For summer reading, Teaching for Change encourages young people to select multicultural and social justice books. Here are some recommendations of new (2016 and 2017) titles. For many more suggestions, see our full collection of recommended booklists and the We're the People summer reading list.
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Illustrated by Claudia McGehee
How can a creek disappear? Even more mysterious, how can a buried creek be found and then re-appear? Creekfinding is the true story of how a farmer and his friends set out to restore an ecosystem that had been bulldozed and buried under a corn field. Read more.
By Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Purple Wong
Milo’s class goes on a field trip to a museum. Milo learns about the roles of curators and docents, but learns nothing about her own community’s heritage, which is missing from the exhibits. Inspired by the suggestion of her aunt, she sets out to create her own museum with objects that illustrate her family’s history. As curator and docent, she reclaims and honors that history. Read more.
By Innosanto Nagara
Seven year-old Innosanto's father, an Indonesian playwright, is in trouble with the government for his newest play that lampoons the corrupt and violent rulers of his country in the 1970s and 1980s. When police amass outside the performance, Innosanto and his mother spend the night in the planetarium to avoid arrest. My Night in the Planetarium uses humor to portray a serious subject in a way that is understandable and appropriate for children in early elementary grades. Read more.
By Lauren Mayeno, Illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo
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. This is a unique book that lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community. Bilingual English/Spanish. Read more.
By Jorge Argueta, Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano
Jorge Argueta was among the first wave of Salvadoran refugees who fled the U.S.-funded war in their country during the early 1980s. After the war ended, the U.S. deported immigrants and their children accused of joining gangs. The gang violence, combined with the economic crisis in the region, has led to the current wave of refugees. Argueta collected testimonials from young people who came in this second wave. Then he wrote poems based on their stories about the hardship of leaving family behind and the perils of the journey. Bilingual English/Spanish. Read more.
By Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Ron Husband
A passion for education and freedom brings subversive ingenuity to life in 1847 St. Louis. Rev. John Barry Meachum’s true history comes to light through the stories he tells Black schoolchildren of being born a slave (in 1789 in Virginia), working in the saltpeter mines to purchase his own freedom and that of both parents, then walking hundreds of miles to liberate his wife. When the police burst into the school to inform Rev. John that Missouri has passed a law forbidding Blacks, slave or free, to read, he stops teaching temporarily. With the children's help, he uses his carpentry skills to build a steamboat on the Mississippi—federal property—in which his students can learn freely. Read more.
By Margriet Ruurs, Illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr
This bilingual children’s picture book (English and Arabic) is worth reading for the illustrations alone. The three dimensional characters, made from beach stone by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, are so expressive and exquisite that they tell a story of their own. Badr conveys the plight of refugees, although he himself has never left Syria. Read more.
By Hena Khan
For musically gifted Amina Khokar, sixth grade heralds a multitude of changes. Her best friend Soojin is about to be granted citizenship and plans to leave her Korean name behind, plus Soojin has befriended another classmate, Emily, whom Amina distrusts. Meanwhile, her family is hosting her strict Muslim great-uncle, who is visiting Wisconsin from Pakistan, and stage-fright-prone Amina prepares to publicly read a passage from the Quran in Arabic. The vandalism of the local Islamic Center and mosque further heightens the turmoil in this timely coming-of-age story. Read more.
By Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, Illustrated by Yutaka Haulette
Not enough students learn about the internment (better described as imprisonment) of Japanese Americans during World War II in the United States. But of those who do, even fewer learn about resistance by Japanese Americans. Fred Korematsu believed that what the U.S. government was doing was unconstitutional and fought his internment all the way to the Supreme Court. Read more.
By Ashley Bryan
Author Ashley Bryan acquired a collection of 19th century documents and found among them an 1828 estate appraisal for the Fairchilds: “Eleven slaves are listed for sale with the cows, hogs, cotton; only the names and prices of the slaves are noted (no age is indicated).” From those names, Bryan imagines lives into being. Each of the eleven African and African Americans—men, women, one teenager, one child—is introduced with a portrait and first-person narrative poem. What rises from its pages are eleven vibrant lives: people with history and hopes, dreams and drive, talent and tenderness. Read more.
By Margo Lee Shetterly
Margot Lee Shetterly pays homage to four trailblazing African American human computers–Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden–and the African American scholars, activists, and community members who made their education possible. This is a Young Readers’ edition for middle grade readers. Read more.
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
By Kate Schatz
From the authors of Rad American Women A-Z, Rad Women Worldwide has a similarly defiant and playful approach, featuring a few women students may have heard of, but mostly introducing little-known “rad” women who are “passionate, purposeful, and totally powerful.” It’s hard not to fall in love with women like Sophie Scholl, who defied the Nazis through the propaganda campaigns of the White Rose, distributing leaflets, stenciling graffiti—“Down with Hitler” and “Freedom!” Read more.
By Ann E. Burg
When Grace, the enslaved protagonist of this beautiful novel-length poem, turns 9, she is sent to live and work in the big house, forcing a heart-wrenching separation from her family. Then Grace hears that her mother and younger brothers will be placed on the auction block. She steals back to her family and they escape immediately. Read more.
By Tonya Bolden
In Crossing Ebenezer Creek, Mariah, a newly emancipated young woman, finds love and tragedy as she marches to freedom during the Civil War. In recounting the vicious treatment Mariah and others endured while enslaved, Bolden exposes the savagery of slavery. The resiliency and ingenuity of enslaved people in the face of such cruelty are also conveyed in heart-rending detail. Some readers may be shocked by the violence and exploitation formerly enslaved people also experienced at the hands of the Union soldiers charged with freeing them. Read more.
By Octavia Butler, adapted by Damien Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings
More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century. Read more.
By Renée Watson
Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face. Jade creates amazing collages and they are a way she processes what’s going on in her life. It seems like the people who love her make her whole and the world takes her apart. “Sometimes it feels like I leave home a whole person, sent off with kisses from Mom, who is hanging her every hope on my future. By the time I get home I feel like my soul has been shattered into a million pieces.” Read more.
By Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is both a statement that Black lives matter and the story of a 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter, who is thrust into the spotlight when she accepts a ride home from a party with childhood friend, only to watch police stop the car and shoot him before her eyes. Starr, whose mother is a nurse and whose father owns a grocery store in their low-income, mostly African-American community, attends a private school in a suburb 45 minutes away and navigates the two very different worlds, serving as a guide to readers through her first person narrative. Hardly an activist before the shooting, Starr learns both the importance of and the costs of speaking out. Read more.