Tag Archives: bravery

Imani’s Moon

Written by: JaNay Brown-Wood

Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & Maa (Maasai)

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, African Culture & Traditions, Maasai People, Self-Esteem, Community, Bravery, Perseverance.  

Summary: Imani is the smallest in her village, and gets teased relentlessly for it.  To make Imani feel better, her mother tells her stories.  One night in particular, Imani learns about Olapa, the goddess of the moon who had to fight against the god of the sun and won.  Imani’s mother told her that she believe she could accomplish great things, but Imani was the one who had to believe it.  Imani goes to bed inspired, and decides she wants to touch the moon.  The next morning, she climbs a tree to try and reach the moon, but loses her footing and falls to the ground.  Imani’s mother tells her about Anansi the spider, who captured a snake in order to make a name for himself.  Imani’s mother assures her that a challenge is only impossible until it is achieved and that she is the one that must believe.  The next morning Imani crafts a set of wings out of leaves and sticks, trying to fly to the moon.  She is so small that a gust of wind takes her into the air momentarily, until she crashes into a tree.  Defeated, she returns to the village.  In the village, some warriors had returned home and were performing the adumu, the jumping dance.  Fascinated, Imani is unable to look away.  The next morning, Imani started to jump.  She jumps and jumps, launching herself higher into the sky.  Tired and exhausted, Imani jumps one more time and lands on the moon, calling for Olapa!  She picks up a moon rock, and floats gently home, back to the village.  That night, Imani presents the rock to her mother and told her the story of The Girl Who Touched the Moon.

This book is a fantastic story of resilience, but also an introduction to several African folktales.  Integral to the plot, it never feels forced. Instead, these folktales inspire Imani to have courage and persevere with her goal.  In the back is also an Author’s Note giving more information about the Maasai and their adumu.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Imani feels when she is being teased?
  • Why do you think the stories Imani’s mom tell her make her feel better?
  • How would you feel if you achieved a big goal you had been working towards, like Imani did?
  • How can you be a good friend to someone who is trying over and over to do something?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Imani is part of the Maasai tribe, but that’s not the only tribe that lives in Africa!  Learn more about some of the different tribes, or if you have a personal connection to one in particular share what you know and aim to learn even more.
  • What is a story that your family tells?  Share stories together as a class!
  • Imani learns a lot about the folktales that are important to the Maasai, and shape their culture.  Write your own tale about what is important to you and shapes who you are as a person.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

screen-shot-2016-08-11-at-8-46-02-pm_origSome say JaNay Brown-Wood came right out the womb filled with stories to tell and the unlimited energy and excitement to tell them.  She was the type of child that created long, drawn out plays with her Barbie dolls, teddy bears, and Polly Pockets—and these dramas always included singing.  In sixth grade, her teacher predicted that she would become a famous author, and JaNay is eagerly making her way down that path as a Teller of Stories.

JaNay grew up with the grapes of Fresno, California within a community overflowing with creative family members and stories to tell.  She has two loving and supportive parents, Lee and Marci, and two wonderful sisters, Erin and Taylor; and not to mention a gigantic extended family filled with a grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins, cousins, cousins galore!

1428005309219Hazel Mitchell is the author and illustrator of Toby from Candlewick Press. She is also the illustrator of Imani’s Moon (Charlesbridge), One Word Pearl (Charlesbridge), Animally (Kane Miller), Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (Down East) amongst others.

Before becoming a children’s book creator Hazel served for several years in the British Royal Navy before working as a designer and commercial illustrator in England (her home country) and USA. She attended art college in Great Britain close to her birthplace of Scarborough, Yorkshire.

Now she lives in Maine and works from her home studio. She still misses fish, chips and mushy peas, but is learning to love lobster. She has two poodles, Toby and Lucy, plus a cat called Sleep.


Written & Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English & Spanish

Topics Covered: Immigration, Courage, Bravery, Family, Love, Community.

