Hunter, the teen spokesperson for a student-led anti-slavery organization, inspires readers to become activists.
Each chapter, named with a key word such as “community,” “leadership” or “compassion,” starts with an inspirational story or about one or more contemporary or historical figures, transitions into the author's take on the key word in question and ends with a set of discussion questions. Chapters are short, with plenty of white space, and relevant, visually appealing quotations and statistics are scattered throughout. The author's activism is rooted in his Christianity, and he uses a number of Bible verses and stories to make his points (as well as a couple of brief but possibly alienating references to abstinence as an example of “solid morals” and a historical figure “ministering to Jews”). The author gives a variety of anecdotes and statistics about what he calls modern-day slavery—a group of boys in Zambia being tricked into an exploitative choir; an elementary school-aged girl sold by her family into forced labor—but readers won't come away with a big-picture sense of global politics or the forces that make this sort of exploitation possible. Instead, the author asks readers to find issues about which they are passionate and ask God to guide them toward the next step.
Accessible, if slightly insubstantial.
(Inspirational nonfiction. 12-18)
The closing of her favorite swimming pool opens 11-year-old Gloriana Hemphill’s eyes to the ugliness of racism in a small Mississippi town in 1964.
Glory can’t believe it… the Hanging Moss Community Pool is closing right before her July Fourth birthday. Not only that, she finds out the closure’s not for the claimed repairs needed, but so Negroes can’t swim there. Tensions have been building since “Freedom Workers” from the North started shaking up status quo, and Glory finds herself embroiled in it when her new, white friend from Ohio boldly drinks from the “Colored Only” fountain. The Hemphills’ African-American maid, Emma, a mother figure to Glory and her sister Jesslyn, tells her, “Don’t be worrying about what you can’t fix, Glory honey.” But Glory does, becoming an activist herself when she writes an indignant letter to the newspaper likening “hateful prejudice” to “dog doo” that makes her preacher papa proud. When she’s not saving the world, reading Nancy Drew or eating Dreamsicles, Glory shares the heartache of being the kid sister of a preoccupied teenager, friendship gone awry and the terrible cost of blabbing people’s secrets… mostly in a humorously sassy first-person voice.
Though occasionally heavy-handed, this debut offers a vivid glimpse of the 1960s South through the eyes of a spirited girl who takes a stand.
(Historical fiction. 9-12)
Triumph and tragedy in 1963 “Bombingham,” as children and teens pick up the flagging civil rights movement and give it a swift kick in the pants.
Levinson builds her dramatic account around the experiences of four young arrestees—including a 9-year-old, two teenage activists trained in nonviolent methods and a high school dropout who was anything but nonviolent. She opens by mapping out the segregated society of Birmingham and the internal conflicts and low levels of adult participation that threatened to bring the planned jail-filling marches dubbed “Project C” (for “confrontation”), and by extension the entire civil rights campaign in the South, to a standstill. Until, that is, a mass exodus from the city’s black high schools (plainly motivated, at least at first, almost as much by the chance to get out of school as by any social cause) at the beginning of May put thousands of young people on the streets and in the way of police dogs, fire hoses and other abuses before a national audience. The author takes her inspiring tale of courage in the face of both irrational racial hatred and adult foot-dragging (on both sides) through the ensuing riots and the electrifying September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, then brings later lives of her central participants up to date.
