Picture Books to Honor Moments and Leaders in Black History

While Black stories and culture should be celebrated all year long, Black History Month is an opportunity to examine the moments in Black history that inform how we understand the world today. Moreover, Black history can be seen as both the periods of transformation and the influential people who changed the course of history. Because of the abundance of exceptional youth literature relevant to Black History Month, the list of titles in this blog post focuses on picture books, a versatile format that can be shared with people of all ages. Some of these picture books highlight the full scope of Black history in a trim page count, like Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s Caldecott-winning title, The Undefeated, that poignantly depicts the resilience and power of Black folks throughout eras of the past and present. Other stories hone in on pivotal leaders that broke barriers, such as Shirley Chisholm working to become the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. Read, learn, and share these stories to celebrate Black History Month.

Alexander, Kwame
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
The Undefeated. 2019 (Picture Book).
This picture book is an ode to the power and resilience of Black Americans in the United States. Alexander’s text is a poem that highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Nelson’s richly toned, photo-realistic oil paintings bring the poem to life, earning him the 2020 Caldecott Medal.
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Barretta, Gene
Illustrated by: Frank Morrison
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver. 2020 (Picture Book).
When agricultural expert George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own. There, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, and studied life cycles, and learned through observation and experimentation. It was in this garden that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more: his future. This picture book opens with Carver’s 1921 speech in front of a room of white men in the House of Representatives at a time when “African Americans were… treated as second-class citizens.” The rest of the book transports readers back to Carver’s dedication to his childhood farm, beginning in 1874. Morrison’s beautiful oil paint illustrations show Carver’s passion for agricultural sciences and commitment to racial equality.
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Clark-Robinson, Monica
Illustrated by: Frank Morrison
Let the Children March. 2018 (Picture Book).
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. In this semi-fictionalized picture book, an unnamed Black girl narrates her experiences at the massive nonviolent protest, which became known as the Children’s Crusade. At the march, the young people of Birmingham were harassed and beaten by police, attacked by police dogs, and many were sent to jail, including the narrator. Clark-Robinson’s poetic text immerses readers in the moment, illustrating why the unnerving but strategic decision to allow the impassioned young people to march, instead of adults, was so impactful. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.
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Cline-Ransome, Lesa
Illustrated by: James Ransome
Overground Railroad. 2020 (Picture Book).
As she climbs aboard the Silver Meteor train bound for New York, young Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North, which she can hardly begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the observant young narrator tells the story of her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge Mountains. Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the “colored car” is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, like the sprawling cotton fields and cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers, and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. This is a story, as Cline-Ransome notes, “of people who were running from and running to at the same time” as part of the Great Migration, and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.
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Henderson, Leah
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day. 2021 (Picture Book).
Inspired by true events and told through the eyes of a young boy, this is a deeply moving story about what is regarded as the first Memorial Day on May 1, 1865. Today is a special day. Eli knows it is important if he is allowed to miss a single second of school. He dresses up in his best clothes, Mama gathers the mayflowers, Papa straightens his hat, and together they join the crowds filling the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, with bouquets, crosses, and wreaths. Abolitionists, missionaries, teachers, military officers, and a sea of people of different races all march as one and sing for those who gave their lives while fighting for freedom during the Civil War. With poignant prose and powerful illustrations, this book shines light on the little-known history of this important holiday and reminds us never to forget the people who put their lives on the line for their country and for freedom.
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Johnson, Katherine G., Joylette Hylick, and Katherine Moore
Illustrated by: Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission. 2021 (Picture Book).
This picture book autobiography reveals what it was like for Katherine Johnson, a young Black mother of three and one of the now legendary “hidden figures” of NASA computing, to navigate the difficult world of the 1950s and ’60s and to succeed in an overwhelmingly white male industry. Johnson’s own narrative is complemented by the recollections of her two daughters about their mother’s work and insights about how she illuminated their paths, including one daughter’s fight for civil rights and another’s journey to become a NASA mathematician herself. The narrative weaves together Johnson’s personal story, her influence on her daughters’ formative years, their family’s fight for civil rights, and her lasting impact on NASA and space exploration. Barlow’s engaging illustrations incorporate elements of collage and show family photos of Johnson and her daughters, historical images, and even Johnson’s school report card.
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Lyons, Kelly Starling
Illustrated by: Keith Mallett
Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations. 2019 (Picture Book).
This stirring book celebrates the song known as the Black National Anthem and how it inspired five generations of a family. In 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the principal of a segregated, all-Black school, wrote the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” so his students could sing it for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. From that moment on, the song has provided inspiration and solace for generations of Black families. Parents passed it on to their children who sang it to their children and grandchildren. It has been sung during major moments of the Civil Rights Movement and at family gatherings and college graduations. Inspired by this song’s enduring significance, Lyons and Mallett beautifully tell a story about the generations of families who gained hope and strength from the song’s uplifting words.
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Todd, Traci N.
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Nina: A Story of Nina Simone. 2021 (Picture Book).
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in a small town in North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who influenced her for the rest of her musical life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother’s preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone, her voice was low and sweet. Yet, as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina’s voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination. Robinson’s illustrations vibrantly depict the story of little Eunice who grew up to become an acclaimed singer with a bold, defiant, and exultant legacy.
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Weatherford, Carole Boston
Illustrated by: Michele Wood
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom. 2020 (Picture Book).
Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known by the nickname Box, he “entered the world as a slave” in Richmond, Virginia in the 1800s. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope, and help, came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape! In concrete poems of six lines each, one line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Weatherford powerfully narrates Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from enslavement to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by Wood, this book is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Brown’ own writing, as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.
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Williams, Alicia
Illustrated by: April Harrison
Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress. 2021 (Picture Book).
Discover the story of the first Black woman elected to Congress and to run for president in this picture book biography. 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 is an excellent student; she plays jazz piano instead of classical; she is spirited and opinionated and breaks her mother’s rules. As a young adult, she fights against the injustice she sees around her, affecting 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 the U.S. House of Representatives. Her slogan? “Fighting Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed!” Does she win? You bet she does.
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Beyond ‘Fake News:’ Media Literacy Education

Misinformation isn’t a new phenomenon, but with the high volume of information available on the internet, it has become an undeniable challenge to our contemporary society. Luckily, people can learn how to evaluate the trustworthiness of information sources with media literacy tools. For the 2022-2023 school year, the state of Illinois became the first in the nation to require media literacy education to be incorporated into high school curricula, thanks to a new bill passed by the legislature.

According to Yonty Friesem, a professor at Columbia College Chicago who helped inform the bill, there are five basic tenets of media literacy. The principles are: 1) effectively accessing information and understanding the landscape of available media, 2) analyzing and evaluating media information for trustworthiness and bias, 3) creating media, 4) reflecting on media consumption practices and societal impacts, and 5) social and civic responsibility.

To learn more about the new media literacy education mandate in Illinois, check out the resources at the bottom of this post.

Children’s and Young Adult Books

Duhig, Holly
Media and the News. 2019 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
This concise book uses images and infographics to explain the media to middle grade readers. The book begins by defining media and news. Duhig then develops a timeline of the history of media, which makes it easy to track the changes and important innovations in media and technology over time. Other chapters explore jobs in the media, media bias, censorship, advertising, and identifying fake news. This is a dynamic introduction to media literacy for young readers and an insightful look at the role of the media in our society.
(Available online)

Grant, Joyce
Illustrated by: Kathleen Marcotte
Can You Believe It? How to Spot Fake News and Find the Facts. 2022 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
Author Joyce Grant recognizes that most people get their information online. This book is a careful guide to discerning which digital sources of information to trust. This book takes a deep dive into how real journalism works, what fake news is, and how to spot the difference. Organized into chapters that explore fake news and why it’s so popular, how real news gets made, some common types of fake news, and how to investigate what you see online, this is a must-read guide for kids who spend time online. With hilarious examples and lively illustrations, this book teaches critical thinking skills and makes it fun. Thanks to two step-by-step guides to deconstructing fake news articles, and an additional article kids can use to test themselves, readers are empowered to build their media literacy skills. An engaging tone that never talks down to kids, and a mix of illustration styles, from comics to fake news examples, make tricky concepts appealing and accessible. Supported by an author’s note, a glossary, sources, and an index, this book contains everything kids need to become media literate.
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Grant, John
Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. 2019 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
We live in an era of misinformation, much of it spread by people in prominent positions, including politicians, religious leaders, broadcasters, high-traffic bloggers, and, of course, websites. With frequent false or skewed statements coming from so many sources, how can anyone be expected to discover the truth? This book highlights ripped-from-the-headlines examples of misinformation, from climate change as a hoax to anti-vaccination sentiments, clearly explaining how to identify and debunk them. Grant also covers the rhetorical strategies bad actors use to influence media consumers, like logical fallacies, confirmation bias, and stereotyping. Originally published in 2015, this revised and updated edition includes a new “fake news” section and discusses how that term has become misappropriated. Although the subject matter can often be serious, the book is full of Grant’s trademark humor and perceptiveness that will keep teen readers interested.
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Gravel, Elise
Killer Underwear Invasion: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories. 2022 (Middle Grade Graphic Nonfiction).
Can peanuts give you super strength? Were unicorns discovered on the moon? Did Martians really invade New Jersey? For anyone who has ever encountered outrageous stories like these and wondered whether they were true, this funny, yet informative book breaks down what fake news is, why people spread it, and how to tell what is true and what is not. With quirky illustrations and a humorous tone, Gravel brings her kid-accessible wit to the increasingly important subject of media literacy and equips younger readers with the skills needed to interact with global news.
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Jarrow, Gail
Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America. 2018 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What seemed to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre actors. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of new media in society.
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Otis, Cindy L.
True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News. 2020 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
“Fake news” is not a new phenomenon. Otis, a former CIA analyst, takes readers through 3,000 years of history from the ancient Egyptians to the founding fathers to the present day to show the impact of misinformation over the centuries. She shares practical tips on how to navigate the world of digital information, including identifying doctored photos or clickbait, and how to make sense of the information we receive each day. Most importantly, readers will learn how to understand and see past their own biases, think critically about important issues, and place world events into context. Written in a concise, conversational manner, this book also includes a wealth of photos, informative inserts, and sidebars containing interesting facts to engage readers in critical thinking and analysis.
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Perdew, Laura
Information Literacy in the Digital Age. 2017 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
The flow of information through our modern digital world has led to many new challenges and controversies. Written for young adult readers in a serious tone, this book examines the challenges involved in seeking and evaluating information from the vast array of sources available through digital technology. The short chapters cover important topics such as the history of information literacy and its new requirements in the information age, finding and evaluating information, and ethics and responsibility in the digital world.
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Rex, Michael
Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots. 2020 (Picture Book).
What is the difference between a fact and an opinion? It can be a tricky thing to understand. Some things are facts, like the number of robots in this book. Other things are opinions, like which robot would make the best friend, or which robot dances best. Sometimes, to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, you need to wait to get more information. That is because facts can be proven true or false, and opinions are things you feel and believe but that you cannot prove. This colorful, kid-friendly book clearly illustrates the distinction between facts and opinions (and robots), allowing for a fun and foundational media literacy lesson for younger readers.
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Textbooks, Curriculum Guides, and Professional Development Resources

