Tag Archives: Harry Woodgate

Authors in Conversation: Vicki Johnson and Harry Woodgate

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome a pair of wonderful picture book authors, Vicki Johnson and Harry Woodgate! They’re here to talk about their books (Molly’s Tuxedo, illustrated by Gillian Reid, and Grandad’s Pride, respectively), approaches, history, the process of working with illustrations, and more!

HW: Firstly, huge congratulations on Molly’s Tuxedo, it’s such a gorgeous book. Your writing is full of warmth and humour and Molly is such a memorable character, and Gillian’s illustrations are wonderfully textured and so expressive. It’s so lovely to be chatting to you for LGBTQReads Authors in Conversation.

VJ: I’m so happy to be here chatting with you. First, I have to say congratulations on all the many accolades you’ve received for Grandad’s Camper – Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Best Illustrated Book; shortlisted for the British Book Awards Children’s Illustrated Category, and a 2022 ALA Stonewall Book Awards Honor, among others. Incredible, and so well deserved!

Grandad’s Pride is a beautiful and vibrant follow-up story, celebrating the diversity of our community and the fullness it brings to the world. Your art, as always, is layered and so inviting and full of color. I would have loved to read this to my daughter when she was young, to talk about all of the intricate details – the signs and t-shirts and hair colors and storefronts and animals and trees and flowers and families. It’s a perfect read together book.

HW: Thank you so much, that really means a lot and I’m so pleased you enjoyed it! I enjoy adding in those details because that’s what I loved when reading as a kid – looking at the buildings, outfits, characters, all the hidden stories within each book.

On a related note, I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on the intersections between fashion, gender and self-expression in picture books, because I think Molly’s Tuxedo explores these themes in such a playful yet meaningful way. How did you approach this and what do you hope your readers take from the story?

VJ: My goal was to explore my own experiences and feelings on these concepts, but to remember them from a child’s point of view. Young children have a tiny bit of agency over decisions in their lives, and self-expression in the form of what clothes feel right is a major opportunity for them to exercise their decision making. The push to conform is stronger as they get older but really young ones can be free and play and they have such strong feelings at that age. It was big for me as a child, and I observed the same with my own child. I also see it all around me every single day where this sense of play and self-discovery can be squashed by rigid and outdated ideas about gender. I drew on those experiences to write, hopefully, a very child-centered story about self-discovery and burgeoning self-confidence. I hope I’ve created some space for conversation about it for children and caregivers. I hope readers take from Molly’s experience that they can follow their inner compass and be brave if need be and feel just as happy as their classmates about their choices, even if it is a different one.

Regarding Grandad’s Pride, I’ve seen you talk about the need to recognize queer elders and their experiences as you have done in both of these books. I came out as a teen in 1980 and it has been a long and winding journey for this diverse community and there are so many untapped stories to tell! Our history and the rich tapestry of individuals within it will help sustain us, especially now. I have on my bucket list to write a story of historical fiction. How did you connect with these stories initially and are there more to come? And what is on your bucket list to write one day?

HW: In some ways I think my academic interest came first and from that I began to draw connections with my own experiences. In the UK, Section 28 prohibited the ‘promotion’ of LGBTQ+ identities in schools from the late 1980s all the way through to 2003 when it was finally repealed, and although almost all my school years came after that date, I still don’t recall learning a great deal about LGBTQ+ history or seeing many books in the library with openly queer characters and storylines. When I began researching these topics at sixth form and university, it revealed a whole alternate timeline of events and individuals and experiences I simply didn’t know had existed – and although I’m sure I could have sought them out sooner had I been so inclined, the point is that nobody should have to seek them out. They shouldn’t be on a separate shelf; they shouldn’t be consigned to a closing paragraph or a footnote; they should be readily available.

With Grandad’s Pride, I was keen to include key moments in LGBTQ+ history, such as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, Act UP, and the eventual legalization of same-sex marriage. I wanted to link up a few of the dots and reiterate that where we are today is simply another step along a path that has been trodden by countless generations of LGBTQ+ individuals, families, activists and campaigners.

In terms of what’s to come, I recently illustrated the cover for ‘Tales From Beyond The Rainbow’ by Pete Jordi Wood, which is a collection of lost or forgotten LGBTQ+ fairy tales from many different cultures, featuring illustrations by artists from around the world. It’s publishing with Puffin Classics this June. I’m also illustrating a non-fiction book of LGBTQ+ historical figures, which is a nice change to some of the projects I’ve worked on before. As for my bucket list, I think a graphic novel is definitely up there.