McDonald’s irrepressible third-grader (Judy Moody Gets Famous, 2001, etc.) takes a few false steps before hitting full stride. This time, not only has her genius little brother Stink submitted a competing entry in the Crazy Strips Band-Aid design contest, but in the wake of her science teacher’s heads-up about rainforest destruction and endangered animals, she sees every member of her family using rainforest products. It’s all more than enough to put her in a Mood, which gets her in trouble at home for letting Stink’s pet toad, Toady, go free, and at school for surreptitiously collecting all the pencils (made from rainforest cedar) in class. And to top it off, Stink’s Crazy Strips entry wins a prize, while she gets . . . a certificate. Chronicled amusingly in Reynolds’s frequent ink-and-tea drawings, Judy goes from pillar to post—but she justifies the pencil caper convincingly enough to spark a bottle drive that nets her and her classmates not only a hundred seedling trees for Costa Rica, but the coveted school Giraffe Award (given to those who stick their necks out), along with T-shirts and ice cream coupons. Judy’s growing corps of fans will crow “Rare!” right along with her. (Fiction. 8-10)
This satisfying eco-adventure stars sixth grader Julian Carter-Li, who has been left with a rich uncle in San Francisco while his mother researches in China. A leisurely buildup introduces the characters, outlines the issue of cutting old-growth redwoods and recounts the serendipitous series of events that leads Julian to discover and run away from his uncle’s plan to send him to summer math camp. Hiding out at Huckleberry Ranch, he and new friend Robin explore the neighboring forest his uncle has a permit to clear-cut. The suspense ramps up as Julian is discovered and returned to the city. Helped by best friend Danny Lopez, he and Robin hatch a series of plans to save the grove. Though traditional in concept—a band of young people, a summer adventure and the timely appearance of a previously unknown relative—the absorbing third-person narrative is modernized with the inclusion of e-mails. Adults play stock roles; the focus is on the young—a group that becomes gratifyingly diverse in age as well as experience and ethnic background. A highly enjoyable read. (Fiction. 9-12)
Sixth-grader Lucy Moon’s life begins to unravel the day her photographer mother sets off on an extended road trip. It’s already begun to fray upon her entry into middle school, where hormones—or the fear thereof—govern all the activities of students and teachers alike. Lucy, always a staunch upholder of justice, finds herself considering compromise—a distinctly worrisome turn of psychological events. With her mother gone, she finds herself without her most natural ally in her struggles—with her changing feelings and with the redoubtable Miss Wiggins, who has suddenly decided to fence off the community sledding hill. Timberlake handles her storylines gracefully, allowing Lucy’s personal and political development from a child to an adolescent to unfurl with fits and starts—that is to say, naturally. Lucy’s a winning character, whose native fierceness and sudden uncertainty will resonate with readers, as will her mounting incredulity as her mother’s trip stretches on and on through the year. As Lucy grows into her new self, redefining both friendships and her relationships with her parents, readers will see, along with Lucy, that change isn’t all bad. (Fiction. 9-13)
Tillage, a black custodian in a Baltimore private school, reminisces about his childhood as a sharecropper's son in the South, and his youth as a civil-rights protester. He explains the mechanics of sharecropping and segregation, tells of his mistreatment and his father's murder at the hands of white teenagers out to ``have some fun,'' and relates his experiences with police dogs, fire hoses, and jail while following Martin Luther King's ideas of nonviolent protest. Tillage matter-of-factly recounts horrific events, using spare language that is laced with remarkable wisdom, compassion, and optimism. Such gentleness only gives his story more power, as he drives home the harder realities of his childhood. Although the collage illustrations are interesting, they are too moody and remote for the human spirit behind the words, and readers will regret Roth's decision—especially in light of the boy smiling so brightly on the cover—that ``even one photo would be too many for Leon Walter Tillage's words.'' (Memoir. 8-14)
