Tag Archives: courage

Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America

Written by: Emily Easton

Illustrated by: Ziyue Chen

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: American History, Activism, Historical Figures, Courage, Segregation, Enslavement, Sports, Environmentalism. 

Summary: 

This book opens with an Author’s Note talking about her inspiration to write the book.  Emily’s young cousins had been in a school shooting a few weeks before the devastating event in Parkland, Florida.  Her family was physically fine, and they were empowered to do more.  One of them, Ryan (not the Parkland survivor Ryan, who wrote the Forward), helped to organize the March For Our Lives and their older brother took some time from college to help organize further events and demonstrations.  Emily Easton decided to write a book that described the actions of 20 Americans and their protests to create ripples of change.  In the back, there is also more historical information and dates related to each of the protestors.

The book itself is very easy to read, each page having a single line devoted to the protestor.  They are fairly well-known historical figures like Samuel Adams and Susan B. Anthony that children will eventually learn about in school, but probably won’t learn about their activist side.  I can describe the book as very entry-level, with the first half of it featuring well-known heavy hitters like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges.  Rachel Carson is mentioned, which I loved, I don’t think she gets enough attention.  I was also pleased to see Gilbert Baker, creator of the first Pride flag, and Colin Kaepernick as well.

We personally would have left off Samuel Adams (dressing up like Mohawk people before throwing out crates of tea is not so much a protest in our eyes, and more like a scapegoating) but seeing as how children in the majority of public schools will be learning about these figures, they should learn about this activist history at the same time.  However, I do like that this story can be an easy access point into learning whole histories about these American figures and how they fought back against injustice.  Social movements and activism is an important aspect of American history, and students should feel empowered to stand up for marginalized populations and learn about how they can become involved in social justice causes that they care about.  This is a valuable book, because it is a perfect entry point for someone just beginning their journey into the world of social justice and activism.

This book was sent to us by our friends at Random House Children’s Books, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

emily-eastonEmily Easton was the Publishing Director of the Walker Books for Young Readers imprint at Bloomsbury Publishing, until the imprint closed.  Now, she is the Vice President of Crown Books for Young Readers! Emily has diverse editorial taste, editing everything from board books to teen books, from fiction to nonfiction.  She has published numerous bestsellers and award winners, including the Caldecott Honor Book Gone Wild by David McLimans, the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans in World War II by Martin W. Sandler, the Pura Belpre Illustration Award-winner Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez, and the New York Times bestselling “Perfect Chemistry” trilogy by Simone Elkeles.

81Ya0axP-fL._US230_From illustrator Ziyue Chen’s website: “Hi! My name is Ziyue, pronounced as Zzz yuair or you can call me Angeline. I’m a Singapore based Illustrator and graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design in US. I love drawing and visualizing stories through illustrations. I work on mostly Children’s Books, mural painting and print media from concept development to print.

My life goal has been to have an emotional connection with those who view my work. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, sketching, swimming and spending time with my loved ones. Mixed nuts, goji berries and avocado milkshake are my favourite snack. Yum.”

The Degenerates [released 3/17]

Written by: J. Albert Mann

Cover Art by: Design: Rebecca Syracuse; Illustration: Sarah Maxwell-Folio Art

For ages: YA (14 years and up)

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Mental Health, Disability, Own Voices, Interracial Love, Family, Friendship, Institutionalized Lives, Courage, Bravery, Love. 

Summary: 

This book is incredible.  I truly hope this book review does it justice, I couldn’t put it down.  We were given the opportunity to read the book before it’s released on 3/17 and I am so appreciative!  Four young girls (Rose, Alice Maxine, and London) are all institutionalized at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, also known as the Fernald School.  Set in 1928, readers get a look inside the dismal and regimented existence that these girls as well as the rest of the inmates are subjected to.  The book is told in the four voices of the girls mentioned above, and the reader learns the schedule of the “school” and why they were abandoned there.  Using the language of the day, you can anticipate outdated terms for Down syndrome as well as learn about the eugenics movement that drove the incessant testing and measuring of intelligence leading to categories that we no longer use (but that many still use as ableist insults today).