Hobbs, Renee
Media Literacy in Action: Questioning the Media. 2021.
Rapid convergence within the media environment has revolutionized the way people are communicating and using technology. Our relationship with media has never been so important nor so complex. To thrive in a media-saturated society, people need to ask critical questions about what we watch, see, listen to, read, and use. Covering topics from news and information to the internet to media consumption, this key textbook provides the tools to both empower and protect students as they navigate our increasingly complex media environment.
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LaGarde, Jennifer and Darren Hudgins
Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact from Fiction in the ‘Fake News’ Era. 2021.
By the authors of the bestselling Fact vs. Fiction, this book offers easy-to-implement lessons to engage students in becoming media literacy “digital detectives,” looking for clues, questioning motives, uncovering patterns, developing theories and, ultimately, delivering a verdict. This guidebook also includes: 1) lessons beyond the “fake news” protocols to determine information credibility, 2) examples for presenting media literacy skills to young people inside or outside of schools, 3) examinations of the connections between social-emotional learning and information literacy, and 4) ideas for integrating technology to create learning opportunities for students that are meaningful, memorable, and ripe for real-world applications.
CURR. 153.42 INTSTE2021

Rogow, Faith
Media Literacy for Young Children: Teaching Beyond the Screen Time Debates. 2022.
This book is about media literacy and screen usage, but more importantly, it is about how early childhood educators and professionals can prepare children for their digital future. This book is a first-of-its-kind guide for pre-service and currently practicing teachers and child care professionals looking for pedagogically sound and developmentally appropriate ways to help today’s children navigate their media-rich world with confidence, curiosity, and critical thinking. Detailed descriptions of media literacy competencies, along with dozens of activities, strategies, and tips designed for children ages 2–7, demonstrate how to integrate foundational skills, knowledge, and dispositions into existing routines as well as experiment with new lessons.
CURR. 302.23 NAEYC2022

References / Resources

NPR: “Illinois Now Requires Media Literacy Instruction in its High School Curriculum”
This interview with Associate Professor of Civic Media at Columbia College Chicago, Yonty Friesem, includes information about the basic tenets of media literacy education and the anticipated impact of the new law requiring media literacy to be taught in Illinois high schools.

Illinois Civics Hub: “Media Literacy Toolkit”
This media literacy toolkit from an organization supporting civics educators in Illinois provides details about the contents of Illinois House Bill 234, plus extensive lists of resources for educators to implement different types of media literacy lessons in classrooms.


Tales and Tellings: Global Folktales to Share

As the winter season approaches, we all might be spending more time cozied up at home, but reading can take us anywhere in the world! These global folktales stem from cultural storytelling traditions around the world. Folktales are a broad genre of literature that emerges from oral storytelling practices in a particular cultural sphere. The relationship between the tale, the teller, and the audience may alter the form and content of a folktale over time. Although folktales naturally change as they are shared in different contexts, printed books capture a more stable version of the story. The folktales on this list come from countries like Finland, Japan, and Ghana, or broader regions like the Middle East and the Americas. Some are individual tales, some are collections of stories, and many are designed to be read aloud and shared with other listeners. Explore these tales and let your imagination take you to various corners of the world.

Ahokoivu, Mari
Translated by: Silja-Maaria Aronpuro
Oksi. 2021 (Young Adult Graphic Novel).
This graphic novel blends Finnish and Karelian mythology and folklore and presents the story in a visually stunning package. Umi, a mother bear, hunts and brings food home for her cubs. One of the cubs, Poorling, is a bit different from her brothers, and resembles a small humanoid figure. Mother keeps their family safe, but the forest is full of dangers. It is there that Mana lives, with her Shadow children, and above them all is Emuu, the great Grandma in the Sky. Poorling’s desperation to belong leads her to practice shapeshifting and other magic, until a violent moment changes everything. The art uses negative space and a minimal color palette to reflect emotional shifts and create a darkly beautiful atmosphere. From the heart of Finnish folklore comes a breathtaking tale of mothers, daughters, stars and legends, generational connection and trauma, and the old gods and the new.
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Atwater, Barbara J., and Ethan J. Atwater
Illustrated by: Mindy Dwyer
How Raven Got His Crooked Nose: An Alaskan Dena’ina Fable. 2018 (Picture Book).
This hybrid format picture book (with graphic novel elements) is a modern retelling of a traditional Native American fable from the Dena’ina people. Framed as a tale told by grandmother to grandchild while performing traditional activities like foraging and fishing, this story represents the oral nature of folktales. Grandma describes Chulyen the trickster raven, who loses his nose one day, but vows to get it back. Luckily, he has some special powers to help him. Dwyer’s beautiful illustrations complement the tale that teaches readers an important lesson through Dena’ina mythology and includes a glossary of Dena’ina words for a glimpse into the cultural context of this story.
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Crossley-Holland, Kevin
Illustrated by: Frances Castle
Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland. 2019 (Young Adult Short Story Collection).
Ancient, rich, and strange, these magical and eerie tales from across Britain and Ireland have been passed down from generation to generation. A handsome, overconfident young man is swept up by a mysterious man on a horse and cast into a life-or-death adventure. A pair of green children emerge from a remote hollow and struggle to adapt to a strange new land. A dauntless farm girl finds that her fearlessness earns her a surprising reward. The folktales presented here are dark but humorous, lyrical yet earthy, and brief but emotionally impactful. This definitive collection of forty-eight familiar and lesser-known stories, retold by Crossley-Holland, opens a doorway to a lost world and shows the enduring power of language and imagination. The author meticulously cites the sources for the origins of these retellings in the book’s back matter.
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García Esperón, María
Illustrated by: Amanda Mijangos
Translated by: David Bowles
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas. 2021 (Middle Grade Short Story Collection).
Fifteen thousand years before Europeans stepped foot in the Americas, people had already spread from tip to tip and coast to coast. Like all humans, these Native Americans sought to understand their place in the universe, the nature of their relationship to the divine, and the origin of the world into which their ancestors had emerged. The answers to these musings lay in their sacred stories, passed down through the generations. The talents of this book’s author, illustrator, and translator have woven together this collection of stories from nations and cultures across our two continents—the Sea-Ringed World, as the Aztecs called it—from the edge of Argentina all the way up to Alaska. The fifty-two stories in this collection convey resilience and hope, but sometimes contain events of sadness and tragedy. The limited color palette of the illustrations, rendered in blue, black, and white, leaves room for readers to imagine the details of the origins of these tales. The back matter includes a pronunciation guide, a culture guide, a map, and a glossary.
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Jones, Dan C.
Illustrated by: Weshoyot Alvitre
Living Ghosts & Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories. 2021 (Middle Grade Short Story Collection).
Hand this shiver-inducing collection of short stories to fans of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! Shadowy figures in the night. An owl’s cry on the wind. Monsters lurking at the edge of the wood. Some of the creatures in these pages might only have a message for you, but some are the stuff of nightmares. These thirty-two short stories—including tales passed down for generations and accounts that could have happened in the contemporary world—are collected from the thriving tradition of ghost stories from Indigenous cultures across North America. Prepare for stories of witches and walking dolls, hungry skeletons, La Llorona and Deer Woman, and other supernatural beings ready to chill you to the bone. Author Jones (Ponca Nation) tells of his own encounters and selects his favorite spooky, eerie, surprising, and spine-tingling stories, all paired with haunting art by Alvitre. Each story is attributed to either an individual or a tribe and is briefly prefaced with information about specific Indigenous beliefs that are important context for the story. These stories are not for the faint of heart, but scary story fans will be satisfied with the terror in these tales.
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Khalidi, Rodhan Al- (also known as Al Galidi, Rodaan)
Illustrated by: Geertje Aalders
Translated by: Laura Watkinson
The Three Princes of Serendip: New Tellings of Old Tales for Everyone. 2021 (Short Story Collection).
This wide-ranging collection of Middle Eastern folklore from an acclaimed Iraqi storyteller is paired with exquisite cut-paper art. The twenty folktales in this book have taken a long journey. Many have roots that stretch across Europe, Asia, and Africa, but when Al Galidi learned them in his homeland of Iraq, it was as Arabic folktales and as part of the Arabic storytelling tradition. When he migrated to the Netherlands, he shaped many of those tales into his debut book for children. Filled with wisdom about love and acceptance, and warnings against folly, these elegantly translated stories (many unknown in the United States) of donkeys and roosters, kings, sheikhs, and paupers are vibrantly illustrated by Aalders. These short stories, brief enough for elementary readers, are a rich and varied introduction to the world of Middle Eastern folklore.
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O’Neill, Richard and Katharine Quarmby
Illustrated by: Hannah Tolson
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro. 2017 (Picture Book).
A Traveller girl named Ossiri loves music and longs to have an instrument of her own, but her family cannot afford one. Drawing from her family’s tendency towards resourcefulness, she creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. She plays it enthusiastically, but it sounds terrible. Ignoring warnings not to awaken the ogre in the hills, Ossiri goes there to practice playing her instrument. Will she wake the ogre, and will it appreciate her playing? Written by a Romani storyteller, this original tale offers a fascinating insight into Travelling lifestyles and cultures. The text includes Roma words and phrases that are explained briefly in a glossary on the title page and the cadence of the story is perfect to read aloud. The illustrations are colorful and show many details of the tasks and activities of the Romani people.
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Umezawa, Rui
Illustrated by: Mikio Fujita
Strange Light Afar: Tales of the Supernatural from Old Japan. 2015 (Young Adult Short Story Collection).
A bitterly jealous brother, a cold-hearted husband, a fraudulent merchant who meets his match in a supernatural river otter, a samurai who makes the ultimate sacrifice: the motives and pathologies underlying these traditional Japanese folktale characters are explored with haunting results. Prompted by the sometimes illogical and perplexing actions of traditional folktale characters (Why doesn’t the wolf kill Little Red Riding Hood right away?), experienced storyteller Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their confusing plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions. Tales of addiction, bravery, greed, abuse, and control—these stories take their inspiration from the great Japanese storytelling traditions. Evocative and haunting illustrations by Fujita add to the eerie beauty of this collection. A detailed afterword outlines the author’s approach and provides source material for each tale.
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Umrigar, Thrity N.
Illustrated by: Khoa Le
Sugar in Milk. 2020 (Picture Book).
With lushly colorful illustrations, this picture book frames an ancient folktale about immigration within a contemporary setting. A young immigrant girl joins her aunt and uncle in a new country that is unfamiliar to her. She struggles with loneliness, and with a fierce longing for the culture and familiarity of home, until one day, her aunt takes her on a walk. As the pair strolls through their city park, the girl’s aunt begins to tell her an old tale about a time when a group of refugees arrived in a foreign land. The local king met them, determined to refuse their pleas for refuge. But due to the language barrier, the king filled a glass of milk and pointed to it to communicate that the land was full, with no room to accommodate the strangers. Then the leader of the group of refugees dissolved sugar in the glass of milk. His message showed that, like sugar in milk, the presence of new people in a country sweetens everyone’s lives. This folktale was a part of the author’s upbringing as a Parsi child in India and communicates a broader message of migration and belonging.
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Williamson, Emily
Gizo-Gizo! A Tale from the Zongo Lagoon. 2018 (Picture Book).
Gizo-Gizo the spider is a lazy, selfish fellow. When he starts a gold mine that pollutes the Zongo Lagoon and makes the other animals sick, naturally he ignores everyone else’s concerns. “Someday when I am rich, I will buy this place,” he tells them. “I can do whatever I want.” But when the fish groan with upset stomachs and the frogs wince from sore throats caused by the filthy water, Tortoise and Crab decide that things have gone too far. They devise a clever plan to teach their friend a lesson and make him clean up his mess. Originally written and illustrated by students from Cape Coast, Ghana, this community-created, contemporary folktale examines environmental sustainability and personal responsibility. With colorful illustrations inspired by West African textiles and a tale that includes Hausa words and phrases, it also provides a great platform for cross-cultural exploration.
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Not Boring! A Golden Age of Children’s Nonfiction

