Heather is 25! So, What Literature Featuring Gays and Lesbians is Available for Primary Grades Today?

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publishing of the groundbreaking picture book Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman (1989). Although not the first picture book to include or even feature gay and/or lesbian couples, Newman's book, republished in 1990 with Michael Willhoite's (1990) Daddy's Roommate, launched the Alyson Wonderland imprint, the children's publishing wing of Alyson Publications that became a significant promoter of U.S. books for children featuring gay and lesbian characters for over a decade. In the 25 years since Newman's book was published, the United States has experienced tremendous shifts in its political, cultural, and publishing landscapes. In this paper I consider the children's literature featuring gays and lesbians that is available for use by educators today. The handful of initial offerings from the 1970s through the early 1990s took a fairly didactic approach to the topic of same-sex parents and family members. Although they filled a serious gap and provided opportunities for children to experience literature that may have reflected the realities of their lives, often missing were the robust aesthetic qualities—of both art and language—of the most beloved children's literature. In order to assure strong classroom collections that can stand the test of potential challenges and to model respect for diversity through a wide-angle lens, it behooves educators to apply the same criteria to books with gay and lesbian characters as to other books—examining literary and aesthetic aspects and considering accuracy and authenticity, as well as overall engagement potential, curricular connections, and balance—as we select for use in the limited time span of a typical teaching day.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-69
JournalJournal of Children’s Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2 2014


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