Read These if You Dare: Banned Books Week

September 27-October 3, 2020 is the annual Banned Books Week event — a celebration of the freedom to read. This event was launched in 1982, responding to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries, and highlighting the value of free and open access to information. You can learn more about banned books, Banned Books Week, and find out how many are celebrating this year’s event by going to the Banned Books Week website.

Check out some children’s books below that have been banned or challenged in recent years — and read them if you dare!

Gino, Alex
George. 2015 (Middle Grade).
George knows people see a boy when they look at her. But she knows she’s not a boy; she knows she’s a girl, and she thinks she’ll have to keep this secret forever. But when her teacher announces the class is going to be doing the play Charlotte’s Web, George is set on playing Charlotte. When the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part because she’s a boy, George and her best friend Kelly come up with a plan so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. This book has been banned for including a transgender child.
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Haack, Daniel
Illustrated by: Stevie Lewis
Prince and Knight. 2018 (Picture Book).
A prince next in line to take the throne, a dragon, and a brave knight — this picture book tells a story of a prince searching for a bride, a dragon threatening the kingdom, and a knight in shining armor brave enough to defeat the dragon. As they work to slay the dragon threatening the kingdom, the prince and knight find true love in each other. This picture has been banned for the same sex relationship developed throughout the book.
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Herthel, Jessica and Jazz Jennings
Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas
I am Jazz! 2014 (Picture Book Biography).
Based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, a spokesperson for trankids everywhere, this picture book follows Jazz, who at two years old knew she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. It explores her family’s adjustment period to her transition, her classmates’ behavior towards her, and touches on how important it is to be accepting of and loving people for who they are. This book has been banned for being about a transgender child.
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Hoffman, Sarah and Ian Hoffman
Illustrated by: Chris Case
Jacob’s New Dress. 2014 (Picture Book).
Jacob loves playing dress up, when he can be anything he wants to be. When Jacob wants to wear a dress to school, he’s met with some pushback from classmates, his teacher, and his parents. But Jacob works hard to convince everyone that he can be who he wants to be and wear his dress to preschool. This book has been banned because of the gender-nonconforming and transgender character.
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Pitman, Gayle.
Illustrated by: Kristyna Litten
This Day in June. 2014 (Picture Book).
The tale of a pride parade and all the people you can meet there, this picture book is bursting with color and is told in verse form. The end of the book has a reading guide that explains each verse and how it relates to LGBTQ history. It also includes a resource guide at the back for parents wanting to talk about LGBTQ issues and topics with their children. This book has been banned because of the LGBTQ content.
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McGinnis, Mindy.
Heroine. 2019 (Teen).
This is the story of Mickey, a senior in high school whose promising future in softball has colleges offering her scholarships left and right. But that future comes to a standstill after a car crash shatters Mickey’s hip. Mickey, however, is still determined, working hard to heal quickly for softball tryouts — all with the help of some painkillers that take the pain away and make her feel good. Pressures heighten, needs increase, and the painkillers become more than just a way to heal. This book has been challenged because of the detailed scenes of drug abuse.
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Mead, Richelle
Vampire Academy. 2007 (Teen).
The first of a six book series following Rose Hathaway, a guardian to a magical race of mortal vampires against the soulless and vicious immortal vampires. Rose’s journey is filled with action, adventure, friendship, romance, duty, magic, and sass as she goes through her last year of guardian training with the goal of being the guardian for her best friend Lissa. This book has been banned for content including vampires, magic, and sexual content.
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Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer. 2014 (Teen Graphic Novel).
With stunning artwork, this graphic novel follows Rose as she heads back to her summer lake house — a getaway and refuge for her and her friend Windy. But this summer is different, with Rose’s parents constantly fighting and new problems cropping up as Rose and Windy seek distraction. This piece explores secrets and sorrow and growing on the cusp of teen-hood. This graphic novel has been banned because it includes LGBTQ characters, drug use, and profanity.
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Telgemeier, Raina.
Colorist: Gurihiru
Grown. 2012 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Callie loves theater, and while trying out for her middle school’s musical would be a blast, she can’t really sing. Instead, Callie’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew and she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway. But she’s met with resistance when she doesn’t know anything about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together. And of course, more drama than just onstage occurs when actors are chosen and two cute brothers enter the picture! This graphic novel has been banned for being sexually explicit and for LGBTQ content.
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Twiss, Jull
Illustrated by: E.G. Keller and Charlotte Pence
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. 2018 (Picture Book).
Marlon Bundo is a lonely bunny who lives with his grandpa, Mike Pence—the Vice President of the United States. This is the story of a very special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny. It explores issues of same sex marriage and democracy while weaving a tale of tolerance and advocacy. This book has been banned because of the LGBTQ content.
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And as an added bonus, if you would like to know more about book banning and how it can either help or hurt, check out the following book all about book banning in a high school:

Connis, Dave.
Suggested Reading. 2019 (Teen).
Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” list. The books have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises, and students caught with the contraband will be punished. Clara herself has been impacted by many of the stories on this list and decides she’s going to rebel by starting an underground library, supplying the banned books to her classmates out of her locker. But Clara is faced with conflicting feelings and grief when one of the books she loves is connected to tragedy, making her wonder if it’s better to ban these books than let others read them.
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Every Day Is Earth Day

This year, April 22nd marked the 50th Earth Day. The Earth Day Network’s mission is “To build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.” However, every day can be Earth Day when we care about how our actions affect the planet we live on. Find below several inspirational and educational children’s resources focused on climate change. Learn what we can do to celebrate and save our planet Earth.