Summary: This is the story about a woman and her young child immigrating to San Francisco.  Trying to navigate this unfamiliar world was difficult, especially with a language barrier.  The narrator admits mistakes are made in this new place, such as playing in a public fountain.  One day, the two are walking and come upon a library,  In awe, a new world is opened up to them!  Trusting the librarians, the library became a place of respite and education.

Simply written and beautifully illustrated, the storyline encompasses the feeling of being in a new place and the fear of not fitting in.  The book also emphasizes the importance of public spaces where individuals can exist without pressure to spend money.  Learning a new culture and language can be daunting, and libraries can decrease the pressure and cost associated with classrooms.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever moved to a new place?
  • How did you feel after you moved?
  • If you felt scared or nervous, what made you feel better in this new place?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Lots of people move to new countries.  What might they be worried about when they do so, and what might make them feel better?  Make a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Guide for new families moving in, with landmarks and important places.  Make sure to include libraries, parks, and whatever else you can think of!
  • Visit your local library and explore.  What might be there already to make new members of the community feel welcome, and what else might it need?  See if you can work with local librarians to create a program to welcome new families in the area, so they can meet each other and other people that are new to the community.
  • Learn about bilingual books, and hold a bilingual story hour at your school or community library.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

yuyi moralesYuyi Morales was born in the city of flowers, Xalapa, Mexico,  where the springs came out from the sand, or so the story says.Once she was a child, but she spent most of that time thinking about extraterrestrials and waiting for them to come in their UFO to take her away. She tried to be a psychic; she wanted to move things with her mind. She practiced to be an acrobat too—and broke many things at home. Then she grew and became an artist and a writer. Oh, well.

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson

Written by: Leda Schubert

Illustrated by: Theodore Taylor III

For Ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trailblazer, POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Acceptance, Courage, Perseverance.

Summary: This book follows the story of Raven Wilkinson, the first black ballerina to tour with a major American touring troupe.  Raven became fascinated with ballet when she was young, and was gifted lessons at the age of 9.  While attending Columbia University, Raven auditioned several times for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and finally was accepted on her third attempt in 1955.  This company toured for several months at a time by bus.  Raven began touring shortly after the Brown v. the Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools in 1954, and met some resistance from those who felt performance stages should not feature events with both black and white dancers sharing the stage.  In some states, it was even illegal.  In these places, Raven would sometimes lighten her skin with makeup before going onstage.  Raven was courageous and persevered, never denying who she was even when it came to getting kicked out of a hotel or having people rush the stage in Alabama.  During that same tour, Raven and the other dancers were in the hotel dining room when she noticed Klan robes in a booth.  She chose not to perform that evening and instead stayed in her hotel watching a cross burning in the night.  In 1962, Raven left Ballet Russe and joined a convent for 7 months until she was offered a spot in the Dutch National Ballet in Holland.  Raven lived there for 7 years and even danced for Queen Juliana of the Netherlands!  When Raven returned to the USA, she danced until she was 50 with the New York City Opera in 1985, and acted until 2011 when the opera closed.  In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater.  Raven was at Misty’s performance of playing both Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, even joined her onstage at the end of the performance!

This book is a fantastic story of a little-known American hero.  It covers our country’s racism during this time in an age-appropriate manner, and shows that it can be overcome with determination without compromising personal values.  This book is important for students learning about our country’s history, as well as any aspiring dancer!

Reflection Questions:

  • Dancing made Raven happier than anything else.  What makes you happier than anything else?
  • How do you think Raven felt when people judged her on her skin color?
  • Sometimes courage is needed to do something scary or new.  When is a time that you showed courage?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • There isn’t always easy access or representation in some lines of work.  What is something that you might like to do, but don’t see someone that looks like you doing it?  Science, dance, teaching, anybody can do anything!  Research some famous figures doing a job that interests you, and find the diversity within.
  • Brainstorm as a class ways you can make everyone feel included and valued in your classroom.  Every person is both the same and different than other people, but every individual is important.  Make sure when newcomers join your class, they know it is a safe space that values everyone’s interests and personal identities.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

leda schubertLeda Schubert was the school library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education, and she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She is the author of Monsieur Marceau, Feeding the Sheep, Ballet of the Elephants, and other books.


