Diversity in MG Lit #21 Political Activism

We are in the final throes of the 2020 campaign, and I want to highlight some non-fiction books on activism in a variety of forms.
Enough is Enough: how students can join the fight for gun safety by Michelle Roehm McCann (Beyond Words Hillsboro, OR 10/2019) There is only one good thing about the closure of schools due to the pandemic—just one—and it’s this, there hasn’t been a mass shooting at a school since March. It’s the first spring in more than 20 years without multiple mass shootings at American schools. What I appreciate about this book is that it doesn’t vilify hunters and target shooters. Rather it shines a light on data behind why America’s death rate from gun violence is 4 to 6 times higher than every other country in the world. There are interviews of many young gun safety advocates and plenty of practical advice for how to get involved in the issue.
One Person No Vote: how not all voters are treated equally by Carol Anderson This is a young readers version of Anderson’s acclaimed book about voter suppression. It could not be more timely. This one is a bit dense for young MG readers but it will open their eyes of the older readers in a powerful way
Kid Activists: True tales of childhood from Champions of Change by Robin Stevenson, illustrated by Allison Steinfeld. This is the latest installment in a popular series which includes Kid Inventors, Kid Scientists, Kid Authors & Kid Artists. It features activists from history as well as contemporary times. Frederick Douglas, Malala Yousafzai, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta and many others. The text is straight forward and includes a generous size font and illustrations making this a good choice for younger MG.
Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen is a picture book about demonstrations and protests. The text is very spare and the illustrations invite lingering. Both contemporary and historical protests are depicted and there’s more information in the back matter.
Into the Streets: a young person’s visual history of protest in the United States by Mark Bieschke is a look at political, human rights and labor protests. This one is fully illustrated and best for the older end of MG.
You Call This Democracy: how to fix our government and deliver power to the people by Liz Rusch She unpacks the most difficult aspects of American politics, how can a person who lost the popular vote win the presidency? Why are so many people disenfranchised? Why does money have so much political influence? Who draws the boundaries of voting districts? Tough questions and here are clear and concise answers to steer you through difficult times.
Dictionary for a Better World: poems, quotes, & anecdotes from A to Z. by Irene Latham & Charels Waters Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.  This one is harder to describe. It’s a collection of meditations, beautifully illustrated on words like Ally, Compassion, Respect, Kindness, Nature, Voice, Witness. It’s a book to treasure and talk about.
I Voted: Making a choice makes a difference by Mark Shulman and Serge Bloch is an introduction to the act of voting and what it means. This is for the very youngest readers and is more balanced and bipartisan than almost anything I’ve read this year. I’d use it with 1st to 3rd graders.
Letters from Young Activists: todays rebels speak out is not for kids but by kids for adults. So if you’re looking for inspiration or worried about the future, curl up with a cup of coffee and listen to what young activists have to say. It’s awesome!

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living– In the Classroom

Sustainable living protects the environment, and it’s something everyone can try. Here are the books I read that promote sustainable living, covering topics students can experiment with in their in-school classrooms or at-home ones.

Let’s Eat: Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet by Kimberley Veness

Readers will take a look at the impact of pesticides, fertilizers, food chains, and commercial fishing on our food and environment.


The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects For All Seasons by Kari Cornell, photographs by Jennifer S. Larson

Why rely on others for your fruits and veggies? This book provides readers with easy projects to jumpstart your own gardening.


Classroom activity: Try the fall and winter projects in the book, from growing an avocado plant from its seed to making an herb window box. Activities include detailed materials lists and instructions. Incorporate some science into the projects by asking students to record observations such as how much their plant grows in one week, or how different areas in their homes or classrooms affect the growth of their plants. Students will have some fun and tasty projects to try over the winter with this book.

Additional resource: National Garden Bureau,

Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Enz and Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

This title shows you how to put your waste to work with ideas to recycle common household items and learn science while you are at it.


Classroom activity: Students can earn all kinds of interesting science concepts in this book through activities that recycle what is usually waste–like how wood can bend and how crystals form. Have students try any of the activities in this book. Encourage them to make a video demonstrating their end results, describing the recycled materials they used and the science behind what they created.

