I recently got a request for recommendations of LGBTQ books for middle school. Below I have compiled a list of books in my classroom library that prominently feature LGBTQ characters or themes.
Younger - The following books are geared towards younger students, but have some appeal for middle school students.
- George, by Alex Gino - This book features a fourth grade transgender girl. Throughout the book, she becomes more comfortable with her own gender identity and starts to tell close family and friends her secret.
- Rick, by Alex Gino. - This sequel to George is about Rick, a boy who is questioning his identity and wonders if he is asexual.
- Princess Princess Ever After, by Katie O'Neill - This sweet graphic novel focuses on two princesses who must overthrow a jealous sorceress to regain a kingdom, and end up falling in love in the process. A great read that challenges gender stereotypes to boot.
The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team, by Kit Rosewater - This middle grade novels tells the story of Kenzie as she tries to put together a roller derby team, while dealing with a crush on her next door neighbour Bree.
- The Cardboard Kingdom, by Chad Sell - A graphic novel that follows the children of the cardboard kingdom, a neighbourhood where kids go on adventures and take on new personas using cardboard costumes and their own creativity. Features kids who are questioning their gender identities.
Middle - The following books are appropriate for middle school students, often with themes about accepting others, coming to terms with your own identity, and being yourself.
- Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle, by Robin Stevenson - This non-fiction book talks about the history of Pride, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and celebrates Pride events around the world.
- The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang - This excellent graphic novel tells the story of a prince who secretly dresses like a woman. It is a fantastic book about coming to terms with your own identity.
- The Witchboy, The Hidden Witch, and The Midwinter Witch by Molly Ostertag - A graphic novel series about a boy who defies the long-held gender norms of his family to become a witch.
- Lumberjanes - A graphic novel series about a summer camp for hardcore lady types. It features a number of LGBTQ characters in heroic roles, and is highly entertaining.
- Zenobia July, by Lisa Bunker - The story of Zenobia July, a girl who is transgender and living openly as a girl for the first time. When somebody posts hateful memes about her, she must solve the mystery, while adjusting to life at her new school.
- The Other Boy, by M.G. Hennessey - A book about a transgender boy who loves playing baseball and making graphic novels. He faces a difficult situation when someone threatens to reveal his secret.
- Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds - This book of ten short stories features one story of a boy standing up against homophobia. Trigger warning that it contains homophobic violence.
- Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake - Ivy's story is a compelling tale of a girl who is coming to terms with her feelings for her friend June. As she realizes the true extent of her crush, Ivy struggles with societal expectations, particularly worrying about her older sister's reaction.
- The Hammer of Thor, by Rick Riordan - This second book of the Magnus Chase series introduces Alex Fierro, who is in subsequent books in the series. They are a genderfluid teenager and also the demigod child of Loki.
- See You at Harry's, by Jo Knowles - I haven't read this book, due to it reportedly being heartbreaking. That being said, it has excellent reviews and involves the main character's older brother coming out.
- Posted, by John David Anderson - This is a beautiful book that focuses on the changing nature of friendship in middle school. A secondary character faces homophobic bullying later in the novel.
- Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart - A book that focuses on the developing friendship between Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy who has bipolar disorder. In particular, it focuses on Lily becoming more comfortable expressing her identity with her family and at school.
- The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater - A fascinating true story of two teenagers, Sasha and Richard, whose lives become linked after an incident on a bus in Oakland, California. Sasha is an agender teen whose skirt is set on fire, causing serious injury.
- The Lotterys Plus One, by Emma Donoghue - The story of the Lotterys, a family that consists of a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and their adopted and biological children. The family must adjust when a disapproving grandparent arrives to stay with them.
- Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh - This graphic novel tells the story of Snapdragon, a girl who wants to learn to be a witch from Jacks, a mysterious elderly woman who has a key connection to Snap's family. Features a transgender secondary character and a key subplot about a same-sex relationship from years gone by.
- The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen - This graphic novel tells the story of Tiến, who wants to come out to his Vietnamese mother, but doesn't know how. A beautiful tale that weaves together stories about coming of age, immigration, and identity, with fairytales.
- Surviving the City Volume 2: From the Roots Up, written by Tasha Spillett and illustrated by Natasha Donovan - A graphic novel about Dez, a teen who is growing up in Winnipeg and finding space in her Indigenous culture and community as a two-spirited person.
YA Books - The following books are excellent for some middle school students, particularly older ones who need something a bit more challenging. The characters in these books are a bit older, but the content should interest middle year students who are ready for YA. I've included a few trigger warnings for books that contain more mature themes.
- The Stone Rainbow, by Liane Shaw - A book about Jack, a closeted gay teen who struggles with living in a small town that doesn't accept him. When Benjamin moves to town, Jack falls for him. A near tragedy pushes Jack to stand up for himself and Benjamin by starting a Pride parade in his town. (Trigger warning: A key event prior to the start of the book is Jack's attempted suicide.)
- They Both Die At the End, by Adam Silvera - At the beginning of this book, Mateo and Rufus find out they are going to die in the next twenty-four hours. The two strangers connect and spend their last day together, eventually falling for each other in this bittersweet story about living life to the fullest.
- Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro - A book about Moss, a gay teen who stands up against systemic racism and police brutality at his school. This book also includes secondary characters who are lesbian, transgender, agender, or asexual.
- Bloom, written by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau - Ari is struggling to figure out what makes him happy. Through his work at his family's bakery, he meets Hector and love starts to bloom.
- Pet, by Akaeke Emezi - This book tells the story of a Black transgender girl who must uncover a monster who is endangering her friend. Note the trigger warning for child abuse.
- Simon versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli - An excellent book about Simon, a closeted gay high school student, who must be the wingman for another student or risk being outed to the entire school. Note that the book includes underage drinking.
- Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli - A sequel to Simon that I am currently reading (so it isn't actually on my classroom shelves just yet). It is about Simon's best friend Leah, who is bisexual and struggling to come out to her friends.
- Spinning, by Tillie Walden - This graphic novel memoir recounts Tillie Walden's experiences as a figure skating competitor. The art is stunning and the story is fascinating, as she deals with loneliness, discovering her sexual identity, and outgrowing her sport. I'd add a trigger warning that it contains darker themes, particularly sexual assault, and is better for more mature readers.
- The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline - In this futuristic novel, Indigenous people are hunted for their bone marrow, which contains the cure to the dreamlessness sweeping North America. In addition to being a powerful read about Indigenous rights, the main mentor figure in the book is gay and also fully accepted. (Thanks to Aaron Russell for reminding me of this title.)
I think this is a good start for LGBTQ representation in my classroom library, although I intend to keep adding titles as I come across more. In the mean time, I will display the books prominently in my classroom and give frequent book talks recommending the different titles. Hopefully, in doing so I can offer LGBTQ students characters that strike a chord with them, while promoting respect and diversity in my class.