All starred resources [*] are available from the Teaching for Change catalog, www.teachingforchange.org; 800-763-9131.
América Is Her Name, by Luis RodrÍguez, illus. by Carlos Vásquez. Simultaneously published in a Spanish edition, La Llaman América, trans. by Tino Villanueva. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone, 1998. These books are the first children’s picture books to be published by Curbstone, which has long published quality books by Latin American and Latino authors. The story, by prize-winning poet and journalist RodrÍguez (author of the memoir Always Running), deals with life in urban neighborhoods, but with a positive theme: You can succeed despite odds against you.
*The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich. Hyperion Books for Children. 1999. Omakayas, a seven-year-old Native American girl of the Ojibwa tribe, lives through the joys of summer and the perils of winter on an island in Lake Superior in 1847. This is the first in a series of young adult novels based on noted author Louise Erdrich’s own family history. This book begins to tell the story untold in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series.
*Dreams of Looking Up, Cindy Goff; art by Paul and Mary Fricke. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. 1999. This educational comic book teaches the meaning and importance of tribal sovereignty. Through the Ojibwe oral tradition, a young girl learns about her people’s culture in conversations with her deceased grandmother. She passes on these vital lessons to her skeptical older brother.
From Slave Ship to Freedom Road, Julius Lester, paintings by Rod Brown. New York: Puffin Books, 1998. A beautifully illustrated book that presents the slave experience’ from auction block to freedom.
*Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet Book in Spanish and English, Alma Flor Ada and Simón Silva. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books. 1997. In children’s poems and sun-drenched paintings, Gathering the Sun takes us into the fields and orchards, and the lives of the people who work them. Using the letters of the Spanish alphabet as a template, Alma Flor Ada has written twenty-eight poems that celebrate honor and pride, family and friends, history and heritage, and, of course, the bounty of the harvest.
*Get Real Comics, Philadelphia: COLLAGE/Tides Center. 1997. Popular culture that helps kids 8-14 rethink issues like gender, sexuality, self-esteem, race, violence, friendship, and family. Award-winning series used in classrooms and community groups nationwide.
Grab Hands and Run, Frances Temple. New York: Harper Trophy. 1992. Set during the civil war in El Salvador, a family flees north to escape the government soldiers. 4th/up.
Home to Medicine Mountain, Chiori Santiago. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press, 1998. Based on a true story, this picture book tells the story of how two young members of the Mountain Maidu and Hamawi Pit-River tribes in California escaped from the government-run boarding school and came back home.
I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry,Catherine Clinton, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. A beautiful collection of poetry from 25 of the greatest African-American poets, accompanied by striking colored drawings. Appropriate for all age groups.
* In My Heart, I Am A Dancer, Chamroeun Yin. Philadelphia Folklore Project. 1996. Through photos and large print, traditional Cambodian dancer Chamrouen tells the story of his life. Children learn that not only does he dance, but he also sews, gardens, cooks, spends time with his friends and is a teacher. In My Heart is a model for teaching about cultural traditions. Bilingual English and Cambodian.
*The Long March: A Famine Gift for Ireland, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Gary White Deer. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 1998. Based on a true story of solidarity, this picture book for all ages tells of the Choctaws in 1847 who collected $170 from their meager savings for the people of Ireland during the Potato Famine. Readers learn the story of the Choctaw who were forced by the U.S. government to leave their ancestral home in Mississippi. In the Long March west, thousands died of cold and starvation. The story’s protagonist Choona, a young Choctaw, grapples with whether he is willing to extend help to a group of Europeans after the pain his own family has experienced.
Moon Over Crete, Jyotsna Sreenivasan. Holy Cow Press!, 1994. This novel for young adults is about the mixed messages society sends to young girls, and the double standards and sexual discrimination it subjects them to. The story centers on 11-year-old Lily, and her ‘travels’ back to ancient Crete, an egalitarian culture that did not have gender-specific roles or jobs.
*My Name is Maria Isabel, Alma Flor Ada. Alladin. 1993. For Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. Named for her Papa’s mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother, Maria must find a way to make her teacher understand that if she loses her name, she’s lost an important part of herself.
