Tagged: diversity in children’s books

Books for People Who Love Kids, Peace, & Reading


Books for People Who Love Kids, Peace, & Reading

with Jennie Kiffmeyer

28 January 2018, 2:00 pm
West Richmond Friends Meeting & Richmond Friends School
609 W. Main Street, Richmond, Indiana

Here’s a crop of great new books for children published in the last couple years with themes of diversity and the SPICES (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship)! All are available at Richmond’s own Morrisson-Reeves Public Library. While you know your child’s reading and interest level the best, I’ve added a recommended age range for each book to help guide you and your child to some gems. Book summaries are taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted.

Preschool: ages 3-5

Beginning Readers: grades 1-3

Intermediate: grades 2-5

Middle School/Young Adult: grades 6-8/grades 9+


Now by Antoinette Portis.

Abstract:  “This is my favorite cloud… because it’s the one I am watching. This is my favorite tree… because it’s the one where I’m swinging. This is my favorite tooth… because it’s the one that is missing.” Follow a little girl as she takes you on a tour through all of her favorite things, from the holes she digs to the hugs she gives.

Call Number: E PORT

Recommended for Preschool and Beginning readers

Peace and Nonviolent Resistance to War

Sachiko: a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Barzelay Stelson.

Abstract: Traces the life of Sachiko Yasui, a six year old playing with friends a mere half mile from ground zero when the United States bombed Nagasaki.  Some, including Sachiko’s brothers, died within days of the blast, while others, including a younger sister and her father, slowly died from cancer.  Drawing strength from her personal teachers of peace – her father, Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the adult Sachiko finds the courage fifty years later to tell her own story and work publicly to change the world.  Sachiko’s dignified voice emerges with elegance and respect in this documentary based upon extensive interviews and extended with poignant and pointed historical photographs.

Call Number: 940.5425 S82 in YA

Recommended for YA readers

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman.

Abstract: Charts the political evolution of a handful of university students, many former members of the Hitler Youth, as they witness Nazi persecution of German citizens.  Freedman centers this sobering documentary on the short lives of White Rose founder Hans Scholl and his younger sister Sophie, siblings who wrote, printed, and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, ultimately making them targets of the Gestapo.  Black and white photographs show just how average these students were in many ways while the text highlights their extraordinary bravery.  Although they were executed for their defiance, Hans’ and Sophie’s courage inspired others then, and inspires young people now, to speak out against injustice, discrimination, prejudice and state violence.

Call Number: 943.086 FREE

Recommended for Middle School and YA readers


Individuals working for justice, resisting injustice

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, ill. Eugene Yelchin.

Abstract: “The mayor of the noisy city of La Paz institutes new laws forbidding all singing, but a brave little rooster decides he must sing, despite the progressively severe punishments he receives for continuing to crow. The silenced populace, invigorated by the rooster’s bravery, ousts the tyrannical mayor and returns their city to its free and clamorous state.

Call Number: E DEED

Recommended for PreschoolBeginning readers


Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, ill. Sean Qualls.

Abstract: Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people — but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Call Number: B YEBO

Recommended for Beginning readers


The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.

Abstract: Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales (who really prefers to be called Malú) reluctantly moves with her Mexican-American mother to Chicago and starts seventh grade with a bang–violating the dress code with her punk rock aesthetic and spurning the middle school’s most popular girl in favor of starting a band with a group of like-minded weirdos.

Call Number: F PERE

Recommended for Middle School readers


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. by Elizabeth Baddeley.

Abstract: Celebrates Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifelong refusal to accept the unacceptable.  Inspired by her mother, Ginsburg’s devotion to fighting for justice is signaled by the refrain “I dissent” that rings through both text and illustrations.  Frequently humorous, this picture book biography notes Ginsburg’s foibles, the support of her husband and family, and her struggles as a lawyer, professor and judge.  With energy and charm, Levy and Baddeley represent Justice Ginsburg as a true hero who never hesitates to disagree with the status quo either in her personal life or on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Call Number: B GIN

Recommended for Intermediate readers.


I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick.

Abstract: Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school. Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school. No one expected her to survive. Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee. In this Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir, which includes exclusive photos and material, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world — and did. Malala’s powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles and the possibility that one person — one young person — can inspire change in her community and beyond.

Call Number: B YOU

Recommended for Middle School readers (5 grade+)


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.