For more information on Earth Day, visit the official website:

If you’re interested in finding more books about climate change, search the catalog using keywords such as “juvenile fiction” for fiction books, “juvenile literature” for nonfiction books, and an additional term such as “climate change,” “global warming,” or “environmental science.”

Bennett, Jeffrey O.
A Global Warming Science Primer. 2016 (Non-fiction).
Following a Question and Answer format, this book dives deep into the science behind global warming and seeks to debunk some skeptic arguments. Included sections are, “The Basic Science,” “The Skeptic Debate,” “The Expected Consequences,” “The Solution,” and “A Letter to Your Grandchildren.” This book is great for older readers who want to get a better understanding of how global warming occurs.
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Cole, Joanna
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge. 2010 (Non-fiction).
In classic Magic School Bus style, Ms. Frizzle and her class explore how global warming is affecting the planet and learn about a large number of ways to take action.
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Collard III, Sneed B.
Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science, and Survival. 2016 (Non-fiction).
Many animals have coats that change color with the seasons in order to better camouflage themselves from predators or prey. With a focus on snowshoe hares, this book seeks to answer what happens when the changing climate disrupts this process.
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Eriksson, Ann
Dive in! Exploring our Connection with the Ocean. 2018 (Non-fiction).
As humans, the ocean is incredibly important to us, yet we treat it poorly. This digestible book provides action plans for the individual hoping to help improve the health of the ocean.
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Guiberson, Brenda Z.
Earth: Feeling the Heat. 2010 (Picture Book).
This beautifully illustrated book focuses on specific animals from all over the globe, detailing their particular struggles with climate change that may inevitably lead to their endangerment or extinction. Each page asks, “Who can help?” Readers are left with a list of small changes they can make to reduce energy use, and a prompt to think of even more.
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Knowles, Laura
The Coral Kingdom. 2018 (Picture Book).
With beautiful illustrations, this simple rhyming exploration of the coral reefs fosters an appreciation of one of our most delicate ecosystems. Included is additional information on coral bleaching, as well as tips for helping to save the coral reefs.
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Oram, Hiawyn
Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing. 2018 (Picture Book).
Greenbackboy wants Snowboy to help him chop down all the trees in the forest and catch all the fish in the ocean in order to acquire KA-CHING. Snowboy is less sure that this plan will work, since trees give us the air we breathe, and the sea is dead without fish. Will Snowboy be able to convince Greenbackboy about what is right? Highlighting the power of the individual voice, this imaginative story is full of hope.
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Pasquet, Jacques
My Wounded Island. 2017 (Picture Book).
In this story centered on the lives of the Iñupiat people living on a small northern island, a little girl chronicles her fears of the rising sea that will soon swallow the island on which she and her people live. Especially poignant is her grandfather’s worry that once they are displaced, their entire culture will be lost.
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Swanson, Jennifer
Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat. 2018 (Non-fiction).
With the changing climate, many possible solutions involving interfering with Earth’s systems have been suggested to counteract the change. This book dives in to the pros and cons of several of these suggestions which include reforestation, space mirrors, and carbon capture.
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Williams, Lily
If Polar Bears Disappeared. 2018 (Non-fiction)
Follow the chain reaction of what could happen if polar bears go extinct due to the melting of arctic ice. The cute illustrations do not mask the gravity of entire ecosystems being destroyed, however the story does end on a hopeful note, citing that it is not too late for change.
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Activism and Upstanders in Children’s Literature

Injustice is rampant in the world, but as history has shown, there are often brave people who choose to fight it. Activists are people who fight for change, while upstanders are those who act in support of a person or a cause. Activists and upstanders have made real change happen, and continue to do so today. Check out the inspiring stories below to learn how anyone can make a difference.

Atkins, Laura and Stan Yogi
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. 2017 (Biography).
When American citizens of Japanese descent were forced into prison camps in the United States during World War II, Fred Korematsu knew that he must resist. After being caught and jailed, he sued and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. This biography tells the story of this brave civil rights activist, whose fight against discrimination holds many parallels to the world today.
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Brimner, Larry Dane
Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. 2018 (Non-Fiction).
In May of 1961, thirteen peaceful protesters boarded some buses and traveled into the South. Their mission was to make known the continued practice of segregation in the South, despite its illegality. The farther they traveled, the more violence they faced, but these determined activists continued on. This important piece of history is illustrated here with large, impactful photographs.
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Levy, Debbie
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark. 2016 (Picture Book Biography)
As a Jewish woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has felt the sting of prejudice throughout her entire life. However, she has never let the opinions of others stop her from choosing her own path and helping marginalized people. Constantly disagreeing and dissenting with injustice, she fought her way to the top and is now the oldest justice on the Supreme Court after years of service. This fascinating biography chronicles the life of a fierce upstander.
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Nielsen, Jennifer A.
Resistance. 2018 (Middle Grade Novel).
Based on actual World War II events, this intense historical fiction novel does not shy away from describing atrocities faced by Jewish people in Poland. Tough-as-nails Chaya Lindner, a Jewish teen, works as a courier, smuggling food, papers, and people in and out of the ghettos in an effort to do as much good as she can for her people. After an ill-fated mission, her resistance group is lost and Chaya joins the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Knowing the whole time that she is unlikely to survive, Chaya works to prove to the Nazis that she and her people will not go down without a fight.
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Pitman, Gayle E.
The Stonewall Riots. 2019 (Non-Fiction).
This book details the history of the LGBTQ+ community before, during, and after the Stonewall Riots of 1969. A pivotal point in American history, the riots were a sometimes-violent reaction to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. Fed up with continuous raids and angry at their unequal status, the patrons of the club fought back, and the Stonewall Riots lasted for six days. This engaging book for older readers includes interviews with witnesses and people who were involved, photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
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Prévot, Franck
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees. 2015 (Picture Book Biography)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai was an environmental and political activist. Through nonviolence and reforestation, she empowered women, fought poverty, and advocated for democracy in her native country of Kenya. This action-packed biography details the life of this incredibly brave person, from her multiple arrests to the millions of trees she succeeded in planting.

