions around asexuality, bisexuality, and gender fluidity. We did notice a decline in quality novels with explicitly trans characters, however. A number of novels included stronger representation of intersectional identities, particularly the intersections of race, class, and disability.

Now, without further ado, we present to you the 2018 Rainbow Book List!


Rainbow List Top Ten


Board Books

Biggs, Brian. Tinyville Town: I’m a Librarian. 2017. 22p. Abrams Appleseed, $7.95 (9781419723223). Pre+. A town librarian helps a patron find a book.

* Blackstone, Stella, and Sunny Scribens. Baby’s First Words. Illus. by Christiane Engel. 2017. 30p. Barefoot Books, $14.99 (9781782853213). Ages 1-2. Two dads and their baby spend a busy day together learning new words.


Picture Books

Jackson, Avery. It’s Okay to Sparkle. Illus. by Jessica Udischas. 2017. Debi Jackson, $17.95 (9780692831021). K-Grade 3. In this colorful self-published autobiography seven-year-old Avery Jackson recounts the story of her life as a transgender child.

Loney, Andrea J. Bunnybear. Illus. by Carmen Saldaña. 2017. 32p. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (9780807509388). Pre-Grade 2. Bunnybear is a bear who feels like a bunny but doesn’t seem to fit in with either the bunnies or the bears. When he meets Grizzlybun, the two help each other find their place in the world.

O’Leary, Sara. A Family is a Family is a Family. Illus. by Qin Leng. 2016. 32p. Groundwood, $17.95 (9781554987948). K-Grade 2. When a class discusses their families, one child fears that her family is too different. But in the end, she realizes that her family fits right in.


Middle Grade Fiction

Bell, Eric. Alan Cole Is Not a Coward. 2017. 272p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99 (9780062567024). Grades 5-7. In this darkly funny novel about bullying and troubling family dynamics, Alan is blackmailed by his brother while coming to terms with his sexual identity.

* Bunker, Lisa. Felix Yz. 2017. 288p. Viking, $16.99 (9780425288504). Grades 5-8. Felix is fused with a fourth dimensional alien and is counting down the days until a potentially fatal experimental surgery to separate them, all the while dealing with his crush on his classmate Hector.

* Dee, Barbara. Star-Crossed. 2017. 288p. Aladdin, $16.99 (9781481478489). Grades 4-8. In her middle school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, Mattie chooses to play Paris because her crush, Gemma, is cast as Juliet.


Young Adult Nonfiction

Klein, Rebecca T. Transgender Rights and Protections (Transgender Life). 2017. 64p. Rosen, $34.45 (9781499464603). Grades 7+. This short book provides succinct information on the transgender rights movement and on legal developments in the areas of employment, health care, education, bathrooms, and more.

* Mardell, Ashley. The ABC’s of LGBT+. 2016. 190p. Mango Media, $16.95 (9781633534094). Grades 7+. Mardell’s self-published reference book is an introductory text that looks at incredibly complex issues from both theoretical and anecdotal perspectives.

Mooney, Carla. Caitlyn Jenner (Transgender Pioneers). 2017. 112p. Rosen, $37.10 (9781508171584). Grades 7+. A short biography of Caitlyn Jenner that chronicles her transformation from gold medal athlete to controversial public figure.

* Slater, Dashka. The 57 Bus. 2017. 320p. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $17.99 (9780374303235). Grades 7-12. Sasha is an agender white teen living in a middle-class suburban neighborhood of Oakland, California, Richard is a black teen living in a crime-plagued part of the city. One afternoon, their paths cross on the 57 bus, with disastrous results. Based on a true story, the book is written in a documentary style.


Young Adult Fiction

Albertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited. 2017. 352p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062348708). Grades 9-12. With same-sex marriage now legalized in the U.S., twins Cassie and Molly’s moms are tying the knot. But, as Cassie and Molly each enter into new romantic relationships, the sisters begin to grow apart.

Benway, Robin. Far from the Tree. 2017. 384p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062330682). Grades 8-11. Three siblings, two adopted and one in the foster system, form tenuous bond while trying to cope with life’s many obstacles.

Colbert, Brandy. Little & Lion. 2017. 336p. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316349000). Grades 9-12. Suzette and her stepbrother navigate their tenuous relationship while also dealing with the fact that they have feelings for the same girl. To make things more complicated, her stepbrother has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Daniels, April. Nemesis, Book 1: Dreadnought. 2017. 276p. Diversion, $14.99 (9781682300688). Grades 7+. Danny Tozer is a closeted trans girl until she gets the powers of Dreadnought, a legacy superhero. With the powers comes a transformation that can’t hide who she really is, much to the dismay of her family.

Daniels, April. Nemesis, Book 2: Sovereign. 2017. 314p. Diversion, $14.99 (9781682308240). Grades 7+. In Danny’s second adventure, she comes head to head with a white supremacist and a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF).