When you think of reading nonfiction in childhood, what is your first reaction? Do you imagine a dry, straightforward slog through information? If so, you might be one of many adults who assume that kids are not interested in reading informational books, even if you enjoy reading nonfiction titles yourself.

Children’s book author Melissa Stewart wants to counter this misconception by championing nonfiction books for children and young adults. Stewart frequently talks about the remarkable quality and variety of contemporary informational books published for young readers. She has outlined five distinct types of children’s nonfiction books: browsable, active, traditional, expository, and narrative. Contemporary children’s nonfiction authors can take many different approaches to making information engaging, such as using a guessing game format, displaying vibrant images to illustrate the concepts, or framing a story as a high-stakes competition, just to name a few! Recent research also indicates that young readers enjoy nonfiction books just as much or more than fiction books. To learn more about Melissa Stewart, the five types of nonfiction books, and research on children’s reading preferences, check out the resources linked at the end of this post. Give a book on this list to a young reader and see what they learn (and how much fun they have along the way)!

Balkan, Gabrielle
Illustrated by: Sam Brewster
Whose Bones? An Animal Guessing Game. 2020 (Board Book).
Set up as a guessing game with visual and narrative clues, this book invites the youngest readers to examine six animal skeletons and deduce to whom they belong. After introducing readers to the concepts of bones with illustrations of T-Rex and human skeletons, each subsequent page turn reveals a stark black-and-white image of a new animal skeleton and asks, “Who am I?” The answers are provided in vibrant, foldout reveals, each accompanied by read-aloud text that highlights the ways each animal’s bones and bodies are special. Don’t miss this creative team’s other book about skeletons for slightly older readers, called Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals.
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Barone, Rebecca E. F.
Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica. 2021 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
This gripping narrative nonfiction book chronicles two sets of groundbreaking expeditions to the South Pole that occurred more than one hundred years apart. In 1910, Captain Robert Scott prepared his crew for a trip that no one had ever completed: a journey to the South Pole. He pledged to get there any way he could, even if it meant looking death in the eye. Shortly before he ventured south, another intrepid explorer, Roald Amundsen, set his sights on the same goal. Suddenly two teams were competing to be the first to make history, and what was to be an historic expedition had become a perilous race. In 2018, Captain Louis Rudd readied himself for a similarly grueling task: the first unaided, unsupported solo crossing of the Antarctic continent. But little did he know that athlete Colin O’Brady was training for the same trek, and he was determined to beat Louis to the finish line. This story is perfect for young readers who are fans of grand adventure tales or learning about historic human accomplishments. The book also includes plenty of black-and-white photos that highlight the stunning Antarctic landscape.
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Brew-Hammond, Nana Ekua
Illustrated by: Daniel Minter
Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky. 2022 (Picture Book).
Discover a world of creativity in this fascinating picture book that showcases the history and cultural significance of the color blue. For centuries, blue powders and dyes were some of the most sought-after materials in the world. Ancient Afghan painters ground mass quantities of sapphire rocks to use for their paints, while snails were harvested in Eurasia for the tiny amounts of blue that their bodies would release. And then there was indigo, which was so valuable that American plantations grew it as a cash crop using the labor of enslaved Africans. It wasn’t until 1905, when Adolf von Baeyer created a chemical blue dye, that blue could be used for anything and everything: most notably in the popular form of blue denim. Brew-Hammond also explores the emotions associated with the color, like feeling blue (sad) or out-of-the-blue (unexpected). With stunning illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Daniel Minter, this vibrant and intriguing picture book follows one color’s journey through time and across the world.
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Cherry-Paul, Sonja
Illustrated by: Rachelle Baker
Other contributors: Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds.
Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You. 2021 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
RACE. Uh-oh. The R-word. But talking about race is one of the most important things to learn how to do. This chapter book adapts Jason Reynold’s young adult remix of Ibram Kendi’s foundational book on the history of racism, Stamped from the Beginning, to be accessible for upper elementary and middle grade readers. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, kids will learn how to notice and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives. Educator Cherry-Paul uses short, chronological chapters that each focus on a singular concept to keep readers engaged. The book further structures the reading experience with visuals and “Let’s Pause” moments to help kids retain key ideas and reflect on their own understandings. Unlike the preceding titles, this book includes information about important recent events during the years of 2016-2020, including the widespread Black Lives Matter movement.
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Fleming, Candace
Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. 2020 (Picture Book).
Get up close and personal with Apis, one honeybee, as she embarks on her journey through life, complemented by richly detailed oil-on-paper illustrations. Beginning at birth, the honeybee emerges through the wax cap of her cell and seeks to protect and care for her hive. She cleans the nursery and feeds the larvae and the queen. But is she strong enough to fly? Not yet! She builds wax comb to store honey, and transfers pollen from other bees into the storage. The text builds suspense as readers turn page after page waiting to see if the honeybee is yet ready to fly. Apis accomplishes many tasks before beginning her life outdoors as an adventurer, seeking nectar to bring back to her hive. Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann describe the life cycle of the hard-working honeybee in this poetically written, thoroughly researched picture book, complete with an essay on environmental threats to honeybees.
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Jenkins, Steve
Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics. 2016 (Picture Book).
How many species exist in the world? How much do all the insects around the globe collectively weigh? How far can animals travel? Steve Jenkins answers these questions and many more with numbers, images, innovation, and authoritative science in this visually stunning work of browsable nonfiction. Jenkins layers his signature cut-paper illustrations alongside infographics and a text that is teeming with fresh and unexpected zoological facts ready for readers to easily devour. The level of scientific research paired with Jenkins’ creativity and accessible information is unmatched and sure to engage fans of fact books and animal lovers.
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Messner, Kate
Illustrated by Falynn Koch
Plagues and Pandemics (History Smashers). 2021 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
Myths! Lies! Secrets! Uncover the forgotten facts about the history of pandemics, from the Black Death to COVID-19. True or False: During the Black Death in the 14th century, plague doctors wore creepy beaked masks filled with herbs. False! Those masks were from a plague outbreak centuries later, and most doctors never wore anything like that at all. With a mix of sidebars, illustrations, photos, and graphic panels, author Kate Messner delivers a comprehensive and accessible account of infectious diseases like the bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis, polio, influenza, and COVID-19. Great for readers who enjoy reading the series: I Survived! and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.
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Soontornvat, Christina
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team. 2020 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
This enthralling account of the amazing Thai cave rescue perfectly blends suspense, science, and cultural insight. On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach entered a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. When they turned to leave, rising floodwaters blocked their path out and the boys were trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spread, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of people from around the globe. As the world sat vigil, people began to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Newbery Honoree Christina Soontornvat combines information from original interviews with rescue workers, in-depth scientific research, and details about the region’s culture and religion to show how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission.
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Stewart, Melissa
Illustrated by: Sarah S. Brannen
Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate. 2021 (Picture Book).
Everyone knows about animals that hibernate in the winter, but what about the creatures that sleep all summer long? These animals estivate: a prolonged sleep during hot or dry periods. Dual layers of text awaken readers to the reasons estivating animals become dormant, including warm weather spells that threaten food supplies or simply avoiding increased body temperatures. From the ladybug to the salamander, from the lungfish to the desert hedgehog, Melissa Stewart clearly describes twelve estivating animals and their habits, both when sleeping and awake. Brannen’s soft, elegant watercolor illustrations show two perspectives of each estivating animal, and the page composition includes a small black-and-white text box that resembles a guidebook to introduce basic facts about the creature. This clever nonfiction picture book would be a perfect edition for elementary science classroom biology units.
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Sheinkin, Steve
Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown. 2021 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
This narrative nonfiction book is a spellbinding follow up to Sheinkin’s award-winning title Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, taking readers on a journey through the high-stakes conflict of the Cold War. As World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two greatest world powers on extreme opposites of the political spectrum. The two nations began a neck-and-neck competition to build even more destructive bombs and conquer the Space Race. In their battle for dominance, spy planes flew above, armed submarines swam deep below, and undercover agents met in the dead of night. The precarious, decades-long Cold War showdown culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world’s narrow escape from a third world war. Backed up by pages and pages of research citations, Sheinkin immerses readers in the small moments of spy operations, political conversations, and perspectives of ordinary citizens in a way that makes history feel thrilling and important.
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References / Resources