Ramée, Lisa Moore
A Good Kind of Trouble. 2019 (Middle Grade Novel).
Like many kids starting middle school, Shayla must navigate changing friendships, body insecurities, crushes (including being on the receiving end of unwanted crushes), and more. But Shayla’s world is changed even more when news spreads about a Black man shot by a white police officer. At first, Shayla is hesitant to be involved in the national reaction, but after joining a protest, she begins wearing a black armband to school to support Black Lives Matter. When it becomes clear that not everyone appreciates the armband, Shayla is forced to make a choice. This novel is a thoughtful and accessible introduction to activism generally and the Black Lives Matter movement specifically.
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Roberts, Justin
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade. 2014 (Picture Book).
No one ever notices small Sally McCabe, but Sally notices everything. She sees the kite in the tree, the keys on the janitor’s ring, and the everyday bullying that happens around her. Eventually, Sally realizes that she has had enough of the spreading meanness, and she decides to take a stand. Sally’s decision proves that even the smallest of voices can make a big difference.
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Yousafzai, Malala
Malala’s Magic Pencil. 2017 (Picture Book Biography).
Older readers may be familiar with the story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who stood up for girls’ education and was shot point blank by the Taliban. In this picture book adaptation, her inspirational life is made accessible to younger readers.
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Watson, Renée
Watch Us Rise. 2019 (Teen).
Jasmine and Chelsea have big plans this year at their progressive New York City high school. But when the clubs they join turn out to be less than what they had hoped, the two create their own club dedicated to writing and creating artistic works that support women’s ideas. Their online work goes viral, and they find themselves both praised and attacked, even in the real world. Soon the school administration steps in and threatens to shut them down, but Jasmine and Chelsea refuse to be silent.


Black Children’s Authors and Illustrators

As the field of children’s literature slowly diversifies and titles like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give gain national recognition, more and more phenomenal books from Black authors and illustrators are being published. Below are just a few of the notable titles from the past few years, all of which also feature Black protagonists who are as diverse as the authors who create them.

For more, check out the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which are “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”

Andrews, Troy
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Trombone Shorty. 2015 (Picture Book Autobiography).
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews tells the story of his musical and colorful life in this fun and festive autobiography. Picking up the trombone at a very young age, Andrews gained his nickname when others noticed the instrument was nearly twice as tall as he. Now an accomplished musician, Trombone Shorty reflects on the New Orleans roots that made him who he is today.

Atta, Dean
The Black Flamingo. 2019 (Teen).
As a mixed-race gay teen living in London, Michael feels that he is never “enough” of any part of his identity; he feels he is not Black enough, not Greek enough, not gay enough. Even his coming out is only a part of his story as he begins his journey to find himself. When Michael discovers the Drag Society, he finds a new sense of belonging he never felt before and emerges as the Black Flamingo. This powerful story is told in verse.

Barnes, Derrick
Illustrated by: Gordon C. James
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. 2017 (Picture Book).
This multiple-award-winning, joyful book is a celebration of the confidence and pride that accompany a new haircut. Dynamic illustrations by Gordon C. James depict a boy feeling like a new person after his visit to the barber, and showcase his appreciation for cool haircuts on others, too.

Cherry, Matthew A.
Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison
Hair Love. 2019 (Picture Book).
Adapted from the Academy Award-winning short film of the same name, this heartwarming book explores the love between a father and daughter as he tries to style her hair before Mom comes home. Zuri loves her hair, and she waits patiently as Daddy does his best to give her a perfect ‘do.

Emezi, Akwaeke
Pet. 2019 (Teen).
In the seemingly idyllic town of Lucille, monsters no longer exist, or at least that is what teenagers Jam and Redemption have been taught. But when Jam meets a creature named Pet, who is hunting a monster that is after Redemption, everything that Jam has been told comes into question. This Stonewall Award-winning novel features a transgender protagonist and explores how to save a society in denial.

Grimes, Nikki
Ordinary Hazards. 2019 (Teen Autobiography).
In this memoir in verse, Grimes details a traumatic childhood with her mother, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and a father who was hardly ever around. Between her unstable home life, terrible babysitters, and ever-changing foster families, Grimes found solace in writing, and this beautifully crafted message of truth and courage is in itself a testament to her resilience.

