Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Tower of BabeLGBT - A Guest Post by Lawrence Schimel

In her coverage for School Library Journal of the most recent Bologna Book Fair, Betsy Bird observed a general lack of titles with visible LGBT content from or in other languages, with the exception of my two rainbow family board books illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa, Bedtime, Not Playtime! and Early One Morning, published by Orca in English & French for the US & Canada (and in 35 other languages around the world):

While there has certainly been an increase of titles being published in the English speaking world in recent years, even if focused more heavily on titles for older readers (middle grade and YA) which are not always as immediately visible on stands at the bookfairs, I think that part of the problem behind the absence Betsy noted is economic: a lot of the independent publishers around the world who are indeed publishing these titles are either not attending the fair and/or do not have a stand of their own, thus making discoverability part of the problem.

For instance, at Bologna were the two women behind a nascent publishing project in Cyprus to focus on gender positive children's books, FylAnagnosia, who are still in the fundraising stage. But of course, it is too early for any of their homegrown titles or the translations they plan to publish to be present at the fair, and it is much harder for people who are both "floating" to encounter one another than it is to wander by and browse the titles displayed at a stand with its physical presence. 

Betsy's observation, though, made me go back to my own bookshelves, because historically, many of the early picture books with LGBTQ content that were published in the US were in fact translations. (And my own board books were originally written & published in Spanish, so the English editions are later self-translations.)

The very first LGBT picture book that I know if is Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin written by Susanne Bösche, with photos by Andreas Hansen, published in Denmark in 1981, and published by the Gay Men's Press in 1983 in a translation by Louis Mackay. (GMP was a UK publisher with US distribution.)

And the well-known delightful (if frequently banned or challenged) picture book King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland was originally published in 2000 in the Netherlands, before being released in English by Tricycle in 2002.

So a translation definitely paved the way before groundbreaking (but still quite controversial) domestic picture books like Lesléa Newman's Heather Has Two Mommies (1989) and Michael Willhoite's Daddy's Roommate (1990) were published, both from independent LGBT press Alyson Books. (It would be many years still before titles with LGBT content were regularly published by mainstream, commercial presses.) And another translation made waves for inverting traditional fairy tale gender roles (and for its depiction of the first same-sex kiss in a children's picture book).

So while English language books with LGBT content might be more visible these days, it is to no small degree thanks to translated titles that led the way. 

I'll conclude with a sampler of picture books in other languages from my personal library:

Citlalli tiene tres abuelas written by Silvia Susana Jácome and illustrated by Medusczka is a story about a trans grandparent, published in Mexico in 2017 by the Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación and distributed free.

Also from Mexico are the titles from Ediciones Patlatonalli, a collective that produces picture books featuring lesbian mothers, such as Tengo una tía que no es monjita written by Melissa Cardoza and illustrated by Margarita Sada Romero (2004) or Mi mama ya no tiene frío written by Lorena Modnragón Rocha, illustrated by Dirce Hernández (2011).

cover of "Mi mama ya no tiene frío"

From Uruguay, El vestido de Mamá written by Dani Umpi and illustrated by Rodrigo Moraes, published by Criatura Editora in 2011 is a charming story about a young boy who likes to wear his mother's green sequined dress, and questions why we wear different kinds of clothing in different situations (bathing suits, winter coats) and why these have to be restricted by gender.

cover of "El vestido de Mamá"

Los días felices written and illustrated by Catalan author/illustrator Bernt Cormand is a poetic story about first love between two young boys until one of them goes away when his family moves, published in 2018 by Tragaluz in Colombia and A Buen Paso in Spain. 

cover of "Los días felices"

Las cosas que le gustan a Fran written by Berta Piñán and illustrated by Antonia Santolaya Ruiz-Clavijo is a story about a young girl and all the things that Fran (her mother's girlfriend) likes, which was published in a bilingual (Spanish/English) edition by Hotel Papel in 2007.

cover of "Las cosas que le gustan a Fran"

And to not be monolingual, even if (since Spanish is one of my primary languages for both creating & translating) let me conclude with a picture book from Malta about a boy with two mothers: Mamà, allura din imħabba? written by Moira Scicluna Zahra and illustrated by Mark Scicluna, published by Merlin Publishers in 2017.

cover of "Mamà, allura din imħabba?"

