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12 Kids Books That Are Inspiring The Next Generation Of Activists

The Children’s Book Review | March 21, 2018

In case you missed it, children’s book author Susan Hood shared an amazing article with us that will make you want to chant: Books change lives! You can, too! (Go for it. Say it with me: Books change lives! You can, too!) You can read the article on how kidlit is shaking things up, here: How Children’s Books Are Inspiring The Next Generation Of Activists. There are so many inspiring books featured in the article, that we just had to put together this list—and we’ll kick it off with Susan’s own book Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World (HarperCollins, 2018).

Shaking Things Up- 14 Young Women Who Changed the WorldShaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World

Written by Susan Hood

Illustrated by Multiple Illustrators

Publisher’s Synopsis: Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers.

From the award-winning author of Ada’s Violin, Susan Hood, this is a poetic and visual celebration of persistent women throughout history.

In this book, you will find Mary Anning, who was just thirteen when she unearthed a prehistoric fossil. You’ll meet Ruby Bridges, the brave six-year-old who helped end segregation in the South. And Maya Lin, who at twenty-one won a competition to create a war memorial, and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create.

And those are just a few of the young women included in this book. Readers will also hear about Molly Williams, Annette Kellerman, Nellie Bly, Pura Belprè, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Frances Moore Lappè, Mae Jemison, Angela Zhang, and Malala Yousafzai—all whose stories will enthrall and inspire. This book was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women and includes an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources.

With artwork by notable artists including Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062699459


The Story of Ruby BridgesThe Story of Ruby Bridges

Written by Robert Coles

Illustrated by George Ford

Publisher’s Synopsis: Please, God, try to forgive those people. Because even if they say those bad things, They don’t know what they’re doing. This is the true story of an extraordinary 6-year-old who helped shape history when she became the first African-American sent to first grade in an all white school. This moving book captures the courage of a little girl standing alone in the face of racism.quot;Ford’s moving watercolor paintings…capture the…warmth of Ruby’s family and community, the immense powers against her, and her shining inner strength.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks | 2010 (Special Edition) | ISBN-13: 978-0439472265


Through My EyesThrough My Eyes

Written by Ruby Bridges

Publisher’s Synopsis: In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.

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Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | 1999 | ISBN-13: 978-0590189231


Let the Children MarchLet The Children March

Written by Monica Clark-Robinson

Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Publisher’s Synopsis: I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids. 
I couldn’t go to their schools.  
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.  
There were so many things I couldn’t do.

In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.

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Ages 6-9 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0544704527


The Other Side

Written by Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Publisher’s Synopsis: Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups’ rules by sitting on top of the fence together.

With the addition of a brand-new author’s note, this special edition celebrates the tenth anniversary of this classic book. As always, Woodson moves readers with her lyrical narrative, and E. B. Lewis’s amazing talent shines in his gorgeous watercolor illustrations.

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Ages 5-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2001 | ISBN-13: 978-0399231162


Wishtree by Katherine ApplegateWishtree

Written by Katherine Applegate

Publisher’s Synopsis: Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best―writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.

This book has Common Core connections.

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Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1250043221


Come with Me

Written by Holly M. McGhee

Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

Publisher’s Synopsis: When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says. Hand-in-hand, they walk to the subway, tipping their hats to those they meet. The next day, the girl asks her mama what she can do—her mama says, “Come with me,” and together they set out for the grocery, because one person doesn’t represent an entire race or the people of a land. After dinner that night, the little girl asks if she can do something of her own—walk the dog . . . and her parents let her go. “Come with me,” the girl tells the boy across the hall. Walking together, one step at a time, the girl and the boy begin to see that as small and insignificant as their part may seem, it matters to the world.

In this lyrical and timely story, author Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaître champion the power of kindness, bravery, and friendship in the face of uncertainty.

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Ages 5-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1524739058


Skin Again

Written by Bell Hooks

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Publisher’s Synopsis: The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story. The skin I’m in is just a covering. If you want to know who I am, you have got to come inside and open your heart way wide.

Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.

This award-winning book, with its myriad of faces, introduces a strong message of loving yourself and others that will appeal to parents of our youngest readers.

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Ages 5-6 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2017 (Reissue) | ISBN-13: 978-1484799239


Why Am I Me by Paige BrittWhy Am I Me?

Written by Paige Britt

Illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls

Publisher’s Synopsis: Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters — who don’t realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions — this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.

If the first step toward healing the world is to build bridges of empathy and celebrate rather than discriminate, Why Am I Me? helps foster a much-needed sense of connection, compassion, and love.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | September 12, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1338053142


The Youngest Marcher- The Story of Audrey Faye HendricksThe Youngest Marcher: The Story Of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist

Written by Cynthia Levinson

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Publisher’s Synopsis: Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.

So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!

Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 5-10 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1481400701


Lost and Found Cat- The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible JourneyLost And Found Cat: The True Story Of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey

Written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

Illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Publisher’s Synopsis: The true story about one cat’s journey to be reunited with his war-torn family has been seen by millions of people and is now a heartwarming picture book.

When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away.

But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos. In one moment, he is gone. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their journey, leaving brokenhearted.

A few days later, aid workers in Greece find the lost cat. Knowing how much his family has sacrificed already, they are desperate to reunite them with the cat they love so much. A worldwide community comes together to spread the word on the Internet and in the news media, and after several months the impossible happens—Kunkush’s family is found, and they finally get their happy ending in their new home.

This remarkable true story is told by the real people involved, with the full cooperation of Kunkush’s family.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1524715472


The Red Pencil

Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Publisher’s Synopsis: The powerful story of one girl’s triumphant journey, inspired by true tales of life in Sudan.

Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2015 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0316247825


The books listed here in ’12 Kids Books That Are Inspiring The Next Generation Of Activists’ were featured in author Susan Hood’s article ‘How Children’s Books Are Inspiring The Next Generation Of Activists‘. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with .

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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