It can be difficult to talk to children about tough topics. From bullying and prejudice, to discrimination and racism, children’s books have helped to facilitate these difficult conversations in an accessible and meaningful way. Below we’ve compiled seven of our many books that will help children come away with a better understanding of these complex issues and the world around them.
Don’t forget to round out your collection with our list of 10 diverse picture books that are not about oppression!
Last October was the release of Ahimsa by New Visions Award winner Supriya Kelkar. Inspired by her great-grandmother’s experience working with Gandhi, Kelkar shines a light on the Indian freedom movement in this poignant middle grade novel.
In 1942, after Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle. But it turns out he isn’t the one joining. Anjali’s mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use “ahimsa”—non-violent resistance—to stand up to the British government.
Accompanying this title is the Ahimsa Teacher’s Guide, which offers resources and tips on how to guide discussions on the Indian freedom movement, colonialism, civil disobedience, and the connection to the civil rights movement in the United States. Our teacher’s guide also features summary and background information, prereading and discussion questions, ideas for reader’s response and writing activities, strategies for ESL/ELL, and interdisciplinary activities and connections. Below we’ve shared a few prereading questions, discussion questions, and resources from the Ahimsa teacher’s guide. Continue reading
In this blog post, our Literacy Specialist, Katie Potter, discusses how educators can use texts, like Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh, to keep lessons fresh and engaging.
Out with the old, in with the new? How about—supplement and complement the old with the new?
When I read our middle grade novel, Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh, I was immediately reminded of In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson that I read with my fifth-grade literature circle in NYC (and in middle school almost 20 years ago!) and the challenges teachers face to make required core texts fresh and relevant to students, especially when a text (no matter how many awards) may “feel” old to students.
Today, we are proud to release I Am Alfonso Jones, a heartbreaking exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact that police brutality has on families, young people, and communities. Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, this title offers a powerful entry to discussion as well as essential historical context to today’s discussions on police brutality. Below is the powerful foreword by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy.
Released last month, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad is a picture book biography of José Martí, a renowned political figure and revolutionary who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty. Known for his leadership in the fight for Cuban independence, Martí is celebrated throughout Latin America. To many Latinos, particularly Cuban Americans, he represents the bridge between the cultures of Latin America and the United States. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad received five starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews.
For this post, we asked author Emma Otheguy, editor Jessica Echeverria, and translator Adriana Dominguez to take us through the translation process for Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad:
In this guest post, author D. H. Figueredo discusses the message behind his book, When This World Was New, and his hope in the American Dream.
My story, When This World Was New, might have several messages, or meanings, which have been assigned to the narrative by readers and not by me. But I do have a conscious message I want to impart to you, an informal legacy of sorts. During this particular moment in the history of our wonderful country and in the history of communities throughout this land and in the history of immigration to this nation…well, my message is best depicted by a drawing made by the illustrator of my book Enrique A. Sanchez, from the Dominican Republic.
At Lee & Low Books we are always interested in biographies of unsung heroes. Stories of lesser-known individuals who used their talents and overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams and serve their society fill our shelves of published titles. Each year our New Voices Award judges consider dozens of biographical submissions on the lookout for a winning combination of compelling characters and well-researched storytelling. But how do these components come together to create a manuscript? How does a writer condense someone’s entire life into a picture book? Does the writer or editor decide what information goes in the story and back matter? What is back matter, anyway? To answer these questions, and for an inside look at the editorial process, we interviewed Andrea Loney, author of the 2014 New Voices Award-winning biography Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and Jessica Echeverria, our Senior Editor who helped turn Andrea’s manuscript into an absorbing debut!
For your next read aloud, how about adding in some lively rhythms of New Orleans jazz and an award-winning storyteller?
As February comes to an end, we round out Black History Month with a spotlight on William “Doc” Key, a self-taught veterinarian who taught his horse Jim Key how to read, write, and calculate math problems. Teaching a horse these skills might sound preposterous, but Doc was able to nurture Jim’s ability through kindness, patience, and empathy. Together they traveled throughout the United States and impressed audiences with Jim’s amazing performances. In the process, they broke racial barriers and raised awareness for the humane treatment of animals.
Here’s what Donna Janell Bowman, author of Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, had to say about William “Doc” Key’s legacy and the amazing duo’s story: