While few picture books delve much into abortion or abortion rights, we have included a few YA titles that do in a frank manner. But our focus in this telegram is on books that demonstrate the power of protest and collective action to influence political decisions.
To get your kids involved in activism early, start with an ABC book, like A Is for Activist, written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara. Perfect for families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for, A Is for Activist will have your kids associating M with Megaphones and Marches over Moons and Monsters.
Inspired by the 5 million people (many of them children) in 82 countries who participated in the 2017 Women’s March, Andrew Joyner’s The Pink Hat follows the journey of a pink hat that is swiped out of a knitting basket by a pesky kitten, blown into a tree by a strong wind, and – after a series of misadventures – finally makes its way onto the head of a young girl marching for women’s equality.
Kids in protest march are also central to Lubaya’s Quiet Roar by Marilyn Nelson and Philomena Williamson, a book that shows the power of introverts in social justice movements. A reserved girl draws pictures on the back of her parents’ protest posters. So when the posters are needed again when Lubaya and her folks march in the streets, the girl’s artwork makes a massive visual statement and demonstrates how “a quiet roar can make history.”
Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress by Alicia D. Williams and April Harrison is not just a picture book biography, but the story of an activist turned political leader. Chisholm started as a kid who asked “too many questions,” soon became a young activist with the Harriet Tubman Society and Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League, and eventually became the first Black woman to run for Congress, as you’ll learn when you read this acclaimed picture book!
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is an anthology of poems, letters, personal essays, art, and other works by 50 diverse creators who lend voice to young activists, and edited by legendary writers and editors Wade andCheryl Willis Hudson. From authors like Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Ellen Oh, and others comes a book that, as Ashley Bryan says in the foreword, “just to touch this book … will lift your spirits.”
Grassroots organizing is highlighted in Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles. In it, Wes is more focused on his style and playing video games than the protests his parents keep dragging him to. But when a developer attempts to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood where Wes has lived his entire life, he gets a hard lesson in gentrification and becomes a reluctant activist who learns the power of community.
It may not have the awesome power of a thousands-strong march, but Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s Banksy and Me features a street-art-style protest against cameras being brought into classrooms and unites a group of middle-grade students together against an unfair school policy.
And Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes celebrates a different kind of activism, when straitlaced student June Harper starts an underground reading movement in reaction to a massive book ban at her middle-school, showing you can make a difference by marching in the streets and by granting access to forbidden information!
Maybe she’s not fighting for reproductive rights, but young feminist Jemima Kincaid takes aim at her private school’s many problematic traditions in The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer. When Jemima is named to student council’s Senior Triumvirate, she’s finally in a position to change things, but she may inadvertently end up reinforcing patriarchy instead of fighting it!
If that’s not angry enough for you, you’ll love Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao’s “400 pages of female rage.” It’s like Pacific Rim mashed up with The Handmaid’s Tale and a heaping spoonful of Chinese history. As Julie C. Dao insists, “Zetian’s fight to shatter patriarchal definitions of power makes for a truly thrilling read.”
But if you’re looking for YA books that discuss abortion, you can’t go wrong with E. K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, an unforgettable story about the aftermath of a cheerleader’s sexual assault, that refuses to play to stereotypes and focuses instead on the importance of creating strong community support systems. It’s no spoiler to say an abortion is pivotal in our heroine Hermione’s journey.
And an oldie-but-goodie on the topic of abortion is bestselling author Sarah Dessen’s Someone Like You, following teen best friends Scarlett and Halley as they encounter new understandings of love, sex, and responsibility – something highlighted when Scarlett finds herself pregnant two months after her boyfriend dies in a motorcycle accident. Could abortion be her answer? You’ll never know unless you read this classic from 1998!
March is Women’s History Month and there are so many incredible and inspiring books to read! We’ll be sharing a new themed list every week this month so make sure to keep an eye on our blog!
Areli is a Dreamer: A True Story by Areli Morales, a DACA Recipient
By Areli Morales
Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893994 | Random House Studio
When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family – and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too. Everything in New York was different. Gone were the Saturdays at Abuela’s house, filled with cousins and sunshine. Instead, things were busy and fast and noisy. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But with time, America became her home. And she saw it as a land of opportunity, where millions of immigrants who came before her paved their own paths. She knew she would, too. This is a moving story – one that resonates with millions of immigrants who make up the fabric of our country – about one girl living in two worlds, a girl whose DACA application was eventually approved and who is now living her American dream. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration policy that has provided relief to thousands of undocumented children, referred to as “Dreamers,” who came to the United States as children and call this country home.