theodore taylor IIITheodore Taylor III is an illustrator living in Richmond, VA with his wife Sarah and son Theo. He works as a front-end web developer by day and illustrates children’s books by night. He studied Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University where he honed his skills in drawing, design and photography. His work is inspired by his love for music, comics, animation, video games, street art and more. He is also a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur. In 2014 he received the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award for his work in When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop. The book also won the Texas Bluebonnet Award. He also recently illustrated three books for Shaquille O’Neal and Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson. You can contact him via email at trtaylor3@gmail.com!




Gloria’s Voice

Written and Illustrated by: Aura Lewis

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Activism, Feminism, Historical Figures, 

Summary: Gloria is a little girl that dreams of being famous for helping others. Gloria’s mother always wanted to be a journalist in New York City, but has to stay home and take care of her house. Gloria thinks this is very unfair, and it makes her sad. When she is ten, her parents separate. Gloria’s mom gets very ill and can’t look after Gloria anymore. When she is grown, Gloria begins to travel and see the world. When she goes to India, she joins an aid coalition to help those in need. After two years, she leaves India and becomes a journalist in NYC, wanting to continue helping people. Instead, she is only given fluff pieces to write about. Gloria is angry, and demands to be heard! One day her friend asks her to cover the women’s liberation movement, and Gloria becomes inspired. She has found her cause. Gloria and her friend Dorothy begin to travel and speak about this movement, and start Ms. magazine! Gloria became a key voice in feminism, and continues to support all women’s voices to this day.

This book is a great introduction to the history of second-wave feminism. The illustrations are beautiful, and there is a plethora of information at the back of the book including a more descriptive history of Steinem’s life as well as page by page notes.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Gloria Steinem before this book?
  • Why is it important that all people are treated equally?
  • What can you do to help ensure that people in your community are treated fairly?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about the feminist movement and what it’s doing today. How are people in your community helping marginalized populations? How can you join in their efforts?
  • Learn more about activism in your area, and choose a project as a class. Have a clothing drive, write letters to your local government, or stand up for something you feel is right! Gloria saw inequality as something that can be fixed with hard work, and you can be part of that!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Aura Lewis is an author-illustrator based in New York City. She has an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Aura’s debut picture book, Gloria’s Voice, was published in March 2018 with Sterling Publishing, and is available online and in bookstores! Her second book, The Illustrated Feminist, will be published in 2020 with Abrams.

When We Were Alone

Written by: David A. Robertson

Illustrated by: Julie Flett

For Ages: Infant and up

Language: English and Cree

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Residential Schools, First Nations,

Summary: This tender board book explores the history of residential schooling that was inflicted upon Indigenous and First Nations people.  A young girl helps her grandmother in the garden and asks questions about things her grandmother does, such as wearing bright colors, having long hair, and speaking in Cree.  The narrator’s grandmother tells of the times in her childhood that she was forced to live in a residential school, and had her autonomy, culture, and language taken away.

The book’s typography changes colors when speaking about past and present, which is a beautiful representation and goes well with Flett’s illustrations.  The book approaches this time in history in an accurate and easy to understand way for young children.  It is a story of a young girl subverting authority with an emphasis on explanation and healing; a grandmother living her truth despite those that tried to steal her culture demanding submission from the Indigenous children they took from their families under the guise of education.

