Summary: This book is phenomenal. Robert Smalls was an enslaved man that was able to hold a job away from the person that enslaved him. Because of this, he worked on a ship called The Planter during the Civil War and hatched a plan to save himself and many others. Because Smalls was brave, intelligent, and cunning, he planned to impersonate the captain of The Planter and sail himself, his family, and around two dozen other enslaved people to the North where they would be free. Robert set out and was able to sneak the large ship past several Confederate forts by carefully studying the actual ship captain’s movements, not raising suspicions of the soldiers stationed.
This book tells about the entire journey Robert Smalls underwent, and how his bravery also brought weapons to the Union army when the ship arrived. After the story is an Afterword which talks more about enslavement and the Civil War. I love the language that is used in the book, it is person-first and comprehensive without sounding like a lecture. It puts forward Robert’s intelligence in carrying out his plan to help himself and others, rather than telling the story from a savior of abolitionist perspective, Robert is in charge of his own story. There is also a glossary and a list of books that the reader can seek out to learn more, as well as a bibliography and a real photo of Robert!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Jehan Jones-Radgowski is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. She has lived all over the world, including South Africa, Spain, Venezuela, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Jehan currently lives in Germany with her family.
Poppy Kang is a freelance Illustrator and Visual Development Artist based in Los Angeles, California.
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Modern Back Freedom Struggle, Voting Rights, Family, Activism, Racism, Strength, Resilience, Education, Own Voices, Historical Fiction.
Summary: This story is told from the perspective of a young girl, who everyone calls Little Joe on account of the fact that she follows her grandfather Joe around everywhere. She and her siblings live with their grandparents on a farm in the South. Little Joe tries to skip school one day, but her grandpa catches her and on the drive to school she complains about the ragged books the school gets handed down from the white schools.
Things change a bit for the family when Granddaddy volunteers to try and register to vote, agreeing to take the test on the state constitution. He studies and passes, but the community church is set on fire and burns to the ground as retribution for exercising the right to register. Undeterred, more members of Little Joe’s community vow to study and register themselves to vote.
This story is an introduction to the struggles that African-Americans faced trying to register to vote before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The violence within the story is light, with no one being injured in the church fire and instead using the arson as reason to have more folks register to vote. The story is appropriate for children, and we would consider the book a primer about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle for younger audiences, to prepare them later for more complex storylines surrounding the topic of both the struggle and the voting registration activism that took place (ex: SNCC, bussing, boycotts, etc.). Great read with beautiful illustrations!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Margaree King Mitchell is the author of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Simon & Schuster), Granddaddy’s Gift (Scholastic), When Grandmama Sings (HarperCollins), The People In The Park (Watershed Books), and Woman In The Pulpit (Castlewood Books). From her “about” section of her website:
She has been “featured on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is on a multitude of school lists of required reading throughout the United States. It is also reprinted in several international textbooks.
The team of David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn has adapted Uncle Jed’s Barbershop into an award-winning musical featuring Broadway veteran Ken Prymus as Uncle Jed. Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a featured show in the New York Musical Theater Festival and won the National Music Theater Network’s Directors Choice Award.
In my books for children I use history to encourage students to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives. If they can see the accomplishments of people who lived long ago who achieved their dreams in less than ideal situations, I hope students will be inspired and know they can do even more with their lives.
Several years ago I visited with students who didn’t believe they were special. They certainly didn’t believe they had special gifts to share with the world. I was surprised that no one in the entire room thought they had within them the power to change the world. I asked why. They said no one had ever told them so. Therefore, whenever I speak to children, I try to inspire them to dream big dreams for their lives and believe those dreams can come true.
In my teen fiction book, The People In The Park, I explore what happens in the lives of teens when something devastating happens through no fault of their own. Teens are blamed for lots of what’s wrong in the world. But there are teens who are good students and good citizens who successfully navigate life changing situations. I thought it would be interesting to show through a story how they work through their issues and return to normal, while becoming better for having gone through the experience.
I hope teens groups use The People In The Park for discussion.