By Tracey Baptiste
Illustrated by Tonya Engel
32 Pages | Ages 6-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593326404 | Dial BFYR
When fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a segregated bus on March 2, 1955, she had no idea she was about to make history. At school she was learning about abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, which helped inspire her decision to refuse to give up her seat to a white woman, which led to her arrest, which began a crucial chain of events: Rosa Park’s sit-in nine months later, the organization of the Montgomery bus boycott by activists like Professor Jo Ann Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Supreme Court decision that Alabama’s bus segregation was unconstitutional – a major triumph for the civil rights movement. Because of Claudette’s brave stand against injustice, history was transformed. Now it’s time for young readers to learn about this living legend, her pivotal role in the civil rights movement, and the power of one person reaching out to another in the fight for change.
By Vanessa Brantley-Newton
40 Pages | Ages 3-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525582120 | Knopf BFYR
On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write. The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls – why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa.
Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef”
By Alex Prud’homme
Illustrated by Sarah Green
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781635923230 | Calkins Creek
Julia Child was born hungry, but she was not born a chef. In fact, Julia didn’t discover her passion for cooking until she had a life-changing luncheon in France and became determined to share her newfound love of food with everyone. In Paris, Julia devoured recipe books, shopped in outdoor markets, consumed all kinds of foods, and whipped through culinary school. And although she wasn’t always successful in the kitchen, she was determined to “master the art” of French cooking. Through perseverance and grit, Julia became a chef who shared her passion with the world, making cooking fun, and turning every meal into a special event. Alex Prud’homme’s firsthand knowledge paired with Sarah Green’s vibrant and energetic illustrations showcases Julia’s life and celebrates her enduring legacy.
Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Defender of Free Speech
32 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536219180 | Candlewick
As a little girl, Daphne wanted to be a writer, to be brave and use words and pictures to share important stories about her country, Malta. Growing up, she always had her nose in books, which she said taught her never to let other people think for her. As she got older, when she saw bad things happening in her country, she believed she could change people’s lives through peaceful protest. She would ultimately follow her dream by working for a national newspaper, becoming an influential and courageous political journalist who took on criminals the only way she knew how – through her writing. In the end, despite increasingly dangerous – and ultimately fatal – efforts by her adversaries to silence her, Daphne made a difference and was an inspiration to all who believe in freedom of speech and the power of the press. In this compelling picture book, followed by a biographical note, debut author-illustrator Gattaldo explores the life and legacy of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a fearless advocate for truth and justice.
I Am Malala Yousafzai
By Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593405888 | Dial BFYR
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17 for speaking out against injustice even when it was terrifying to do so. She was an ordinary Muslim girl who wanted to attend school, and she refused to stop protesting for her rights even after being attacked by a powerful group in Pakistan who wanted women to remain in the shadows. She continues to fight for women’s rights and free education for children all over the world.
Indelible Ann: The Larger-Than-Life Story of Governor Ann Richards
By Meghan P. Browne
Illustrated by Carlynn Whitt
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593173275 | Random House Studio
Dorothy Ann Willis hailed from a small Texas town, but early on she found her voice and the guts to use it. During her childhood in San Diego and her high school years back in Texas (when she dropped the “Dorothy”), Ann discovered a spark and passion for civic duty. It led her all the way to Washington, DC, where she, along with other girls from around the country, learned about the business of politics. Fast forward to Ann taking on the political boys’ club: she became county commissioner, then state treasurer, and finally governor of Texas. In this stunning picture book biography, full of vim, vigor, and folksy charm, two Texan creators take us through the life of the legendary “big mouth, big hair” governor of Texas, a woman who was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and in turn became an inspiration to Hillary Clinton and countless others.
Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers
By Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina AlHathloul
Illustrated by Rebecca Green
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781662650642 | MineditionUS
Loujain watches her beloved baba attach his feather wings and fly each morning, but her own dreams of flying face a big obstacle: only boys, not girls, are allowed to fly in her country. Yet despite the taunts of her classmates, she is determined to do it – especially because Loujain loves colors, and only by flying can she see the color-filled field of sunflowers her baba has told her about. Eventually, he agrees to teach her, and Loujain’s impossible dream becomes reality – and soon other girls dare to learn to fly. Based on the experiences of co-author Lina AlHathloul’s sister, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Loujain AlHathloul, who led the successful campaign to lift Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, this moving and gorgeously illustrated story reminds us to strive for the changes we want to see – and to never take for granted women’s and girls’ freedoms.
Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women
By Christine McDonnell
Illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov
40 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536211290 | Candlewick
When Kip Tiernan was growing up during the Great Depression, she’d help her granny feed the men who came to their door asking for help. As Kip grew older, and as she continued to serve food to hungry people, she noticed something peculiar: huddled at the back of serving lines were women dressed as men. At the time, it was believed that there were no women experiencing homelessness. And yet Kip would see women sleeping on park benches and searching for food in trash cans. Kip decided to open the first shelter for women – a shelter with no questions asked, no required chores, just good meals and warm beds. With persistence, Kip took on the city of Boston in her quest to open Rosie’s Place, our nation’s first shelter for women. Christine McDonnell, a former educator at Rosie’s Place, and illustrator Victoria Tentler-Krylov bring warmth to Kip Tiernan’s story of humanity and tenacity, showing readers how one person’s dream can make a huge difference, and small acts of kindness can lead to great things.
Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence
By Beth Anderson
Illustrated by Susan Reagan
48 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781644720578 | Calkins Creek
Prudence Wright had a spark of independence. Annoyed when the British king held back freedoms in colonial Massachusetts, feisty and fearless Prudence had enough. She said no! to British goods, determined to rely on her resourcefulness and ingenuity to get by. And when British troops continued to threaten the lives of her family and community, she assembled and led the “minute women” of Pepperell to break free of tradition. This untold story of a courageous and brave woman from the Revolutionary War continues to inspire today.
Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
By Alicia D. Williams
Illustrated by April Harrison
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123683 | Anne Schwartz Books
Meet Shirley, a little girl who asks way too many questions! After spending her early years on her grandparents’ farm in Barbados, she returns home to Brooklyn and immediately makes herself known. Shirley kicks butt in school; she breaks her mother’s curfew; she plays jazz piano instead of classical. And as a young adult, she fights against the injustice she sees around her, against women and black people. Soon she is running for state assembly . . . and winning in a landslide. Three years later, she is on the campaign trail again, as the first black woman to run for Congress. Her slogan? “Fighting Shirley Chisholm – Unbought and Unbossed!” Does she win? You bet she does.
Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
By Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524720643 | Random House Studio
Georgia Gilmore was cooking when she heard the news Mrs. Rosa Parks had been arrested – pulled off a city bus and thrown in jail all because she wouldn’t let a white man take her seat. To protest, the radio urged everyone to stay off city buses for one day: December 5, 1955. Throughout the boycott – at Holt Street Baptist Church meetings led by a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. – and throughout the struggle for justice, Georgia served up her mouth-watering fried chicken, her spicy collard greens, and her sweet potato pie, eventually selling them to raise money to help the cause. Here is the vibrant true story of a hidden figure of the civil rights movement, told in flavorful language by a picture-book master, and stunningly illustrated by a Caldecott Honor recipient and seven-time Coretta Scott King award-winning artist.
For older kids:
Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood
By Brittney Cooper and Susana Morris
240 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781324005056 | Norton Young Readers
Loud and rowdy girls, quiet and nerdy girls, girls who rock naturals, girls who wear weave, outspoken and opinionated girls, girls still finding their voice, queer girls, trans girls, and gender nonbinary young people who want to make the world better: Feminist AF uses the insights of feminism to address issues relevant to today’s young womxn. What do you do when you feel like your natural hair is ugly, or when classmates keep touching it? How do you handle your self-confidence if your family or culture prizes fair-skinned womxn over darker-skinned ones? How do you balance your identities if you’re an immigrant or the child of immigrants? How do you dress and present yourself in ways that feel good when society condemns anything outside of the norm? Covering colorism and politics, romance and pleasure, code switching, and sexual violence, Feminist AF is the empowering guide to living your feminism out loud.
Leading the Way: Women in Power
By Janet Howell and Theresa Howell
Illustrated by Kylie Akia and Alexandra Bye
Foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton
144 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536208467 | Candlewick
Meet some of the most influential leaders in America, including Jeannette Rankin, who, in 1916, became the first woman elected to Congress; Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court; and Bella Abzug, who famously declared, “This woman’s place is in the House . . . the House of Representatives!” This engaging and wide-ranging collection of biographies highlights the actions, struggles, and accomplishments of more than fifty of the most influential leaders in American political history – leaders who have stood up, blazed trails, and led the way.
The Suffragist Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World
By Lucinda Robb and Rebecca Boggs Roberts
160 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536210330 | Candlewick
The women’s suffrage movement was decades in the making and came with many harsh setbacks. But it resulted in a permanent victory: women’s right to vote. How did the suffragists do it? One hundred years later, an eye-opening look at their playbook shows that some of their strategies seem oddly familiar. Women’s marches at inauguration time? Check. Publicity stunts, optics, and influencers? They practically invented them. Petitions, lobbying, speeches, raising money, and writing articles? All of that, too. From moments of inspiration to some of the movement’s darker aspects – including the racism of some suffragist leaders, violence against picketers, and hunger strikes in jail – this International Literacy Association Young Adult Book Award winner takes a clear-eyed view of the role of key figures: Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, and many more. Engagingly narrated by Lucinda Robb and Rebecca Boggs Roberts, whose friendship goes back generations (to their grandmothers, Lady Bird Johnson and Lindy Boggs, and their mothers, Lynda Robb and Cokie Roberts), this unique melding of seminal history and smart tactics is sure to capture the attention of activists-in-the-making today.