Dietrich, Cale. The Love Interest. 2017. 384p. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (9781250107138). Grades 9-12. In an alternate universe where perfect mates are cultivated for their partners, two potential love interests, Dylan and Caden, end up interested in each other.

Dooley, Sarah. Ashes to Asheville. 2017. 256p. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399165047). Grades 4-7. Two sisters, separated after the death of one of their mothers, end up together on a road trip to spread her ashes.

Fine, Sarah. The Cursed Queen. 2017. 432p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781481441933). Grades 8-12. Ansa has fought for her place in her tribe, and now she must fight against her own body as magic threatens to take her over.

Floreen, Tim. Tattoo Atlas. 2016. 384p. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781481432801). Grades 9-12. In this sci-fi thriller, Rem’s scientist mother attempts to cure a sociopathic classmate responsible for the murder of Rem’s best friend. But can evil be cured?

Friend, Natasha. The Other F-Word. 2017. 336p. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $17.99 (9780374302344). Grades 9-12. Hollis and Milo have two things in common: they were both conceived with sperm from the same donor, and they both have two moms. Together they begin a journey that leads them to other half-siblings and walks them through grief, friendship, and the meaning of family.

Hutchinson, Shaun David. At the Edge of the Universe. 2017. 496p. Simon Pulse, $17.99 (9781481449663). Grades 9-12. Ozzie thinks the universe is slowly shrinking after his boyfriend, Tommy, disappears. Together with his self-destructive classmate Calvin, they investigate the disappearance. Is the universe really shrinking? Or has Ozzie lost his mind?

Konigsberg, Bill. Honestly Ben. 2017. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545858267). Grades 9-12. School is tough, and star athlete Ben can’t quite figure out what’s going on with his sexuality. Is he gay, bi, or “straight with a twist”?

* LaCour, Nina. We Are Okay. 2017. 240p. Dutton, $17.99 (9780525425892). Grades 9-12. After the sudden loss of her grandfather, Marin moves to college, isolating herself from her past.  When her best friend Mabel comes to visit during winter break, she is forced to come face-to-face with her grief.

Lauren, Christina. Autoboyography. 2017. 416p. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781481481687). Grades 9-12. Senior Tanner Scott enrolls in Provo High’s infamous Seminar, which tasks students with writing a book in a semester’s time. Little does Tanner know that this class will introduce him to Sebastian Brother, a practicing Mormon whose smile ruins him at first sight.

Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. 2017. 528p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99. (9780062382801). Grades 9-12. Henry Montague sets off on his European grand tour with best friend and crush, Percy. The young men embark on a whirlwind journey filled with crime, angst, adventure, and learned secrets.

Mac, Carrie. 10 Things I Can See from Here. 2017. 320p. Knopf, $17.99 (9780399556258). Grades 9-12. Maeve is really anxious… all the time! She obsessively imagines the most drastic of scenarios. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, her mother has to go away for six months, leaving Maeve to go reluctantly live with her alcoholic dad.

McGuire, Seanan. Down Among the Sticks and Bones. 2017. 192p. Tor, $17.99 (9780765392039). Grades 7-12. This prequel to Every Heart a Doorway follows Jack and Jill into their magical world and chronicles the resulting experiences as one sister is apprenticed to a mad scientist, and the other lives a life of quiet, tragic beauty.

Miller, Sam J. The Art of Starving. 2017. 384p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062456717). Grades 9-12. Matt has an eating disorder. He is also dealing with bullying and developing a crush on classmate Tariq. To make things even more bizarre, he is pretty sure that eating less is giving him supernatural powers.

* Murphy, Julie. Ramona Blue. 2017. 400p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062418357). Grades 9-12. Blue-haired teenager Ramona works odd jobs to help support her family in a town that hasn’t quite recovered after Hurricane Katrina. Although she identifies as a lesbian, Ramona is thrown for a loop as she realizes her feelings for Freddie, her male best friend.

Ormsbee, Kathryn. Tash Hearts Tolstoy. 2017. 384p. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (9781481489331). Grades 9-12. When Tash’s webcast based on Anna Karenina goes viral, she must balance fame, a frantic filming schedule, sibling rivalry, and deciding whether to come out as a romantic asexual to the boy she likes.

Oseman, Alice. Radio Silence. 2017. 496p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062335715). Grades 8-12. At school, Frances is studious and aiming for Cambridge, but at home, she’s a quirky artist hooked on her favorite podcast, Universe City. When she is invited to collaborate with its quiet creator, she begins to truly discover herself.

Philips, L. Perfect Ten. 2017. 352p. Viking, $17.99 (9780425288115). Grades 8-11. Two years after Sam broke up with his boyfriend, his dating prospects seem grim. When his best friend Meg, a Wiccan, suggests a love spell, Sam is willing to try anything. But he gets more than he bargained for.

