by Dean Robbins, Illustrated Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Orchard Books, 2016
Ages 4-8, PreK-3
Two Friends visits a fascinating corner of 19th Century American history, when slavery still gripped the nation and when women hadn’t yet won the right to vote. Even then (and still today!) Americans were fighting for equality for all, which is promised to us in the Declaration of Independence.
In the midst of freedom movements, people draw together to share ideas, to lift each other up, and to help each other keep trying to make change. So, it shouldn’t have been surprising for me to learn from this picture book that Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass found solace and support between them in Rochester, NY.
But, it was a delightful surprise to learn that by candlelight, over tea and cake, Anthony and Douglass imagined what change might look like and feel like and what it might take. They never doubted that enslaved people would become free or that women would vote.
Two Friends reminds me that at the heart of any kind of change we will find friendship and shared dreams.
Sometimes you have to be willing to try something new to discover who you are meant to be.
Misty Copeland is compelling and heartwarming in this first-person telling of how she became the first African American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.
Her unlikely path to making history began at thirteen, an age that made her a “late bloomer” in the world of serious dance. While most young ballerinas were concentrating on their pirouettes, she and her family were struggling with homelessness. Misty’s haven became the after-school program at her local Boys & Girls Club, and when she enrolled in a free ballet class on a whim, her life changed forever. Her love of dance helped her remain focused and firm through numerous family crises, personal struggles and periods of self-doubt. Though she dances beautifully and with much grace now, she openly shares how her life sometimes reflected the opposite, and how she used those circumstances to fuel her goals and dreams.
Though this book isn’t a cliffhanger, in the sense that readers already know how it will end, they still may find themselves gripped by Misty’s story and capable of learning some meaningful lessons that can serve them as well as they have served Misty.
Here We Are is whip-smart anthology of what it means to be a feminist and why it’s important, from voices teens will (or should, because they’re awesome!) recognize. Amandla Sternberg, Mindy Kaling, Michaela and Mia DePrince, Wendy Davis, and Matt Nathanson join well-known YA authors like Malinda Lo, Sarah McCarry, Nova Ren Suma, and many more writers to talk about the ins-and-outs of equality.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Here We Are is its scrapbook, mixed-media format. There are essays and poems, conversations between writers, Instagram images, comics, interviews, and illustrations (over forty pieces total), which prevent a book about a serious topic from seeming preachy, academic, or condescending to its intended audience. Here We Are isn’t just for teenagers; it’s about being a teenager, and the writers never forget it.
The book’s feminism considers what it means to be a girl, but it isn’t limited to what it is to be a straight, white, middle class American girl. There are perspectives from all kinds of backgrounds, and readers would be hard-pressed to not find something to relate to here. From the damaging effects of trying to be the “cool girl,” to accepting your own (and other people’s) bodies, to the use of sexual assault as a weapon, each aspect of girlhood and feminism is turned over and presented to the reader in a refreshing and relevant way.
by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Grades 1- 5
Arthur Levine Books, 2015
Society of Illustrators Original Art Show 2015 * NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award 2015 * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015 * Book Links 2015 Lasting Connection * A New York Public Library Notable Book for Reading and Sharing
Author-illustrator, husband-wife duo Selina Alko and Sean Qualls collaborate to present this celebratory portrait of a bi-racial family in The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Through intimate, simple language readers follow the courtship of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred “String Bean” Jeter, a woman of African American and Cherokee descent.
The two fall in love, but according to Virginia law in 1958 interracial marriage is illegal, so they exchange vows in D.C. Soon after the newlyweds return home, the police raid their bedroom in the night and arrest them both. “Tell the court I love my wife, and that it’s just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia,” Richard told his lawyers.
Their legal battle rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, after which Richard and Mildred returned to Central Point, having won the right for themselves and other interracial couples to marry. This book gives young readers the opportunity to reflect upon racial justice, self-identity, and ways in which historical narratives shift over time. A mixed medium of paint and collage contrasts bold, stark images of injustice against whimsical, uplifting panels that leave no doubt about it: love will prevail.
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca
Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press 2010
Picture book, non-fiction, ages 7 and up
Robert Silbert Honor Award * NCTE Orbis Pictus Award * ALA Notable Books 2010 * Numerous best books lists for 2010
Additional formats: ebook and audio
This historical picture book is about how Appalachian Spring, one of the most famous dances of all times, came to be. It is a dance about the pioneer movement, and it was a collaboration between Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi. Martha had to persevere through audiences who didn’t necessarily understand the new language she was crafting in American dance. Martha Graham Dance was the first integrated dance company in the US. Appalachian spring, which earned Copland the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1944.
by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
Picture book, non-fiction
Aages 7 and up
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor * Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA) * Listed on multiple “best books” lists
This is the story of how a little girl born in 1926 fights racism and sexism to become one of our country’s most accomplished musicians.
Melba Loretta Liston was a famed jazz trombone player and arranger who created gorgeous rhythms, harmonies, and melodies in songs for jazz greats like Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few.
The illustrations are delicious. I’d pair this with Acoustic Rooster by Kwame Alexander for a summer study on jazz.
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2015
Picture book, non-fiction, poetry
Ages 9 and up, Grades 4-7
Caldecott Honor illustration 2016 * Coretta Scott King New Talent award for Illustration 2016 * Silbert Informational Book Award 2016 * Marion Vannett Ridway Award Honor * NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts * Bank Street College Flora Steiglitz Straus Award * Amelia Bloomer List * CCBC Choices and multiple best books lists of 201
The first-person poetry of Carole Boston Weatherford and tactile collage of Ekua Holmes combine for a perfect-pitch picture book biography of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
Voice of Freedom transports readers to the Mississippi Delta of Hamer’s childhood and into the heart of Hamer’s own journey, a sometimes harsh journey at the mercy of discriminatory, oppressive policies and practices in America. Hammer quit school at sixth grade to pick cotton with her family. She was later sterilized by a doctor (without her knowledge or consent) while undergoing tumor surgery, Hamer not only survived, she rose up to become a driving force in the fight for equality.
Often on Girls of Summer, we celebrate stories of those who have changed history as children. This book shows us a woman whose childhood and life unfolded to prepare and strengthen her voice to boom forth, at middle age, in a song of protest and triumph and remembering.