Publisher’s Weekly: “Soapbox: Children’s Nonfiction Has an Image Problem”


This piece by Melissa Stewart outlines the disconnect between adults’ perceptions of children’s nonfiction books and young people’s actual reading preferences. The article includes many references to peer-reviewed research about children’s reading habits, which shows that young readers have substantial interest in learning about the world through nonfiction books. Stewart concludes with action steps to increase the accessibility of nonfiction books for kids.

School Library Journal: “The Five Kinds of Nonfiction”


This article by Melissa Stewart in School Library Journal concisely describes the five types of nonfiction children’s books: browsable, active, traditional, expository, and narrative.

Scientific American: “Nonfiction is Cool and Our Kids Know It”


This opinion piece by science writer Amanda Baker argues that at present, we are in a “golden age” of children’s nonfiction books. Baker indicates that contemporary publications have highly appealing images or illustrations and innovative storytelling and writing styles. The article also cites compelling statistics about children’s reading preferences.

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Medal


Each year, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) awards the Robert F. Sibert Informational Medal to the most outstanding informational book for youth published in the United States in English during the preceding year. Make sure to click the link to the ALSC’s interactive Book & Media Awards shelf to find further exceptional nonfiction books among the past winning titles.


Not a Bystander: National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time to grow awareness of the prevalence and effects of bullying in childhood and adolescence. Youth.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” Bullying can be verbal or physical, and can involve spreading rumors, making threats, or intentionally excluding individuals from social groups. As student’s lives are increasingly tied to technology, cyberbullying has also become a damaging form of bullying.

About one out of every five students report being bullied. The mental health effects of bullying are of considerable concern, as students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression and anxiety. Literature is a great avenue for building empathy for young people experiencing bullying. Fictional stories can also illustrate the nuances of lived experiences of bullying by facilitating social perspective-taking in ways that may help students feel less alone or understand the suffering of their peers. The books on this list feature stories for children, middle schoolers, or teens that shed light on the human impact of bullying. Further information and bullying prevention resources for teachers, parents, and other adults working with youth can be found at the end of this post.

Callender, Kacen
Felix Ever After. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
Felix Love has never been in love, and he is painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what romantic love is like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. Even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he ticks too many boxes of marginalized identities (Black, queer, and transgender) to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages and publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned, Felix devises a plan for revenge. What he does not expect is his planned catfish scenario resulting in a quasi-love triangle. As he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. Felix’s experiences of cyberbullying are vivid and hurtful, but the heart of this story is the compassionate support from Felix’s friends and his path towards radical self-love.
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Connor, Leslie
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. 2018 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in the seventh grade, and his dyslexia makes it difficult to read and write. Mason has also been navigating profound grief. Fifteen months ago, his best friend, Benny, died in an accident at the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest to the core, does not understand why Lieutenant Baird does not believe Mason’s account of that day. Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself under suspicion again. He is desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and ultimately, Benny. But will anyone believe him? Connor tells a tale of an impossibly sensitive narrator staying true to himself when it seems like the cards are stacked against him.
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Falcone, L. M.
Illustrated by: Jacqueline Hudon
I Didn’t Stand Up. 2019 (Picture Book).
This simple but profound picture book tells a story written from the perspective of a bystander witnessing other children being bullied, but not stepping in to intervene. The narrator ignores the problem of classmates being called names and physically bullied for being Black, gay, poor, Muslim, or disabled. But what will the narrator feel upon becoming the victim? Based on the poem “First They Came” written by Pastor Martin Niemoller in condemnation of the Nazi regime, Falcone’s story recontextualizes the poem in the milieu of childhood bullying to show the dangerous consequences of being a passive bystander. In the end, all the children stand together against the hurtful perpetrators. The back-matter of the book provides an author’s note about the original poem and further information about the effects of bullying.
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Fipps, Lisa
Starfish. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she has been bullied for being fat. To cope, she tries to live by her invented “Fat Girl Rules” that include making herself small, avoiding eating in public, and never moving fast enough that her body jiggles. Ellie has found a safe space, swimming in her own pool in solitude, where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. She also uses the pool to escape from her intense mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who help Ellie discover her voice and stand up to her bullies, including her mother and hurtful older brother. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and unapologetically be her own fabulous self. Fipps’ debut novel-in-verse heartbreakingly conveys the raw emotions spurred from being bullied by strangers and family alike, and readers will rejoice as Ellie begins to build her confidence and call out the underlying societal messages that unfairly shame people for their bodies.
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Florence, Melanie
He Who Dreams. 2017 (Young Adult Fiction).
Juggling commitments to soccer, school, friends, and family leaves John McCaffrey with little time to do anything else. Plus, John is never quite sure where he belongs because he lives on the reservation with his Cree mother but resembles his red-headed Irish father. But one day at the local community center, following the sound of drums, he stumbles into an Indigenous dance class. Before long, John finds himself stumbling through beginner classes with a bunch of little girls, skipping soccer practice and letting his other responsibilities slide. When he attends a pow wow and witnesses a powerful performance, he realizes that he wants to be a dancer more than anything. However, the nearest class for boys is at the Native Cultural Center in the city, and he still hasn’t told his family or friends about his new passion. If he wants to dance, he will have to stop hiding. Between the mocking of his teammates and the hostility of the boys in his dance class, John must find a way to balance and embrace both the Irish and Cree sides of his heritage. This novel is part of the Orca Limelight series of high interest novels for reluctant young adult readers that spotlight the arts and cultural heritage stories.
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Frankel, Erin
Illustrated by: Paula Heaphy
Nobody! A Story about Overcoming Bullying in Schools. 2015 (Picture Book).
This straightforward picture book is a compassionate introduction to the effects of bullying in schools for young children. Thomas feels like no matter what he does, Kyle will always put him down. Nowhere feels safe from Kyle’s incessant bullying. “Mom said Kyle would grow over the summer and stop picking on me, but he didn’t grow up, he just grew.” With support from friends, classmates, and adults, Thomas starts to feel more confident in himself and his hobbies and stands up for himself. The story asserts that Kyle’s actions are harmful, while also carefully humanizing him as a child having trouble coping with his feelings. By the end, Kyle begins to learn the importance of kindness to others. The book concludes with “activity club” pages for kids, paired with information to help parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults initiate dialogue with children about ways to stop bullying.
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Gino, Alex
Melissa. 2022 (Middle Grade Fiction).
(This book was originally published with the title George in 2015). When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she’s not a boy, she’s a girl. Melissa thinks she will have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. Melissa desperately wants to play Charlotte, but the teacher says she cannot even try out for the part because she’s a boy. Together, Melissa and her best friend, Kelly, devise a plan for Melissa to be cast as Charlotte and for the rest of the school to know her true self. Melissa faces tough challenges throughout this heartfelt story: the taunts of a school bully, her own self-doubt, and her mother’s inability to understand her transgender identity. Still, Gino’s streamlined writing gives a sense of a quiet reassurance that Melissa, as the charming narrator, is becoming exactly who she is meant to be.
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Keller, Tae
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone. 2022 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Sometimes middle school can make you feel like you are alone in the universe, but what if we aren’t alone at all? Mallory Moss feels like she knows how the world works. For a few years Mallory has been best friends with the cool girl at school, Reagan, who makes Mallory feel like she belongs, but only if she follows Reagan’s simple rules: wear the right clothes, control your image, and know your place. When Jennifer Chan moves into the house across the street, those rules don’t feel quite right anymore, because Jennifer is different. She does not seem to care about the laws of middle school, and she is willing to embrace the unknown, even the extraterrestrial. Then Jennifer goes missing. The adults say she ran away, but as Mallory uses clues from Jennifer’s alien investigation journals to try to find her, Mallory must confront her shame knowing that she is part of reason Jennifer might have run. Newbery Medalist Keller tells a mesmerizing story from Mallory’s perspective that alternates timelines between “Now” and “Then,” in reference to a moment that Mallory calls “The Incident.” Readers will slowly realize that Mallory had a hand in the bullying Jennifer experienced, and she must reckon with the harm she caused and decide who she really wants to be.
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Narsimhan, Mahtab
Illustrated by: Michelle Simpson
Genie Meanie. 2021 (Chapter Book).
Eight-year-old Kiara is ready to start third grade in style, but she is tired of worrying about the racist bully at school, Matt. When she discovers that her recently deceased grandmother left her a genie in a bottle labeled Zayn Garam Masala, Kiara is delighted and relieved to have a magical companion to solve her problems and do her bidding. Unfortunately, the genie has decided he is on vacation after working for ten thousand years and wants someone to do his bidding. A battle of wills ensues, and Kiara realizes that she and her best friend Bai can address their problems with the school bully without magic. The bullying in this story is portrayed in a realistic way, although the resolution is simplistic. This charmingly magical beginning chapter book would be appealing for fans of Kelly Starling Lyons or Kate DiCamillo.
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Smith, Eric
Don’t Read the Comments. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
Divya Sharma is a queen, at least when she is playing Reclaim the Sun, the current hottest online game using her virtual gaming persona, D1V. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she is trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to financially help her struggling single mom. Aaron Jericho’s life centers entirely on gaming, and he has no interest in becoming a doctor like his parents hope, instead he spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape parental pressures by playing Reclaim the Sun, but to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V. At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they face infinite new worlds together, as well as the horrifying growing legion of trolls interrupting the online game. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line and she will not go down without a fight. This young adult novel grippingly conveys the intense real-life impact of cyberbullying on a large scale.
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References / Resources

