2018 Activist Kids Books Shout Outs!

Yes, it’s 2019, and you’re supposed to get something like this out before the holiday shopping season of the year in the title. And 2018 was a bumper crop year for social justice-themed books for children and young people. But 2018 was also a rough year in so many other ways, we decided it was okay to give ourselves and our contributors the time we needed to do this right. With the added plus that the time to add social justice themed children’s books to your or your child’s shelf is, well, any time.

As with last year’s this is not a comprehensive list of all the great books that came out last year.  We asked M is for Movement editorial board members, other authors, illustrators, librarians, educators, and scholars to name “one or two of your favorite social justice and activist themed children’s books to come out this year.” Here is what they came up with.

 

Children’s Picture Books

 

Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings

By Francie Latour
Illustrated by Ken Daley

Auntie Luce’s paintings talk back, they tell a rich and complex story of Haiti and its people. Told through the eyes of a little girl living in the United States and visiting family in Haiti. She finds pieces of herself through history, stories, colors, and the hands and brushes of Auntie Luce. A powerful book to use as a way to talk about the complexities and facets of identity and the powerful and important history of Haiti and its people. This book has many layers in its prose and illustrations and is well worth spending good time with.

Recommended by Liz Phipps Soreio, Cambridgeport School librarian and “Dear Mrs. Trump” letter author

 

Dreamers

By Yuyi Morales

Through lyrical text and soaring, multimedia illustrations, Morales shares her journey immigrating from Mexico to the United States with her young son, finding the home that a library can be, and discovering the power of picture books. This story is beautiful and moving. Be sure to read “How I Made this Book” to learn about some of the many visual references in the images.

Recommended by Alison Goldberg,  M is for Movement editorial board member and author of I Love You for Miles and Miles and the forthcoming picture book biography, Bottle Tops: The Art of El Anatsui

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

By Alice Faye Duncan
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Duncan shares the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, based on a teacher who took action for equal rights as a child during the Sanitation Strike of 1968 in Memphis. The verse is powerful and shares details of this important history. From the opening poem: “Black men marched for honor, and I must tell the story./ You must tell the story—so that no one will forget it.”

Recommended by Alison Goldberg,  M is for Movement editorial board member and author of I Love You for Miles and Miles and the forthcoming picture book biography, Bottle Tops: The Art of El Anatsui

 

We Are Grateful

By Traci Sorell and Frane’ Lessac

This book is pure joy. From Traci’s lovely text to Frane’s whimsical and delightful illustrations. See if you can find the pileated woodpecker on every page! I love that type of quaintness that Frane’ has included. Traci makes learning Cherokee words fun while we gain some knowledge of contemporary Cherokee life. I love sounding out the words. This book makes my heart happy every time I open it.

Recommended by Carole Lindstrom, an Ojibwe/Métis author and proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Her poem, Drops of Gratitude, will be included in the anthology, Thank U: Poems of Gratitude, and her picture book, We Are Water Protectors is forthcoming.

 

When We Love Someone We Sing to them | Cuando Amamos Cantamos

By Ernesto Javier Martinez
Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Translated by Jorge Gabriel Martinez Feliciano

A book whose time has come. When you feel like you know what that story is going to be because you heard it touches on gender and sexuality and culture and parents… this one will surprise you. Such an important experience for kids. An empowering and uplifting song.

Recommended by Innosanto Nagara, M is for Movement editorial board member, author of A is for Activist and other social justice children’s books.

 

You Hold Me Up

By Monique Gray Smith
Illustrated by Danielle Daniel

You Hold Me Up is an unassuming book whose power took me by surprise. It’s a spacious meditation on what it means to be in true relationship with others, modeling mutual respect and human dignity in the most unpretentious, crucially foundational ways. This is my favorite kind of book – one that is wise to injustice, and for that reason lifts us with a vision and a path of healing.

Recommended by Janine Macbeth, M is for Movement editorial board member, author of Oh, Oh, Baby Boy, and founder of Blood Orange Press

 

Young, Gifted, and Black

By Jamia Wilson
Illustrated by Andrea Pippins

Jamia Wilson had a serious challenge in front of her, selecting 52 black icons to highlight. But she somehow pulled it off. From activists to entertainers to scientists to athletes, each vibrantly illustrated short biography is an engaging tribute. While the subjects span the centuries, kids of today will find an engaging mix of their own inspirations and new inspirations.

Recommended by Innosanto Nagara, M is for Movement editorial board member, author of A is for Activist and other social justice children’s books.

