All posts by lockehardy

We are married educators living in Massachusetts who are passionate about bringing anti-bias and social justice narratives to children of any age!


Written by: Alex Gino

Illustrated by: N/A

For Ages: 8-12 years (chapter book)

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender Identity, Family, Trans Experience.

Summary: George knows she’s a girl, but other people don’t. This chapter book follows the self-acceptance and coming out of a young girl.  George wants to be Charlotte in the school play, but the role is only for a girl.  She secretly looks at beauty magazines and wishes she were friends with the glossy images.  These characters are beautifully developed for a young adult novel, and have very believable reactions and dialogue with each other.  George and her teenage brother Scott have a hardworking single mother, and she does her very best to accept George towards the end of the book but she has a very typical reaction at first, of being rather caught off-guard.  George’s best friend Kelly is unwaveringly supportive, and helps George make a plan to reveal herself not only as Charlotte but as a girl to everyone.

This book is beautiful, and the unexpected twists and turns make it hard to put down.  The plot explores a young mind from that believable perspective-unsure yet sure at the same time, nervous but yearning to break free.  Character development and tender exchanges between George and Scott were unexpected and welcomed, Scott accepts George immediately.  The end of the novel is particularly heartwarming, it features Kelly scheming to bring George along on a trip with Kelly’s uncle (who does not know George) so that George may dress how she likes and go by her chosen name of Melissa.  Melissa and Kelly have the best day at the zoo, and the end of the book ends on a positive note with Melissa looking forward to the rest of her life.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think George feels when Kelly and Scott accept her, and don’t think she’s “weird” for knowing she’s a girl?
  • How do you feel when your friends accept what you tell them things about yourself?
  • What is your favorite part of the book, and why?
  • Why is it important to always be yourself, even if it might be a little scary sometimes?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Put on your own production of Charlotte’s Web!  Do you think that only girls should be cast as Charlotte, and boys as Wilbur?  Explore non-traditional casting, and see how creative you can make your rendition of this classic play.
  • Have an activity (like a carnival) where people can dress-up like their alter-ego, or be whoever they want!  Have attendees introduce themselves as whoever they want-maybe their true selves, their future career title, or maybe they already are living as exactly who they want to be!
  • Do some more in-depth research about trans youth organizations in your area, what can you do to help them?  Have a supply drive for items they need, or volunteer to spread their message of hope and inclusion.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

alex ginoAlex Gino (they/them) loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. They would take a quiet coffee date with a friend over a loud and crowded party any day. A former LSAT tutor who never touched law school, Alex can still talk your ear off about sufficient and necessary conditions. Born and raised on Staten Island, NY, Alex has lived in Philadelphia, PA; Brooklyn, NY; Astoria (Queens), NY; Northampton, MA; and Oakland, CA. In April 2016, they put their books and furniture in storage for what became an 18-month road trip through 44 states. They are now happily settled back into East Bay Area life. Alex has been an activist and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities since 1997, when they became co-chair of what was then called the LGBA at the University of Pennsylvania. It was renamed the QSA the year after they left. Coincidence? Unlikely. They are proud to have served on the board of NOLOSE, a fat-positive, queer, feminist organization dedicated to supporting radical fat acceptance and culture. Alex would like to thank the Black women and other amazing BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) folk of NOLOSE who raised their consciousness about race and how racism permeates our culture. Alex is now excited to work with We Need Diverse Books to bring powerful, thoughtful panels to book and publishing conferences.


Mary Had A Little Lab

Written by: Sue Fliess

Illustrated by: Petros Bouloubasis

For Ages: 3-5 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Self-Esteem, Initiative.

Summary: This book is cleverly written in a rhyming scheme about a little girl scientist named Mary.  She looks through her lab window and notices that other children have friends and pets, and Mary gets to thinking.  She hatches a plan to engineer a machine that will make her friends, and it works!  Mary has a friendly pet sheep, and all the other children in her classroom want them as well.  When making duplicate sheep, the machine breaks.  Suddenly, there are sheep everywhere!  Mary’s classmates (and new friends!) help her fix the machine.  Mary adds wheels to her lab to herd her new flock of sheep, and starts a new business venture with both her human and ovine pals!