Nyong’o, Lupita
Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison
Sulwe. 2019 (Picture Book).
Little Sulwe does not feel beautiful. Her midnight-colored skin makes her look different from everyone else she knows, and she desperately wants it to be a lighter shade. But when a shooting star shows her the importance of being dark, Sulwe finds her inner brightness and begins to love herself. This story is gorgeously illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

Reynolds, Jason
Long Way Down. 2017 (Middle Grade Novel).
Based on a real experience of Reynolds, this novel in verse follows fifteen-year-old Will, whose brother was recently killed, as he begins his journey to seek revenge, gun tucked in his waistband. Will gets on an elevator on the seventh floor and on each floor on the way down a new person enters the elevator with a story to tell him, all of whom are already dead and, in some way, are connected with his brother. Like all Jason Reynolds novels, this story is incredibly authentic with realistic characters and a meaningful message.

Rhodes, Jewell Parker
Ghost Boys. 2018 (Middle Grade Novel).
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot and killed by a white police officer. Now a ghost, he watches the aftermath of this horrific event and the rippling effects on those who loved him. He speaks with the daughter of the officer who killed him, and also meets the ghost of Emmett Till. Poignant and heartbreaking, this story sheds light on today’s race relations.

Weatherford, Carole Boston
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Schomburg: The Man who Built a Library. 2017 (Picture Book Biography).
Arturo Schomburg was a law clerk with a passion for collecting works from Africa and the African diaspora. His hope was to bring the accomplishments of people of African descent back into the narrative of history. Eventually, his large collection became part of the New York Public Library, and today is known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This fascinating biography points out that those who write history books may not be writing for everyone.


Reading with the Stars

Running out of books? Looking for a fun new way to experience children’s literature? Celebrities have got it covered. Many famous people, including authors, actors, athletes, and more, are taking this unique opportunity to share their love of reading with the world. Check out the resources below for lots of fun celebrity read-alouds.

Storyline Online
This Emmy-nominated website hosts tons of videos from celebrities reading children’s books aloud. While little ones may be more interested in the stories than the famous voices sharing them, adults and kids alike will enjoy hearing classics such as Harry the Dirty Dog, read by Betty White, and contemporary books such as Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!, read in both English and Spanish by Jaime Camil. Other famous voices include Oprah Winfrey, Rami Malek, Kristen Bell, and many more.

NorthSouth Books
Children’s book publisher NorthSouth maintains a YouTube channel containing many read-alouds, and some of these stories are read by the authors who wrote them. Of special note is author and illustrator Marcus Pfister reading his timeless tale, The Rainbow Fish.

Actors, authors, musicians, hosts, firemen, teachers, and more have contributed to this charity-driven project popularized by Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams and dedicated to feeding hungry children. From Mr. Met to Mrs. Kasha Davis, from Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex to “Weird Al” Yankovic, the list of celebrities reading picture books on this account is virtually endless. You can even listen along with Fiona the baby hippo as the director of the Cincinnati Zoo reads Fiona, It’s Bedtime. Please note that an Instagram account is required to view the videos.

Wizarding World
Is there a better way to experience Harry Potter than to have the book read to you by Harry Potter himself? Join Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrayed Harry Potter in the films, as he reads aloud the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each of the seventeen chapters will be read by a new famous friend of the Wizarding World, such as Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger, London and Broadway productions of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander, the “Fantastic Beasts” film series). Listeners are encouraged to send in their fan-art for upcoming chapters, which may be featured throughout the readings. Please note that as the Wizarding World site updates, some chapters may require users to sign up for a free account for access.

Gruffalo World
Several of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s beloved picture books have been adapted almost word for word into visually stunning short films. Clips from these films are available on the Gruffalo World YouTube channel, and can serve as a wonderful supplement to the books. Some featured clips are from The Highway Rat, starring David Tennant, Stick Man, starring Martin Freeman, The Gruffalo, starring James Corden, and Oscar-nominated Room on the Broom, narrated by Simon Pegg. Most of the full-length films are also available for purchase or rental via YouTube and other online platforms.

Read-Along with PBS KIDS!
Join PBS KIDS authors as they read aloud their own books, answer questions, and share what they are doing during the quarantine. Marc Brown (Arthur), Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious and Peteriffic), Angela Santomero (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and many more are in on the fun. PBS KIDS has also recently started hosting “Mondays with Michelle Obama,” a series in which the former first lady reads aloud some of her favorite picture books once a week.

Chicago Public Library: Live from the Library
Many famous Illinoisans have participated in the Chicago Public Library’s virtual story times, including actress Jane Lynch, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Obamas. Interspersed among these are more traditional library story times from expert Chicago librarians. (For more librarian-run story times, check out the New York Public Library. Many local libraries are hosting online story times as well.)

Dr. Seuss Raps Over Dr. Dre Beats
Although not traditionally famous (yet), Milwaukee artist Wes Tank’s raps of requested Dr. Seuss books to beats by Dr. Dre have marked him as an up-and-coming performer, and he has been featured on many local news stations. With new raps posted about once a week, this engaging and rhythmic YouTube playlist puts a fun twist on Dr. Seuss and is nothing short of delightful.