Additional resource: NASA Climate Kids,


Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich

Can we alter the way we eat to solve the problem of hunger in the world? Authors Mihaly and Heavenrich offer a compelling look at facing the global hunger crisis by eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs.


Classroom activity: Most kids (and not just picky eaters) may think eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs is gross, but as this book points out–doing so could really help our environment. Ask students to pick a bug or plant described in the book and create a commercial or poster listing its many benefits to humans and the environment. Ask them to do some further research to support their claims, and think of a meal or recipe their chosen food could be used in. In addition to this activity, students can try making one of the recipes in the book.

Additional resource: Time for Kids,


There are so many STEM-filled activities in each of these books and the others on this month’s book list. Students will have fun with the science and learn about sustainability with each one!

Vanishing Hitchhikers and Ghost Dogs! An Interview with Kerrie Hollihan

Hey Mixed-Up Filers!

Kerrie Hollihan

I jumped at the chance to interview author Kerrie Hollihan about her new book, Ghosts Unveiled!, because it’s exactly the sort of book I would have fought over with my friends in the school library when I was a kid. It’s spooky, well-researched, and best of all, it’s part of a series of similarly enthralling titles (the next one is about bones – how cool is that?). I asked Kerrie about her experiences, her writing methods, and obviously her favorite halloween costume. 

CL: Thanks for talking with me, Kerrie! In the introduction of Ghosts Unveiled! you write about some of your personal experiences with the supernatural – were there any specific experiences in your life that motivated you to explore the topic of ghosts?

KH: Are you surprised if I say “No”? Abrams Books for Young Readers had Mummies Exposed! in the works when they proposed a series called “Creepy & True.”  They had my proposal for a next book (Bones Unearthed!), and suggested I write a second title for the series about ghosts. Little did I know how much I’d learn.

CL: The book lists LOTS of different kinds of ghosts – do you have a favorite? 

KH: Hmmm. I think my favorites arise out of doing research, so my favorite stories have pointed me to my favorite ghosts.  One would be the ghost of the English soldier from the Gallipoli battle in World War One, and another is whatever tugged at the leg of Vernon Peterson, the elderly cemetery groundskeeper who questioned the odd-looking Civil War grave and spurred the identification of the Black soldiers buried there.

CL: Yes! I really loved that part of the book! Ghosts Unveiled! is full of well-researched anecdotes and snippets from historical accounts. Can you share some tips or strategies for doing research?

KH: Often I dig into my memory bank for events I’ve studied or places I have been, and then my research starts. Unlike Mummies Exposed! or the new book I’m writing, Bones Revealed!, for Ghosts Unveiled! I pinpointed “my” ghosts, then I went to historical societies, old newspapers…and online research is a godsend when you want to dig up old accounts of ghosts, so I started with contemporary reports published in the early 1900s, 1800s, or even earlier on or Project Gutenberg. Some accounts are online, but for others I relied on my wonderful Cincinnati Public Library for old books, many of which are referenced in the endnotes of Ghosts Unveiled! (Hereward Carrington’s Psychical Phenomena and the War, for one!) Magazine articles and blog posts are also a good start, though I pay careful attention to the details, because often these are wrong. For fact checking, I go to—and not Wikipedia, although their footnotes often lead me to other prospects.

CL: So how do you organize all that information?

KH: I organize my research two ways: I find three or four big nuggets of info that will become individual chapters in each book, and then I spend time thinking about other chapters that will round things out. I use Evernote to clip articles and posts from the web and organize these by topic.  When I want to get an impression of a very long passage in a book, I often dictate a note into Evernote as I read through.  If I find a good quote, then I dictate that with the citation, as well.  Ha…in the end…it’s all about the endnotes!

CL: Well, speaking of individual chapters – one of my favorite parts of the book is the section on animal ghosts (which I did NOT realize was a thing!) – was it hard to find research on that subject?