Reflection Questions:

  • What is an invention you would like to make?
  • Who are some friends you think would be good at helping engineer your invention?
  • Who are some famous women scientists that you have learned about?
  • What important contributions to science do you think they’ve made?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Design an invention like Mary.  What are some supplies you need?  Can you draw some plans for the invention, or make a model with recycled materials?
  • Have a Science/Invention Fair as a class and share all of your ideas.  What are some ways you could help make these inventions real?
  • As a group, come up with an invention that your community needs.  Who would you talk with to make plans for your invention to be used by people in your community?
  • Visit an inventor or engineer in their lab, or come visit the classroom.  Compile a list of questions to ask the scientist about their lab.  Do you think it looks like Mary’s lab in the book?
  • Sign up for a Skype A Scientist session, and get connected with scientists all over the world without having to leave your classroom!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sue fleissSue Fliess (pronounced “fleece”) is the author of numerous children’s books including Tons of Trucks, Shoes for Me!, Robots, Robots Everywhere! and The Hug Book. Her background is in copywriting, PR, and marketing, and her articles have appeared in O the Oprah Magazine, Huffington Post, Writer’s Digest,, Daily Candy Kids,, and more. She’s super excited because her Oprah Magazine article was chosen for inclusion in O’s Little Books of Happiness! She has also written stories for The Walt Disney Company. Her picture books have received honors from the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, have been used as curriculum tools in schools, in museum educational programs, and have even been translated into French and Chinese. After spending 17 years in sunny Northern California, her family moved to beautiful Northern Virginia, where they live with our English Labrador named Charlie and way too many mosquitoes.

Petros BouloubasisOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA was born in Athens, Greece, where he attended the Graphic Institute of Design. He has participated in exhibitions in Greece, Spain, Japan and Iran. He teaches graphic design & illustration at private colleges.

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Written by: Maya Angelou

Illustrated by: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Edited by: Sara Jane Boyers

For Ages: 4 and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Courage, Fear, Social-Emotional Learning.

Summary: This book is the poem of the same title by Maya Angelou, coupled with the profound paintings of Basquiat.  By having the illustrations fairly abstract, it allows the reader to transpose their own life onto the lines of the story.  The line “life doesn’t frighten me” appears often, creating the ability for students to repeat out-loud and use almost as a mantra to build courage.  Some lines are more tangible fear, such as a new classroom.  Some lines are more whimsical, about fearing a fire-breathing dragon outside the window.  Overall, an important story for young children about being brave and a fantastic addition to any collection!

My class of 4-5year olds really connected with this story, and wanted to hear it over and over.  It’s a great introduction to social-emotional learning as well as poetry and prose.  The simple lines can provide many opportunities for conversations, and is easily memorized by young children.

Reflection Questions:

  • What scares you?
  • How have you overcome a fear in the past?
  • How could you help a friend that was feeling afraid of something?
  • Who helps you feel less afraid?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have children draw creatures that can defeat their fears.  Have them draw themselves being brave with their creature!
  • Try writing a poem as a class, or in small groups.  Do you want to use rhyming words?  What will your poem be about?  Explore different styles of poetry and decide which type you like best!

About the Author, the Illustrator & Editor:

maya angelou
Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. Maya Angelou became one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. With over 50 honorary doctorate degrees Dr. Maya Angelou became a celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. In the late 1950’s Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild. With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Published in 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings received international acclaim made the bestseller list. The book was also banned in many schools during that time as Maya Angelou’s honesty about having been sexually abused opened a subject matter that had long been taboo in the culture. Later, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would become a course adoption at college campuses around the world. With more than 30 bestselling titles, Maya Angelou has written 36 books.
jean michel basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist who first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s where the hip hop, punk, and street art cultures had coalesced. By the 1980s, he was exhibiting his neo-expressionist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992. Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle. In 1988, he died at his art studio at the age of 27. (Wikipedia)
sara jane boyers
Sara Jane Boyers is former music industry attorney/executive and personal manager of performers, Sara Jane Boyers changed direction to write and create books and to photograph. As a photographer, Boyers’ work has been picked for exhibition in juried competitions and exhibited in museums and galleries. As a writer, Boyers’ books have been critically acclaimed and her poetry published.

Lucía the Luchadora

Written by: Cynthia Leonor Garza

Illustrated by: Alyssa Bermudez

For Ages: 3-7 years

Language: English, Spanish

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Latinx Family Life, Mexican Cultural Tradition.

