Today, as we celebrate the Inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th president and Kamala Harris as our first female (and Black, and South Asian) Vice President, I want to encourage everyone to remember, the fight is not over.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be celebrating, but I have already seen folks losing steam. The conviction we had to fight injustices over the summer seems to have dwindled in the wake of good news. But the fight has not been won with one election. Let’s not forget it was just last week the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that removed LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.
So today, in honor of the change in office and all the positive change I hope it brings our nation, I want to highlight a few books to help discuss a few of the issues our country still faces with the next generation. These books will show young readers how far we have come, and open doors to conversations about how far we still have left to go.
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Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, Illustrated by Steven Salerno (Bookshop | Amazon)
“In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable – and undertold – story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride.”
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. by Rob Sanders, Illustrated by Jamey Christoph (Bookshop | Amazon)
“From Rob Sanders, author of the acclaimed Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, comes this powerful and timeless true story that will allow young readers to discover the rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement–a movement that continues to this very day. Movingly narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, and featuring stirring and dynamic illustrations, Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution is an essential and empowering civil rights story that every child deserves to hear.”
When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community by Gayle E. Pitman, Illustrated by Christopher Lyles (Bookshop | Amazon)
“When You Look Out the Window tells the story of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, one of San Francisco’s most well-known and politically active lesbian couples. Describing the view from Phyllis and Del’s window, this book shows how one couple’s activism transformed their community — and had ripple effects throughout the world.”
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Bookshop | Amazon)
“As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.”
“Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.”
Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady, Illustrated by Amiko Hirao (Bookshop | Amazon)
“When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children’s librarian Clara Breed’s young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences. Using excerpts from children’s letters held at the Japanese American National Museum, author Cynthia Grady presents a difficult subject with honesty and hope.”
“Learn the story of TIME PERSON OF THE YEAR Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old climate activist who has sparked a worldwide student movement and is demanding action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change—from acclaimed picture book creator Jeanette Winter.”
“Kids can count reasons to love the planet and ways to protect it in the pages of this conservation-themed book. Gentle verse reminds the reader of Earth’s beauties–starting with “one wide sweeping sky, two honey bees” and continuing all the way to “ten fields to plow.” The text then starts counting backwards, listing simple ways children can help, such as reducing waste and reusing items. The conclusion takes us back to number one with the book’s key message: “One Earth so beautiful. Remember–only one.” At once celebration and challenge, this book will encourage children to take better care of the planet.”
“The Mess That We Made explores the environmental impact of trash and plastic on the ocean and marine life, and it inspires kids to do their part to combat pollution. Simple, rhythmic wording builds to a crescendo and the vibrant digital artwork captures the disaster that is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Children can imagine themselves as one of the four multi-ethnic occupants of the little boat surrounded by swirling plastic in the middle of the ocean, witnessing the cycle of destruction and the harm it causes to plants, animals, and humans.”
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel, Illustrated by Nabi H Ali (Bookshop | Amazon)
“Jennifer Keelan was determined to make a change―even if she was just a kid. She never thought her wheelchair could slow her down, but the way the world around her was built made it hard to do even simple things. Like going to school, or eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Jennifer knew that everyone deserves a voice! Then the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that would make public spaces much more accessible to people with disabilities, was proposed to Congress. And to make sure it passed, Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince them.”
“This picture book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential luminaries. With her signature style of prose laced with stirring quotes, Doreen Rappaport brings to life Helen Keller’s poignant narrative. Acclaimed illustrator Matt Tavares beautifully captures the dynamism and verve of Helen Keller’s life and legacy, making Helen’s Big World an unforgettable portrait of a woman whose vision for innovation and progress changed America-and the world-forever.”
Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights by Diana Pastora Carson, Illustrated by Patrick William Connally (Bookshop | Amazon)
“Children know about Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez. But many have yet to learn about the transformational work of Ed Roberts, hailed as the “Father of Independent Living.” Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights is a biography about Edward Verne Roberts, who, at age 14, became a quadriplegic as a result of Polio. The life he lived post-Polio was one of transformation, both for himself, and for society’s image of people with disabilities.
Ed became empowered through his determination, his education, and his advocacy for supports and services that enabled him to become an independent citizen. Ed knew he was not disabled by Polio as much as he was disabled by societal responses to his disability. He fought for his own rights and the civil rights of all people with disabilities. His legacy continues to inspire access, equity, and life quality, both in the United States and abroad. This book describes his life in mission in terms that children will understand and adults will connect to. The bold and detailed artwork of the late Patrick William Connally graces each page with poetic representations of disability civil rights history.”
“From the Native Americans who first called this land their home, to the millions of people who have flocked to its shores ever since, America is a country rich in diversity. Some of our ancestors were driven by dreams and hope. Others came in chains, or were escaping poverty or persecution. No matter what brought them here, each person embodied a unique gift—their art and music, their determination and grit, their stories and their culture. And together they forever shaped the country we all call home. Vividly expressed in Faith Ringgold’s sumptuous colors and patterns, We Came to America is an ode to every American who came before us, and a tribute to each child who will carry its proud message of diversity into our nation’s future.”
Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, Illustrated by Leslie Staub (Bookshop | Amazon)
“After Saya’s mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother’s warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she’s in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother’s tales and her father’s attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own—one that just might bring her mother home for good.”
“With its rich historical text, fascinating sidebars about many immigrants throughout time, an extensive source list and timeline, as well as captivating photos, American Immigration will become a go-to resource for every child, teacher, and librarian discussing the complex history of immigration.
America is a nation of immigrants. People have come to the United States from around the world seeking a better life and more opportunities, and our country would not be what it is today without their contributions.
From writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to scientists like Albert Einstein, to innovators like Elon Musk, this book honors the immigrants who have changed the way we think, eat, and live. Their stories serve as powerful reminders of the progress we’ve made, and the work that is still left to be done.”
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (Bookshop | Amazon)
“The book includes an introduction that discusses what it means to be “rad” and “radical,” an afterword with 26 suggestions for how you can be “rad,” and a Resource Guide with ideas for further learning and reading.
American history was made by countless rad—and often radical—women. By offering a fresh and diverse array of female role models, we can remind readers that there are many places to find inspiration, and that being smart and strong and brave is rad.”
“From Newbery Honor medalist Susan Campbell Bartoletti and in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America comes the page-turning, stunningly illustrated, and tirelessly researched story of the little-known DC Women’s March of 1913.
Bartoletti spins a story like few others—deftly taking readers by the hand and introducing them to suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Paul and Burns met in a London jail and fought their way through hunger strikes, jail time, and much more to win a long, difficult victory for America and its women.”
Ruth Bader Ginsberg: The Case of RBG and Inequality by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Stacy Innerst (Bookshop | Amazon)
“To become the first female Jewish Supreme Court Justice, the unsinkable Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to overcome countless injustices. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and ’40s, Ginsburg was discouraged from working by her father, who thought a woman’s place was in the home. Regardless, she went to Cornell University, where men outnumbered women four to one. There, she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg, and found her calling as a lawyer. Despite discrimination against Jews, females, and working mothers, Ginsburg went on to become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, a judge for the US Court of Appeals, and finally, a Supreme Court Justice.”
While this is not an exhaustive list of the many issues facing our nation, I hope this list can serve as a gentle reminder to us all that there is still lots of work to be done, even as we celebrate our victory today.
Did I miss some of your favorite titles on these important issues? Please share them in the comments below! I always love to hear about great books from you.