Queer Heroes: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heroes From Past and Present!

Quarto/Wide Eyed Editions. Sept. 2019. 64p. glossary. index. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781786034762.
Gr 5 Up–This beautifully illustrated collective biography is designed for casual browsing, with Freddie Mercury alongside Sappho, and teenage activist Emma González sharing a spread with James Baldwin. Unfortunately the text, although celebratory and generally engaging, is marred by frequent shifts in tone and reading complexity, as well as a few (very minor) factual errors and some clumsy wording. The selection of figures is wide ranging and international, with care taken to not misrepresent sexual or gender identities by applying ahistorical labels. However this non-chronological approach would serve readers better if more suggestions for further reading, or any sources at all, were given. The glossary and index contain some odd definitions and organizational choices. That said, most audiences may not notice or care about any of the above, since this is primarily a visual work, and it succeeds as that. Tanat-Jones’s style shifts appropriately from portrait to portrait—with expressive linework; a versatile palette; and carefully chosen background iconography highlighting aspects of each subject’s identity—while still remaining recognizably her own. Bolded or capitalized quotations and keywords are sprinkled throughout each short entry. Every hero is referred to by first name, furthering the casual and magazine-like feel of the book’s design. Readers who usually don’t engage with nonfiction may find the picture book format approachable and find themselves drawn in by the vibrant art and breezy text.
VERDICT An imperfect work of LGBTQ+ history that succeeds as a gorgeous coffee table book for kids, if not as a fully credible source for deeper learning.

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