What I absolutely love about Molly’s Tuxedo is that we experience Molly’s journey at the same pace as her, which really allows us to understand her feelings in each moment and creates a wonderful sense of anticipation for the final reveal. How did you develop the pacing for the story, and were there any ways in which Gillian’s illustrations informed this?

VJ: I wish I had a grand explanation for my pacing of the story. I knew this was going to be an emotional journey for Molly so I had to write it in a way that kept the emotions high from the moment she wakes up on the big day! It was a bit tricky to find a way for Molly to have her tux with her at school, and for her mom to be there, too. Gillian’s illustrations have everything to do with carrying us moment by moment in Molly’s journey. The way she used spot illustrations to depict each and every line in the scenes where Molly expresses disdain for dresses was perfect. I loved her use of Molly’s cat to mirror Molly’s emotions. Her expressions! Picture books are magical for this interaction of words and images. As an author, it’s the most exciting thing. It will keep me writing picture books for sure.

Yes, I love Molly’s cat too! Your point about the interaction between word and image is so true, and I think sometimes the complexity of picture books in this regard is underappreciated. Visual literacy is such an important skill and picture books teach it so well.

What I love about Grandad’s Pride is the setting: this wonderful seaside village full of diverse individuals from all walks of life. It’s idyllic. I particularly love how you use sweeping lines across the spread like the colors of the pride flag or a road or the rolling hills of the landscape, giving your stories a very unique energy of place. How did you decide on the setting and what is your process for creating a story? Do you ever have to change the art to match the words or the words to match the art?

HW: Thank you! The British seaside has such a hold of my imagination and was a key part of my childhood, so I suppose it’s natural that it continues to crop up in my stories. The village in Grandad’s Pride is an amalgam of several places that are important to me. I wanted any child or family to be able to imagine themselves right there on the seafront amongst the celebrations, so I spent a lot of time populating the village with a diverse cast of characters.

As for how I create a story, I usually have to edit both art and text multiple times! Usually, I begin with character or location sketches before writing a first draft, which tends to come in several hundred words too long. Then I’ll cut out all the extra fluff and exposition by translating that into illustration. I’ll repeat that process until I have a set of rough layouts and a manuscript that flow as one – where the illustrations build upon the words, and the words give structure and rhythm to the illustrations.

It’s always fascinating hearing about other writers’ processes. Coming from an illustration background, I find I tend to begin with the visual world of the story, but I’d love to hear what aspect of the story came to you first: theme, character, structure, or something else? How did you transform those initial seeds into a full picture book, and were there any aspects you particularly struggled with or enjoyed along the way?

VJ: With all my writing I start with a character for sure, then I imagine, through a child’s eyes, the simple topic I’m thinking about. As I generate words it’s more like I am writing verses in a poem without an idea where it is going until I get there! Later I work on whether it makes sense and what kind of structure it needs and what may be missing. That usually means I need to dig deeper emotionally or enliven the language, both of which always work to make the story better. I naturally write in a poetry or lyrical picture book style, and then enhance and correct over several drafts.

I tend to be more serious in my writing and have the highest praise for Gillian who was able to inject lightheartedness and humor and color and motion with her artwork. I get the sense that you and I might be similar in that our stories are heartfelt, and I wonder if you’ve ever written a humorous or silly picture book, or if you’ve considered writing a book completely out of the norm for you? Admittedly I have tried and failed at this, ha.

HW: I think you’re probably right about the kinds of stories we’re drawn to write! I absolutely love how Gillian’s illustrations bring a levity to an experience which, for a child, can feel quite overwhelming, but I think your words portray Molly’s feelings in such an honest way and have their own gentle humour, too. There’s absolutely no doubt that kids love hilarious, silly books, but there are also lots of young readers who will cherish the quieter, more reflective stories such as ours, so there’s definitely a space for both.

Funnily enough, whilst I haven’t yet written a silly picture book, I am writing a middle grade series which is about as un-serious as you could possibly get! I’d been working on some other ideas which alongside the pressures of work, news and social media were beginning to weigh me down, so I just started writing to make myself laugh, and it unlocked an enthusiasm I genuinely feared I had lost.