Abstract: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount. Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

Call Number: F WOL

Recommended for Intermediate and Middle School readers

Community & Equality

Refugees & Immigration

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, ill. Thi Bui.

Abstract: As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.

Call Number: E PHI

Recommended for Beginning readers


Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, ill. Shawn Harris.

Abstract: In this honest look at the literal foundation of our country, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the message of acceptance that is essential to an entire country’s creation.

Call Number: 974.7 EGGE

Recommended for Beginning readers


Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat.

Abstract: When Saya’s mother is sent to jail as an illegal immigrant, she sends her daughter a cassette tape with a song and a bedtime story, which inspires Saya to write a story of her own–one that just might bring her mother home.

Call Number: E DAN

Recommended for Beginning readers


Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Abstract: When Papa Rabbit does not return home as expected from many seasons of working in the great carrot and lettuce fields of El Norte, his son Pancho sets out on a dangerous trek to find him, guided by a coyote.

Call number: E TON

Recommended for Beginning readers


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

Review: Newbery Award–winning author Applegate meets high expectations in this tale told by a tree named Red, a red oak who is “two hundred and sixteen rings old.” Touching on religious bigotry and the environment, Applegate keeps the emphasis on her characters, the many animals and birds who find shelter in the tree’s branches all year round. (All the birds and animals have names and the power to talk, just like Red.) Around the first of May, people write down their wishes on pieces of cloth and hang them from the tree’s branches, giving Red a special place in the community. The pacing starts out slowly, with early chapters focused almost entirely on the natural world, but eventually readers meet the human at the novel’s center. Samar, a recent Muslim refugee, is lonely and in need of a friend. A nameless boy uses the tree to convey hateful messages to Samar and her family. The owner of the tree is tired of roots in the plumbing and hopes all the nastiness will disappear if the tree is cut down, having forgotten the story of her ancestors and the beginning of all the wishes. Red decides to intervene and ask for help from the animals and birds. Even those who shy away from books with talking animals will find this believable fantasy elegant and poignant. Widening the appeal is a sparse word count, making this a great choice for a family or classroom read-aloud and an inviting option for reluctant readers. VERDICT Another stunning effort from Applegate. This thoughtful read is a top choice for middle graders.– Review provided by Carol A. ­Edwards, formerly at Denver Public Library, School Library Journal.

Recommended for Intermediate readers


Human Rights and Community

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

Abstract: Relates the story of the National Memorial African Bookstore, founded in Harlem by Lewis Michaux in 1939, as seen from the perspective of Lewis Michaux Jr., who met famous men like Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X while helping there.

Call Number: E NEL

Recommended for Beginning readers


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel.

Abstract: An illustrated account of immigrant Clara Lemlich’s pivotal role in the influential 1909 women laborer’s strike describes how she worked grueling hours to acquire an education and support her family before organizing a massive walkout to protest the unfair working conditions in New York’s garment district.

Call Number: 331.89 M

Recommended for Beginning readers


Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport.

Abstract: She couldn’t go to college. She couldn’t become a politician. She couldn’t even vote. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn’t let that stop her. She called on women across the nation to stand together and demand to be treated as equal to men–and that included the right to vote. It took nearly seventy-five years and generations of women fighting for their rights through words, through action, and through pure determination–for things to slowly begin to change.

Call Number: 324.62 RAPP

Recommended for Immediate readers


First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E. B. Lewis.

Abstract: Spotlights a decisive action in the long history of African American efforts to desegregate schools by law.  Banned from a nearby school for white children only, young Sarah Roberts must travel from one side of Boston to the other to attend a school for black children.  Her parents fight back against this injustice and bring a case against the city.  While Sarah’s case is unsuccessful, it is the first step on the road to the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education nearly 100 years later and to the systemic change underway today.

Call Number: 323.1 GOOD

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, ill. Earl B. Lewis.

Abstract: Mention the civil rights era in Alabama, and most people recall images of terrible violence. But something different was happening in Huntsville. For the citizens of that city, creativity, courage, and cooperation were the keys to working together to integrate their city and schools in peace. In an engaging celebration of this lesser-known chapter in American and African-American history, author Hester Bass and illustrator E. B. Lewis show children how racial discrimination, bullying, and unfairness can be faced successfully with perseverance and ingenuity.

Call Number: 323.1 B

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Abstract: Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

Call Number: 323.1 TONA

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, ill. Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Abstract: Presents the life of nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks who became the youngest known child to be arrested for picketing against Birmingham segregation practices in 1963.

