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!
Rosanne Parry is the author of 7 MG novels including best sellers A Wolf Called Wander, and A Whale of the Wild. Her first picture book Big Truck Day will go on sale in September of 2022. She sells books at Annie Blooms Bookstore in Multnomah Village and writes books in her treehouse in Portland, Oregon.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
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