Teens throughout the country are weighing in on Lauren (the main character in The People In The Park) and her situation. Lively discussions are taking place on whether teens agree or disagree with Lauren and the decisions she makes.
I wrote Woman In The Pulpit after listening to several friends, who are female ministers, talk about their experiences in the pulpit. Through the book I attempt to show the challenges women in the ministry face as they seek to carry out their calling.”
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Johnson attented The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. For over thirty years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, ESPN’s Quickie page and Weei.com.
Larry has been an illustrator for over twenty five years in book publishing, magazines and agencies. His work includes assignments for Fortune magazine, Lee Low, Scholastic, Little Brown, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com. Hill Holiday and the Sporting News. He has illustrated biographies on Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and The Wilt Chamberlain story. His work has been acknowledged in New York’s Society of Illustrators.
As a Fine Artist, Johnson has had much success selling his original work to celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Jordan. Corporate clients include Pepsi-Cola, Hallmark and The National Football League. His work has been seen on The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Johnson works in all mediums. His ability to capture a likeness as well as draw people of every ethnicity makes him very sought after talent for commissioned assignments. His greatest asset is his ability to work in a plethora of styles from a literal rendering to wonderful children’s books.e to edit.
Topics Covered: Empowerment, Self-Confidence, Resiliency, Disability, Diverse Experiences, Growth Mindset.
This book is awesome! I’m Gonna Push Through! delivers an empowering message for young people to step into their power and overcome anything in their path. The book is based on a mantra that the author developed for her classroom, it embraces challenge head-on and encourages students to see themselves as masters of their own story.
This story is spectacular for so many reasons! The illustrations are incredible and diverse, featuring many people I’ve never seen featured in a children’s book before. Students that use mobility aids, a child using a white and red cane (signifying low or no vision), a girl with a prosthetic leg, as well as a child with vitiligo! Reading through the book, the reader learns about how many famous adults (LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Jillian Mercado, and Jamie Brewer and more) pushed through any potential roadblocks on their journey, and conquered.
In the back of the book is a lengthy author’s note about Jasmyn’s journey as a teacher and the phenomenon of her Push Through campaign that became known globally. There is also information about most (not all, unfortunately) of the people mentioned that pushed on through and achieved greatness. Overall, this is an amazing book that should be used in classrooms everywhere! I don’t think our review can do justice to this storyline, I urge everyone to find a copy immediately and take in the beauty that is this book.
This book was sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Jasmyn Wright, a globally recognized educator, was born in Philadelphia, PA, but grew up in Pennsauken, NJ. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College in 2009, and her Master of Education from Christian Brothers University in 2012. IN 2015, Jasmyn was awarded the Teachers for Global Classrooms Professional Development Fellowship, in which she spent one year taking a global educational course, and learning ways to bring the awareness of global education to her school community. The fellowship required her to create a global education unit plan, and spend three weeks in Manila, Philippines, sharing best practices with government officials, administrators, and educators. She spent her Spring 2009 semester studying abroad at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana.
A Teach for America alumna and elementary teacher of 9 years, Jasmyn taught in under-served and disadvantaged communities. She’s very passionate about instilling self-awareness and life-skills in her students, and is best known for helping them develop confidence, grit and resilience to overcome adversities, accomplish goals, and maximize their potential.
Jasmyn brought creativity and innovation in her classroom by creating affirmations, programs, and global learning projects that left her students feeling empowered and excited to learn. By fostering growth mindset, she encouraged them to be strong and limitless. Her inspiring and “out of the box” teaching approach allowed her to build authentic, healthy relationships with each of her students, and create a strong classroom culture.
November 2016, Jasmyn uploaded a video to her Facebook page, leading an original call and response mantra called #PushThrough with her then third grade students. This mantra instantly became a social media sensation, reaching over 3.7 million views within one week. Since then, her classroom style of teaching has been recognized and featured in The Huffington Post, The Today Show, Buzzfeed News, NPR News, Fox, NBC, etc. Recently, Jasmyn and her class had the opportunity to film and be a part of a 2017 GAP Kids back to school commercial and campaign, using a shortened version of her infamous classroom mantra, ‘Push Through’. The commercial was also coupled with a 5 minute mini documentary. Her ‘Push Through’ mantra is now permeating throughout classrooms and communities all over the world, and has been translated into 4 languages.