Passage to Freedom, The Sugihara Story, Ken Mochizuki. New York: Lee and Low Books, 1997. A children’s picture book which describes the true story of Hiroki Sugihara, the eldest son of the Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who at great risk to his family helped save hundreds of Jews from the Nazis.
The Pasteboard Bandit, Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes, illustrated by Peggy Turley. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Written 60 years ago by two great African-American poets, this beautifully illustrated children’s book depicts a white American boy and a Mexican boy in an intercultural adventure in which both cultures and languages are equal, although the Americans are viewed as the ‘strange’ ones. Never published before, this is a must for all elementary school libraries.
The Red Comb, by Fernando Pic, illustrated by María Antonia Ordez. Ri Piedras, PR: Ediciones Huracán, 1991. In a story set in Puerto Rico, two women conspire to save a young woman from a slave catcher. Based on historical documents, this beautifully illustrated book brings to children another aspect of the struggle against slavery in the Americas. Spanish version also available.
Richard Wright and the Library Card, by William Miller, illus. by Gregory Christie. New York: Lee & Low Books, 1997. 888-320-3395. A wonderfully illustrated picture book that describes the struggle of the great African-American author Richard Wright’s attempt to get access to all-white libraries. Appropriate for all ages and a good way to introduce Wright’s works to older students.
Stolen Spirit, Peter Hays and Beti Rozen, illustrated by Graça Lima. Fort Lee, NJ: Sem Fronteiras Press, 2001. One interpretation of how a Native boy might have reacted to the first encounter in 1500 with Portuguese explorers who chop down trees that the boy’s people think are sacred. Beautifully illustrated.
*The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores, Sub-comandante Marcos. Cinco Puntos Press. 1999. A beautifully illustrated, bilingual folktale from the indigenous people of Chiapas. This story celebrates diversity as it tells how all the colors of the earth were born.
*The Streets are Free, Kurusa. Annick Press. 1995. An illustrated story based on the experience of children in a low-income neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela who fought for the right to turn an empty lot into a playground. Useful at all age levels to raise discussion about how people can organize to defend their rights.
Sweet Words So Brave: The Story of African American Literature, Barbara K. Curry and James Michael Brodie. Madison, WI: Zino Press, 1966. Inspired by African-American literature and history, this colorful work reflects the magic of the Harlem Renaissance and the influence of African-American writers.
*Talking Walls: The Stories Continue, Margy B. Knight and Anne S. O’Brien. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House.1996. Illustrations and text tell the stories of walls, and the people they divide, throughout the world. Includes the stories of: Chinese detainees who wrote poetry on the walls of Angel Island, children who write poetry on the fence around the home of Pablo Neruda in Chile, children who created a garden in Philadelphia from an abandoned lot and painted a mural on the surrounding wall, children in Belfast who are divided by a wall constructed by the army in the 1970s, and more.
The Turtle Watchers, Pamela Powell. New York: Puffin Books, 1992. A chapter book set in the Caribbean where three sisters work to protest the killings of the giant leatherback turtle. 4th/up.
*We Can Work It Out: Conflict Resolution for Children, Barbara K. Polland. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press. 2000. An invaluable tool for parents and teachers. Through beautiful color photographs and questions, this book encourages conversations between adults and children about typical conflicts children encounter, such as teasing and sharing. It helps children develop problem-solving skills they need to resolve conflicts independently.
The Well, Mildred Taylor. Dial, 1995. The newest book in Taylor’s saga of the Logan family introduced in Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. This story is of the grandfather’s childhood, when his family is the only one in the county that has a functional well. Racial tensions erupt between two teenage kids exposing the early 1900s Southern power structure. Highly recommended, 4th grade up.
We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women’s Factory Strike of 1909, Joan Dash. New York: Scholastic, 1996. A readable non-fiction account of one of the most important women’s strikes in US history. 5th/up.
What Do You Know About Racism, Pete Sanders and Steve Meyers. Copper Beach Books, 1995. A children’s book from England that directly addresses racism with clear definitions and realistic comic strips. Grade 4 and up.