As I wrote my column for last year’s Pride Issue, I reflected on the growing attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, from anti-trans legislation to attempts to ban books by and about queer people. Sadly, things are just as dire today. But LGBTQ+ authors continue to tell their stories and to make their voices heard. The recent picture books and middle-grade titles highlighted below will resonate with many young people, but queer readers will find them especially reassuring. Some of the books explore how LGBTQ+ communities have persisted in the face of oppression; others allow readers space for joy, from a picture book about the unadulterated glee of a first crush to a pulse-pounding fantasy centered on a queer family.

In Ami Polonsky’s World Made of Glass (Little, Brown, Jan. 17), set in 1980s New York, Iris becomes keenly aware of the stigma of HIV as her father dies of AIDS. Galvanized, she attends ACT UP meetings with her dad’s boyfriend and channels her pain into activism. Though Polonsky tackles heavy subject matter, such as the federal government’s refusal to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic, she threads her achingly poignant work with hope; this is an unflinching yet tender ode to the families we create.

Michael G. Long’s picture-book biography Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington (Little Bee Books, May 2) chronicles the life of a civil rights icon whose contributions have far too often gone overlooked. Taking an intersectional approach, Long explores how Rustin encountered discrimination as a Black gay man yet embraced his identities wholeheartedly. In Bea Jackson’s graceful artwork, Rustin comes across as determined and stalwart yet at times realistically uncertain.

Meeg Pincus’ Door by Door: How Sarah McBride Became America’s First Openly Transgender Senator (Crown, May 9), illustrated by Meridth McKean Gimbel, opens with McBride as a young child eager to make the country a better place. The book details her entry into politics and her 2020 election to the Delaware state Senate. Throughout, Pincus uses the metaphor of doors opening and closing to convey McBride’s fears of coming out as trans and, later, her commitment to helping others succeed, too—an effective motif that anchors this uplifting picture-book biography.

The Indian American protagonist of SJ Sindu’s Shakti (HarperAlley, May 23), illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, is shocked to discover that bullies are using magic spells to rule the school. But Shakti has powers of her own and a strong link to the Hindu goddess Durga Ma, like every firstborn in her family. This vibrantly illustrated graphic novel follows a courageous young girl who, buoyed by the support of both her mothers, realizes there’s nothing she can’t face. With its depiction of a loving, multiracial queer family, this is a much-needed, welcome tale.

Finding a person who truly understands you takes time, as A.J. Irving makes clear with her picture book The Wishing Flower (Knopf, May 30). Contemplative Birdie prefers wishing on dandelions to playing with her more boisterous classmates, but new student Sunny is different. Though the relationship between the two girls isn’t explicitly referred to as romantic, Birdie’s responses to Sunny’s presence (heart fluttering, blushing), along with the swirling butterflies and stars in Kip Alizadeh’s illustrations, suggest the frisson of a first crush; many queer kids will feel quietly affirmed.

Newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, the protagonist of Andrew Eliopulos’ Will on the Inside (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, June 6) feels besieged as the list of things he can’t do or eat grows. He’s thrown into a tailspin when he learns that classmate Griffin asked out another boy—could Will be gay, like Griffin? And why is that a problem for so many in his Baptist church? Will may not have all the answers, but his eagerness to grapple with tough questions will endear him to readers. 

Mahnaz Dar is a young readers’ editor.