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center
PACER is a nonprofit organization, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs that champions children with disabilities and provides training for families. PACER founded the first Bullying Prevention Awareness Week in 2006, which was extended to a national month in 2010. This homepage for bullying prevention includes statistics, information about advocacy, and a variety of resource kits for parents and educators. See also PACER’s youth-friendly websites: KidsAgainstBullying.org and TeensAgainstBullying.org.

This website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services centers on the clear message that when people quickly and consistently stand up to bullying behavior, they can reduce instances of bullying over time. The easy navigation directs users to information about bullying and cyberbullying (including warning signs and adverse effects) plus concrete steps for how to prevent bullying (with policies, community connections, and educating students) and video resources designed for kids to understand that bullying should not be tolerated.

Youth.gov – National Bullying Prevention Month (Feature Article)
This article from Youth.gov establishes a clear definition of bullying, as distinguished from other forms of aggression, and details the history of National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. This page also includes links to other federal resources that contribute to bullying prevention efforts.


Latinx Heritage Month: Cultural Representation in Youth Literature

Latinx Heritage Month, also known as Hispanic Heritage Month, runs from September 15 to October 15 and celebrates the rich and varied cultural traditions of Latinx communities around the world. (To learn more about the history of the terms Hispanic and Latino, see the NPR story listed in the references below. This blog will primarily use the term Latinx due to its broader cultural and gender inclusivity). Latinx characters are underrepresented in children’s literature. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison compiles data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens. In 2021, just over seven percent of books published in the U.S. for children and young adults featured Latinx characters. Through initiatives like Latinxs in Kid Lit (https://latinosinkidlit.com), advocates of diversity in children’s literature are seeking to increase the number of books by and about Latinx folks published annually.

Encouragingly, Latinx children’s literature creators have garnered recognition from major children’s literature awards in recent years. Three of the last seven Newbery Medal winners have been Latinx authors, including Matt de la Pena in 2016, Meg Medina in 2019, and Donna Barba Higuera in 2022. Additionally, the Pura Belpre Award, established in 1996, honors writers and illustrators “whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” The award is named after the New York Public Library’s first Puerto Rican children’s librarian, Pura Belpré, who was an engaging Spanish language storyteller. Belpré also translated Puerto Rican folklore into English to share these cultural stories with a broader audience. The books below are just a snapshot of the excellent contemporary Latinx literature featured in the S-Collection.

Amescua, Gloria
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz-Jimenez, Daughter of the Nahua. 2021 (Picture Book).
This moving, beautifully illustrated biography tells the remarkable story of how model and teacher Luz Jiménez became a living link between the indigenous Nahua and the rest of the world. Growing up in Mexico, Luz learned how to grind corn and weave on a loom and listened to nighttime stories around the fire about her people’s joys and struggles for survival. When the Mexican Revolution upended their rural life, Luz and her family were forced to move to Mexico City where Luz became a model for painters, sculptors, and photographers such as Diego Rivera and Tina Modotti. Through her deep pride in her Nahua roots and her unshakeable spirit, the world came to recognize the beauty and strength of her people.
S.972.48 Am37ch

Cartaya, Pablo
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. 2017 (Middle Grade Fiction).
For Cuban American Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and a few shifts as a dishwasher at his Abuela’s restaurant. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. When a shady land developer rolls into town and threatens to change the neighborhood, Arturo refuses to go down without a fight. As he schemes with Carmen, Arturo uncovers the power of community activism through previously untold family stories and the poetry of Jose Marti. Arturo’s relatable first-person narration includes plenty of Spanish words and conveys his dedication to family, community, and tradition.
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Elya, Susan Middleton
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
La Princesa and the Pea. 2017 (Picture Book).
Author Elya adds a dose of humor, plot twists, and a plethora of Spanish words and phrases to this delightful spin on the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale. The prince is set to marry, and the queen oversees vetting possible candidates. When the prince falls in love with a maiden and the queen doesn’t approve, the prince ensures that the maiden passes the pea-under-the-mattress-test with flying colors. The rhyming text drives the story forward and makes for a great story time read-aloud. Martinez-Neal’s softly colorful illustrations establish the setting of this retelling in Peru, with clothing and textiles characteristic of several different indigenous Peruvian communities.
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Engle, Margarita
Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez
Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics. 2017 (Picture Book Biography Anthology).
This anthology features vibrant, graphically illustrated portraits and poems about famous and lesser-known Hispanics who have faced life’s challenges in creative ways. The eighteen individuals featured in this collection come from many different countries and backgrounds and include a musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot, and more. Engle’s first-person biographical poems celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective cultural history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today. Poems spotlight César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, George Meléndez Wright, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, and Tito Puente, to name a few. The book’s back matter includes more detailed biographical notes.
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Higuera, Donna Barba
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance. 2020 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Guadalupe “Lupe” Wong wants nothing more than to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues. She has also advocated for causes her whole young life, like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few discrete categories. Lupe needs top grades in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. But when her PE class throws the curveball of a terrifying mandatory square dancing unit, Lupe isn’t going to let that slide. She begins a campaign to cancel the outdated tradition and reveals the racist history of one of the songs, but she also begins to jeopardize her closest friendships in the process. Readers will be drawn in by Lupe’s sharp and humorous first-person narration and will stay for her thoughtful examination of identity, equity, and social justice.
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Medina, Meg
Merci Suarez Changes Gears. 2018 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Eleven-year-old Merci Suarez has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students and don’t have fancy boats or second homes. Sixth grade is already presenting more challenges than expected: suddenly playing sports is seen as babyish and friendships with boys are socially taboo. When Merci gets assigned to show new kid Michael around school as a community service requirement for her scholarship, popular girl Edna channels her jealousy towards Merci. Things are also challenging at home with her close-knit Cuban American family. Merci’s beloved grandfather Lolo has started acting strangely, like forgetting important things, falling off his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one will tell Merci what’s going on, so her worries begin to spiral. This Newbery Medal-winning novel is tender, multifaceted, and a luminously uplifting story.
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Morales, Yuyi
Dreamers. 2018 (Picture Book).
Author-illustrator Yuyi Morales tells her own heartfelt immigration story in this beautiful autobiographical picture book that is an ode to hope, resilience, and reading. In 1994, Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico to come to the United States with her infant son. The lyrical text highlights the obstacles many immigrants face when trying to survive in a country that isn’t hospitable to non-English speaking people of color. Mother and son eventually stumble into the children’s section of a public library and together they discover the transformative power of books and stories. The brightly colorful artwork is whimsically surreal and incorporates many Mexican traditions and mythic imagery. An author’s note expands on the details of Morales’ life story and clarifies that she and her son are not “Dreamers” in the modern political sense, but rather in the more expansive sense of hope that relates to building a life in a new country.
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Quintero, Isabel
Illustrated by: Zeke Pena
My Papi Has a Motorcycle. 2019 (Picture Book).
When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her Papi on his blue motorcycle (their nightly ritual), she sees the people and places she’s always known in their California town. She also notices a community that is rapidly changing around her: new houses in the place of old trees, and family businesses that have closed. But as the sun sets behind Daisy and her Papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there. The softly dynamic illustrations depict a cinematic journey of a day in the life of this father and daughter in beautiful blue, gold, and purple hues. Although the story’s text is entirely told in English, dialogue speech bubbles incorporate both Spanish and English. This picture book is a young girl’s love letter to her hardworking dad and to a sense of home amid change.
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Raúl the Third
Vamos! Let’s Go Eat. 2020 (Picture Book).
In this lively sequel to Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, Little Lobo, an anthropomorphic wolf known for speedy food delivery, is back with his dog Bernabe, this time riding a brand new bike. Little Lobo is excited to watch a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and with his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. The highly detailed, filled-to-the-brim illustrated scenes are peppered with Spanish vocabulary.
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Vasquez Gilliland, Raquel
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
It has been three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared after the ICE raids, a desperate phone call from Mexico, and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Sia wants to emotionally heal, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.” Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home. One night, under a million stars, Sia’s life changes forever when a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car and it’s carrying her mom, who is very much alive. As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers profound and dangerous secrets in this inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe. Make sure to note the content warnings listed at the beginning of the book but rest assured that the heavy topics are handled sensitively.
S. V444si

References / Resources

ALSC: Pura Belpre Award
Learn more about the history of the Pura Belpre Award for representation of Latinx cultural experiences in children’s and youth literature, as well as more details about the award’s trailblazing namesake. Browse current and past winners through the link to the interactive award shelf from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).