* * *

Lawrence Schimel is a bilingual (Spanish/English) author & anthologist who has published over 120 books in many different genres. He won a Crystal Kite Award for his picture book Will You Read a Book With Me?, illustrated by Thiago Lopes, and his books have also been chosen for the White Ravens and by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities (three times). His children's books featuring rainbow families, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, both illustrated by Elina Braslina, have been published in 46 editions in 37 languages, including Romansch, Welsh, Icelandic, Changana, isiZulu, and Luxembourgish. He is also a prolific literary translator, both into Spanish and into English, of more than 130 books. He lives in Madrid, Spain, where he founded the SCBWI Spain chapter and served as RA for the first 5 years. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Inspiration from the 2022 Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Awards

A highlight of the ALA conference is the acceptance speeches from three of the biggest awards in children's lit, the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, and the Children's Literature Legacy Award.

a post card from the 2022 awards dinner showing the winners of the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, and the Children's Literature Legacy Award

This year, all three speeches were awesome: Donna Barba Higuera (who won the Newbery Medal for "The Last Cuentista"); Jason Chin (who won the Caldecott Medal for his illustrations for "Watercress" by Andrea Wang; and Grace Lin, who won the Children's Literature Legacy Award -  once they're uploaded, you should be able to listen to the speeches here 

One highlight:
“It is our books that tell them who the heroes are and who they can be.” 
—Grace Lin


Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 23, 2022

From the SCBWI Video Vault - Linda Sue Park Tells Us To Get Out Of Our Characters' Heads

More wisdom and inspiration from the SCBWI youtube channel...

In this under-six minute video recorded back in 2002, Linda Sue Park schools us in story...

screen shot of Linda Sue Park presenting at an SCBWI conference in 2002

"In writing and in life it's what happens that matters."


"Story does not happen in someone's head - it happens in the world."


"All the books I love have a character I care about in situations that interest me."

Thanks, Linda Sue!

And for everyone else reading this, Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Have you registered for the SCBWI 2022 Summer Conference yet? #SCBWIsummer22


SCBWI Summer 2022 Online Conference graphic, showing a young boy and a book flying over a field of flowers with two butterflies

It's online and it's going to be amazing! 

We hope you'll join our community for: 

Keynote presentations from Dhonielle Clayton, Jessixa Bagley, and Donna Barba Higuera!

Panels of agents, editors, and art directors discussing the current state of children’s publishing!

A half-day of programming just for illustrators offered at no additional cost! 

Over 35 breakout sessions with tracks for illustrators, self-publishing authors, traditionally published authors, and nonfiction authors!

An opportunity to pitch to acquiring agents and editors!

The career-launching Portfolio Showcase!

Online socials and peer critiques and more!

There's even an orientation for first-time attendees, to help you get the most out of the experience.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 16, 2022

F(o)UN(d) in Translation – a Guest Post by Lawrence Schimel

While it's a cliché to talk about what is "lost in translation" I prefer to think of all the things that are found thanks to translation. And for me one of the best things about being a translator is to help people find stories they couldn't otherwise access because they didn't speak the language.

I define myself first and foremost as a reader, and while some of the books I translate are projects that publishers come to me with, quite a lot are books I read and fall in love with and want to share with more readers in one of my other languages.

The Fun of Translation

There are plenty of articles that talk about the CHALLENGES of translation, and while there are certainly obstacles and hardships, having to do with both the nature of the work itself and also the business-side of the profession (badly paid, lack of credit, etc.), I think there isn't enough emphasis placed on how FUN translation can be. Even (or especially) the literary challenges.

