Discovering Our Past | Social Justice Series Nonfiction

Publishers continue to respond to the need for diversity in the social sciences and young readers are better off for it.

Publishers continue to respond to the need for inclusivity in the social sciences, and young readers are better off for it. They will learn about marginalized communities in America’s history without the typical ­Euro-centric focus, place the current refugee crisis among those in history, and learn about civil rights icons and those who fought but haven’t been widely recognized.



Miller, J.P. Ketanji Brown Jackson. illus. by David Wilkerson. Nov. 2022. ISBN 9781731656292.
Su, Karen. Grace Lee Boggs. illus. by Arlo Li. Mar. 2023. ISBN 9781731656308.
––––. Philip Vera Cruz. illus. by Arlo Li. Mar. 2023. ISBN 9781731656315.
ea vol: 24p. (Leaders Like Us). Rourke/Discovery Library. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 2-4 –This charmingly illustrated biography series introduces young readers to leaders in diverse fields. Before and after reading activities are supplied for caregivers; these include how to close-read a text and how to tap into background knowledge. Minimal text and large drawings tell the story of the individual, from tales of their childhoods to important milestones in their careers. Following the text is a time line of their life, a glossary, an index, text-dependent questions, and an extension activity. VERDICT The friendly style, reader resources, and easy text make this an excellent series for reluctant readers.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Castrovilla, Selene. The Rise: 1970. ISBN 9781338837599.
––––. The Rise: 1972. ISBN 9781338837629.
Leslie, Jay. The Rise: 1967. ISBN 9781338837520.
––––. The Rise: 1968. ISBN 9781338837568.
Yomtov, Nel. The Rise: 1978. ISBN 9781338837650.
ea vol: 96p. (Exploring Civil Rights). Scholastic. Apr. 2023. Tr. $32.
Gr 5-8 –History repeats itself in this continuing series highlighting important milestones in American civil rights. Written with expert consultants from the National Civil Rights Museum, each book focuses on one year in the long fight for civil rights among diverse groups in America. The opening chapter offers a brief glimpse of the state of living conditions for marginalized groups before diving into the landmark changes of the current year. Readers learn about the formation of Women’s History Month, the restoration of tribal lands, the career of Thurgood Marshall, and the tactics activists used to enact change. But they will also read about the attacks on progress, such as the assassination of Harvey Milk, the racism in the military draft system, and the Zoot Suit Riots. The series expertly juxtaposes civil rights wins with defeats, which, along with the media’s designation of peaceful protests as “race riots,” will be familiar to many readers. Each book includes a biography of a notable person, a time line, an extensive glossary, a ­bibliography, and an index. VERDICT The language in this series lets you know precisely what the authors think about moments in history. However, it covers events and people often overlooked in history books. Recommended.

Gonzales, Leticia. The Untold Story of Sylvia Mendez: School Desegregation Pioneer. ISBN 9781669005049.
Oxtra, Cristina. The Untold Story of Larry Itliong: Labor Rights Hero. ISBN 9781669004806.
Tyner, Dr. Artika R. The Untold Story of Annie Turnbo Malone: Hair Care Millionaire. ISBN 9781669004967.
––––. The Untold Story of Sarah Keys Evans: Civil Rights Soldier. ISBN 9781669004882.
ea vol: 32p. (First but Forgotten). Capstone. Jan. 2023. Tr. $31.32.
Gr 4-6 –Before Cesar Chavez and Rosa Parks, there were Larry Itliong and Sarah Keys Evans. These are two of the civil rights pioneers spotlighted in this series of unsung heroes who fought against unfair labor practices, racist transportation policies, school segregation, and, in the case of Sarah Keys Evans, used her wealth to create new opportunities for marginalized communities. While their stories failed to capture the attention of mainstream history books, their contributions led to later, greater achievements. This series helps place the well-known civil rights victories in a larger narrative, broken up by large images and text boxes with interesting facts. Each book includes a glossary, an index, and further reading. VERDICT Civil rights victories didn’t come easily, and this series helps young readers understand that. Recommended.