Reflection Questions:

  • How would you feel if you were told not to do things important to your family and culture?
  • How do you think the children feel when they sneak away and remind themselves how important their culture is to their identity?
  • Do you think the children feel better once they’re back with their families instead of at the residential school?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Residential schooling is an important part of Indigenous history. Learn about all types of schooling as part of an in-depth unit about schools around the world, as well as in your community.
  • Invite a classroom guest to come and talk about their culture!
  • Talk with elders in your community about how they grew up.  What things are different from how you’re growing up today?  What things are the same?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

david a robertsonDavid A. Robertson is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (Governor General’s Literary Award winner, McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People winner, TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award finalist), Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award Graphic Novel Category), and the YA novel Strangers. David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.

julie flettJulie Flett is a Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist. She has received many awards including the 2017 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature for her work on When We Were Alone by David Robertson (High Water Press), the 2016 American Indian Library Association Award for Best Picture Book for Little You by Richard Van Camp (Orca Books), and she is the three-time recipient of the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Award for Owls See Clearly at Night; A Michif Alphabet, by Julie Flett, Dolphin SOS, by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki (Tradewind Books), and My Heart Fills with Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Books). Her own Wild Berries (Simply Read Books) was featured in The New York Times and included among Kirkus’s Best Children’s Books of 2013. Wild Berries was also chosen as Canada’s First Nation Communities Read title selection for 2014–2015.

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

Written by: Jess Keating

Illustrated by: Marta Alvarez Miguens

For Ages: 4-8

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trailblazing, Science, Women in STEM, Asian-American Women, Courage, Self-Confidence.

Summary: Eugenie was a young girl that loved sharks more than anything.  She loved diving underwater and gazing at all of the sea life.  Eugenie read every book she could find about sharks, and even became the Queens County Aquarium Society’s youngest member!  As Eugenie got older, some professors told her women weren’t smart enough to be scientists.  She studied and studied, earning her degree and finally being able to dive in the open ocean to research aquatic life.  Eugenie discovered three new species of fish!  She even dispelled the myth that sharks can never stop swimming, and soon Eugenie became known as “Shark Lady”.  In order to prove sharks weren’t mindless killing machines, she trained some to push a button to earn a reward!  Eugenie Clark did not give up, and she achieved her dream of ensuring sharks were respected, loved, and studied.

The last few pages of the book is more scientific information about sharks, as well as a timeline of Eugenie’s accomplishments. This book is great for a budding scientist, or an accompanying book for a science unit in school!

Reflection Questions:

  • What’s your favorite underwater creature?
  • If you were going to become a scientist, what would you like to study?
  • Do you agree with Eugenie that sharks are smart?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Pick a shark featured in the book and learn more about them. Do you think you could train a shark like Eugenie did?
  • Get in touch with a local aquarium or marine biologist, are they able to visit the classroom or video chat? As a group, make a list of questions to ask the scientist about different topics they study!
  • Visit an aquarium or touch tank and get up close to the creatures of the deep that Eugenie loved so much!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jess keatingJess Keating is a fiction and nonfiction writer who loves telling fun stories in any way she can. She also has a Masters of Science in Zoology, so she gets to throw around goofy animal facts a lot. Did you know that a sea cucumber breathes out its BUTT? Moving on. She’s always loved writing and making up stories. She even started a library in her room when she was a kid, so she could charge my brother late fees. To this day, he still owes her 8 bucks. She is also a giant science nerd, and loves to incorporate weird science in her books. Today, she writes books for adventurous, curious, and funny kids. Some are middle grade novels and some are picture books, but they are all fun to read! (Promise.) Her agent is the brilliant Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Marta Alvarez Miguens 2Marta Alvarez Miguens is a children’s book illustrator. Born in 1976 in a small town in Galicia (Spain), she has lived in Santiago de Compostela, Bordeaux, and Berlin. She currently lives in La Coruña (Spain). Marta has been illustrating professionally since 2002 for publishers such as Santillana, Anaya, Edelvives, and Oxford University Press, among others. Marta participated in the International Biennial of Illustration in Bratislava (BIB) and is a member of the Galician Illustration Association (AGPI). Her artwork is characterized by happy colors and cute children and animals with red, healthy cheeks. She uses digital techniques to create her pictures, which gives her more freedom to experiment with color and textures. She has also worked in gouache and watercolor. In her spare time, Marta loves playing with her three cats, walking in the woods, watching movies, and drinking a cup of coffee with her friends.