So I asked some fellow translators to share some of what is fun about what it is we do.

photo of Gili Bar-Hillel Semo
Gili Bar-Hillel Semo

Gili Bar-Hillel Semo is a translator from English into Hebrew, and also the editor of YA publisher Utz Books. She loves Diana Wynne Jones and all things Oz, and is perhaps best-known for having translated the Harry Potter series into Hebrew; she just finished a new Hebrew translation of The Catcher in the Rye.

She said:

I guess what I love about translating is that it can sometimes be like solving a crossword puzzle or a riddle. You just know there has to be a clever way of solving something, and when the idea finally springs on you it's immensely gratifying. This is particularly true for wordplay and rhyme, of which there are plenty in children's books.

And then I go around for awhile very pleased with myself because I found a way to translate this impossible thing that seemed untranslatable. Which can probably only be appreciated by other people capable of translating those languages...

photo of Laura Watkinson
Laura Watkinson

When I first approached Laura Watkinson, award-winning translator from Dutch, German, and Italian into English, with this question, she quipped: "It's all fun. Except for the admin!"

But like Gili, she also enjoys the challenges of wordplay. Laura said:

It's also fun – and often a challenge – coming up with translations that involve puns and jokes that require a little more freedom in translation. And funny poems for children too. You have to work with the rhymes and keep it fun but the meaning may change a little so that you can keep the same kind of pace and rhythm. That's always interesting. I sometimes go and sit in cafes to do that kind of work, as it helps me to escape the page a little.

Oh, and picture books with funny pictures can be a real laugh too. Sometimes the pictures will suggest a translation that wouldn't have occurred to me if I'd only seen the words.

Laura also had a unique experience in that one of the books she translated was made into a series and she got to visit the set:

It was great fun going to the Czech Republic to see some of the filming for the Netflix series of The Letter for the King. Fascinating to see some of the words that you've written coming out of actors' mouths. I also came up with a few "translations" of the characters' names, just small shifts generally, to capture the same sounds and sense in English as in the original, and it was good to see those names attached to actual people.

Sometimes translation can be not just fun, but also glamorous, even if it is often borrowed glamour (our work is in some ways a reflection of the author's original).

Like Gili and Laura, some of the "tricky" challenges of translating are the parts I enjoy most--like working on rhyming picture books. The words that rhyme in one language won't necessarily rhyme in the other, and the translator doesn't even have complete freedom to invent new rhymes because they can't contradict anything in the existing artwork.

But for a word nerd like myself, these are not simply obstacles in my path to be surmounted, but are the kind of puzzles I'd do in my free time: basically, I'm getting paid to play wordgames! And the best fun can be making up new puns!

Very often you can't translate puns literally but in order to recreate the reading experience you need to come up with a new pun in the target language that serves the same function.

For instance, when I was translating into English the middle grade bibliofantasy novel The Wild Book by Mexican author Juan Villoro, I got a chance to make up lots of new puns and twists off classic titles. 

cover of "The Wild Book"

At one point, the protagonist's uncle goes through a culinary obsession, and there are lots of jokes with food twists. When the original used Sobras completas as a book title, it was so perfect because that pun plays off Obras completas (or the Collected/Complete Works of an author) and "sobras" which are leftovers. I love brainstorming this kind of thing, and in the end I wound up using A Room with a Stew to evoke both a literary classic and to fit the scene (where everything is being tidied in the kitchen and more or less thrown into the pot). 

It's definitely more fun for me to translate works like these, with a playfulness and a sense of humor, than a dry academic text, say. (Actually, all that latinate jargon translates fairly straightforwardly, so even if you don't know what it means, you can often accurately translate it without even needing to look things up.)

