November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

#Resist: 3 Nonfiction Titles on Social Justice

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As the word resistance becomes more and more incorporated into everyday ­language, students are bound to be curious about past and present social justice movements. The following three titles explore the ways in which young people have rallied for change around the world and across time.

Martinez, Xiuhtezcatl & Justin Spizman. We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet. 240p. Rodale. Sept. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781635650679.

Gr 7 Up–This guide, written by veteran protester and former Earth Guardian leader Martinez, now 17 years old, is well worth the read. Martinez uses his own extensive life experiences as a template for encouraging youth from all walks of life to participate in efforts to protect the earth and its resources. Martinez is an expert in advocating for, and speaking about, ecological and environmental movements. He has been a proponent for the planet since he was five years old, and has the leadership of Earth Guardians and a speech to the United Nations as part of his impressive résumé. Martinez writes directly to teens using contemporary expressions and phrases, an approach that should appeal to readers. The writing is clear and cogent, easy to read and digest, but is not condescending; he uses plenty of science and scientific terms to back up his argument. Each chapter includes realistic advice and ideas for students to take their own action, and to become more knowledgeable about the issues. The book is well organized, and well researched, with footnotes and current resources. VERDICT Filled with relevant and timely information about climate change, pollution, and efforts to mitigate these ills, this is a good primer for teens wishing to become better informed or involved.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Nagara, Innosanto. The Wedding Portrait. illus. by Innosanto Nagara. 36p. Triangle Square. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781609808020.

Gr 3-5–An introduction to social justice through a framing device in which Nagara tells his grandson about a photograph from his wedding, where he and his wife were arrested for protesting nuclear bombs. Nagara’s story grows in scope to encompass different forms of protest, from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter, and expands beyond the United States to include stories of social activism from other countries, including India and Colombia. Warm, bright illustrations provide the text with a sense of urgency, and the individuals portrayed in the images complement the diverse scope of Nagara’s journey. The book veers away from didacticism by grounding its descriptions of various forms of protest with human touches (notably, the central story of Nagara and his wife’s arrest). The book also emphasizes the difference between simple “disobedience” (i.e., refusing to do your chores) and “civil disobedience.” By concluding the work with a description of his arrest, Nagara taps into some of the challenges and risks associated with protest. The book ends on a note stressing the importance of community and collaboration and learning from each other. VERDICT An intriguing and timely purchase for young readers that provides a valuable introduction to social activism and protest.–Maryanne ­Olson, Queens Borough Public Library, NY

The Little Book of Little Activists. 48p. photos. Viking. Sept. 2017. Tr $10.99. ISBN 9780451478542.

Gr 1-4–Featured in this book are photographs of some of the youngest participants of the historical 2017 Women’s March. From two sisters holding a poster with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. to a little boy holding a handwritten sign that reads “Girls should be treated fairly,” the visual imagery successfully communicates the energy of the Women’s March and similar protests. Many of the photographs are paired with additional quotes from the children, such as words from Maddie, age 14, instructing readers to “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” Also interspersed throughout are basic definitions related to the democratic process, including the meanings of democracy, equality, and freedom. A forward from Bob Bland, cochair of the Women’s March, and an afterword from Lynda Blackmon Lowery, author of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, provide additional context for more mature readers. While this text can provide an unintimidating introduction to political activism for children, young readers may lack the background and perspective to understand the significance of the events and would need this book to be paired with a discussion about the democratic process, peaceful protests, and the status of civil rights throughout history and today. Adults who participated and supported the Women’s March or similar events will appreciate the reminder that the positive impacts of political activism reverberate through future generations. VERDICT An inspiring reminder that people of any age can play a role in the quest for social justice. A general addition to nonfiction ­collections.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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Comments

  1. Yes, The Little Book of Little Activists will be a marvelous resource to which to steer all the first to fourth graders interested in joining their librarian in The Resistance.

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