Twelve-year-old Mina Edelman is convinced that her family is the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln’s. Her father has the same initials and also cares passionately about social justice, sneaking her off to hear Martin Luther King and participate in fair-housing protests in Chicago. But when he brings his idealism home to suburban Downers Grove, 1960s violence touches their own lives and divides her family. Brandeis has created an appealing, quirky protagonist, still childlike in her sensibilities and understanding. Convinced that she is going to die young, like her almost-namesake Willie Lincoln, she diagnoses the pain in her developing breasts as incipient heart failure. She worries that her mother will go crazy and her father will be assassinated. Middle-school readers will know better but enjoy this humorous first-person glimpse into her misconstrued world. Adults don’t see so clearly, either. In her first novel for young readers, the author goes beyond usual stories of the civil-rights movement, demonstrating well-intentioned but tone-deaf gestures of white supporters and the discomfort of change. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Testa writes stories told in poems of surpassing beauty, fragility and depth. The narrator of these poems is 13, living in Maine with her parents, refugees from Kosova. She loves America, loves her place and her family but suffers because she knows her parents miss their homeland. They cannot return, however, as their daughter needs the medical care provided in the US. When she was four, she was burned badly, although as she says in “Fire can be kind,” her face was untouched. When her father hears of a protest against Somali immigrants in Lewiston, Maine (a true incident), he helps organize a rally in support of the Somalis that draws thousands of people. His daughter’s voice seems artless, and yet is full of youthful wisdom and candor: “ . . . we could be / a slice of pizza / with everything on it,” she says of her school’s diversity, and she thinks it’s pretty funny that her father learned English from watching TV so much. Riveting—and tender. (Fiction. 10-14)
Florrie’s 16th birthday wish is for a boycott of chain stores. She loves things that are fading and disappearing and collects old postcards, “ . . . fingering them as if they could carry her into their lost, hand-tinted worlds.” In her hometown San Antonio, this charismatic organizer rallies her friends in support of independent businesses. Over Wal-Mart’s “We Sell for Less” sign, they drape a sheet reading “Less Imagination, Less Independence, Less Creativity.” The boycotters land on the front page. What is unique about this story is how refreshingly genuine it is. In the end, her boycott fizzling, Florrie worries that her friends (longing to return to Old Navy and the Pancake House) are getting sick of her, and her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend turns out to be just that. However, her mother, who owns a small family restaurant, is facing Taco Bell as a competitor and happily agrees to an event celebrating authentic San Antonio cooking. Infused with Florrie’s yearning and written with Nye’s customary gentle attentiveness to language, theme and character, this will raise the question: “Did you ever love any place that went away?” (Fiction. 12-16)
Two books in one: first, 14 fascinating accounts of children working for human rights, the needy, the environment, or world peace (e.g., the Swedish first- and second-graders who founded the Children's Rain Forest; and the young New Mexicans who, inspired by Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, hope to build a peace statue in Los Alamos); second, a handbook for young activists, with practical suggestions for planning, organizing, publicizing, and raising funds for social action projects. The author's experience as a tenant organizer and a staff member of the Nature Conservancy is evident; with its inspirational examples and down-to-earth advice, the book should be very helpful to young people in schools, churches, clubs, and scouting who are planning service projects. Unusually attractive typography and layout, with lots of quotes, photos, etc., in the ample margins; sample documents; annotated lists of printed resources and organizations. (Nonfiction. 10+)
The Black Panthers seem to have the answers for Maxie and her friends, so when a traitor to the group is suspected, she is determined to find who is leaking information to the Chicago police.
Maxie and her brother Raheem are deeply involved with the Black Panther Party. The shooting of a close friend and ongoing conflicts with the Chicago police make the radical group seem like the only protection they can count on. Problems at home—their mother’s unemployment, drinking and various boyfriends—make the Panther office a refuge for Maxie, and she presses to become a real member: armed, trained and patrolling the streets like her brother. She is deemed too young, so when Maxie hears there may be a traitor in the Panthers, she decides to discover who it is and prove she is ready to take a real place in the organization. The discovery changes everything and forces Maxie to face almost unbearable truths. In this companion to award-winning A Rock and the River (2009), Magoon explores the role the Black Panthers played in urban communities during the tumultuous times of the late ’60s. Maxie is a believable and feisty character. Her interactions with her brother and his efforts to be the parent their mother seems incapable of being both ring true, as does her relationship with Sam, still grieving the death of his brother. Historical moments such as the riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention strengthen the sense of time and place, but this is primarily an authentic story of a young person attempting to grasp where she will stand in the struggle.
A well-written, compelling trip to a past not often portrayed in children's literature.