The research can be its own kind of fun. Not so much tracking down quotations that are quoted in your text in translation but were originally written in English (or another language but where an English translation is already published and widely-known). But for instance, when I translated the middle grade novel The Treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Campos, about a pirate crew that learns to read after discovering that the famous treasure is his memoirs, I got to basically spend months of Talk Like a Pirate Day!

the cover of "The Treasure of Barracuda"

And one of the things I value about even some of the purportedly "boring" kind of translations is that I get to learn about all sorts of things. I no longer have a physical encyclopedia set like I used to consult at the library–or at home (although we never bought the whole alphabet's worth of the encyclopedia subscription, so I could only read the early volumes)–when I was a kid, but translation gives me a chance to (temporarily) get lost down a rabbit hole investigating things like locomotives or crystal formations or bonsai–and it's all legitimate and necessary research for work, so it's not even like I'm slacking off in letting my inner geek get to play for a while. 

But I agree with Laura, all the admin is a chore!


Lawrence Schimel is a bilingual (Spanish/English) author & anthologist who has published over 120 books in many different genres. He won a Crystal Kite Award for his picture book Will You Read a Book With Me?, illustrated by Thiago Lopes, and his books have also been chosen for the White Ravens and by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities (three times). His children's books featuring rainbow families, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, both illustrated by Elina Braslina, have been published in 46 editions in 37 languages, including Romansch, Welsh, Icelandic, Changana, isiZulu, and Luxembourgish. He is also a prolific literary translator, both into Spanish and into English, of more than 130 books. He lives in Madrid, Spain, where he founded the SCBWI Spain chapter and served as RA for the first 5 years. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Kaz Windness Shares Advice and the story behind her writing/illustrating picture book debut, "Swim, Jim!"

Debbie Ridpath Ohi interviews Kaz Windness at Debbie's blog, and it includes so much great stuff. Like the wacky real-life origins of "Swim, Jim!"

two photos of a crocodile swimming in a canal on top of a yellow pool noodle, and a cartoon balloon of dialog next to a photo of Kaz saying "Please help me find Jim. I wrote him a book"

I particularly liked Kaz's advice for other authors and illustrators:

Children’s books is a career that requires a deep and abiding passion. It’s not like in the movies where you have a book idea one day and get a huge book deal the following week and save the family farm from foreclosure. SWIM, JIM! is my debut picture book, and I’ve been out of art school for 20 years this summer. It’s also not the kind of money that saves the farm. But it is a career that saves kids (books saved me!) so it’s worth being persistent– but only if it’s something you can’t not do. If you can’t quit, keep going. Your breakthroughs are coming!    

My advice for illustrators is cast a larger net for art inspiration. While it’s important to be on social media and also devour children’s literature, especially recent publications, if we only look Instagram and other picture books, we’re just stylistically regurgitating what’s already been done. Go to the museum. Get inspired by musical theatre. Fall down the rabbit hole of Victorian fashion or hip-hop music or cave paintings. You are standing on the creative shoulders of thousands of years of artists and its a proud and inspiration-rich heritage. That can all becomes compost and fertile ground to draw inspiration from.   

Read the full interview here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Word's-Eye View - A Guest Post by Lawrence Schimel

Learning another language will literally change how you think--something I think can be healthy and helpful to all writers and creators.

For instance, one of my favorite words in the Spanish language is "escampar" which is a verb to describe when the sky clears up after it rains (usually, although it can just be changing from cloudy to blue skies). While I had seen that happen many times before, it was only once I had the vocabulary for this action that I began to recognize this moment as having an existence of its own. It was only by naming it that it came to life for me, and changed how I view the world even if I lack equivalent vocabulary to talk about it in my mother tongue, English.

I am constantly being surprised, while translating, when I run into a conundrum that reveals how the underlying worldview from one language/culture to another is so different, as inherent in what words exist or don't exist, or what they describe. 

Some years ago, I took part in a poetry translation workshop in Slovenia with a group of poets from different countries in which we all translated one another into our languages, using English as the bridge.