On the topic of humour: are there any funny rituals, routines or ‘little treats’ that form part of your day-to-day writing process that you couldn’t do without? I think mine is that the closer it gets to deadline, the more I bribe myself with coffee shop trips or G&Ts once I’ve finished work for the day!

VJ: I was going to ask you something similar! You seem to be SO busy with multiple projects, all of the time. I rely on daily walks outside to clear my head, and I need so much head clearing that I live in an actual forest, ha. I also live with five rescue pets who amuse me and interrupt me to no end. So those things give me a respite. As to writing, I am an early bird and do my best generative work when it’s still dark outside, with hot coffee next to me and cats sleeping around me.

Big thumbs up for daily walks (and rescue pets!). Excellent stress relievers, both. I wish I was an early bird. I’m lucky if I haul myself into the office before 11am.

My question for you: Gillian Reid, who illustrated our book, is absolutely amazing, and we have met since and she is just as lovely in person and also very funny. She put a few “Easter eggs” or hidden gems in the book. For example, I have a photo of me at age 7 in a suit and clip-on tie in front of our red family car and it appears on Molly’s family wall. Do you ever include secret references in your books or use friends as visual references for your characters?

HW: Oh I love hearing about these little Easter eggs! Yes, I absolutely do this. My illustrations are full of references that probably only a select group of family and friends will recognize. After all, what is it that draws us to writing or illustrating in the first place if not the opportunity to translate and thereby more fully understand our own internal worlds? They’re not just stories, in the end, they’re time capsules. 

Something which is perhaps unique about picture books is how they need to speak to children and their caregivers simultaneously, without patronising either. I wonder if you have any thoughts about this, and if there are any ways it informed your writing, because it’s something I feel Molly’s Tuxedo really succeeds in doing.

VJ: This makes me very happy that you mention this. It was really important to me to write a story where the caregiver had a proper arc, too. I do think even the most present and involved adult can miss something about their child or make mistakes or just be busy and overlook something important. I did as a parent for sure! In this case, Molly’s mom wasn’t tuned in to how important the tux was to Molly until she overheard her talking with her friends at school. I wanted Mom to have an opportunity to have a course correction because this can happen in real life. I didn’t want adults leaving this book feeling bad if they made a mistake or missed something in their own family. I wanted them to feel as empowered as Molly. If you notice in that scene when she ‘sees’ Molly she is hugging Molly but her eyes are open. That’s a moment Gillian made more special with her attention to detail.

HW: It’s so amazing how much difference something small like a character’s eyes being open or closed can make! And that is a lovely point about giving Molly’s mum the space to make mistakes. It’s so important for young readers to know that parents don’t always have the right answers, too, but that you can help each other grow by listening and making space to be open about your feelings. That’s a really powerful message.

VJ: I enjoy photography as another creative outlet, and going to movies and museums, and I’m wondering if you have other things that you do for fun or to fill your creative well?

HW: Me too! I also enjoy music – listening to, playing and writing. It’s so lovely having a creative hobby which you don’t feel obliged to share with anyone. Apart from that, cycling is my favourite way of getting outdoors and making sure I’m not sat in front of a screen for seven hours a day!

A couple of shorter questions to finish! Firstly, are there any other recent or upcoming picture books that you are really excited about or would recommend (or perhaps an older title that you feel didn’t get the recognition and appreciation it deserved)?

And secondly, the various outfits Molly and her friends wear for school picture day are so varied and exciting. If you were back at school, what would you wear for the big day?

VJ: So far this year, I have really loved Out of the Blue by Robert Tregoning and Stef Murphy, and The Wishing Flower by A.J. Irving and Kip Alizadeh, and I look forward to reading Hope for Ryan White by Dano Moreno and Hannah Abbo. As for my time-traveling picture day, in kindergarten I was horse obsessed, and I told my teacher I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up, so I would probably wear a cowboy hat and boots.

How about you? What would be your dream outfit or what was your favorite picture day memory (Do you have a picture day in the U.K.?)

HW: Yes, I loved Out of the Blue too, and I’m looking forward to the other two as well. And a cowboy outfit sounds iconic! I’m not sure what I’d pick – we had school uniforms in the UK so the only time we got to choose what to wear was on non-uniform day (which usually had a theme, like ‘book characters’ or ‘superheroes’). I think a very swishy, sparkly ball gown would make a fun statement in our imaginary class. 