COVID-19 Resources for Kids

Kids will inevitably have questions about the global pandemic. Luckily, there are many resources out there specifically designed to answer their questions, and more are being created every day. Find below several free resources made for children all about COVID-19.


Jones, Malia
A Kids Book About COVID-19
Simple in style, this freely downloadable book comes from a social epidemiologist. It expertly breaks down the basics of coronavirus to be digestible for kids, and adult readers might learn something too! This book is also available in Spanish.


Gharib, Malaka
Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
This silly and informative comic from NPR is accompanied by a three-minute audio snippet from Morning Edition directed specifically at children. Both do a great job of explaining about the virus and how it spreads, and give suggestions on what kids can do to help and stay safe. Also available in Chinese and Spanish, the comic can be printed out and folded into a zine.

News Article

Scholastic News
5 Big Questions About Coronavirus
Kid-friendly magazine Scholastic News may be familiar to those who had access to it in school. This particular article seeks to answer some common questions about the coronavirus. The text is available in two different reading levels and has a text-to-speech function.


Brains On!
Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus
American Public Media’s award-winning science podcast, Brains On!, tackles kids’ questions about the coronavirus in 35 minutes. Listen to actual kids share their questions and concerns, which are then answered by scientists.

Pineapple Street Studios
The Kids are All…Home
By kids, for kids, listeners are encouraged to submit their own mini segments to this fun podcast that showcases what children are doing while stuck at home. Topics covered vary from astronomy, to coronavirus facts, to a very silly rendition of Old Town Road. For more information on how to record your own segment for this podcast, check out Pineapple Street Studios’ website here:

Santa’s Podcast
Santa says hello and shares why his workshop has closed for a little while
Worried about Santa Claus? Have no fear; he and the elves are doing just fine. In this charming 8-minute podcast, the jolly man himself explains what he and his workshop are doing to maintain social distancing, and offers suggestions to kids on what they can do to be good (and still have fun) during this novel time.


Many kids already know and love Tim and his robot pal Moby, but anyone can learn from their witty and informational video on the coronavirus. This video not only covers the basics of what the virus is and how it spreads, but also encourages kids to think critically about sensationalist news stories, talk to adults if they feel scared, and avoid judging others based on their appearance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Elmo & Rosita: The Right Way to Sneeze!
This catchy little ditty from a couple of Sesame Street favorites explains how to sneeze properly to avoid spreading germs. Posted over ten years ago and only about 30 seconds long, this cute song, which is also available in Spanish, is more apt than ever. (Parents might also enjoy browsing the PBS parents website for more coronavirus resources:


Schoolman, Autumn
Hey kids, coronavirus has changed everything. Here’s what you need to know
This article from USA Today is essentially an incredibly interesting infographic that reads like a picture book. Of special note is a fantastic swimming pool analogy that shows the value of social distancing.

‘Gruffalo stayed in the cave’: Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s coronavirus cartoons
Fans of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom will adore Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s new illustrations of their beloved characters explaining how they are social distancing. Each page comes with a caption in the form of a couplet.


Free E-books for Youth

Stuck inside? Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to access books for kids. Many public libraries have a large number of e-books available for checkout. Some are even making it possible to get a library card online. Many academic libraries have children’s books available to those with a library account. To see what is available from the University of Illinois library, use the advanced search tool and the key terms “juvenile fiction” for fiction or “juvenile literature” for nonfiction, add a search term for what you are interested in, and limit the search to electronic.

Don’t have access to a library? No worries! Find below three resources that provide free access to numerous children’s books. All that is needed is an internet connection.

International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)
As the name suggests, the ICDL provides access to books in a wide variety of languages from all over the world. The search function is kid-friendly and provides a great opportunity for kids to start learning how to use library tools. Searches can be limited by suggested age, length, and even cover color. The ICDL also has virtual “exhibitions” containing books with specific themes, such as “celebrating differences” and “forever friendship.” This library is a lot of fun to explore, but here are a few choice reads to get you started:

Brumbeau, Jeff
The Quiltmaker’s Gift. 2001 (Picture Book).
In this fantastically bright and colorful story, a master quiltmaker tells a greedy king that if he wants one of her quilts, he must give away his worldly possessions to those in need. Frustrated, he chains her inside of a bear cave. Will she escape? Will this selfish king ever see the error of his ways? Vivid and intricate illustrations are sure to keep little ones engaged.

Dixit, Kanak Mani
Adventures of a Nepali Frog. 2003 (Chapter Book).
Travel vicariously through beautiful Nepal with Bhaktaprasad Bhyaguto, a daring young frog. Follow along as he floats down the Bishnumati river in a tin can. Join him as he meets the fascinating animals of Chitwan National Park. There is no telling where Bhatktaprasad will end up next!

The Cries of London. 1821 (Picture Book).
Looking for something completely different? Take a walk through the bustling streets of early 19th century London in this introduction to community people. You might even pick up some old-timey English slang along the way.

Project Gutenberg
Some readers may be familiar with Project Gutenberg, a massive compilation of free digitized works, most of which are out of copyright. But did you know that the project has an entire children’s bookshelf? While many of the books on this site predate 1924, it’s a great way to catch up on classics such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and Little Women. Here are a few other hidden gems you may enjoy:

Cowper, William
The Diverting History of John Gilpin. 1878 (Picture Book).
This hilarious rhyming story follows John Gilpin, a luckless man who finds himself trapped on a speeding horse as he tries to meet his wife for dinner. Notably, this book is illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, whose name is honored in the award given each year to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book. The image engraved on the Caldecott medal is in fact the unfortunate John Gilpin.