Jasmyn is a global educator and professes that the world is now her classroom. In addition to traveling and leading various inspirational keynotes, youth empowerment workshops, and teacher professional developments across the globe, she also serves as an educational consultant. Jasmyn travels to multiple countries and partners with organizations, leading, facilitating, and organizing teacher training programs. Sharing her best practices and innovative and sincere teaching methods, she’s impacting and transforming educational communities around the world.
Her goal with The Push Through Organization is to continue to use her voice and gift to spread empowerment, speak up and advocate for what society labels as broken, remind people their they were birthed with a purpose and limitless, and positively impact change around the world. For more on Ms. Jasmyn Wright, please visit her website at: http://www.jasmynwrightglobal.weebly.com
Photo by Sarah Schultz Taylor
Shannon Wright is an illustrator and cartoonist based out of Richmond, Virginia. Some of her clients include The Guardian, TIME Magazine, NY Times, Mother Jones, NPR, Google and Scholastic. Her first picture book, My Mommy Medicine, is out on shelves.
Her work tends to explore social issues like race and gender through a slice-of-life lens. She makes personal and original stories invoking nostalgia rooted from her own childhood and life around her. Represented by Writers House. For book inquiries contact Hannah Mann.
Summary: This book opens with Miep hearing the footsteps of Nazi soldiers, coming to arrest the 8 Jewish people that she’s been helping to hide in attic storage rooms for the past two years. Miep manages to avoid arrest by realizing that she and the soldier are both from Vienna, and is left alone. Miep is able to summon the courage to go upstairs to the secret annex where the Franks and others have been hiding, and she saves Anne’s diary. She is able to hid the diary until the war is over and Mr. Frank returns, he is the only one that makes it out alive. Eventually, the diary is published.
This book is somber, tender, and based on Miep’s autobiography. It gives another facet of the WWII experience, this time from a non-Jewish activist committed to the anti-Nazi cause. While the story of Anne Frank is well-known throughout the world, Miep’s story is lesser known. In the back of the book is an author’s note, more information about Miep, and a timeline of her life. She is a beautiful, courageous person. Although she didn’t do any of the actions she’s famous for for glory, she did it to be a good person, not seeing herself as a hero but rather a person just doing her duty. This is a beautiful book to add into any Holocaust education/curriculum, or world history learning.
This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 list, but all opinions are our own, as was the decision to review the book separately from the list project.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Meeg Pincus is a “kidlit nonfiction author. Humane educator. Book editor. Library lover. The happily book nerdy list goes on.
I have a lifelong passion for nonfiction books. Reading them, writing them, editing them. I’ve been writing & editing nonfiction in some form or another for over 20 years—and I still love it. (Learn more about my writing/editing background—and my much longer, full name—here.)
I’m also passionate about education & making our world a kinder, healthier place. This led me to the field of humane education: teaching people to be “solutionaries”—problem-solvers who help people, animals & the planet.
Nowadays I write “Solutionary Stories” for elementary-age children—nonfiction & informational books that inspire kids to make a difference.
I’m a former newspaper journalist & scholar-in-training (four years of graduate school in cultural studies/communication—focusing on race/class/gender—at UW-Madison & UC-San Diego). So I have a background in, and love for, research that means I dive deep & attempt to be incredibly accurate in every topic I write about.
And I’m grateful to have a diverse family (with a mix of religions, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities), so I’ve always incorporated diversity of many kinds into my writing. For me, part of being a solutionary is focusing first on compassion for all beings, and giving voice to those who are marginalized.
I’m active in SCBWI (San Diego chapter) and have participated in the Highlights Foundation Nonfiction Master Class, nonfiction workshops with the Writing Barn, 12×12, and more, to always keep improving my craft. I’m also the co-founder of 19PBbios, a promo group of 19 diverse picture book biographies releasing in 2019 from diverse creators.”