I don’t want to give away too much, but The Degenerates is a slow burn, and made my little gay heart go pitter patter all the way until the last pages.  It’s a fantastic historically accurate book, and I’ve already told several people how much they need to read it!

In an extensive note in the back, we learn more about the author and how she developed the book from actual records found from the Fernald School, which was finally closed in 2014.  We coincidentally live very near the Fernald, so this book was of particular interest to us!  Everything in the book that a doctor or nurse says to a character was pulled from hospital records, as well as the characters names and their conditions.  The author herself is disabled, giving a personal voice to the probability that she herself would have been committed to an institution such as this one should she have been born last century.  Honestly, we probably would have been committed too, due to the criminalization of queer people in addition to the other disabled and marginalized citizens.  This adds another layer to reading the book and the heinous “care” that these individuals committed for life were given.

The Degenerates will be released on March 17th! This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. This is a YA book everyone should devote a few hours to reading!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Jennifer+Mann_Author+Photo_2016+(1)J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee.

selfieSarah Maxwell is an American illustrator based in London. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas, only to then travel to Paris for studies. Having lived there for over 5 years, she has made the move to travel across the pond to the UK to start a new chapter of her life.

Her work ranges from fashion illustration to animated GIFs and comics. The best way to describe her work is summed up in 4 key words: nostalgia, tenderness, femininity, and 80’s electronic music.

0-3Rebecca Syracuse is a graphic designer and illustrator, highly experienced in children’s publishing and product design.

The Prince and the Dressmaker

Written & Illustrated by: Jen Wang

For ages: Young Adults and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender Expression, Growing Up, Love, Family, Acceptance, Friendship.

Summary: Prince Sebastian doesn’t particularly want to get married, but his parents are desperate for him to find a mate.  All Sebastian really wants to do is blow off steam and wear fabulous dresses as a disguise while out on the town.  He comes across Frances, a talented young seamstress and hires her to live in the castle and create one of a kind looks for him.  Frances begins to accompany him out on the town and the pair become best friends.  Frances is only one of two people that know the prince likes to wear dresses.  When the prince’s alter-ego Lady Crystallina begins to be recognized, and her fashions desired, the two reach an impasse because Frances getting recognized as the creator of these dresses could also mean the cover is blown for Sebastian.  This is a fabulous graphic novel about friendship, acceptance, and personal expression.  Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys fashion design, or who wears anything unique and might get teased for it.

Reflection Questions:

  • How would you feel if you were Frances in the story, not being recognized for her work?
  • How do you think Sebastian feels, not being able to let people know his “secret”?
  • Who are the people in your life that you trust with your secrets?
  • How are you a good friend when someone tells you a secret?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Design your own perfect outfit-what makes you feel most comfortable?  Sebastian liked wearing pants and shirts as much as he liked wearing fancy dresses, and you can too!  But what matters most is that you’re dressing the way that makes you feel most comfortable.
  • Draw your own comic!  The land that Frances and Sebastian live in is fictitious, you can imagine a new place or write about one that already exists!
  • Think about what it means to be a good friend.  What is important to you in a friend, and how can you embody those characteristics for your friends as well? If it’s helpful, you can make a list or collaborate with someone.

About the Author & Illustrator:

2477793-jen_wangJen Wang is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator based in Los Angeles. Jen is also a co-founder and organizer for Los Angeles based comics festival Comic Arts LA.

Lighter Than My Shadow

Written & Illustrated by: Katie Green

For ages: Teens and Up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Eating Disorders, Assault, Resilience, Bravery, Family, Friendship, Love, Acceptance, Mental Health, Recovery, Trauma, Graphic Novel.

Summary: This hefty 500 page graphic novel covers main character Katie’s life from childhood to college-first for biology and then for art school.  Katie has always had a problem eating, but things changed when she was a teenager and people started commenting on each others bodies.  She developed anorexia in high school, and had to take some time off before senior exams to gain weight back and try to recover.  Katie gets well enough to go back to school, but is constant turmoil, figuring out what she can do next.

While recovering, Katie meets an alternative healer and becomes infatuated with him and his family, truly believing that he wants to help her.  He encourages Katie to leave her family and friends behind as part of her healing process, and to spend time with him instead.  Katie accompanies the family to a music festival, and he assaults her.  Suddenly, Katie realizes that he has been doing this while “healing her energy” and Katie’s world comes crashing down.  She becomes stuck in a cycle of college classes, disordered eating, and trauma processing.