Nesbit, E.
The Book of Dragons. 1899 (Chapter Book).
An early pioneer of the Fantasy genre, E. Nesbit has crafted a wonderful compilation of stories in this book that has withstood the test of time. These eight different tales, which tell the stories of creatures both evil and good, are sure to delight dragon fans of all ages.

The “Punky Dunk” Series. 1912 (Picture Books).
In a style similar to the Little Golden Books (although published 30 years earlier), these wholesome picture books follow Punky Dunk, a mischievous little kitten who always ends up getting into trouble. Readers will enjoy seeing their own pet’s antics reflected in Punky Dunk.

Audiobooks more your thing? Librivox provides access to many of the same titles as Project Gutenberg, that is, titles no longer under copyright, however these are all read aloud by volunteers. In addition to listening, readers can also volunteer to record a book themselves. To find children’s books, simply go to the catalog and click on “Genre/Subject.” The first several entries are subsets of children’s fiction. Listed here are a few fun picks to check out:

Burgess, Thornton W.
The Adventures of Reddy Fox. 1913 (Chapter Book).
From conservationist and prolific children’s author Thornton W. Burgess, nicknamed the “Bedtime Story-Man,” comes this story of a rambunctious young fox living with his grandmother. Granny Fox knows all the tricks of the trade, from stealing Farmer Brown’s chickens to evading hound dogs, and she is eager to share them with Reddy. Laugh along as Reddy learns from the best!

Jenks, Tudor
Galopoff, the Talking Pony. 1901 (Chapter Book).
For one day a year, animals are able to talk to humans, and on this day Galopoff the pony regales his owner with tales of his marvelous adventures in Russia. Paced surprisingly well for modern audiences, Galopoff’s action-packed account of his life is sure to please.

Ozaki, Yei Theodora
Japanese Fairy Tales. 1908 (Fairy Tales).
In compiling and editing these stories, Ozaki’s goal was to reframe traditional Japanese fairy tales to be more accessible to Western children while maintaining accuracy. Each of these 21 tales tells a colorful story of a lesson learned.


Award Season

Did you know that Illinois has not one, but four major awards for children’s literature? The Monarch Award (grades K-3), Bluestem Award (grades 3-5), Rebecca Caudill* Award (Grades 4-8), and Lincoln Award (teen) each carefully select 20 nominees every year, and students across the state vote on their top picks. The winners are announced in March.

Find below several recent winners from the past few years.

To find more information about these awards and to see the current nominees, visit their websites:
Monarch Award
Bluestem Award
Caudill Award
Lincoln Award

The S-Collection houses many materials about these and other children’s awards; search “children’s literature awards” in the catalog to get started. You can also find resources on the S-Collection page here.
(*Fun fact: Rebecca Caudill, who is honored with the use of her name for the middle grade award, was an Urbana-based children’s book author who received a Newbery Honor in 1950.)

Monarch Award:

Barnett, Mac
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. 2014 (Won 2018).
Sam and Dave are bored and decide to dig a hole. They dig, and they dig, and they find nothing at all. Yet somehow, the day does not seem wasted. This Caldecott Honor book is perfectly paced, with a kind of side-eyed humor that leaves readers wanting more, yet feeling satisfied.
[SE. B2646sa]

DiPucchio, Kelly
Gaston. 2014 (Won 2017).
In this heartwarming tale of what it means to be family, Gaston the bulldog tries very hard to fit in with his poodle siblings. When, in a chance encounter in the park, it becomes clear that Gaston was accidentally switched with Antoinette the poodle puppy, the two try swapping families. But even though it looks right, does Gaston belong in the bulldog family?
[Q. SE. D626ga]

Biedrzycki, David
Breaking News: Bear Alert. 2014 (Won 2016).
Packed full of puns and sneaky nods to other famous bears, this hilarious story is told entirely as a news broadcast covering the antics of a pair of bears loose in the city. Observant readers may notice that in the bright and colorful illustrations, a second, more sinister plot is afoot. How will these two stories converge?
[Q. SE. B475b]

Bluestem Award:

O’Connor, Barbara
Wish. 2016 (Won 2019).
Charlie Reese makes the same wish every day, but when she moves to North Carolina, it seems less and less like her wish will come true. As new characters come in to her life, Charlie soon realizes that what she has been wishing for may not be what she actually needs.
[S. Oc51wi]

Jamieson, Victoria
Roller Girl. 2015 (Won 2018).
When Astrid first encounters a roller derby match, she is hooked. Upon trying it out for herself, however, she discovers that not only is it significantly harder than she thought, but also that her best friend is really not interested. On top of that, she’ll soon be starting middle school. Is Astrid strong enough to stay true to herself? Find out in this Newbery Honor graphic novel.
[S.741.5973 J243r]