And I was surprised and delighted to learn that Slovene has a dual case in its grammatical structure, "you and I," in addition to just the first person singular ("I) and plural ("we of three or more"). Neither English nor Spanish uses this, but ever since I discovered this fact, it's changed how I think and also how I write. Now, I am always aware if a we is an intimate we (a you and I we) or a more general group we (three or more). Obviously, I knew that both kinds of "we" existed before learning that Slovene distinguishes between them, but it was only by my exposure to Slovene that I became aware of this distinction, that solidified it for me.

And because my worldview was changed as a result, my writing was forever changed afterwards–even though neither of my primary languages, English and Spanish, use this as part of their grammars. 

I had already noticed that I write differently in both Spanish and English. And one major aspect of that, for me, is how Spanish uses four different words for what in English is just one: you. I have much more specificity and control, as a result, in Spanish, especially when addressing poetic subjects in poetry, say: tu (informal singular you), usted (formal singular you), vosotros (informal plural you), and ustedes (formal plural you). (And there are regional variants in other Spanish-speaking countries, too, like Argentina, which uses "vos" instead of "tu".)

So whenever I am writing in or translating into English, I find myself at a loss for words when trying to use "you" and having only one vague, general term instead of the specificity and nuance my brain wants to be able to avail itself of, that Spanish offers me. 

And at the same time, I am constantly being forced to consider questions of gender, and inclusive language, because of the differences in how English and Spanish work. Spanish is an inflected language, which mean all nouns are assigned a gender, either male or female. There is no existing neutral form which means that individuals are having to invent new language or grammar to try and be more inclusive, and to reject an artificial and historic cisheteropatriarchal binary even on a linguistic level, which likewise colors thinking when using that same language with its limitations.  

We often have blindspots that we're not even aware of because we lack the vocabulary to discuss them--or the language we use colors our view--and as a result, we don't often stop to recognize or think about these things.

One of these biggest of these is how privilege affects both our thinking and our vocabulary. Ableism, for instance, is so ingrained in English (and also Spanish) that we have the word "disability" without ever having its un-negatived state: it is so taken for granted there isn't even a word/concept for being able-bodied. (Or how we use "blind spot" ableist-ly in non-anatomical situations.)

I recently translated into English a middle grade memoir about a boy from Andorra, a landlocked principality in the Pyrenees, who was born without part of his forearm, and who when he was 9 years old built himself a prosthetic arm out of a LEGO set.

cover of "Piece by Piece: How I Built My Life (No Instructions Required)" by David Aguilar  (Author), Ferran Aguilar  (Author), Lawrence Schimel (Translator)

The book is titled Piece by Piece: How I Built My Life (No Instructions Required) and is written by David Aguilar with his father, Ferran Aguilar, and forthcoming in October from AmazonCrossingKids. One of the first issues that came up when I read the book, before starting the translation, that I had to consult with my editor on, was how we would handle the Spanish word "manco." Because Spanish has a term that means having only one-arm or one-hand (or to be missing one arm or one hand). Curiously, Spanish also has the term "tuerto" for being only one-eyed, but doesn't have a term for having only one leg/foot.

But English lacks vocabulary for all of those three states, so I was left not just with a linguistic question but also a philosophical one, confronting inherent ableisms that were so ingrained in one of the languages I think with.  

Figuring out how to deal with the word manco in the translation was important because not only does it feature often as a simple, everyday word/concept in Spanish, and one which is very integral to this memoir, but David also has a delightful sense of humor and makes a lot of jokes and plays on words throughout the book, some of which riff off the word manco. Like "mancopedia" to refer to someone as an "encyclopedia of being one-handed."

David also rejects the term "disabilty" and instead uses "diff-ability" for "differently-abled" (which fortunately was constructed exactly the same).

Which takes us back to the ableism inherent in both Spanish and English, in which the word "disability" exists, but the status of being able-bodied is so taken for granted that there isn't even vocabulary for it.