CCBC: Books by and/or about Black, Indigenous and People of Color 2018-
This webpage shares tables of data compiled by the CCBC of books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and young adults. This is the most recent data, covering the years 2018-2021. Take a look at the “Diversity Statistics FAQ” link to learn more about how the CCBC collects and organizes the publishing data.

NPR: “Yes, We’re Calling It Hispanic Heritage Month and We Know It Makes Some of You Cringe”

This National Public Radio news story from 2021 chronicles the history of the terms Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx to attempt to linguistically encompass more than 62 million people from a wide variety of cultural heritages in the United States. None of the terms are without critics.

NPR: “New Groups Aim to Get More Latinx Stories to Young Readers”
This National Public Radio news story from 2020 describes the groups advocating for increased Latinx representation in youth literature. The story includes additional recommended books about Latinx protagonists.

NYPL: Pura Belpré: Library Storyteller
This New York Public Library blog post from 2020 shares more biographical details of the life, career, and legacy of 20th century Puerto Rican librarian Pura Belpré.


Supporting Early Childhood Learning with Creative Concept Books

Concept books are illustrated children’s books that introduce young children to basic ideas in concrete and engaging ways. Common topics for concept books include shapes, colors, numbers, letters, opposites, size, and more. Concept books are helpful tools for supporting early literacy and learning. It can be easy to forget that concepts as seemingly simple as shapes or numbers need to be explicitly taught in early childhood. When concept books are fun, humorous, or appealingly illustrated in addition to their educational content, children are more likely to be engaged with the books, which in turn develops important early literacy habits. The books below are highly engaging, creative concept books for building young children’s conceptual knowledge. Because the S-Collection has particularly robust holdings of ABC books (enough to be the basis of an entire future blog post), this book list will primarily feature other types of concept books.
For more information about supporting early literacy development, visit Reading Rockets: www.readingrockets.org/reading-topics/early-literacy-development.

Illustrated by: Angela Brooksbank
Baby Goes to Market. 2017 (Picture Book).
Follow Baby and his doting mama at a bustling Nigerian marketplace in this bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers. When Baby and Mama go to the market, Baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives him six bananas. Baby eats one and puts five in the basket, but Mama doesn’t notice. As Mama and Baby wind their way through the stalls, sneaky Baby collects five oranges, four biscuits, three ears of sweet corn, and two pieces of coconut until Mama notices that her basket is getting very heavy. Rhythmic language, visual humor, colorful illustrations, and a bounty of delectable food make this a tale that is sure to whet little appetites for story time, all while charmingly establishing basic numeric skills in early childhood.
Concepts: numbers, counting.
Q. SE. At481b

Corda, Tullio
Translated by: Taylor Barrett Gaines
Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites. 2021 (Picture Book).
Cat and Dog are not the same. In fact, they are very different and the perfect subjects for a tale of opposites. Cat is red and Dog is blue; Cat is mischievous while Dog is annoyed. Enjoy their adventures as they fight and play, chase and hide, all illustrated by Corda’s high-drama visual storytelling in this surprisingly sophisticated book. Corda has created a concept book that introduces a wide variety of antonyms (from up/down to brave/afraid), while simultaneously bringing readers along for a raucous narrative arc with a clever surprise ending. This is a truly relatable tale in just 32 words!
Concepts: opposites.
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Coulson, Art
Illustrated by: Madelyn Goodnight
Look, Grandma! Ni, Elisi! 2021 (Picture Book).
Bo wants to find the perfect container to show off his homemade traditional marbles for the Cherokee national holiday. It needs to be just the right size: big enough to fit all the marbles, but not too big to fit in his family’s booth at the festival. The container also needs to look appealing, so with his grandmother’s help, Bo tries many containers until he finds one that will work well and look beautiful. Part of the “Storytelling Math” book series to highlight everyday mathematical concepts for young children through culturally diverse storytelling, this picture book is a playful exploration of volume and capacity featuring Native characters and a glossary of Cherokee words.
Concepts: size/volume.
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Cole, Lo
Ten in a Hurry. 2021 (Picture Book).
This exciting picture book counts down a school of fish, color by color. Ten fish of varying bright hues are swimming in a line as a bigger predator fish approaches from behind. The short rhyming text guides readers along as each turn of this book’s differently sized flap pages reveal the big fish gulping down another colorful fish, one by one. “Ten in a hurry, swimming in a line… Watch out, Red! GULP. Now there are nine.” The repetitive plot appears to spell doom for all of the colorful fish, that is, until the littlest fish takes a dramatic stand! This hysterically fun read helps young readers learn colors and counting, and the highly contrasting colors and clever book design will hold the attention of young listeners.
Concepts: numbers, colors.
Q. SE. C6756tehu

Godwin, Jane
Illustrated by: Blanca Gomez
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse. 2019 (Picture Book).
A little mouse makes her way around the world and invites young readers to come along. On the title page, the little brown mouse packs her suitcase, then travels through many busy, colorful illustrations before returning home. The short, rhyming stanzas offer opportunities for children to count, learn about colors, and study the objects in the pictures. “Red house/ Blue house/ Green house / Tree house! / See the tiny mouse / in her little brown house?” This simple story is packed with concepts for the very young, with a particular focus on colors, and a delightful search-and-find element in every spread: the intrepid mouse herself.
Concepts: colors.
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Higgins, Carter.
Circle Under Berry. 2021 (Picture Book).
With a simple approach, this thought-provoking concept book shows young readers that everything in the world can be seen from infinite perspectives. Each page compares colors, shapes, and objects in relation to each other. A triangle that is over a square is also under a circle. A circle that is pink also might be a flower. The brightly colored objects on a white background have the striking visual simplicity of Eric Carle’s art. Higgins’s playful, rhythmic writing and expert arrangement of objects on the page make this book a perfect read-aloud, capable of entertaining, educating, and challenging readers in equal measure. This book’s focus on color, shapes, objects, and relative words like “over,” “under,” and “next to” make this a good introduction to conceptual and spatial language. Rather than traditional concept books that focus on only one idea, this book combines its teaching approach, helping young readers learn multiple concepts at once by showing how they relate to each other.
Concepts: shapes, colors.
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Kraegel, Kenneth
This Is a Book of Shapes. 2020 (Board Book).
What begins as a concept book about everyone’s favorite geometric shapes soon defies expectations with a sequence of funny and imaginative twists. First comes the circle. Then the square and the triangle. Then the . . . emu pushing a pancake wagon down a hill? Kraegel pairs a deadpan tone with simple wood-grained shapes, interspersed with vibrant illustrations of animals engaged in hilariously absurd pastimes. Each page turn builds on the delicious anticipation to make this a unique and rollicking story time hit. This book provides a sensationally fun introduction to shapes.
Concepts: shapes.
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Scanlon, Liz Garton and Audrey Vernick
Illustrated by: Olivier Tallec
Five Minutes: (That’s a Lot of Time) (No, It’s Not) (Yes, It Is). 2019 (Picture Book).
Families everywhere will encounter a familiar experience in this clever picture book. Five minutes is a lot of time… or is it? Well, it depends on what you’re doing, of course! Follow one little boy and his family on a very busy day, as he discovers that sometimes five minutes feels like forever (like when you’re finishing up at the dentist’s office or waiting in line for the bathroom or in the backseat on a long car ride) and sometimes five minutes feels like no time at all (like when you’re playing your favorite game or at the tippy top of a roller coaster or snuggling up with a book before bedtime). This dynamically illustrated picture book discusses the concept of time in a relatable and philosophical way. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Concepts: time, numbers.
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Tullet, Herve
Translated by: Christopher Franceschelli
Mix It Up! 2014 (Picture Book).
Author and illustrator Tullet invites young readers to “mix it up” for a dazzling color adventure in this interactive picture book. Follow the artist’s simple instructions, turn the pages, and suddenly colors appear, mix, splatter, and vanish in a world powered only by the reader’s imagination. This book is best for readers who have already learned basic colors, as it exuberantly illustrates the more advanced characteristics of colors, like color mixing and varying shades, but the exciting interactive style will make it an enjoyable read for people of any age.
Concepts: colors.
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Wilson, Karma
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Big Bear, Small Mouse. 2016 (Picture Book).
Even the smallest readers can have big fun with Bear in this sweet introduction to opposites. Bear is big, big, big, and mouse is small, small, small but these friends stick together through all the highs and lows! Young readers will enjoy helping Bear and mouse as they spot all the opposites in their little glen. The bright colors and cheery tone help readers enjoy the sweet friendships between forest creatures in this delightful rhyming story.
Concepts: size, opposites.
Q. SE. W694bi


Delicious: Fiction to Inspire Summertime Culinary Adventures

With warmer weather and longer days, why not spend a little extra time cooking up something tasty and new? The characters in these children’s and young adult books sure do! Food has a notable presence in youth literature, perhaps because of the close relationship between food and culture. Writers of fiction also can rely on the highly sensory nature of food to create stimulating, immersive language. But mostly, food is a fun topic to read about. The stories in this list all focus on delicious meals or sweet treats but do so in a variety of ways. A few stories use food as a creative literary device, incorporating magical realism or science fiction scenarios in the dynamics of the kitchen. Several stories involve high-stakes culinary contests to drive the plot. Other stories simply highlight the power of food to bring people together. Enjoy some delicious summer reading!