Finally, are you working on anything new right now that you’re allowed to talk about? I’ve got a few picture books in the works, as well as the (hopefully!) funny middle grade series I mentioned earlier.

VJ: I recently wrote a new picture book I’m really excited about! It came to me very quickly and for me that feels like something really true and good. I’m also in developmental edits with my middle grade novel.

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Harry. I hope we get to meet in person one day.

I love what you bring to the world of children’s literature. As Lesléa Newman told me to remember, love wins. Your stories prove it.

Buy Vicki’s Tuxedo: Bookshop | Amazon

Buy Grandad’s Pride: Bookshop | Amazon

Harry Woodgate (pronouns: they/them) is an award-winning author and illustrator who has worked with clients including National Book Tokens, Google, The Sunday Times Magazine, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Walker Books, Andersen Press, Bloomsbury, The Washington Post and Penguin Random House.

Their books include Grandad’s Camper, Grandad’s Pride, Timid, Little Glow, Shine Like the Stars, My First Baking Book and The Very Merry Murder Club.  Grandad’s Camper, their debut author-illustrator title, won the Waterstones Childrens Book Prize Best Illustrated Book 2022 and a Stonewall Book Award Honor from the American Library Association. It was also shortlisted for the Children’s Illustrated category at the British Book Awards as well as the inaugural Polari Children’s & YA Prize, and was nominated for the CILIP Yoto Kate Greenaway Award.

Harry is passionate about writing and illustrating diverse, inclusive stories that inspire children to be inquisitive, creative, kind and proud of what makes them unique.

Vicki Johnson (she/her) is a children’s book author, and a former band nerd, White House staffer, and nonprofit director, among other life adventures. Her debut picture book is Molly’s Tuxedo, illustrated by Gillian Reid, releasing June 27, 2023 from Little Bee Books in their publishing partnership with GLAAD.

Born and raised in rural GA, Vicki is a lesbian mom, proud first-gen graduate of Smith College and Emory University School of Law, and an MFA candidate in Writing for Children & Young Adults at VCFA. Vicki was a 2022 Lambda Literary Fellow, a 2020 PBChat Mentee, a 2020 WNDB MG mentorship finalist, and a 2018 grant recipient from the WV Div. of Arts, Culture & History and the National Endowment for the Arts. She’s an active member of SCBWI and was a nominee for the Sue Alexander Award for most promising new work. Vicki is currently working on her middle grade novel and texting cat photos to her college kid. Read more: www.vickijohnsonwrites.com

July 2022 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Author of THE DUKE UNDONE Joanna Lowell‘s A SHORE THING, in which a transmasculine artist falls for a renowned cis woman botanist as they compete in a shoreside bicycle race in this beach-set Victorian romance, to Kate Seaver at Berkley, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2024, by Tara Gelsomino at One Track Literary Agency (world).

Two-time Hugo Award finalist Chuck Tingle‘s CAMP DAMASCUS, in which a group of queer friends begin to realize their memories of surviving a hellish gay conversion therapy camp have been stolen from them; and a second standalone novel, BURY YOUR GAYS, to Kelly Lonesome at Nightfire, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, for publication in July 2023 and summer 2024, by DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (NA).

Author of CHEF’S KISS TJ Alexander‘s SECOND CHANCES IN NEW PORT STEPHEN, in which a down-on-his-luck, early-40s trans comedian begrudgingly returns to his outlandish Floridian hometown for the first time in decades, only to run into his high school ex-boyfriend, who’s inexplicably gotten hotter with time and soon throws into question where nostalgia ends and where moving on begins, to Lara Jones at Emily Bestler Books, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, for publication in December 2023, by Larissa Melo Pienkowski at Jill Grinberg Literary Management (world).

Lambda Award-winning author of SKYE FALLING Mia McKenzie’s DORIS STEELE, a comic novel about a pious, small-town teenager who travels to Atlanta in 1960 to get an abortion and finds herself smack in the middle of the civil rights movement and the secret lives of queer Black people, ultimately discovering the transformative power of leaving your bubble, even for just one chaotic weekend, to Caitlin McKenna at Random House, by Alexa Stark at Writers House (world).