Translating this memoir was eye-opening in that I didn't just need to re-create all of David's wordplay and dad-jokes in the translation, but it made me stop and think about how each of my two primary languages conceives bodies and what we can do with them.

This is why, beyond opening the possibility for communicating with more people, and reading stories written in other languages, I stated at the beginning that learning language is something that I think can be helpful for all writers and creatives because of how access to new vocabulary will create new ways of thinking about the world or offer different insights about how you already think and speak about the world. Which can only add nuance and understanding to our stories, not just how we conceptualize them but how we shape them, word by word.


Lawrence Schimel is a bilingual (Spanish/English) author & anthologist who has published over 120 books in many different genres. He won a Crystal Kite Award for his picture book Will You Read a Book With Me?, illustrated by Thiago Lopes, and his books have also been chosen for the White Ravens and by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities (three times). His children's books featuring rainbow families, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, both illustrated by Elina Braslina, have been published in 46 editions in 37 languages, including Romansch, Welsh, Icelandic, Changana, isiZulu, and Luxembourgish. He is also a prolific literary translator, both into Spanish and into English, of more than 130 books. He lives in Madrid, Spain, where he founded the SCBWI Spain chapter and served as RA for the first 5 years. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Cheers to the Winners of the 2022 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards!

SCBWI is proud to announce the winners of the 2022 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards. Given to books in fifteen regions that represent excellence in the field of children’s literature, the Crystal Kites Awards are peer-selected, voted on by SCBWI members from local regions. Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 publishing year, proudly presented here by regional division: 


Temple Alley Summer

Written by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Miho Satake, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa



(Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)

A Place to Hang the Moon

by Kate Albus


Australia / New Zealand

Heroes of the Secret Underground

by Susanne Gervay


California, Hawaii

Hello, Star

written by Stephanie Lucianovic, illustrated by Vashti Harrison



Tough Like Mum

written by Lana Button, illustrated by Carmen Mok


Other Internationals

The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

written by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro



(Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana)

I'll Meet You in Your Dreams

Written by Jessica Young, illustrated by Rafael Lopez 



(Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)

Headstrong Hallie! The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female "Fire Guard”

Written by Aimée Bissonette, illustrated by David Hohn


New England

(Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)

Red, White, and Whole

by Rajani LaRocca


New York

Dumplings for Lili

by Melissa Iwai



(Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama)

The Longest Letsgoboy

written by Derick Wilder, illustrated by Catia Chien



(Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico)


Written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin


Texas, Oklahoma

Dark and Shallow Lies

by Ginny Myers Sain


United Kingdom, Ireland

The Bear and her Book

Written by Frances Tosdevin, illustrated by Sophia O’Conner



(Washington, Northern Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota)

The Last Cuentista

by Donna Barba Higuera


You can learn more about the SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Queer Joy of Numbers - A Guest Post by Lawrence Schimel

It seems lots of people have been writing about LGBTQIA+ content in kidzbooks recently, although my feeling is that so much of it is reactionary or in defense of these books, in the face of the rash of book bannings across the US and elsewhere in the world. And while it's important to fight against this homopobia, biphobia, and transphobia, I can't help feeling sometimes that *their* hate is coming to set or dominate the agenda or the public discourse. We creators don't set out to write books to be challenged or attacked, or to have to defend ourselves--even if that is often a reality. 

I know that for my own board books illustrated by Elina Braslina, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, our goal was to create more books featuring queer families that were not about being different or overcoming homophobia, but were just fun stories that celebrated queer joy. 

interior spread from Lawrence's two dad board book

And it's been wonderful for so many kids and families to discover these books. Even if they (as well as Elina and myself, as the creators behind them, and often our translators and publishers) have also come under attack, by governments or individuals, in many parts of the world, and much of my own last year was spent learning how to weather a constant onslaught of hate and negativity.

