Compiled by Linden Daniel Galloway, MSLIS Student and CCB Volunteer
A multifaceted approach to activism is emphasized by these books of varying lengths and levels. Everything from voting, to organizing strikes, to protesting and marching, to doing what you are already good at to make your voice heard can be found in these texts. Encouraging engagement with the world and the concept that they can do something to change it is a central point of empowerment. Readers age seven through grade twelve will most benefit from these sources.
Brimner, Larry Dane. Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights. Calkins Creek, 2014. 172p. Gr. 9-12.
Emphasis is placed on the greed and violence of the growers and the perseverance of the farm workers in their striking. At times, the book seems to fall into xenophobia, especially when it talks about workers from other countries breaking strikes. Extensively illustrated with captioned period photographs, this book is sometimes difficult to read due to the low contrast between the background and text.
Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People; ad. by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese. Beacon, 2019. 270p. Gr. 6-10.
Indigenous people have been shaping the land around them for thousands of years, along with fighting for its protection from white colonizers. This book offers many similar interruptions to the typical history of white heroism and Indigenous passivity. Illustrations come in the form of photos and art from colonial and Indigenous sources, while frequent insets offer questions to ponder and activities to follow up on. The end matter includes indices and follow-up reading.
Falkowski, Melissa, ed. We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists; ed. by Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner. Crown, 2018. 272p. Gr. 8-12.
With contributions from student journalists on topics such as the pressure of being an activist and journalist, this book takes an important stance against gun violence, just as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have. A list of dos and don’ts for journalists covering traumatic events like shootings was an extremely helpful section, as was the discussion of Stories Untold, which gives voice to those affected by gun violence. The book is illustrated with a credited, though uncaptioned, photo at the start of each section.
Farrell, Mary Cronk. Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights. Abrams, 2016. 44p. Gr. 5-7.
This book tells the important story of Fannie Sellins, a little-known union leader of the early 20th century. She went from fighting for her rights with her coworkers to supporting striking workers across the country and was killed by police due to anti-union sentiment. Period photographs and news clippings illustrate the book and all are captioned. An author’s note, helpful glossary, timeline of labor events, and index are included at the end.
Johnson, Maureen, ed. How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation. Wednesday/St. Martin’s, 2018. 288p. Gr. 6-12.
Grassroots actions are discussed in this book, as well as existence as resistance and resisting by doing what you already know how to do, such as writing or acting. At times pre-voting and calling representatives are emphasized, as opposed to protesting. In any case, political activism as a routine for all times, not just times of crisis during the Trump administration (which the book focuses on), is specified by the diverse list of contributors.
Markel, Michelle. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909; illus. by Melissa Sweet. Balzer + Bray, 2012. 32p. 7-9 yrs.
Clara Lemlich comes to America and must become a garment worker to help support her family, but the conditions are poor and she advocates for a strike. The most powerful moment of the book comes when she stands before a crowded union hall and calls out in Yiddish for a general strike. Sweet’s watercolor illustrations make Clara Lemlich stand out from the sea of striking girls and women. The ability to make a difference against odds is a theme in this tale of courage.
Pitman, Gayle E. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets. Abrams, 2019. 224p. Gr. 5-9.
This book is organized around objects (some are photos and some are things like matchbooks or pins) that reflect the lives of members of the LGBT community. Terms are also contextualized, as words for gender and sexuality identities can change over time. In fact, the book focuses a lot on how things have changed over time and the hardships people face due to discrimination against their identities, as well as the ways they resist. The volume is illustrated with period photos or photos of objects for each section.
Prévot, Franck. Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees; tr. from the French by Dominique Clément; illus. by Aurélia Fronty. Charlesbridge, 2015. 45p. Gr. 2-5.
Kenya’s political situation at the time Wangari Maathai lived, and how it affected her journey to plant trees, is explained in this book. The mixed media illustrations feature trees and leaves growing from people and things, creating a world to explore. The author’s note offers a short biography of Maathai and follow-up research to do.
Thompson, Laurie Ann. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah; illus. by Sean Qualls. Schwartz & Wade, 2015. 34p. 5-9 yrs.
This book tells the history of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s early life and bike ride across Ghana to raise awareness for disabled people like himself. Repetitions at the end of the story called back to the way it began. Qualls’ mixed media art draws attention to Yeboah on each page, at times in silhouettes. The Author’s Note brings up the organizations Yeboah has worked with and started for education, athletics, and disabled people’s rights.
Yousafzai, Malala. We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World; written by Malala Yousafzai with Liz Welch. Little, 2019. 224p. Gr. 5-9.
Malala Yousafzai highlights that being displaced is not a choice, that regular people are forced to leave home, and that many have complex feelings about home after being forced to leave it. The book was written in sections with contributions from each woman or girl introduced by Yousafzai, and many of the contributors have plans for education and giving back to help their communities. There is a section of color photographs of each contributor and Yousafzai at the end of the book