Jordi Solano was born in Barcelona and although he still lives there, he likes to visit and stay in almost every other country. He studied fine arts and illustration and has been illustrating books for the last ten years. Recent projects include Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark; Beyond the Sixth Extinction; and iDoyle: The Interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal in Bohemia, an interactive book. Stories are his very favorite thing in the world: watching, reading, or telling them, so he’s very happy with the job he has.
For ages:Middle Grades to read, ages 4 and up to listen.
Topics Covered: Social Justice, Activism, Historic Figures, Historic Narratives, POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, Call to Action, Kindness, Peaceful Activism, Gratitude, Resilience, Social Change.
Summary: For our last day in our Week of Intention we have Peaceful Action. We found it important to begin and end this week with our central vision and mission for The Tiny Activist: activism. It’s important for children (and adults!) to have lots of examples and options for how to engage in activism and organizing for causes themselves.
Peace, Love, Action! is an amazing book in a multitude of ways and provides examples of peaceful activism and kindness by the boatload. Set up like an alphabet book but for middle grades, each letter represents a central theme to the activism of a person being profiled. Zabinski’s illustrations are gorgeous, resembling (or potentially being) linocuts, one of our favorite artistic styles!
F is for Feed, and the reader learns about Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm (an organization we love!) that centralizes ancestral farming practices to help folks of color reconnect with their past through education as well as growing food for donations to local families.
Something else we really love is after each person profiled, there is a list of things that the reader can do to get involved, whatever their passion may be. Having a myriad of options and critical self-reflection questions accompanying each letter. With examples like Pete Seeger, Rachel Carson, Black Elk, and Azim Khamisa every person who picks up this book will become inspired to make the world a little better.
Peace, Love, Action! was kindly sent to us by Parallax Press, but all opinions are our own.
About the Author & Illustrator:
From Tanya Zabinski’s website: “I was a tomboy. My nickname was Tinkerbell. I liked riding bikes, creek-slogging and playing flute. I liked reading, drawing and making puppet shows. I liked camping with my family. Those likes have never changed. My artwork and stories are rooted in the things I loved in childhood.
In college, I studied art, design, music and philosophy. I went to Buffalo State College, to an exchange program in Japan for a year, and to Parsons School of Design. I L-O-V-E-D college.
Even though I loved art, as I learned of poverty in the world, I felt that being an artist was selfish. How could I justify something so seemingly insignificant as making pictures, when other people can’t eat or have an education? When I was 18, I saw “From Mao to Mozart,” in which the famous violinist, Isaac Stern, visited China. It took place after Mao’s reign of terror, when China first opened its doors to the west. Isaac Stern’s passion for music was clearly visible, as was his ability to share it and coax it out in others. His music became a bridge for peace. By following his passion and sharing it, he was more useful to the world than if he squelched his passion for something more seemingly practical. That became my model. Later, I found this quote from Howard Thurman that encapsulates this view: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
These are things that make me feel alive: nature, the seasons, swinging on swings (or grapevines!), biking, hiking, kayaking, cross country skiing, gardening, watching birds and whales and clouds and my dog’s ears flopping as he walks in front of me, my supportive family, free-thinking people with open hearts, belonging to vibrant communities like Waldorf and Suzuki, yoga, meditation, books, music, cultures, learning about people who buck norms and pioneer their lives being true to an inner wisdom, swimming in the stream of ever-flowing love and funneling those feelings into my life and my art and the world.
Where have all these influences taken me? From working in a library, to waitressing, music-making, organic farm work, teaching, mural-making, becoming a partner in a local artists boutique, meeting my husband, travelling in Mexico, getting married, and having two sons. Today my husband and I have our own company called Planet Love in which we hand print clothing and sell it at art and music festivals, shops and online. We live in the hills south of Buffalo with a furry, black, thick-tailed, big-hearted dog.
Thank you for a heart open to read this. May you gravitate to the things that make you feel alive!”
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!
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:
Katie 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.