This is an honest look at living with an eating disorder, and if a person can ever truly be healed or not. Beautiful illustrations and even more beautiful words make up this fantastic book.  Due to mature themes it is a book for older teens, but it is a book that absolutely should be read!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Katie was impacted by her friend’s reactions to her, both before and after she revealed her anorexia to them?
  • What makes you feel vulnerable? Have you ever made a choice you later regretted because of your feelings of vulnerability?
  • If you have survived trauma of any sort, do you believe that someone can truly be healed?
  • Katie’s relationship with her parents runs the gamut from supportive to strained. Have your parents helped you through hard times? How have they supported you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Katie draws her anxiety and disordered thinking as a dark cloud over her head. How do you envision your negative thoughts? Draw yourself and those thoughts.
  • Katie spends a lot of the movie hating her body and the way it looks. Write a letter to your body, and let your emotions flow. How does it feel to write to your body like this?
  • Being vulnerable with other people can be uncomfortable, but valuable if you find trusted resources. If you have such a person in your life, start a conversation about your relationship and its joys.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

bwportraitKatie Green grew up in the London suburbs and moved to Bristol in 2002 to study, where she lived for ten years before moving to her current home in Devon. After completing a degree in Biology she studied Sequential Illustration, graduating with first class honours in 2009.

Her graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow, began as a degree project and was signed up by Jonathan Cape in early 2010. The completed work, some 500 pages, took almost 5 years to complete.

Since the publication of her first book, Katie has worked on zines, short comics and illustrations for select clients as well as her own self-directed creative work. Her work has been featured in several exhibitions, and Katie and gives workshops and presentations around the UK and overseas.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace

Written by: Tanya Lee Stone

Illustrated by: Marjorie Priceman

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Historical Figures, Women in Science, Feminism, Bravery, Courage, Individuality.

Summary: Ada was a young girl who lived in the English countryside.  She had a wild imagination and a mother who thought a wild imagination was dangerous.  Ada’s father was the famous poet, Lord Byron.  Ada’s mother was fed up with Lord Byron’s wild behavior, and moved home to her parents house when Ada was 5 weeks old.  Ada never saw her father again, because he fled England owning large sums of money.  Ada’s mother wanted Ada to have a brain like a mathematician, not a wild imagination.  She had tutors that taught her every subject, and she loved music in addition to math, drawing, and singing.  When Ada was 12, she became obsessed with inventing a flying horse with bird wings, and asked her mother for bird-drawing books.  Ada’s mother made her study math for longer hours everyday instead;  she also wanted Ada to get married to a suitable man.  Ada was presented to the king and queen when she was 18, but was not interested in solely becoming a housewife.  Ada became fascinated with the scientists Charles Babbage, and his inventions.  She began to visit with him, and became enchanted with his number calculation machines he was building.  Ada realized that math and imagination could work together, unlike what he mother tried so desperately to teach her.  Ada and Charles became good friends, and often wrote letters and visited each other, walking about math and philosophy together.  Charles was busy trying to build a calculation device that could solve any problem, called the Analytical Engine.  He was trying to base it off a loom that used punchcards to design what the woven design would be.  He didn’t know how the loom worked, but Ada did.  Ada was also able to help translate scientific papers written in French, and Charles encouraged Ada to write her own papers.  She was thrilled at the idea, women in her time did not become scientists and write papers!  Although she was often ill, she worked very hard and wrote many letters to Charles.  When she finished the paper, it turned out to be very long and a huge success!  Ada had a brain that could imagine mathematical processing that had not been discovered yet.  Charles was never able to build his machine, but if he did the entire world of computer programming history could be different from what it is today.  A huge contribution would have been Ada’s work, with her wild imagination!