Podos, Rebecca. Like Water. 2017. 320p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062373373). Grades 9-12. Vanni’s father has Huntington’s disease, so there’s a chance she will too. In order to be there for her family, she puts off her future to stay in the New Mexico town she’s always wanted to leave. But when Vanni meets Leigh, she realizes there are new things to learn even in their sleepy town.

Roehrig, Caleb. Last Seen Leaving. 2016. 336p. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (9781250085634). Grades 9-12. Flynn’s girlfriend, January, has been missing and he is the chief suspect. When January’s bloody clothes are found, indicating the possibility of her murder, forensic tests show that she was pregnant. What everyone doesn’t know is that Flynn never consummated his relationship with January because he has been hiding a secret: his sexuality.

Self, Jeffrey. A Very, Very Bad Thing. 2017. 240p. Scholastic/Push, $18.99 (9781338118407) Grades 8-12. Marley has to decide whether it’s best to own up to a lie he told or continue to perpetuate it for what might be a greater good.

Silvera, Adam. History Is All You Left Me. 2017. 304p. Soho Teen, $18.99 (9781616956929). Grades 9-12. OCD-afflicted Griffin has just lost his first love, Theo. In an attempt to hold onto every piece of the past, he forges a friendship with Theo’s last boyfriend, Jackson. When Jackson begins to exhibit signs of guilt, Griffin suspects he’s hiding something, and will stop at nothing to get to the truth.

* Silvera, Adam. They Both Die at the End. 2017. 384p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062457790). Grades 9-12. Mateo and Rufus both find out that they are going to die today. Over the course of the day, their stories and lives converge. Starting as a search for a final friendship, the boys develop a relationship far deeper than either of them expected.

* Stevens, Courtney. Dress Codes for Small Towns. 2017. 352p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062398512). Grades 9-12. Billie McCaffrey—artist, preacher’s daughter, and general troublemaker—finds herself in an awkward position when she and her four best friends accidentally burn down a section of their church. The friends, and Billie in particular, find themselves in the spotlight as they work to save the cherished harvest festival and stay out of trouble.

Sugiura, Misa. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret. 2017. 400p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062473417). Grades 9-12. Sana moves from an all-white Midwest town to California, where she’s expected to only be friends with other Asian girls. As she navigates this new culture, she finds herself falling for a Latina girl, and comes to suspect that her father is having an affair.

Talley, Robin. As I Descended. 2016. 384p. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062409232). Grades 9-12. In this queer revisioning of Macbeth, Maria and Lily are a power couple at their private school. Ghostly accidents start happening after they commune with spirits and madness soon takes over.

Talley, Robin. Our Own Private Universe. 2017. 384p. HarlequinTeen, $18.99 (9780373211982). Grades 9-12. Aki is in Mexico on a mission trip with her father’s church, and her best friend goads her into flirting with a young woman from another church. Aki thinks it’s a fling, but what if it turns out to be more?

Wilde, Jen. Queens of Geek. 2017. 288p. Swoon Reads, $10.99 (9781250111395). Grades 7+. Dual narrators Charlie (who is bi and famous) and Taylor (who is anxious and on the autism spectrum) travel from Australia to Los Angeles to attend SupaCon.


Graphic Novels

O’Neill, Katie. The Tea Dragon Society. 2017. 72p. Oni Press, $17.99 (9781620104415). Grades 3-7. An oversized graphic novel that follows blacksmith-in-training Greta as she joins a group that harvests tea and bonds with dragons.

* Tynion IV, James, and Rian Sygh. The Backstagers Vol. 1. 2017. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781608869930). Grades 7-12. When Jory transfers to an all-boys private school and joins the Drama club in an attempt to make new friends, he discovers the mysterious world of the backstage.

Young, Keezy. Taproot. 2017. 128p. Lion Forge/Roar, $10.99 (9781941302460). Grades 9-12. Love story meets ghost story in this graphic novel about Blue, a ghost, and Hamal, one of the few humans who can see him.


* = Top Ten

The 2018 Rainbow Book List committee includes Co-Chair Robert Bittner, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Co-Chair Alana Phelan, Oaklyn, N.J.; Alec B. Chunn, Eugene Public Library, Eugene, Ore.; Kristie L. Escobar, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fla; Kelly Jones, Orange County Public Library & University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Burlington, N.C.; Catherine Pontoriero, Ocean County College Library, Toms River, N.J.; Lynne Rhys, New Mexico Supreme Court Law Library, Santa Fe, N.M.; Jeffrey Sowder, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta, Ga.


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Rainbow Books presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age. Rainbow Books is a joint project of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) of the American Library Association (ALA).
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