Heartwarming kids’ book about LGBT+ families published with 18+ label in Russia

Lawrence Schimel holds Russian translations of children's books 'Early One Morning' and 'Bedtime, Not Playtime!'

A children’s book about children with same-sex parents has been published in Russia with an “18+” label due to the country’s reviled anti-LGBT+ legislation.

Charitable foundation Sphere told the Guardian that it published the book with the Russian LGBT Network as none of country’s publishers would touch it because of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law.

The hateful legislation was signed by Vladimir Putin in 2013 and banned any “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relationships”. Anyone found guilty under the law can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison.

Sphere explained the book is “not only about LGBTQ+ families”, but is also for them – making it the “very first of its kind in Russia”. However, it added, Russian law required it to be printed with an 18+ label.

Sphere told the Guardian: “In other words, because of the existing legislature there was no other choice but to publish a children’s book for adults only … This is the ridiculousness of the propaganda law, which only raises discrimination against LGBT+ and limits access to information.”

The Russian translation by Dmitriy Kuzmin combined the two stories under the singular title: Mothers, Fathers and Kids from Dusk till Dawn. It is not being made available for commercial release, Sphere said, with the 500 copies printed being distributed between LGBT+ groups and influencers.

The charity hopes the book will raise awareness and bring “a whole new dimension and momentum in fighting the discriminatory legislature”, it told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, Sphere launched a campaign on Change.org to repeal Russia’s hateful anti-LGBT+ propaganda law. The organisation said in a statement that the children’s book is the “epitome” of the “law’s absurdity”.

The book is a Russian translation of two titles from American author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa. The stories – in English, Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime! – are the same ones that fell foul of Hungarian anti-gay laws earlier this year.

Schimel, who shared pictures of separate Russian translations to the “18+” version  on Twitter, said that he and illustrator Brasliņa both “strongly opposed to the Russian government’s persecution of LGBT people”.

He added that hate should be given “no quarter in the plural, diverse, global world in which we live”.

“These LGBT propaganda laws do not protect children from anything, nor are our lives anything that anyone needs to be ‘protected’ from … That’s why this campaign to repeal this noxious law in Russia is so important,” Schimel told the Guardian.

He continued: “Not just for kids who might be in same-sex families or discovering their own LGBT identity, but for all kids to see these families that exist in the world – even in Russia – and to prevent a generation from growing up brainwashed by this political homophobia.”

In July, Hungarian authorities fined the publisher of a two-part translation of Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, claiming it failed to warn parents about its LGBT+ content.

The Pest County Government Office issued a fine of 250,000 forints (£599) under a law that forbids unfair commercial practices. The head of the local authority claimed the company that distributed the book “didn’t pay attention to the law that requires a special label for content that differs from the mainstream”.

But the Foundation for Rainbow Families, which distributed the Hungarian versions of the books, fought back and argued that “rainbow families are perfectly normal, ordinary families”.

“We continue to believe that every family deserves fairy tales and every little child deserves the chance to recognise himself or his parents,” they added.

It came as Hungary faced immense backlash for passing an anti-LGBT+ propaganda law (although the children’s book was targeted under a separate rule).

The reviled legislation prohibits the “promotion” of LGBT+ lives to minors in schools, advertising and in the media.