Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content

Cover of Rainbow Family Collections

Naidoo, Jamie Campbell. Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. Hardcover. 260p. $48.00. 978-1-59884-960-8.

No excuses.  With Naidoo’s book in hand, any librarian can provide excellent service to all children and families under the LGBTQ rainbow umbrella.

Naidoo observes, “Librarians and teachers are concerned about purchasing titles written about a culture they do not understand for fear of acquiring books that are stereotypical or derogatory toward that particular culture.”  An exhaustive, annotated, and critical bibliography covers picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, media, awards and adult resources.  Naidoo is sparing with “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” and willing to critique groundbreaking stories that have not passed the test of time.  “Many LGBTQ children’s books suffer from an agenda that tries to normalize the experience of rainbow families to such an extent that storylines are didactic and characters are not multidimensional.”  His comparison of titles to others on the same topic makes it relatively simple to build a collection to fit any budget.  I found myself agreeing with the critical assessments for every title I recognized.

An overview of the history of publishing LGBTQ children’s materials is followed by standards for evaluation.  Materials in other languages and from other cultures are incorporated.  And recognition of how the current economy has hurt small publishers is balanced with resources in new formats.  One result is that the gaps in topic coverage become apparent, “such as bisexual parents, elderly LGBTQ characters, and mainstream transgender characters.”

But selection is only part of this excellent resource.  There is also information on programming, on how to work with children and adults, and on how to make the library welcoming and inclusive.  Naidoo explains terminology and highlights model libraries.  In addition, he addresses the fraught question of how to shelve and display materials by reminding us that the librarian’s goal is always findability combined with privacy.  According to Naidoo, programming about rainbow families is no more about sexuality than programming about straight families.

Four indexes provide effective access to all the contents.  Sidebars and tools break up the highly readable text, and reference citations accompany each chapter.  Every library that serves children and their families needs this book.

Reviewer: Carolyn Caywood, Retired

Virginia Beach Public Library




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