Daddy Is Out Of The Closet

In a simpler age, the news that the parents of the little narrator got divorced would be disturbing enough. But that's only the opening line of "Daddy's Roommate." (32 pages. Alyson Publications .$14.95.) In full-color pages and easy sentences, this children's book tells the story of a boy who lives with Mommy and spends weekends with Daddy and his male lover.

Although "family" has more permutations these days than a poker deal, publishers have balked at bringing out children's titles featuring gay and lesbian parents. But now that there are some 7 million children of such parents, Boston-based Alyson Publications, Inc., is filling the gap with the first two in a new line of books for and about children of gays.

In "Daddy's Roommate," intended for 2- to 6-year-olds, Daddy, lover and son play ball, clean house, shop and go to a movie, ball game and zoo; Daddy and lover read, shave and sleep together, behaving as discreetly as any sensitive couple in the presence of a child. Near the end, the son notes that "Mommy says Daddy and Frank are gay." And what does that mean? "Being gay is just one more kind of love."

In "Heather Has Two Mommies," (33 pages Alyson Publications. $7.95.) for 3- to 8-year-olds, author Leslea Newman tells a more complicated story. Although tykes are unlikely to understand the pages in which a lesbian gets pregnant through artificial insemination, many can relate to Heather's realization that "I don't have a Daddy." She learns that families come in all sizes and legal statuses.

That's a message gay parents are yearning for. New Yorker Wayne Steinman, 40, and his lover of 18 years adopted a 4-month-old girl three years ago. They try to teach her that families like theirs are loving and normal. Says Steinman, "These books back up what we say and bring validity to our children's lives."