In the back, there is also more historical information about Ada’s life.  An important scientific contributor that is relatively unknown by most, this is a great book!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Ada felt when her mother tried to stifle her imagination?
  • How do you think she felt when Charles encouraged her to pursue her passions?
  • What do you think Ada would think about computers today?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about basic computer coding.  There are tons of websites that teach coding skills to kids, and introductory courses with robots.  Ada would be proud!
  • Lots of other famous names are mentioned in the story.  Pick one out and learn more about them!  Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, who are you interested in learning about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

916WD-xjo1L._UX250_Tanya Lee Stone is best known for telling little-known or unknown stories of women and people of color. She writes MG/YA narrative nonfiction such as Girl Rising, Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color, and nonfiction picture books such as Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? and The House that Jane Built. Her work has been recognized by the NAACP Image Award, Robert F. Sibert Medal, Golden Kite Award, Bank Street Flora Straus Steiglitz Award, Jane Addams Honor, YALSA Nonfiction Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NPR Best Books, and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors. She is also the author of the YA verse novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which was a Top Ten Banned Book. Stone studied English at Oberlin College, later earned a Masters Degree, and was an editor of children’s nonfiction for many years before becoming a writer. She teaches writing at Champlain College. Forthcoming books include A Story of War, A Story of Peace, Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented.

marjorie-priceman-1536996Marjorie Priceman, illustrator of many acclaimed picture books, has won Caldecott Honors for her illustrations in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss and Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the Frist Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life

Written by: Joan Schoettler

Illustrated by: Traci Van Wagoner

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women Artists, Historical Events, Public Art. 

Summary: Aiko and Ruth Asawa are the same person.  Aiko speaks Japanese at home, and at her Japanese school on Saturdays after she is done at American public-school during the week.  She goes by Ruth at public-school.  She is a gifted artist, and works on her parents farm.  Ruth’s life changes one day when her father is forced to leave the family farm for a Japanese Internment camp, after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.  Soon, the rest of the family has to follow.  For six months, they live in a horse stall of an old racetrack.  Despite these dark times, Ruth is able to take art classes from artists also in the camp.  After six months, her family is moved to Arkansas to another camp.  They live with lots of other people and always have to wait in line for things like food and showers.    Ruth still takes art classes, and paints whenever she has time.  She uses tiny scraps that she finds, like cloth, bits of metal, or rocks.  After a whole year, she is released on a scholarship to become an art teacher!  Ruth moves to North Carolina to study.  After, she moves to Milwaukee but leaves without a diploma after she realizes it will be hard to get a job since she’s Japanese.  Instead, she travels to Mexico with her sister and learns how to loop wire from a man.  Ruth is hooked, and begins to experiment and build sculptures “in the air” as she puts it.

Ruth gets married, and has six kids.  She continues to loop metal wire and build sculptures, showing them in museums.  She also begins to experiment with different mediums and metals.  Ruth founds two art schools- the Alvarado School Arts Workshop and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts!  She even builds a public fountain in Ghiradelli Square!  Eventually, she designs many fountains and becomes known as the Fountain Lady in San Francisco.  As her final public art installation, she creates a garden to honor Japanese internment victims.

This book is comprehensive and focuses on Ruth’s achievements, while not shying away from the shameful American history of internment during WWII.  Ruth Asawa is truly legendary, and this is a great book honoring her artistic legacy as well as her public service.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Ruth or Aiko Asawa before?
  • What is something you find meaningful about her life story?
  • Do you think people talk about Japanese internment very much?
  • Have you ever tried to make art with wire or metal before?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Experiment with different artistic mediums.  Is it easy?  What do you think of the giant creations Ruth made?  What is your favorite art supply to work with?
  • Learn more about Japanese internment camps, and why they happened.  If you’re able to find videos with interviews, or more information, watch them as a classroom and have a discussion about it afterwards.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

schoettlerJoanJoan Schoettler grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where memories of trips to the ocean, picnics in parks, walks through San Francisco, museum visits, and gatherings of family and friends continue to draw me back to my beginnings. Hikes in the Sierra, late dinners on warm summer nights, gardening, as well as, grandchildren, reading, and travel fill my days, weaving ideas and inspiration for my writing.

A number of years ago she asked a celebrated children’s writer where her stories came from. The author challenged her to find them within. Joan took pen to paper, and, like magic, stories flowed. Well, perhaps, not quite so easily. After extensive reading, studying craft, writing, innumerable rewrites, considerable editing, and countless submissions, a long-awaited box of books arrived on my front porch.