 

Middle Grade / YA

 

Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle

By Hilda Eunice Burgos

I loved this book because of its portrayal of sibling dynamics in a Latinx family, and it is an important social justice book because it highlights the ways in which educational inequalities impact children.

Recommended by Emma Otheguy, author of the bilingual picture book Martí’s Song for Freedom, which received several awards and honors, as well as the forthcoming middle-grade novel Silver Meadows Summer.

 

Apple in the Middle

By Dawn Quigley

I loved this book! Not because the protag is a member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, like myself. And also not because the author happens to be my cousin. But because this is a truly great read.

All of us can relate to not knowing where we fit in. It doesn’t matter who we are. That’s what the main character is struggling with in Apple in the Middle. Apple is a funny and quirky teen on her way to meet her Native cousins for the first time. She is also white, and isn’t sure which world she belongs in. Add in the fact that she also has to deal with a vengeful man who once loved her dead mother, and it makes for an exciting and fun read. Love the recipes at the end, too!

Recommended by Carole Lindstrom, an Ojibwe/Métis author and proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Her poem, Drops of Gratitude, will be included in the anthology, Thank U: Poems of Gratitude, and her picture book, We Are Water Protectors is forthcoming.

 

Biddy Mason Speaks Up

By Arisa White, Laura Atkins
Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Biddy Mason Speaks Up is really awesome to see as a second book in the “Fight For Justice” series by Heyday Books. This incredible book packs a punch with multiple levels in one book including beautiful illustrations, maps, timelines, historical facts, narrative, and definitions. Biddy introduces young readers to another real-life champion for civil rights: Bridget “Biddy” Mason, an African American philanthropist, healer, and midwife who was born into slavery. When Biddy arrived in California, where slavery was technically illegal, she was kept captive by her owners and forced to work without pay. But when Biddy learned that she was going to be taken to a slave state, she launched a plan to win her freedom.

Recommended by Robert Liu-Trujillo, M is for Movement editorial board member and author and illustrator of Furqan’s First Flat Top

 

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

by Irene Latham & Charles Waters
Illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko

Can I Touch Your Hair? is a thought-provoking discussion of race and childhood friendships. Every poem is an important conversation starter in this beautifully illustrated, mesmerizing book.

Recommended by Supriya Kelkar, author of Ahimsa, American as Paneer Pie, The Sandalwood Pyre, and The Many Colors of  Harpreet Singh

 

Hearts Unbroken

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

There was so much I loved about this contemporary YA novel. Hearts Unbroken gives a small glimpse into the myriad of microaggressions that Native Americans navigate through daily. I love that this young adult novel by Smith deals with contemporary Native issues and features a supportive Native family. The novel blends teen romance with issues of identity, equality and censorship. All very topic issues today. It’s a very thought-provoking story with a lot of heart.

Recommended by Carole Lindstrom, an Ojibwe/Métis author and proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Her poem, Drops of Gratitude, will be included in the anthology, Thank U: Poems of Gratitude, and her picture book, We Are Water Protectors is forthcoming.

 

Journey  for Justice: The life of Larry Itliong

By Gayle Romansanta, Dawn Mabalon
Illustrated by Andre Sibayan

Journey For Justice. So wonderful to see this story about an important figure in not only the Asian American community, but in American history. So often, when the United Farm workers struggle is discussed Larry Itliong and the work of AWOC (Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee).  Written by historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon with writer Gayle Romasanta, richly illustrated by Andre Sibayan, tells the story of Larry Itliong’s lifelong fight for a farmworkers union, and the birth of one of the most significant American social movements of all time, the farmworker’s struggle, and its most enduring union, the United Farm Workers.

Recommended by Robert Liu-Trujillo, M is for Movement editorial board member and author and illustrator of Furqan’s First Flat Top

 

The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

The Night Diary  tells the story of a young girl named Nisha, who is half-Hindu and half-Muslim. Nisha tries to make sense of the world in 1947, when India is split into India and Pakistan after years of devastating British colonization. The Night Diary  is a heartbreaking and empowering story of what tears us apart and how to put those pieces back together again.

Recommended by Supriya Kelkar, author of Ahimsa, American as Paneer Pie, The Sandalwood Pyre, and The Many Colors of  Harpreet Singh

 

The Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara lives in a world bound by rules and expectations: her family’s, her community’s, her religion’s. She is a fighter, navigating these often hostile spaces through the power of her words. This book is a powerful coming of age story about a young woman finding freedom for herself, her identity, her sexuality and ultimately, love.

Recommended by Liz Phipps Soreio, Cambridgeport School librarian and “Dear Mrs. Trump” letter author