To that end, while many alarming things are happening to books with LGBTQIA+ content (and it's important to both be aware of what's happening and know how to fight against it), I'd like to take this space of my guest blogging on the SCBWI Blog to focus instead on highlighting some of those people who've been celebrating and uplifting these books.

When I was a kid, growing up in the 70s in New York, I had access to zero books that featured any sort of LGBTIQA+ representation. 

So I think it's amazing and incredible that there are now over 1,000 items in Mombian's database of books LGBTQ Family books!

(And, of course, that's not all kidzbooks with LGBTQ content, but just books for or featuring LGBTQ families.) 

Mombian is a site that's the brainchild of Dana Rudolph, begun in 2005 because there was a lack of resources or information for lesbian moms (and other LGBTQ parents). Two years later, it also became a syndicated column running in regional LGBTQ newspapers in cities like Boston (Bay Windows) Chicago (Windy City Times), DC (Washington Blade), Philadelphia (PGN), etc.

Dana Rudolph

The site features much more than just the database, of course, with lots of information for queer parents, news about books and other media with LGBTQ families, thematic booklists (inclusive mother's day books, bedtime books for LGBTQ families, books about pride, etc.), politics and news from a point of view of queer families, and more. 

Rudolph is not an uncritical cheerleader by any means; not all representation is well-done (no matter how well meaning).

I can't help but be awed--not just by all the underlying creative work by authors, illustrators, translators, publishers, musicians, animators, etc. of the 1000+ items she has catalogued, but the constant work Rudolph has put in over close to two decades, an impressive critical body of work that doesn't often get the same kind of attention or recognition that creative work does.

So here is a shout out and a thank you to Dana Rudolph, and all she has done and continues to do to track down, write about, and generally inform the world about, all these books featuring LGBTQ families.

photo of Malinda Lo
Malinda Lo, photo by Sharona Jacobs

Someone else who has been performing an enormous task of not just breaking barriers with her own novels is author Malinda Lo, who has created not so much a database of LGBTQ content in YA but has/was for many years been doing the number crunching to chart the evolution of these themes in books, particularly paying attention to those published by commercial, mainstream publishers:

There is some overlap in the books focused on by Randolph and Lo, but each clearly defines the scope of their coverage, and I particularly admire how Lo goes about unpacking the language she uses, in each of her pieces and evolving over time, clearly defining her parameters and outlining her sources (and the problems or lacks sometimes inherent in these). 

Some of Malinda's number crunching

As someone who identifies not just as an author and translator, but primarily as a reader (and one who had no LGBTQ content in books when he was growing up), I can't help but find it encouraging to see the infographics of her number crunching over the years, and to see how more and more YA featuring LGBTQ+ characters and concerns are being published each year.

And I also admire how her analyses shine a spotlight on many of the problems and gaps within the industry and how it treats these LGBTQ+ titles or who is writing them or giving them awards (or not). 

My hope is that the publishing industry pays attention to this panoramic view of what is being published--and what is missing and can be done better. And that I, as a reader, will in the hopefully-near-future be able to read those stories at last. 

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Lawrence Schimel is a bilingual (Spanish/English) author & anthologist who has published over 120 books in many different genres. He won a Crystal Kite Award for his picture book Will You Read a Book With Me?, illustrated by Thiago Lopes, and his books have also been chosen for the White Ravens and by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities (three times). He is also a prolific literary translator, both into Spanish and into English, of more than 130 books. Recent translations into English include Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile by María José Ferrada, illustrated by María Elena Valdez, which won the 2022 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People and was an Honorable Mention in the 2022 Américas Award, and the forthcoming middle grade memoir Piece by Piece: How I Built My Life (No Instructions Required) by David Aguilar and Ferran Aguilar, about how David, who was born missing part of his forearm, built a prosthetic for himself out of LEGO bricks when he was 9 years old. Lawrence lives in Madrid, Spain, where he founded the SCBWI Spain chapter and served as RA for the first 5 years.