Teaching children’s literature and storytelling at California State University, Fresno nurtures Joan’s passion for children’s literature and my love of teaching. She has invited students of all ages into my world of children’s literature, immersing them in the nuances of writing and the art of storytelling.

Van Wagoner, TraciTraci Van Wagoner received a Bachelors degree in Illustration & Advertising Design from Utah State University and a BFA in Toy Design from Fashion Institute of Technology….. *snore* That’s the technical side of my background which says that she’s spent a lot of time in school drawing, painting, playing with type, page layout, concepts, characters, and developing ideas.

Depending on the time of the day, the real Traci is an illustrator, artist, writer, reader, designer, dog walker, pool player, gardener, and a Night Elf druid known as Vaingor. Creative pursuits have included: playing the piano, playing pool (sometimes you have to be creative to win in APA), a short stint as an advertising copywriter, portrait painting, photography and sculpture.

Spring After Spring; How Rachel Carson INSPIRED the Environmental Movement

Written & Illustrated by: Stephanie Roth Sisson

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women in STEM, Activism, Environmental Activism, Trailblazers, Bravery, Courage.

Summary: Rachel is a little girl that LOVES nature.  She loves walking through the woods and listening to all of the sounds that animals create around her.  Birds, frogs, bats, and bugs!  Rachel explores the world around her from every angle, staring at the sky and through a magnifying glass at the earth below her feet.  She draws pictures and dreams of the ocean.  Rachel’s favorite time of year is spring, when the animal sounds are most plentiful!  When Rachel went to college, she was convinced she would be a writer, until she looked through a microscope.  Rachel was blown away by the tiny life contained in a single drop of ocean water, and from then on she was hooked.  Despite never having been to the ocean, Rachel wanted to learn as much as she could, and began to study biology.  She became a scientist gathered information about the ocean, it was her job to swim around underwater and learn!  Rachel also began to write books about the creatures that lived in the sea, and became very well-known.  Around this time, Rachel also began to notice that nature’s voice was going quiet.  Now Rachel had a new task, she wanted to figure out what was happening to the animals that used to be so loud and numerous.

Rachel began to learn about all of the ways scientists were using chemicals to kill bothersome insects, in attempts to help farmers have better crop yields.  These chemicals seemed to be safe, but no one really knew for sure.  Rachel started doing research, and found out that these chemicals were NOT safe, and harmed forest life.  Rachel wrote a book entitled Silent Spring to let everyone know the dangers of using these chemicals.  The book caused a huge stir and Rachel was even invited to speak with President Kennedy about her book!  She was scared, but she did it anyway, just like all those years ago when she began going underwater for her job.  Rachel was incredibly brave, and used this bravery to help let people know the dangers of putting chemicals into the environment.  Because of Rachel’s testimony, some of the most harmful chemicals were banned, and animals began to return to the forest!

This book is a fabulous introduction to environmentalism, and a famous scientist!  It repeatedly introduces bravery, and how bravery doesn’t mean a person isn’t scared when they do something.  In the back there’s an Author’s Note, notes about specific pages with more detailed information, as well as sources for more information.  Would definitely recommend to any group or classroom learning about nature or science!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever listened to the sounds of nature in the forest before?
  • What is something brave that you have done before, just like when Rachel went underwater even though she was scared?
  • What would you like to do when you get older?
  • Do you think it’s important to protect animals and natural habitats like Rachel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make your own coffee-can “microscopes” and see what you can find in a nearby pond or puddle.  Draw your view!
  • If you live near a town forest or woods, try taking a quiet nature walk once or twice every season and make notes about what you hear and see.  Compare the notes of different seasons together and see if you can figure out which animals migrate and which ones hibernate!
  • Learn more about what you can do in your community to help nature throughout the year.  It might be making bird feeders to hang up, picking up litter on the bike path, or making sure that signs where animals cross the road frequently are visible from the road.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

A1lskN991IL._UX250_Stephanie Roth Sisson has been a traveler her whole life and these journeys have been physical (actually going places) and imaginative (through wonder and books) .  Both are just as real. Her website is mostly photographs, which bring her adventures to life!