Challenging Gender Limits with Picture Books

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Ada Twist, Scientist. Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. (K – 1)  With diversity, ingenuity, and hilarity, tenacious Ada Twist is a self-identified scientist, with no fear of failure. So when she has a problem, she’s on her way to fixing it before you can say “failed experiment.”

Allie's Basketball Dream. Barbara E. Barber (K – 1)  Determined to play basketball, a girl shows her friends, father, and boys who told her she can't play, that girls can play basketball, too.

Amazing Grace. Mary Hoffman. (Pre-K – 1)  Although classmates say that she cannot play Peter Pan in the school play because she’s black and a girl, Grace discovers that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Annie’s Plaid Shirt. Stacy B. Davids. (K – 1)  Annie’s mom tells her that she must wear a dress to her uncle's wedding. Annie protests, but her mom buys her a fancy new dress anyway. Annie is miserable. Why can't her mom understand? Then, Annie has an idea. But will her mom agree?

The Bat Boy and His Violin. Gavin Curtis.  (K – 2)  Though Reginald likes nothing better than playing his violin, his father, as manager of one of the worst teams in the Negro Leagues, needs a bat boy. In an act of compromise, he performs his duties while filling the dugout with music that acts as an inspiration.

Be Who You Are. Todd Parr. (Pre-K – K)  With Parr’s signature silly and accessible style, Parr encourages readers to embrace all their unique qualities – reminding them that their unique traits are what make them so special.

Big Bob, Little Bob. James Howe. (Pre-K – 2) Despite the fact that they share a name, they are different. Big Bob likes trucks and throwing balls and being loud. Little Bob likes dolls and jingling bracelets and being quiet. Yet, they become friends. When a neighbor teases Little Bob about dolls, Big Bob steps in with “Boys can do whatever they want.”

The Boy & the Bindi. Vivek Shraya. (Pre-K – 2) A five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, giving him permission to be more fully himself. 

Brothers of the Knight. Debbie Allen & Kadir Nelson (K – 1)  A contemporary retelling of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses”: a reverend in Harlem endeavors to discover why the shoes of his 12 sons are worn to pieces every morning.

Call Me Tree. Maya Christina Gonzalez. (PreK – 2)  A lyrical story about belonging, connecting with nature, and becoming your fullest self. Inspires readers to dream and reach and to be as free and unique as trees. Tree’s gender is purposely not named so that all can relate to the story and discussions can be had.

The Different Dragon. Jennifer Bryan. (Pre-K – 1)  Shows how the wonderful curiosity and care of a little boy, with some help from his two moms, can lead to magical places with a dragon who is tired of being tough.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. (K –2) In an island where only boys are allowed to drum, the drum dream girl is determined to play and follow her talents and passion. Based on a true story. 

Dumpy La Rue. Elizabeth Winthrop (Pre-K – 1)  Piggy Dumpy La Rue wants to dance, but pigs are born for other things. But Dumpy takes no notice, and before long he has the whole barnyard crew happily hoofin'.

Grace for President. Kelly Dipucchio (K – 2)  "Where are the girls?" When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first.  Her popular opponent claims to be the "best man for the job" while Grace concentrates on being the best person.

I am Jazz. Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. (K – 5)  From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. Based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings.

I Am Enough. Grace Byers. (Pre-K –1) A lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another—from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers. 

It’s OK to be Different. Todd Parr. (Pre-K – K)  Delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence with Parr's bold, bright colors and silly scenes.

Interstellar Cinderella. Deborah Underwood. (Pre-K – 1)  When the prince's ship has mechanical trouble, someone will have to zoom to the rescue!

Jacob’s New Dress. Sarah and Ian Hoffman. (Pre-K – 2)  Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants?

Jamie is Jamie: a book about being yourself and playing your way. Afsaneh Moradian. (PreK – K) There are so many fun things to play with at Jamie’s new preschool— baby dolls to care for, toy cars to drive—and Jamie wants to play with them all! But the other children are confused . . . is Jamie a boy or a girl? 

JoJo’s Flying Sidekick. Brian Pinkney  (K – 1)  Everyone gives Jojo advice on how to perform in order to earn her yellow belt in tae kwon do class, but in the end she figures it out for herself.

Julián Is a Mermaid. Jessica Love. (Pre-K – 2) While riding the subway with his abuela. Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. When Julián gets home all he can think about is dressing up like them. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? A story about the power of been seen and affirmed. 

Kate and the Beanstalk. Mary Pope Osborne. (1 – 2)  In this version, a girl climbs to the top of a giant beanstalk, where she uses her quick wits to outsmart a giant and make a fortune for herself and her mother.

Little Kunoichi. The Ninja Girl. Sanae Ishida. (K – 2)  A young ninja in training is frustrated. With perseverance, hard work, determination—and a special friend—she unleashes her power!

Looking Like Me. Walter Dean Myers. (K – 2)  An African American boy celebrates all of who is, including a dancer, an artist and a writer.  Colorful collage illustrations and catchy rhymes.

Lucia the Luchadora. Cynthia Leonor Garza. (Pre-K – 1) Lucía zips through the playground in her cape just like the boys, but when they tell her "girls can't be superheroes," suddenly she doesn't feel so mighty until her abuela reveals a secret that gives her courage. 

One of a Kind, Like Me / Unico Como Yo. Laurin Mayeno. (Pre-K – 1) Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. A sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality.

Pinky and Rex.  James Howe. (1 – 2) The adventures of two best friends: a boy who loves the color pink and a girl who loves dinosaurs. 

Red: A Crayon's Story. Michael Hall. (PreK – 1)  A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as "red" suffers an identity crisis. Almost everyone tries to “help” him be red until a friend offers a new perspective. He’s blue! About finding the courage to be true to your inner self. This can be read on multiple levels.

The Seven Chinese Sisters. Kathy Tucker and Grace Lin. (Pre-K – 1)  Once there were seven Chinese sisters. Each one had a special talent. When Seventh Sister is snatched by a dragon, her sisters race to save her.

The Sissy Duckling. Harvey Fierstein. (1 – 2)  While other boy ducklings like to build forts, he loves to bake cakes. While they play baseball, he wants to put on the halftime show. Elmer is a great big sissy. But when his father is wounded by a hunter’s shot, Elmer proves that the biggest sissy can also be the greatest hero.

Sparkle Boy. Lesléa Newman. (Pre-K – 1) Casey loves to play with his blocks and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle and glitter. A story about acceptance, respect, and the freedom to be yourself in a world where any gender expression should be celebrated.

Story of Ferdinand / El Cuento de Ferdinando. Munro Leaf. (Pre-K – 1)  A timeless classic first published in 1936. All the other bulls run and jump and butt their heads together, but Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. English and Spanish editions.

Teddy's Favorite Toy. Christian Trimmer. (Pre-K – K) Teddy has a lot of cool toys. But his very favorite doll has the best manners, the sickest fighting skills, and a fierce sense of style. Then one morning, something truly awful happens. And there’s only one woman fierce enough to save the day. Can Teddy’s mom reunite Teddy with his favorite toy?