KH: Surprisingly, no. They just appeared as I was looking things up. The “black dog” ghost is a super big presence in the British Isles, but I was looking for an American dog ghost.  I wrote an entire section on the ghosts who hung out with of the famed dog author Albert Terhune from the early 1900s, but then I read that he was a notorious racist. I decided not to get into any controversy, so I ended up with a better choice, and that would be the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills, whose tale I found on 

CL: The haunted locations in the book span the entire globe. Are there any specific locations you’ve been to or hope to visit?

KH: I’ve been to many, as it happens. I think after I’ve traveled someplace, my psyche is left with a bit of the vibe, as it were.  I’ve traveled in the UK and Ireland, the American Southwest (my dad lived near the scene documented by Antonio Garcez of the ancient ghost that creeped out the boys on the road outside Tucson.) In 2011 I was in Japan as they prepared to celebrate Obon, to welcome back the spirits of their ancestor, by lighting up a massive display on a hillside – little did I know I’d be writing about Japanese ghosts a few years on! 

CL: Yeah, really! Was there anything else that surprised you as you were working on the book? 

KH: At first my research covered ghost legends and ghost folklore, and I learned that these are meticulously cataloged in volumes of books. About 1950, students at Utah State collected and cataloged ghost stories. Here’s an example from the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” … 

  1. Supernatural Non-Religious Legends

2.1. Revenants

2.1.1. Revenant or Evidence of Appears Along Roadway Vanishing Hitchhiker (Folder 1)

… Driver vanishes. (Folder 2) In Payson, Utah, female appears in middle of road, is hit and leaves blood and scratches on car. Old woman appears in front of car at place where she was killed long before. White ghost dog appears and disappears along roadway. Old sheepherder who was beaten to death searches roadway for his lost body. Mysterious man gives aid at accident site. …


CL: Wow – that’s really wild that it’s part of recorded history like that! Your books all focus heavily on history and science. What motivates you to write on those subjects?

KH: It’s truly gratifying for me to read your observation, though I’m not quite sure why I write like this. I guess it’s how I look at the past and how I like to explain things to my young readers. The crossroads of history and science is fun to research and to write about.  “You can’t have one without the other…”—like that old Sinatra tune😊

CL: And what would you say to a skeptical reader who doesn’t believe in ghosts?

KH: Seeing ghosts is a personal experience. I could go into a long discussion about God and science and worldview and so on, but let’s leave it at that! 

CL: Okay, Kerrie – now comes my favorite part…the lightning round! Here we go…Favorite place to write?

KH: In my son’s old bedroom, still with the stars he pasted on the ceiling for nighttime.

CL: Favorite authors?

KH: George Saunders, Jennifer Winspear, Eric Larsson, Ian McEwan

CL: The BEST scary movie is…

KH: The Exorcist

CL: Do you have any pets?  

KH: A black Ausiedoodle named Maleficent for my favorite Disney (cartoon) villain. But she’s Malley for short.

CL: Best desert? 

KH: Cherry pie a la mode

CL: Spookiest book you’ve ever read?

KH: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Spooky, informative, and theological all in one.And a short story!…“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

CL: Best Halloween costume? 

KH: My Maleficent costume that I sewed myself about 30 years ago….I still have it.

CL: Thanks, Kerrie! It was so fun getting to talk with you!


Kerrie Hollihan writes award-winning nonfiction for young people. Her new book is Ghosts Unveiled!, second in the Creepy and True series for Abrams Books for Young Readers. The first, Mummies Exposed!, garnered four four-star reviews.  Kerrie’s books have been honored as “notables” by the Children’s Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies and more. She’s especially thrilled that Mummies! is accessible for vision impaired readers through the Library of Congress.

To learn more about Kerrie, you can visit her on her website, and Kerrie also belongs to the highly regarded nonfiction author group iNK Think Tank and its interactive partner, Authors on Call – She blogs with other authors at Hands-on-Books, and you can catch her three-minute talks about lots of things at iNK’s Nonfiction Minute. 

Thanks, everyone…and don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of Ghosts Unveiled! 

See you next time!