Bell, Cece
El Deafo. 2014 (Won 2017).
This funny and heartfelt graphic novel details author Cece Bell’s experiences growing up with hearing loss, and the clunky and awkward hearing aid that came with it. When Cece discovers that she can hear her teacher even after she has left the classroom thanks to her Phonic Ear, Cece revels in this new superpower and becomes El Deafo. But even superheroes get lonely, and Cece wonders if she will ever find a true friend.
[S.741.5973 B4132d]

Rebecca Caudill Award:

Reynolds, Jason.
Ghost. 2016 (Won 2019).
When he was very little, Ghost’s father chased him and his mother out of their apartment with a loaded gun. Ghost has been running, and causing trouble, ever since. Then he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic medalist who heads the middle school track team and can see the untapped potential in Ghost. In this first installment of the Track series, Ghost must come to grips with his past in order to plan for his future.
[S. R33515gh]

Alexander, Kwame
The Crossover. 2014 (Won 2017).
This recipient of the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award tells the story of twin basketball players Josh and Jordan. In this coming of age novel in verse, the boys struggle to make sense of the world as they begin to grow apart for the first time.
[S. Al2715cr]

Lu, Marie
Legend. 2011 (Won 2015).
In a dystopian North America, notorious criminal Day and prodigy soldier June unexpectedly cross paths when June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the main suspect. In a surprising twist, the two discover that they may not be as different as they thought when a powerful common enemy comes to light. This action-packed adventure is sure to keep readers on their toes.
[S. L9605l]

Lincoln Award:

Lockhart, E.
We Were Liars. 2014 (Won 2016).
Cadence Sinclair can’t remember what happened during the fifteenth summer she and her family spent on their private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Between the migraines, painkillers, and amnesia, Cadence tries to piece together fragmented memories. Suspenseful, romantic, and with a shocking twist ending, this one will be difficult to put down.
[S. L811w]

Asher, Jay
Thirteen Reasons Why. 2007 (Won 2013).
This controversial novel, popularized by the television series of the same name, contains several dark themes and depictions of events that may be upsetting to some readers. When Clay Jensen opens the mysterious box sent to him in the mail, he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah, his crush, who committed suicide two weeks previous. Each tape details one reason why Hannah decided to take her life. One of them is about Clay.
[S. As353t]

Dashner, James
The Maze Runner. 2009 (Won 2012).
Thomas wakes up in an elevator, and the only thing he can remember is his name. He finds himself in the Glade, a deadly and dangerous location surrounded by an enormous maze that no one has ever escaped alive. Who did this to Thomas and the others that have been sent to the Glade? Will Thomas live long enough to find out?
[S. D2609m]


From Here to There: Stories of Immigration and Emigration

To immigrate is to enter a foreign country to live there. To emigrate is to leave a country to live in another. Think of it this way: immigrating is to coming as emigrating is to going.

Uprooting one’s life and moving to a foreign land is rarely an easy process. Sometimes people move by choice, while other times they leave for their own safety. Once arrived, learning how to live in a new culture can be almost as difficult. Below are several stories of people who immigrated all over the world.

If you’re interested in finding more books about immigration and emigration, search the catalog using keywords such as “juvenile fiction” for fiction books, “juvenile literature” for nonfiction books, and an additional term such as “immigration,” “emigration,” or “refugees.”

Ewald, Wendy
America Border Culture Dreamer. 2018 (Nonfiction).
Eighteen immigrant teenagers define their experiences using the alphabet. In this unique approach to exploring immigration, each story is accompanied by an impactful photograph.
[S.305.23092 Am3511]

Fox, Mem
I’m an Immigrant Too! 2018 (Picture Book).
Set in Australia, this colorful book celebrates the diversity that immigrants bring to a new place and how they make communities wonderful. This joyful story is a fresh look at immigration from a non-American perspective.
[SE. F8322im]

Gratz, Alan
Refugee. 2017 (Middle Grade Novel).
Intense and action-packed, this book is really three stories in one. Josef, a Jewish boy in 1930’s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a young girl living in Cuba in 1994 during great political unrest, and Mahmoud, a boy living in Syria in 2015 where the death count increases daily, all must flee their home countries for the safety of their families. While each story is different, every character experiences the same fear and uncertainty, making this a narrative that transcends decades.
[S. G774r]

Lorenzi, Natalie Dias
A Long Pitch Home. 2016 (Middle Grade Novel).
When Bilal leaves Pakistan to come to America, he finds it difficult to adjust. Speaking English is exhausting, cricket is definitely not the same as baseball, and he wishes more than anything that his father could move to America too. In this endearing tale, Bilal must learn to find his courage.
[S. L8877l]

Newman, Lesléa
Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story. 2019 (Picture Book).
Based on a real immigrant’s experiences at Ellis Island, this story follows a young girl and her mother as they make their way to America. When her mother does not pass the health inspection, Gittel is forced to enter the country on her own, which becomes an even more frightening prospect when she realizes that she does not have the address of the cousin with whom she is supposed to stay!
[Q. S. N465gi]

Raúf, Onjali Q.
The Boy at the Back of the Class. 2019 (Middle Grade Novel).
Set in England, this book follows the story of new kid Ahmet, a nine-year-old refugee from Syria. Highlighting the power of an ally, Ahmet’s classmates work together to come up with a plan to help reunite him with his family.
[S. R191bo]