Summary: Lucía wants nothing more than to be a superhero.  At the park, she jumps and flips off the monkey bars to practice her moves.  Lucía overhears some boys talking to each other, saying that girls can’t be superheroes.  This makes Lucía what she calls “spicy mad” and goes over to her Abuela.  She and Abuela hatch a plan for the next day.  Lucía learns that when her grandmother was young, she was a luchadora!  Lucía’s grandmother tells her all about how a luchadora must be agile and do tricks, but they also must stand up for what is right.  And most importantly, a luchadora never reveals their identity!  The next day, Lucía wears an old mask to the park and prepares to show her tricks.  Soon, everyone is wearing lucha libre masks on the playground.  Lucía is ecstatic to see another luchadora with a pink mask on the playground one morning, but before she can go introduce herself she hears the same boys talking about how girls can’t be superheroes.  The new luchadora looks sad, and Lucía decides she must reveal herself in order to stand up for what is right.  Lucía breaks the luchador #1 rule, and takes off her mask!  Suddenly, others start taking off their masks to reveal there are many girl superheroes.  The book ends with Lucía and her superhero crew playing together on the playground.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Lucía feels when she hears the boys saying that girls can’t do something?
  • Do you think boys and girls can do the same things?
  • How would you feel if someone stood up for you the way Lucía stood up for the luchadora in the pink sparkly mask?
  • When is a time that you stood up for something that was the right thing to do?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • In the back of the book there is a note from the author about some of the terminology used in the book.  Learn more about luchadores culture, and what traditions are still being kept alive today.
  • Decorate your own luchador mask.  What would you have on it?  What colors would you use?  What would you stand up for while wearing the mask?
  • Try and find a local luchador to visit the class, or find multimedia sources.  How does this activity (being a luchador/a) tie-in with Mexican culture?  What are some things in your own culture that is specific to it?  What are some things that are similar between different cultures within the classroom?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

GARZA MUGCynthia Leonor Garza is a writer and she writes all sorts of things. Her debut picture book Lucía the Luchadora was published in March 2017. She has written essays for The Atlantic, commentaries for NPR’s All Things Considered and is an alum of the VONA/Voices writer’s workshop. She is also a journalist and has worked as a reporter for several newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She graduated from Rice University and has a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She was born and raised in South Texas and currently lives with her husband and two young daughters in Nairobi, Kenya. You can reach her via Twitter or at luchalady [@]

alyssa bermudezAs a born and bred New Yorker, Alyssa Bermudez‘s move to Tasmania has led her to discover a limitless wellspring of inspiration in the form of an urban and rural coalescence.  Her artistic framework stems from her undergraduate and graduate degree courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where she studied illustration, computer animation and interactive media.  As an art teacher for 7 years, she hopes to encourage her students aged 5-75+ to activate that same artistic channel. She hopes to direct those who view her work into a deeper experience with curated colour, delightful subject matter and professional craftsmanship.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest

Written by: Sarah Hampson

Illustrated by: Kass Reich

For Ages: 3-7 years old

Language: English

Topics Covered: Activism, Self-Respect, Inclusiveness, Initiative.

Summary: Dr. Archibald Coo is fed up with being disrespected.  He’s a worldly pigeon, and knows how important pigeons have been throughout history.  Messenger pigeons were used in Ancient Greece and some dropped medicine to soldiers during wartime.  Dr. Coo wants pigeons to have the respect they deserve, and so he hatches a plan.  Dr. Coo talks with the other birds, and they lament about how disrespected pigeons are.  Chased by children, swatted at with umbrellas, and shooed off of public statues.  The next morning, there’s not a pigeon in sight.  Human citizens of the city are confused and forlorn.  There’s nobody to feed stale bread or watch soar in between power lines.  Then, Dr. Coo delivers a letter of protest to the mayor asking for a compromise to be reached.  The mayor agrees, and the winged citizens of the city drop down notes upon the people which read “when you are loved, you can love in return”.

This book introduces the idea to young children that they can stand up for what they believe in, and change what they don’t think is right.  By using teamwork and polite conversation, Dr. Coo and his friends changed the minds of the people in their city.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you agree with Dr. Coo that pigeons are disrespected?
  • Have you ever stood up for something that you felt was wrong?
  • What are some things that you think everyone should be able to do, human or animal?  Play in the park, use the sidewalks, etc?
  • Have you ever been to a large protest, or helped others stand up for what they believe in?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about something you feel in your heart is unfair.  Who can you write a letter to to try and change it?  Brainstorm potential solutions to put in the letter to help who you are sending it to understand your side.
  • Think about a creature that might feel disrespected, how could you let them know you care about them?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sarah hampsonSarah Hampson is an award-winning columnist and feature writer for The Globe and Mail,Canada’s leading national newspaper. She started her journalism career in 1992, as a freelancer, mostly in magazines. It was on the strength of her award-winning magazine journalism that The Globe and Mail, then at the start of the newspaper war with the new National Post, invited her to write a column, starting in 1998. She writes on a variety of subjects – cultural trends, books, travel, food and people. She is also an author. Her memoir, Happily Ever After Marriage: A Reinvention in MidLife, was published by Knopf in 2010. A 32-page children’s picture book called “Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest” will be published in Spring 2018 by Kids Can Press. Born in Montreal, she has lived in many places: London, England, Geneva, Switzerland, Vancouver and Halifax. She was educated at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature. She currently sits on the board of the Alumnae Association of Smith College, as she is committed to the value of a liberal arts school and to single-sex education for women.

kass reichKass Reich was born in Montreal Canada. She works as an artist and educator and has spent a majority of the last decade traveling and living abroad. Kass graduated with a degree in Art Education from Concordia University then picked up and moved to Beijing where she worked as an early childhood educator for nearly three years. Working with the little ones inspired her to start making picture books for very young learners. After Beijing she lived in Hong Kong, London England and Melbourne Australia. She now finds herself back in Canada but this time in Toronto.