(Historical fiction. 8-12)
This profoundly moving story is all the more impressive because of its basis in fact. Although the story is fictionalized, its most harrowing aspects are true: “Today, more than two hundred million children between the ages of five and seventeen are ‘economically active’ in the world.” Iqbal Masih, a real boy, was murdered at age 13. His killers have never been found, but it’s believed that a cartel of ruthless people overseeing the carpet industry, the “Carpet Mafia,” killed him. The carpet business in Pakistan is the backdrop for the story of a young Pakistani girl in indentured servitude to a factory owner, who also “owned” the bonds of 14 children, indentured by their own families for sorely needed money. Fatima’s first-person narrative grips from the beginning and inspires with every increment of pride and resistance the defiant Iqbal instills in his fellow workers. Although he was murdered for his efforts, Iqbal’s life was not in vain; the accounts here of children who were liberated through his and activist adults’ efforts will move readers for years to come. (Fiction. 10-14)
Shy Asha Jamison is snowed under with AP classes, college-application essays and the sky-high expectations of her Indian-American mom and Mexican-Irish-American dad. Digs from classmates at her mixed-race status don’t help, but they give Asha an idea. Voilà, the Latte Rebellion is born, a scheme to promote blended ethnicity (like lattes, mixed people come in many hues and flavors) by selling T-shirts. The profits will fund a graduation trip with biracial friend Carey Wong. The cause quickly takes on a life of its own; Rebellion chapters spring up across the country, generating publicity good and bad. As Asha discovers a latent gift for leadership and passion for social justice (and for college activist Thad Sakai), her grades and college hopes, along with her friendship with Carey, deteriorate. While this debut skims over thornier issues of blended identity, and the Rebellion’s strategy of social change through viral marketing is questionable, Asha is engaging and the depiction of her journey—a realistic mess of vague hopes, serendipitous events, serious missteps and gutsy choices—compellingly original. (Fiction. YA)
Using the words of participants in the landmark struggles in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, Levine powerfully re-creates their experiences. Seeking out African-Americans who were children or teenagers at the time—none of them famous though many intimates of figures like Michael Schwerner, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Martin Luther King, Jr.—the author records their memories of segregation and of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Claudette Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks's similar action); of integrating the schools (the black students' dogged persistence while enduring the open antagonism and injustices of classmates and teachers may be the most moving heroism in a book where extraordinary courage inhabits every page); of sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter registration drives; of the Selma march. Prefacing each section with historical background, Levine skillfully selects accounts to portray the period, the particular circumstances, the people involved, the brutality and intransigence of the whites, the powerful sense of brotherhood, community, and self-worth that the Movement engendered in blacks, and their reliance on their faith and on unyielding nonviolence. Notes on the 30 interviewees here reveal varied later lives: teachers, lawyers, and other members of the middle class; a home health aide, an assistant secretary of labor in the Carter Administration. Inspiring and richly authentic source material: a must. Chronology (1954-68); bibliography of additional sources; b&w photos and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 10+)
A young eco-activist spreads the word in this message-driven webcomic spinoff.
Showing a realistic 12-year-old’s reluctance to change her ways and expectations, Luz at last sees the environmental light thanks to repeated large-scale power failures and her mother’s continued complaints about the prices of gas ($7.01 Canadian, which puts this story in a very near future) and of groceries that aren’t locally made. With help from friends like her comically high-strung new buddy Robert, a vegetarian and computer geek, and other neighbors, Luz goes on to convert a littered empty lot into a tidy, well-tended pocket garden/playground. Though the dialogue is anything but natural-sounding (“Good-bye, trash-infested lot, hello plant paradise! This is going to change the face of our street forever!”), Luz’s infectious energy comes through strongly both in her tendency to utter grand pronouncements and in the exuberantly exaggerated body language she and the other figures display in the author’s two-color cartoon scenes. Analytical readers may wonder where Luz gets all the free planters and playground equipment, or how she kept her mother in the dark until the park was a fait accompli—but internal logic takes a back seat here to inspirational rhetoric and the rewards of community organizing.
A high-energy consciousness raiser, if not a practical guide to environmental issues and action. (Graphic novel. 8-10)
Children organize to clean up an algae-slimed swimming hole.
A veteran environmental activist, Caduto presents a fictionalized case study in which four children, disgusted at the condition of their favorite pool, follow a mysterious woman named Riparia (“My name means ‘of the riverbank,’ ” she explains) upstream to discover the pollution’s causes. Runoff from a fertilized cornfield that goes right up to the river’s bank is one, and cow manure is the other—the barbed-wire fence allows a herd of cows to wade into the river, where they do their business. Following Riparia’s suggestions, the children persuade the farmer to let them move the field and fences back to set up a buffer zone, then enlist friends and neighbors to plant trees and wildflowers. Cut to two years later, and the pool is clean once again. The well-meaning text concentrates more on delivering message and information than telling a story, but Pastuchiv offers readers plenty to discover for themselves in her impressionistic paintings. Each river scene is generously populated with dozens of identifiable birds, insects and other wildlife—all listed at the end, though without a visual key.