Call Number: 323.1 LEVI

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


March: Book One-Book 3 by John Lewis.

Abstract: This graphic novel series of three books is a first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book one spans Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington D.C., and from receiving beatings from state troopers, to receiving the Medal of Freedom awarded to him by President Barack Obama.

Call Number: 741.5 L67 Mv1-Mv3

Middle School/Young Adult: grades 6-8/grades 9+


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this story of African American Starr and her run-in with a police officer that leaves her friend dead makes the political personal as it portrays the everyday truths behind all too familiar headlines.

Call Number:  F T4545h   Teen Fiction

Recommended for Young Adults (Gr.8-12)

Hospitality and Friendship

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Abstract: In the rural community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, African American women have been making quilts for generations. In this look at the close-knit community of Gee’s Bend, author Susan Goldman Rubin explores the history of an extraordinary group of women and their unique art.

Call Number: 746.46 RUBI

Recommended for Intermediate to Middle School readers.


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

Abstract: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottle found at sea and make sure that the message is delivered. He loves his job, although he always wishes that one of the letters would someday be addressed to him. Then one day he finds a bottle with the most intriguing note inside, and no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery, he ends up finding what his heart wanted all along.

Call Number: E CUE

Recommended for Beginning readers



Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond.

Call Number: 333.9 DRU

Abstract: It’s windy on the Danish island of Samsø. Meet the environmentally friendly folks who, in a few short years, worked together for energy independence, and who now proudly call their home Energy Island.

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future by Allan Drummond.

Abstract: The story of Greensburg, Kansas, a town that rebuilt completely green after a deadly tornado.

Call Number: 640 DRU

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers


Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, ill. Christopher Silas Neal.

Abstract: Celebrates the forms of life that live above and under a pond, including turtles, red-winged blackbirds, blue herons, minnows, frogs, and catfish as a mother and son spend time in the wetlands.

Call Number: E MESS

Recommended for Preschool and Beginning readers


Rivers of Sunlight: How the Sun Moves Water Around the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm.

Abstract: The sun explains its role in the movement of water around the Earth, from the lifting of fresh water from the seas, to the movement of underwater currents that nourish the world’s oceans. The sun has a hand in moving rivers of water in its liquid, gaseous, and solid states all around the Earth, enabling life to exist on our planet. But human beings are interfering in this natural cycle, unbalancing the amount of fresh water available.

Call number: 551.48 BANG

Recommended for Beginning and Intermediate readers.


On the value of diverse books for all kids—and resources on how to find them

There are so many great author/illustrator talks out there. Here’s one I love with the inestimable Grace Lin on why children should have books that provide windows into the lives of others as well as mirrors that reflect back their own experiences:

“The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf” by Grace Lin

Here are some of trusty places I like to visit when looking for book recommendations and essays on children’s literature. All of them were used in preparing this list.

Bulletin from the Center for Children’s Books from the extraordinary children’s lit experts at the University of Illinois’s iSchool (and where I received my library degree…not that I am biased or anything!)

Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

Other great resources for parents and teachers
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) School of Education. The CCBC has created bibliographies and booklists of recommended books on a wide range of themes and topics, for example:

  • 50 Books about Peace and Social Justice
  • 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know
  • Images of Community: Selected Books for Children and Young Adults
  • 50 Bilingual and Spanish/English Integrated Books
  • Eco-Reading: Selected Books for Children and Teens about Our Earth and the Environment.

TeachingBooks.Net: comprehensive information about books for children and young adults with the needs of teachers in mind. The site is a compendium of information found on the web, from discussion guides and thematic bookslists to author and illustrator information. TeachingBooks also features original interviews with authors and artists on video, as well as audio clips of book readings. A free trial is available.

We Need Diverse Books is a non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry. Their aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

Awards to watch for…

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, established in 1970, are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award is awarded to books that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence. Founded in 1953, the award is funded by the Peace Education Project, a part of the Jane Addams Peace Association and names two awards each year, one for Older Readers and one for Younger Readers. Honor books can also be named in each category. Includes a thematic, searchable database of award winning books related to social justice themes.

This award, established in 1966 in honor of Mildred L. Batchelder, a former executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children, is a citation awarded to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States—as a way to encourage American publishers to seek out superior children’s books abroad and to promote communication among the peoples of the world.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The first children’s book award in the world, the Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. You may see a list of Newbery Award and Newbery Honor winners from 1921-present here.

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.