Acevedo, Elizabeth
With the Fire on High. 2019 (Young Adult Fiction).
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has a lot of responsibilities. The one place she can feel free is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she feels too pressed for time to join her school’s new culinary arts class and lacks the money for the class’s trip to Spain, all of which would bring her closer to her dream of someday working in a professional kitchen. With a little encouragement and a whole lot of heart, Emoni takes the steps to begin to make her goals a reality. The touches of magical realism in this story will bring readers closer to Emoni’s perspective as she experiences the tribulations of life and the joys of cooking!
S. Ac371wi

Bingham, Winsome
Illustrated by: C. G. Esperanza
Soul Food Sunday. 2021 (Picture Book).
This vibrant picture book is a celebration of food, traditions, and gathering around a table. At Granny’s, Sunday isn’t Sunday without the whole family feasting on a lovingly prepared Soul Food meal. The book’s young narrator is finally old enough to help cook the dishes for the first time. He joins Granny in grating the cheese, cleaning the greens, and priming the meat for Roscoe Ray’s grill. But just when Granny says they are finished, her grandson makes his own contribution, sweetening this Sunday gathering and many more to come.
Q. SE. B5138so

Delaney, Rachelle
Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Alice Fleck’s father is a culinary historian, and she always helps him recreate meals from the past, something she would rather the other kids her age not know. But when her father’s new girlfriend enters them into a cooking competition at a Victorian festival, Alice finds herself and her secret hobby thrust into the spotlight, as the festival competition turns out to be a new televised cooking competition show hosted by Tom Truffleman, the most famous and fierce judge on TV! Alice begins to suspect that someone is sabotaging the competition behind the scenes, so it’s up to her, with the help of a few new friends, to find the saboteur before the entire competition is ruined, all the while tackling some of the hardest cooking challenges of her life in the public eye.
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Faruqi, Saadia and Laura Shovan
A Place at the Table. 2020 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Sixth-graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl meet when they take a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom. The two girls could not be more different. Sara misses the familiarity of the small Islamic school she used to attend now that she is at a huge new school. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. When they attend the after-school cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher, the girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens. Together they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. This story embraces cultural differences through food and showcases true friendship.
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Iwai, Melissa
Dumplings for Lili. 2021 (Picture Book).
Lili loves to cook little dumplings called baos with her grandmother, but one day they find they don’t have cabbage needed for cooking. Lili asks to borrow some from an elderly neighbor. Along the way, Lili discovers that her other neighbors are also lacking crucial components for their recipes, so she races up and down the stairs of the apartment building to coordinate the exchange of ingredients so every neighbor can make their respective dumpling-like foods, from Jamaican meat patties and Italian ravioli to Lebanese fatayer and more. This picture book is a culinary tour of the world, all in one building!
Q. SE. Iw12du

LaMotte, Lily
Illustrated by: Ann Xu
Measuring Up. 2020 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to bring her Taiwanese grandmother A-má to America for a visit, but how would she pay for it? Cici cooks up a plan to buy a plane ticket for A-má by trying to win the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest. However, Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food and the contest will include American food challenges. After a librarian introduces her to Julia Child’s cooking, Cici works hard to improve her culinary skills. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too? The Manga-inspired, full-color art of this graphic novel brings the delicious, heartwarming tale to life.
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LaRocca, Rajani
Illustrated by: Rachel Suggs
Midsummer’s Mayhem. 2019 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Can Mimi undo the mayhem caused by her baking in this contemporary-fantasy retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? For eleven-year-old Mimi it’s easy to feel invisible in such a big, accomplished American Indian family, but when she discovers a contest at the mysterious new bakery in town, there’s a chance for her to prove she’s not the least-talented member of her family. Plus, it’ll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay. Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she’s never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats. But as her dad begins to act strange and her siblings’ romantic entanglements cause trouble in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. Amidst the mayhem, Mimi learns that in life, as in baking, not everything is sweet. This delicious middle grade novel explores themes of family, friendship, and self-confidence.
S. L3269mi

Mannaert, Wauter
Translated by: Montana Kane
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic. 2021 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Young chef Yasmina is the only one who can protect her town from an onslaught of scientifically enhanced, highly addictive potatoes. Yasmina isn’t like the other kids in her city, but no one can deny that she has a flair for food. All she needs to whip up a gourmet meal is a recipe from her cookbook and fresh vegetables from the community garden. But everything gets turned upside down when the garden is bulldozed and replaced with a strange new crop of potatoes. Her neighbors can’t get enough of these spuds! After just a nibble of one of the potatoes, their behavior changes: they slobber, chase cats, and howl at the moon. What’s the secret ingredient in these potatoes that has everyone acting like a bunch of crazed canines? It’s up to Yasmina to find a cure, and fast! With delicately sketched art spreads and sparse text, this action-packed graphic novel explores an entertaining science fiction premise.
S.741.5944 M3159ya:E

Reck, Jared
Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love. 2021 (Young Adult Fiction)
While his friends prepare for college, high school senior Oscar decides his future is working with his Swedish grandfather Farfar on their food truck “Hej Hej!,” but when Oscar unexpectedly gets his first taste of adulthood, he realizes his plans may be half-baked. Lou Messinger is the opposite of Oscar: AP everything, valedictorian in her sights, and Ivy league college aspirations. When Lou hijacks Oscar’s carefully crafted schedule of independent studies and blocks of time in the Culinary Lab, Oscar is roped into helping Lou complete her resume-building service project: reducing food waste in Central Adams High School. As festival season begins, Oscar and Lou begin to see past their differences and grow closer. This sweet young adult novel covers more than just romance. Social justice issues like food insecurity, drug addiction, and white supremacy are woven throughout the plot. Readers will fall in love with Oscar and Farfar’s close relationship as well as their delectable food truck treats.
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Tamaki, Jillian
Our Little Kitchen. 2020 (Picture Book).
In this lively, rousing picture book from Caldecott Honoree Jillian Tamaki, a crew of resourceful neighbors comes together to prepare a meal for their community. With a garden full of produce, a joyfully chaotic kitchen, and a friendly meal shared at the table, this story is a celebration of full bellies and looking out for one another. Tamaki’s illustrations use many graphic novel conventions, with speech bubbles, dynamic spreads, and bold lines. Additional back matter includes recipes and an author’s note about the volunteering experience that inspired the book.
Q. SE. T152ou


Taking to the Skies: Exploring Early Aviation for Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Birthday

Pop quiz: What non-religious book has been translated into the most languages?

Answer: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry (originally composed in French, titled Le Petit Prince). Published in 1943, this novella has been translated into more than 382 different languages since its publication.* Although The Little Prince is a philosophical and fantastical story, it has foundations in the author’s life experiences. Born in 1900, Saint Exupéry was an early pioneer of global airmail routes and served as a French Air Force Pilot in World War II. He was inspired by flight at an early age and survived several plane crashes throughout his life, including a 1935 crash in the Libyan desert where he experienced severe dehydration and hallucinations for several days before being rescued. The story of The Little Prince follows a similar premise, in which the narrator is an airline pilot who crashes in the desert and meets an inquisitive golden-haired boy nicknamed “the little prince.”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry was an extraordinary figure who traversed the realms of aviation and authorship. In honor of his birthday on June 29th, the books below highlight the real stories of many other notable figures in the history of aviation, including Amelia Earhart, James Herman Banning, Hazel Ying Lee, Bessie Coleman, and more.

Fleming, Candace
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. 2011 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
This Art-Deco styled biography of one of the most famous female pilots of all time alternates chapters between Amelia’s youth and the endeavor for which she is best known — her attempt in 1937 to fly around the circumference of the globe. Part way through the journey, Amelia’s plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean and the remains have never been found. Fleming sheds light on Amelia”s personality, uncovering what was behind her mythologized figure, by describing her other pursuits (writing, medicine, and fashion) and her impressive aptitude for business. Interspersed black and white photographs and quotes from primary sources will transport young readers back in time to better understand the legendary Amelia Earhart.
SB. E121f

Fleming, Candace
The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh. 2020 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
This biography of Charles Lindbergh, written for young adults, chronicles the unruly early years of aviation and Lindbergh’s landmark accomplishment of becoming the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927. This astonishing feat in aviation paved the way for the future of commercial flights, but also catapulted Charles Lindbergh into blockbuster fame. Lindbergh became a prominent public figure, which meant constant invasive coverage of his life by the press, including the traumatic kidnapping and murder of his firstborn child. Fleming creates an honest portrait of Lindbergh, who was a Nazi sympathizer, proponent of eugenics, medical device inventor, and a leader of the America First Committee. Told in short chapters with an incredible amount of supporting background research, this is an engrossing read for young people who want a glimpse into the early evolution of aviation and an understanding of the historical parallels of the extreme political ideologies resurfacing in contemporary America.
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Jaggar, Louisa and Shari Becker
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States. 2021 (Picture Book Biography).
Born on a farm at the turn of the century, young James Herman Banning dreamed of one day piloting a “flying machine” like he read about in newspapers and library books. After leaving college early due to lack of funds, Banning opened his own auto shop in Iowa, fixing up vehicles on the ground with continued hopes of someday taking to the sky. All the flight schools in the area refused to admit Banning because he was a Black man. One day a military pilot visited the auto shop and agreed to teach Banning how to fly, but the Lieutenant died in a crash before they could complete their training. Determined to become a pilot, but lacking a plane, Banning decided to build his own airplane piece by piece before setting his sights on a new goal — becoming the first African American man to fly across the United States. What follows is a riveting tale of the trials and hurdles, as well as the dozens of small-town folks along the way who supported Banning’s 1932 journey. Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Cooper’s art is warm and emotive, complementing the significance of this lesser-known story in aviation history.
Q. SB. B2271ja

Larson, Kirsten W.
Illustrated by: Tracy Subisak
Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane. 2020 (Picture Book Biography).
Although the Wright brothers constructed the very first airplane capable of sustaining flight, determined inventor Emma Lilian Todd engineered a more practical aircraft shortly thereafter. This picture book biography focuses on Todd’s youth, chronicling her curiosity and propensity for problem solving, as she regularly disassembled everyday objects to figure out how they worked. With hardly any opportunities for women to be employed as engineers in the late nineteenth century, Todd strategically found a typing job at the U.S. Patents Office. Still determined to invent, Todd tinkered with her ideas and built many airplane prototypes. Although she was never a pilot herself, Todd’s contributions to aircraft design changed the course of early aviation.
Q. SB. T5663la