Rim, Sujean
Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. 2017 (Picture book).
When Chee-kee moves to Bearland, he is worried that he will never fit in. He doesn’t know how to use a fork, or how to skateboard, and he prefers wearing hats to sunglasses. Soon, however, Chee-Kee finds that he might have more to offer than he realized.
[SE. R46c]

Tan, Shaun
The Arrival. 2007 (Graphic Novel).
This stunning and totally wordless graphic novel tells the story of a man who leaves his home to build a better future for his family. No specific countries are named, and the foreign is presented as totally foreign to both the man and the reader. This story captures the emotional highs and lows of an immigrant’s journey.
[Q. S.741.595 T153a]

Van, Muon
The Little Tree. 2015 (Picture Book).
When a little tree realizes that her forest is becoming smaller and smaller, she sends her seed off with a bird friend in hopes that it may find a new forest and one day grow big and strong. Based on the author’s own mother, this heartwarming tale is both colorful and sweet.
[SE. V334l]

Wallace, Sandra Neil and Wallace, Rich
First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great. 2018 (Nonfiction).
Giving brief biographies of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, this book explores the lives of many people who have helped shape their respective fields, as well as the United States in general. Included are famous figures such as Albert Einstein, as well as change-makers you may not have heard of before.
[S.305.906912 W1557fi]

Weston, Robert Paul
Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms. 2018 (Picture Book).
Sakura loves spending springtime sitting underneath a tall cherry tree with Obaachan. When Sakura’s family moves from Japan to America, she worries she will never feel at home again. A beautiful tale of love and loss, this story is told entirely in Tanka, a style of poetry similar to haiku.
[SE. W5283s]


A Time for Reflection: Books about Peace

With the stress of the holiday season now passed, now is the perfect time to pause, reflect, and once again find peace. “Peace” may refer to a time without war or disagreement, or it may mean a sense of calmness and tranquility. Find listed below several children’s books about all kinds of peace to help you to define what peace means to you.

If you’re interested in finding more books about peace, search the catalog using keywords such as “juvenile fiction” for fiction books, “juvenile literature” for nonfiction books, and an additional term such as “peace,” “peacemakers,” or “mindfulness.”

Cali, Davide and Serge Bloche
The Enemy. 2009 (Picture Book).
A deep yet surprisingly simple look at the mindset of war, this saddening story explores the ugliness of hate, and the hopefulness of peace. The plain line-drawing illustrations mixed with real photographs make a powerful impact.
[Q. SE. C128en]

Klein, Carol Swartout
Painting for Peace in Ferguson. 2015 (Nonfiction).
Entirely kid-friendly, this account of a modern-day peace movement showcases some of the art and artists of Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of a frightening and saddening event. Boarded up buildings became works of art as local community members worked together to paint messages of peace.
[Q. S.917.7866 K6721p]

Kor, Paul
The Hawk and the Dove. 2019 (Picture Book).
Through clever paper cuts, this book follows the story of a feisty hawk who feels tired and sad from all of the war he has wrought, and decides to change into a dove. Suddenly, weapons of war all over the world turn into beautiful things, leaving the dove to wonder if it will last.
[Q. SE. K8423ha]

Lebox, Annette
Peace is an Offering. 2017 (Picture Book).
Explore all of the subtler, quieter moments throughout the day in which one can find peace with others. This tender-hearted book shows that even in times of great sadness, peace can be found.
[SE. L4933p]

Meng, Cece
World Pizza. 2017 (Picture Book).
When Mama sneezes while wishing for world peace, suddenly the entire globe is covered in pizzas. But could it be that Mama still gets her true wish? Fans of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs will love this silly tale of flying food.
[Q. SE. M524wo]

Mirza, Sandrine
People of Peace: 40 Inspiring Icons. 2018 (Nonfiction).
This cute and colorful book provides quick biographies and interesting infographics about forty peacemakers, including many recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
[S.327.172092 M679pe]

Moore, Sandra
The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: The Little Bonsai with a Big Story. 2015 (Picture Book).
Follow the story of a little tree, nicknamed “Miyajima,” as it continues to grow through generations of a Japanese family. When the bomb is dropped and the tree survives, it suddenly becomes a symbol of something much greater: Peace.
[Q. SE. M7866p]

Ortner, Nick and Alison Taylor
My Magic Breath: Finding Calm through Mindful Breathing. 2018 (Nonfiction).
Find inner peace through the power of your own breath, and feel your worries fade away. This introduction to mindful breathing is simple yet effective, and completely kid-friendly.
[S.158.12083 Or88my]

Parr, Todd
The Peace Book. 2004 (Picture Book).
From taking a nap, to learning another language, to giving shoes to someone in need, this book explores many definitions of peace using the bold and colorful illustrative style that all Todd Parr fans enjoy.
[SE. P246p]

Pinkney, Andrea David
Peace Warriors. 2013 (Nonfiction).
This chapter book provides biographies of six prolific peacemakers from across the globe: Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Complete with pictures and lots of information, this is a great book for those interested in learning about people of peace.
[S.327.172 P6565p]

Verde, Susan
I am Peace. 2017 (Picture Book).
This gentle journey from worry and anxiety to peace and serenity teaches readers that it is okay to slow down and find one’s feet again. A lesson in mindfulness applicable to readers of all ages, this is a great read for anyone who feels stressed from time to time.
[SE. V583iape]