Columbia MFA alum and Lambda Literary inaugural fellow Douglas Jones’s PRIME REAL ESTATE, set in Atlanta as the 1996 Olympics loom, following two Black men confronting their roles in displacing Black residents to make way for the Opening ceremony while coming to terms with their own sexuality, to Yahdon Israel at Simon & Schuster, in a pre-empt, by Haley Heidemann at William Morris Endeavor.

Author of CITY OF A THOUSAND FEELINGS Anya Johanna DeNiro‘s OKPSYCHE, a surreal short novel from the perspective of a trans woman navigating dystopia, anxiety, and motherhood, to Kelly Link at Small Beer Press, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2023 (world).

Andrew Wilmot’s WITHERED, in which a nonbinary student moves to a small, haunted town after reaching a low point with their mental health, to Terese Mason Pierre at ECW Press, with Jennifer Albert editing, by Kelvin Kong at K2 Literary (world).

Lambda Award-winning author of FLAMER and the Little Elliot picture books Mike Curato‘s GAYSIANS, a humorous graphic novel about an ensemble of queer Asian American friends in 2000s Seattle as they carve out space for themselves and navigate friendships, relationships, racism, and transphobia, to Betsy Gleick and Mae Zhang McCauley at Algonquin, at auction, by Brenda Bowen at The Book Group (world).

T M Payne‘s regional police procedural series set in Liverpool, following a tortured and authentic detective with a strong moral compass, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, to Victoria Haslam at Thomas & Mercer, in a three-book deal, for publication in March 2024, October 2024, and March 2025, by Broo Doherty at DHH Literary (world English).

Fulbright scholar Mary Liza Hartong’s HOT CHICKEN, pitched as Schitt’s Creek meets Dumplin’, a Southern novel about a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt who returns to her small Tennessee hometown for her father’s funeral and picks up work at a hot chicken shack, where she falls in love with another young woman and has to find a way forward for herself, her feisty mother, and her new love, to Rachel Kahan at William Morrow, in a nice deal, for publication in winter/spring 2024, by Janna Bonikowski at The Knight Agency (world English).

Pitch Wars mentee KT Hoffman‘s THE KEYSTONE COMBINATION, pitched as Red, White & Royal Blue meets Ted Lasso, a rom-com about what happens when the first openly trans professional baseball player in history is forced to share the infield with his arch nemesis—a standoffish, super-talented, and inconveniently gorgeous player, to Katy Nishimoto at Dial Press, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Allison Hunter at Trellis Literary Management (NA).

Asha Thanki’s A THOUSAND TIMES BEFORE, a queer literary speculative novel tracing three generations of mothers and daughters—spanning from the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan through to contemporary Brooklyn—who are connected by an ancient tapestry through which they inherit all the memories of their foremothers, to Nidhi Pugalia at Viking, at auction, by Stephanie Delman and Danya Kukafka at Trellis Literary Management (NA).

Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction

Middle school English teacher and GrubStreet Novel Incubator graduate Karen Wilfrid’s JUST LIZZIE, about an eighth grader whose study of asexual reproduction in science class leads her to understand her own asexual identity as she embarks on a journey toward self-discovery and self-advocacy, to Lily Kessinger at Clarion, at auction, for publication in fall 2023, by Lauren Scovel at Laura Gross Literary Agency (NA).

Rainie Oet’s THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, a picture book about a nonbinary child who is swept off to their surprise birthday party full of dreamlike creatures and magical, poignant moments, illustrated by Mathias Ball, to Susan Dobinick at Astra, for publication in spring 2024, by Abigail Frank at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates for the author, and by Natascha Morris at The Tobias Literary Agency for the illustrator (world).

Stonewall and Waterstones Children’s Book Prize award winning creator Harry Woodgate‘s GRANDAD’S PRIDE, a sequel to Grandad’s Camper, this time honoring the past and celebrating the future with a Pride parade, to Sue Buswell at Andersen Press, in a two-book deal, for publication in April 2023, by Alice Sutherland-Hawes at ASH Literary (world).

Young Adult Fiction

Elisa Bonnin‘s EXILES OF ELLERY WEST, a dark academia YA novel following a queer Filipino-American girl who returns as a probationary student to the acclaimed Ellery Academy of Magic, only to find her past—an accident involving dark magic that caused the death of her best friend—is far from behind her, and teams up with the other probationary classmates to prevent more deaths, even if it risks having her magic sealed away forever, to Rachel Diebel at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in spring 2024, by Natalie Lakosil and Antoinette Van Sluytman at Irene Goodman Agency (world).