Leung, Julie
Illustrated by: Julie Kwon
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee. 2021 (Picture Book Biography).
As a child, Hazel Ying Lee was fearless. She was always the first to jump into the swimming pool, and never hesitated to race all the boys in the neighborhood. From the first time Lee rode in a plane at the age of nineteen, it was clear she was destined for the sky. Even though very few women were pilots in 1932, Lee was ready to do what no other Chinese American woman had done and learn to fly an airplane. When World War II began, Lee joined a new US military program training women pilots on the home front, called the Women Airforce Service Pilots (or WASPs). The work was dangerous, as the women were flying new planes directly off the assembly line and often discovered manufacturing defects. Hazel Ying Lee faced sexism and racist discrimination both during her lifetime and in the aftermath of her sudden death, as her family had to advocate for her burial in a whites-only cemetery. With colorful painterly illustrations, this picture book boldly conveys Lee’s fearless nature and celebrates her invaluable contributions to the war effort.
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O’Brien, Keith
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Young Readers’ Edition). 2019 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
In the 1920s and 1930s, airplane racing was the most popular spectator sport in America. While the male pilots were hailed as heroes, women who flew were often criticized by the press or excluded from the races altogether. This is the young adult adaptation of O’Brien’s Fly Girls, which follows five remarkable women who took to the skies: Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. The women often competed against one another in contests for flight speed, distance, or height, but together they fought for the chance to race against the men — and in 1936 one of them would win the toughest race of them all. Each chapter focuses on one woman at a time as the overall story moves forward in time. Plenty of photographs, source notes, a glossary, and an index will make this a helpful informational resource for young readers interested in studying women in aviation.
S.629.13092520973 Ob66fl

Parsons, Karyn
Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie
Flying Free: How Bessie Coleman’s Dreams Took Flight. 2020 (Picture Book Biography).
This picture book biography details the life and flights of Bessie Coleman (1892-1926), the first Black woman and the first Native American woman to earn a pilot’s license. As a child, Bessie loved to learn, but her family worked as sharecroppers in the cotton fields and her education was regularly put on hold during harvest time. Inspired by the story of Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly across the English Channel, Bessie set her sights on learning to fly. She became a pioneer in aviation, often performing death-defying stunts that inspired her nickname, “Queen Bess.” Written in short, rhyming stanzas with an empowering refrain, this would make an excellent read aloud for younger children who want to learn about a remarkable trailblazer in aviation.
Q. SB. C692pa

Pimm, Nancy Roe
The Jerrie Mock Story: The First Woman to Fly Solo around the World. 2016 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
Despite the prominence of Amelia Earhart’s aviation legacy, few people know the name of the first woman to complete the task that Earhart died trying to achieve. In 1964, aboard her tiny single-engine Cessna plane named The Spirit of Columbus, thirty-eight-year-old mother of three Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock overcame hazardous weather, mechanical malfunctions, metal exhaustion, and possibly sabotage to become the first woman to fly around the world solo. Pimm provides plenty of details about Mock’s lifelong interest in aviation and her month-long, 23,000-mile journey. The book includes black-and-white photos, maps of important locations, and “Did You Know?” sections of aviation facts at the end of every chapter. Overshadowed by news of the Vietnam War at the time of the completion of the aircraft journey, Pimm’s account of this impressive accomplishment gives Jerrie Mock due attention.
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Sís, Peter
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. 2014 (Picture Book Biography).
This multilayered picture book biography is a beautiful introduction to the life of Antoine de Saint Exupéry for younger readers. Larger font text along the bottom of the pages tells the basic narrative, while other details of Saint Exupéry’s story and of aviation history appear as curved sentences in smaller typeface wrapped around circular vignette drawings within the illustrations’ spreads. Readers will learn about Saint Exupéry’s family life, his first ride on an airplane at the age of twelve, the danger of his commercial flights, and the writing of The Little Prince. Sís’ illustrations are atmospheric and reflect the emotional shifts of Saint Exupéry’s experiences, like the red-splashed scenes of the outbreak of World War II and the bleak grey of his loneliness while writing in New York City. The book ends abruptly, like Saint Exupéry’s life, but with the beautiful tribute, “Maybe Antoine found his own glittering planet next to the stars.”
Q. SB. S137s

Sorell, Traci
Illustrated by: Weshoyot Alvitre
At the Mountain’s Base. 2019 (Picture Book).
At the mountain’s base there is an old cabin under a hickory tree. Inside, family members spend their time weaving, cooking, and singing, waiting for their loved one, a female pilot, to return from war. This brief, fictional poem about a Cherokee family honors the legacies of the Native American women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. This picture book’s illustrations are magical, showing the threads of connection between the family’s home life and the brave flights of the woman whose return they await. An author’s note pays tribute to Native American women who serve as U.S. service members at proportionally higher rates than any other demographic. This story was inspired by an Oglala Lakota woman and member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in World War II, Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat.
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*Source note for the number of translations of The Little Prince: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-translated-author-same-book.

Filling the Gaps: Improving Representation with a Reverse Diversity Audit

With close to 200,000 books on its shelves, the S-Collection proudly reflects a wide variety of identities, experiences, and points of view. Not content to rest on their laurels, though, the S-Collection’s librarians are always seeking to improve its inclusiveness and representation. That’s why this past semester, iSchool graduate student Anthony Martinez and SSHEL’s head librarian Nancy O’Brien undertook a “reverse diversity audit” which is when you take a list of books about a selected type of diversity and determine how many of those books are on your shelves. Guided by a variety of authoritative book lists, bibliographies, and awards lists, Anthony scoured the stacks to compare what the S-Collection already has to what’s recommended it have. To date, the audit has checked for hundreds of books, specifically those featuring children of military families, children who are Indigenous, and children who are transgender or gender nonconforming. The results were that a number of wonderful titles in each category were added to the collection. The library is very excited to welcome each one to the S-Collection shelves. To give readers a taste of those titles, the following list includes some of Anthony’s favorite finds from the transgender/gender nonconforming audit.

Estrela, Joana
My Own Way: Celebrating Gender Freedom for Kids. 2022 (Picture book)
“Small children are often asked to choose between a gendered binary – “boy” or “girl,” “pink” or “blue.” This colorful picture book smashes these stereotypes and encourages the reader to follow their own way. With vibrant illustrations and concise, poetic text, this powerful book teaches young children that there are no limits in what you can do and who you can be. Translated from the original Portuguese by award-winning transgender poet Jay Hulme.” — Provided by publisher.
(On order)

Ford, JR and Vanessa Ford
Illustrated by: Kayla Harren
Calvin. 2021 (Picture book)
“A transgender boy prepares for the first day of school and introduces himself to his family and friends for the first time. Inspired by the authors’ own transgender child and accompanied by warm and triumphant illustrations, this authentic and personal text promotes kindness and empathy, offering a poignant and inclusive back-to-school message: all should feel safe, respected, and welcomed.” — Provided by publisher.
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Hirst, Jo
Illustrated by: Naomi Bardoff
A House for Everyone: A Story to Help Children Learn about Gender Identity and Gender Expression. 2018 (Picture book)
“At lunchtime, all of Tom’s friends gather at school to work together building their house. Each one of them has a special job to do, and each one of them has a different way of expressing their gender identity. Jackson is a boy who likes to wear dresses. Ivy is a girl who likes her hair cut really short. Alex doesn’t feel like ‘just’ a boy, or ‘just’ a girl. They are all the same, they are all different – but they are all friends.” — Provided by publisher.
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Lukoff, Kyle
Illustrated by: Luciano Lozano
Call Me Max. 2019 (Picture book)
“When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by — a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.” — Provided by publisher.
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Mayeno, Laurin
Illustrated by: Robert Liu-Trujillo
One of a Kind, Like Me / Unico Como Yo. 2016 (Picture book)
“Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time – will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time? One of A Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo is a sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality. It’s a unique book that lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community.” — Provided by publisher.
(On order)

Neal, Trinity and DeShanna Neal
Illustrated by: Art Twink
My Rainbow. 2020 (Picture book)
“A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal.” — Provided by publisher.
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Pessin-Whedbee, Brook
Illustrated by: Naomi Bardoff, Naomi
Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. 2017 (Picture book).
“What do you like? How do you feel? Who are you? This brightly illustrated children’s book provides a straightforward introduction to gender for anyone aged 5+. It presents clear and direct language for understanding and talking about how we experience gender: our bodies, our expression and our identity. An interactive three-layered wheel included in the book is a simple, yet powerful, tool to clearly demonstrate the difference between our body, how we express ourselves through our clothes and hobbies, and our gender identity. Ideal for use in the classroom or at home, a short page-by-page guide for adults at the back of the book further explains the key concepts and identifies useful discussion points.” — Provided by publisher.
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Rhodes-Courter, Ashley
Illustrated by: Haley MacKenzie
Sam is My Sister. 2021 (Picture book)
“Evan loves being a big brother to Sam and Finn. They do everything together ― go fishing, climb trees, and play astronauts. But lately, Evan notices that he and Sam don’t look like brothers anymore. Sam wants to have long hair, and even asks to wear a dress on the first day of school. As time goes by, Evan comes to understand why Sam wants to look like a girl ― because Sam is a girl. Sam is transgender. And just like always, Sam loves to dream with Evan and Finn about going to the moon together. Based on one family’s real-life experiences…” — Provided by publisher.
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Shraya, Vivek
Illustrated by: Rajni Perera
The Boy & the Bindi. 2016 (Picture book)
A young boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, and asks her to explain what it is and why she wears it. She tells him that the red dot is commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins. When he wishes to have one of his own, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.
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Silverman, Erica
Illustrated by: Holly Hatam
Jack (Not Jackie). 2018 (Picture book)
“Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack. Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance. This book is published in partnership with Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to accelerate LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.” — Provided by publisher.
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 Anthony Martinez