10,000 Dresses

Written by: Marcus Ewert

Illustrated by: Rex Ray

For Ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trans Youth Experience, Self-Acceptance, Acceptance, Family, Gender Identity.

Summary: This story covers Bailey, who dreams about dresses every night. She dreams of crystal dresses, of musical tinkling dresses that sparkle in the sun. When she wakes up, Bailey asks her mother to make her a dress like the one in her dreams. Bailey’s mother says that Bailey can’t wear dresses, because Bailey is a boy. Her mother tells her to go away, and not mention wearing dresses again. The next night, Bailey dreams of a dress made of flowers. She asks her father to make her a dress of lilies and roses. Bailey’s father tells her she is a boy, and to go away and not mention dresses. That night, Bailey dreams of a dress made out of windows. Bailey finds her brother and asks him to make her a dress made of windows, but he threatens to kick her and says it’s gross for a boy to dream about dresses. Bailey runs away from her brother, and runs past a house where a girl named Laurel is sewing on her front porch. Laurel tells Bailey that all of her dresses keep looking the same, and Bailey offers to help. Bailey tells Laurel about her idea for the window dress, and together they sew two dresses with mirrors all over them. Together, they dream of creating 10,000 dresses!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Bailey feels when her family tells her to go away, and stop talking about dresses?
  • How would you feel if your family didn’t take something you loved seriously?
  • How do you think Bailey feels when she meets Laurel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Draw a dream that you have had.  What do you think someone would say if you told them about the dream?  Were you doing something unexpected for your personality in the dream? Ex: digging for worms, dancing, being a knight and riding a horse.
  • Distribute a blank outline of a dress and encourage everyone to design their own dresses.  What would be on it?  Baseballs, Legos, flowers, anything at all!  Encourage everyone to think outside the box and design exactly what they would want to see on a dress.
  • Have a Classroom Clothes Swap.  Bring in some clothes that your family has outgrown and trade them around!  Maybe you could practice your sewing skills and make some creative clothing combinations with these swapped items; sew together an old tutu and a Spiderman shirt or make a double-sided brand new shirt with two things your love (flowers and trains, cookies and bugs, trucks and buildings).  Using iron-on sewing tape is a quick way to introduce children to clothing design and creation!  This can also be part of a longer life-skills unit, in which children learn cooking, sewing, and gardening.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

marcus ewertMarcus Ewert‘s written work has appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications including the 2004 Lambda Literary Award winning non-fiction anthology I Do/ I Don’t. He has participated in the ‘Litquake Literary Festival‘ and the ‘Porch Light’ reading series, both held in San Francisco. He has appeared in such literary journals as Shampoo, Suspect Thoughts, Star*line, and For Immediate Release. He was co-editor (with Mitchell Watkins) of Ruh Roh, an anthology of artists’ work that included pieces by Kathy Acker, Allen Ginsberg, Gregg Araki, Clive Barker, Sadie Benning, Dennis Cooper, Mike Diana, G.B. Jones, Paul McCarthy, Gus van Sant, and many others. His first book 10,000 Dresses, illustrated by Rex Ray, was published by Seven Stories Press in September 2008. 10,000 Dresses was recognized by the American Library Association on the 2009 Rainbow Book List, as a Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Honorbook, and a 2008 Lambda Literary Award Finalist.

rex rayRex Ray was an American artist best known for his innovative pop aesthetic in fine and commercial art—on canvases, wood panels, album covers, paper, book jackets, murals, and rock and roll posters. Born in Landstuhl, Germany in 1956, Michael Patterson was raised in Colorado Springs. Before moving to San Francisco in 1981, Patterson, inspired by Andy Warhol, adopted the moniker Rex Ray. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute where he studied with Sam Tchakalian, Kathy Acker, and Angela Davis, and received his BFA in 1989. He became a major force in the Bay Area’s art, literary, and activist communities. Ray’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Akron Art Museum; Berkeley Art Museum; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; MCA DENVER; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. Several books including Cut & Paste, Rex Ray: Art + Design, and Information feature images with writings about his career and artistic practice.