Cecilia Vinesse‘s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, following a bisexual film club nerd’s attempts to make her ex jealous by pretending to date his new girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend, who happens to be her ultra-cool next-door neighbor; as she gets deeper into the charade, she realizes why “fake dating” is such a tried-and-true movie trope—and that her heart’s in danger of being broken again, to Alyssa Miele at Quill Tree, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2023, by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency (NA).

Literary agent Lee Paige O’Brien’s A HUNDRED VICIOUS TURNS and an untitled sequel in The Broken Tower series, following the nonbinary heir to a powerful magical bloodline with the unsettling ability to find doorways that no one else can see, who finds themself drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse at an elite magic university when a malevolent force follows them back through the passages, to Emily Daluga at Amulet, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2023, by Jordan Hamessley at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English).

Laura Steven’s THE SOCIETY FOR SOULLESS GIRLS, a dark contemporary thriller with a supernatural twist pitched as a sapphic retelling of Jekyll & Hyde set at a haunted university, which follows two roommates who must solve an infamous cold case of serial murders on campus after an arcane soul-splitting ritual gone wrong prompts another death, to Hannah Hill at Delacorte, for publication in fall 2023, by Juliette Clark at Farshore (US). (Note: this book has already been released in the UK.)

Danish cartoonist Jam Aden‘s LOVE, MISHA, pitched as A Goofy Movie meets Spirited Away, about a nonbinary teen and their mother who, during a contentious road trip, take a wrong turn that lands them in the realm of the spirits, where they are surrounded by trickster spirits who aren’t so keen on human trespassers, with no obvious way out, to Samia Fakih at First Second, for publication in spring 2025, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).

NYT-bestselling author of CEMETERY BOYS Aiden Thomas‘s CEMETERY BOYS 2, a sequel told from Julian’s point-of-view, pitched as The Sixth Sense meets Final Destination, when a monster starts creating malingo spirits in East L.A., to Holly West at Feiwel and Friends, in a good deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2024, by Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).


Transgender writer Stacy Jane Grover‘s TAR HOLLOW TRANS, a debut collection of personal essays that tracks the author’s attempts and ultimate failure to write themselves into a recognizable transgender, Appalachian identity, to Abby Freeland at University Press of Kentucky, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2023.

Appalachian bookseller and cofounder of Atlas Books Davis Shoulders’s QUEER COMMUNION: APPALACHIAN QUEERS & RELIGION, a collection of essays that examines how Queer individuals reimagine their relationship to spiritual communities and religious institutions, to Abby Freeland at University Press of Kentucky, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2024.

Ed Emcee Dr. Anthony Keith Jr’s HOW THE BOOGEYMAN BECAME A POET, a YA memoir-in-verse tracing the author’s journey from being a closeted-gay Black high school teenager battling against poverty, racism, White supremacy, and homophobia to becoming an openly gay first-generation college student who finds unexpected freedom in poetry; and KNUCKLEHEAD, a poetry collection which takes the form of a tender love letter from an openly gay Black man to Black men and boys everywhere, to Ben Rosenthal at Katherine Tegen Books, in a significant deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2024 and winter 2025, by Annie Hwang at Ayesha Pande Literary (NA).

Queer artist with ADHD and creator of the Instagram account @blessthemessy Jess Bird’s BLESS THE MESSY, an illustrated personal development book that speaks candidly about inclusivity, acceptance, and radical self-love, and inspires readers to reframe chaos and mess as tools for growth and change, to Veronica Alvarado at Simon Element, in a pre-empt, by Kate Woodrow at Present Perfect (world English).

New Pride Month Picture Books!

It has been an absolutely fabulous season for picture books that embody Pride, so whether you’ve got a little one to shop for, a library to fill, or you just love beautiful words and artwork, check out these new picture books!

Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King
Text: Daniel Haack
Illustration: Stevie Lewis
Out now from GLAAD and Little Bee Books

Have you heard the thrilling tale
of the prince and his dear knight?
Their love for one another
inspired everyone in sight.