Julián Is a Mermaid

Written and Illustrated by: Jessica Love

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English and Spanish

Topics Covered: Self-Acceptance, Gender Expression, Latinx Family Life

Summary: Julián is a Mermaid is a vivid, fantastical celebration of family, exploration and most of all…mermaids! Julián LOVES mermaids, so when he sees the beautiful women of color in their mermaid costumes while heading home on the train with his abuela, he begins to imagine his own transformation into a mermaid.  Upon arriving home, Julián takes the opportunity to create his own mermaid costume while his grandmother is taking a bath.  When she catches him, he is afraid she will be angry.  Instead, she takes him to the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island where he can be with other mermaids!

This book has beautiful illustrations, and few words.  This allows the reader to be transported and really think about what Julián might be feeling in these moments.  His grandmother immediately embraces Julián for who he is, and introduces him to a whole new world where he can be himself.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Julián feels when his grandmother sees him dressing up like a mermaid?
  • How do you think Julián feels when she takes him to the Mermaid Parade?
  • Do you think anyone could be a mermaid?
  • What kind of fantasy creature would you like to be? (Ex: dragon, unicorn, phoenix, etc.)

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Hold a classroom parade of your own!  Have everyone dress up how they feel most comfortable, and take a lap around the school or bring the party to a nearby park.
  • Do some research on celebrations in the area where people dress up in costumes.  What are they?  What types of costumes do people usually dress up in?
  • Make watercolor paintings of your own transformation into a fantasy creature using the illustrations in the book for inspiration.

About the Author/Illustrator:Jessica Love

Jessica Love (she/her) is a published children’s book author and illustrator. Her first book, Julián is a Mermaid (Candlewick Press) is a New York Times Editor’s Pick. Jessica grew up in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California, raised by a pair of artist parents. She studied printmaking and illustration at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then went on to study acting at Juilliard. Jessica lives in Brooklyn, and splits her time acting in plays, and illustrating.



Written by: Susan Lendroth

Illustrated by: Priscilla Burris

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Family Acceptance, Asian Families, Culture and Traditions, Self-Esteem, Japanese Culture

Summary: Natsumi is a young Japanese girl that is constantly being told things like “slow down!”, “not so fast!”, and “not so loud!”.  When the community is gearing up for a special holiday, Natsumi wants to try all of the different activities!  She tries dancing, matcha-making, and flower arranging, but none of them are for her.  Luckily, Natsumi’s grandfather has an idea and meets her everyday after school to prepare.  On the night of the event, Natsumi reveals what she’s been working so hard on to her family and community.

This book addresses both cultural and familial acceptance.  Natsumi defies some stereotypes often associated with Asian women, while also finding a place within her community to celebrate an important cultural event.  Having a mentor like her grandfather is an endearing plot point, and helps to solidify the closeness of their family to the reader.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever had someone say the things Natsumi’s family said to her to you?
  • How did it make you feel when these things were said to you?
  • Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit it with an event that was going on around you?
  • What could you say to a friend if they are feeling this way?

Continuing the Conversation: 

  • Think about a community-wide event that takes place where you and your family live.  What different jobs are needed to make the event happen?  Is there something you could volunteer to do with your family or friends?
  • Put on a school-wide talent show, so each student may have the chance to showcase something special about themselves.
  • Books for further reading:
    • Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman
    • George by Alex Gino

About the Author & the Illustrator:

105231Susan Lendroth is fascinated by the past as much as the future so her books alternate between the historic (and upcoming prehistoric) and journeys to other worlds. She combined her daughter’s often over-the-top curiosity and exuberance with her fascination with an all-girl taiko drumming group she saw on a trip to Japan to create Natsumi’s story. She lives in Sierra Madre, California. She is the author of Hey Ho, to Mars We’ll Go!, Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, Calico Dorsey and more.

223621Priscilla Burris has loved creating art from a very young age ~ just about the time she was allowed to hold a pencil. Her neighborhood public library was built right across the street from her home, and that is where her love of children’s books truly began.  She loves creating the clothing, scenery and settings that are needed for each character and story! Developing characters who bring their own personalities and perspectives into a story or image is probably her most favorite part of what she does! It’s a privilege, an honor, and a joy to illustrate books and materials for children, parents and teachers, as well as art for greeting cards, rubber stamps, murals, apparel designs ~ and cake painting, too! It’s exciting to realize that there is always so much to learn and experience in creating art and design.  She loves her job!