Our brave and dashing heroes, the prince and the knight, are happily married and their kingdom is prospering, but soon, a fog of darkness that blocks the sun spreads across their land. They get word that the cause of this is a dark and mysterious Shadow King, and they rush off to find and stop him, but encounter many obstacles along the way. Will they be able to restore the light to their kingdom?

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Grandad’s Camper
Text and Illustration by Harry Woodgate
Out now from Little Bee Books

Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.

This beautiful picture book honors love and reminds us not only to remember those we have lost, but to celebrate them.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

The Pirate Mums
Text: Jodie Lancet-Grant
Illustration: Lydia Corry
Out Now from Oxford University Press

Billy’s family is not what you’d call ordinary. His mums won’t listen to NORMAL music. They love to sing sea shanties and dance jigs in the lounge. Their clothes are highly unusual, they have a rude parrot for a pet, and their taste in house design is, well . . . FISHY. Billy wishes his family could be more like everyone else’s. Until a swashbuckling adventure changes everything!

Buy It: Blackwell’s | Book Depository

Two Grooms on a Cake
Text: Rob Sanders
Illustration: Robbie Cathro
Out now from GLAAD and Little Bee Books

This is the story of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell and their inspiring story becoming the first married gay couple in the US fifty years ago.

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Pride Puppy
Text: Robin Stevenson
Illustration: Julie McLaughlin
Out now from Orca Book Publishers

A young child and their family are having a wonderful time together celebrating Pride Day–meeting up with Grandma, making new friends and eating ice cream. But then something terrible happens: their dog gets lost in the parade! Luckily, there are lots of people around to help reunite the pup with his family.

This rhyming alphabet book tells a lively story, with rich, colorful illustrations that will have readers poring over every detail as they spot items starting with each of the letters of the alphabet. An affirming and inclusive book that offers a joyful glimpse of a Pride parade and the vibrant community that celebrates this day each year.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Daddy & Dada
Text: Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster
Illustration: Lauren May
Out now from Little Brown

Hi, I’m Rumi.
Some of my friends have one mom and one dad.
Some have one mom or one dad.
I have two dads. Daddy and Dada.

Daddy sings songs with me. Dada reads me stories.
Every family is different.
And that’s pretty cool.

This sweet, open-hearted book began as a love letter from authors Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster to their daughter—and became a joyous celebration of love, family, and acceptance for all to read and share.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns
Text: Katherine Locke
Illustration: Anne Passchier
Out now from Little Brown

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away–sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages.

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Llama Glamarama
Text: Simon James Green
Illustration: Garry Parsons
Out now from Orchard Books

Larry lives a slow and quiet life at the barn with all the other llamas, just the way they like it. But at night when everyone has gone to bed, Larry loves to dress up in bright costumes and DANCE! He has to hide this from the others, for fear that they won’t approve of his raucous ways. One day, he stumbles upon the Llama Glamarama, a carnival full of music, laughter, and yes-dancing!

Will this vibrant celebration give Larry the pride he needs to bring his dance back home? A bright and colorful rhyming story with a powerful message about celebrating differences, Llama Glamarama is the perfect Pride picture book for everyone!

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My Two Dads and Me
Text: Michael Joosten
Illustration: Izak Zenou
Out now from Random House Children’s Books

Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy dads and their kids throughout their day–eating breakfast, getting dressed, heading out to the park, and settling back in at night with a bubble bath and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this diverse and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup. It’s an ideal baby-shower and first-birthday gift in a children’s book market where gay parents are still greatly underrepresented.

With artwork by acclaimed and much-followed fashion illustrator Izak Zenou, this is a stylish, smart, humorous, family-focused book that will have babies and their two dads giggling as they enjoy it together.

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Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster
Text and Illustration: Manka Kasha
coming August 10th from Feiwel & Friends

The worry kept growing day by day, until… one morning Small Knight woke up to see a huge inky black monster in their room.

When Small Knight feels pressure from their parents to be a perfect princess, an anxiety monster shows up. No one else can see the monster, so Small Knight and their best friend Tiny Bear, decide that it is up to them to save themselves. They set off on a magical quest, only to discover that the answer was inside themselves all along. Turning to face the Anxiety Monster, they learn how to keep it under control.

Personal and whimsical, Manka Kasha’s debut picture book is a beautiful story about understanding your anxiety and finding the courage to face it.

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