Green, Meghan. What Are Disability Rights? ISBN 9781534536791.
Holt, Amy. What Are Foreign Relations? ISBN 9781534543645.
Jeffries, Joyce. What’s Censorship? ISBN 9781534543768.
Kawa, Katie. What’s the LGBTQ+ Community? ISBN 9781534536753.
Lombardo, Jennifer. Who Are Environmental Activists? ISBN 9781534543720.
Thorpe, Judy. What’s War? ISBN 9781534543683.
ea vol: 24p. (What’s the Issue?). Greenhaven/KidHaven. Dec. 2022. Tr. $26.23.
Gr 3-5 –Children hear a lot about world events, and this series helps answer the questions they might have. Readers are provided with a background of the issue and the current debate surrounding it. Frequent text boxes provide supporting details that shed extra light on the matter. Large, attention-grabbing images help break up the text. Each book ends with a call to action, offering easy ways kids can get involved with issues that they feel strongly about. The titles also include a glossary, an index, and books and websites for more information. Overall, this series cuts through the sensationalism and presents a clear look at the important issues children will one day have to face. ­VERDICT This series treats children like young citizens with a role to play in the world. Recommended.


Upper Middle School to High School

Goodman, Michael E. Extreme Weather. ISBN 9781640267107.
––––. The Refugee Crisis. ISBN 9781640267138.
Hanel, Rachael. The COVID Pandemic. ISBN 9781640267152.
Riggs, Kate. The Great Recession. ISBN 9781640267114.
Whiting, Jim. The Human Genome. ISBN 9781640267121.
––––. The Rise of Social Media. ISBN 9781640267145.
ea vol: 80p. (Odysseys in Recent Events). Creative Education. Jan. 2023. Tr. $34.95.
Gr 7-10 –This informative series provides essential research material on global events from recent decades. Each topic is placed in historical context; for example, the author asks readers to consider ­Martin ­Luther’s theses as “going viral” while discussing social media, and gives ­background material about refugee crises and destructive storms while explaining those subjects. The text is information-heavy, but surrounded by plenty of white space, full-page photos, and sidebars, all of which help to break up the text. The­ ­accompanying photos are expertly ­chosen to grab readers’ attention and bring ­moments in history to life. The books include a ­glossary, bibliography, and index. VERDICT This is excellent research material for ­current events.

Kallen, Stuart A. The Native American Experience. ISBN 9781678204723.
Nakaya, Andrea C. The Asian American Experience. ISBN 9781678204662.
Nardo, Don. The Black American Experience. ISBN 9781678204686.
Sheen, Barbara. The Hispanic American Experience. ISBN 9781678204709.
ea vol: 64p. (Who We Are). ReferencePoint. Mar. 2023. Tr. $32.95.
Gr 6 Up –This series shatters stereotypes about minority groups in America. The writers trace the historical roots of each community to their contemporary unique group identity. But no community is treated as homogenous. Readers will learn about the many Native American tribes and the different traditions and customs that developed over their histories. They will learn about the many ethnic groups lumped together under the umbrella term ‘Asian American.’ This series challenges the textbook history students are taught by removing the European focus of the story. Unfortunately, many pages are walls of text spaced very close together. While some are broken up with large photos, text boxes, and colored circles containing quotes, it still puts a lot of strain on the eye and will turn off some readers. Each book includes statistics about the population, extensive source notes, recommended websites, and an index. VERDICT This series provides excellent research material and can serve as a companion text to traditional textbooks, but the format needs work.


After reading these series, readers will have learned more about the struggles and achievements of diverse populations on a large scale in Who We Are (ReferencePoint Press) and through personal stories of forgotten heroes in First But Forgotten (Capstone). They will have a better understanding of the recent events that have brought the world to the present moment and the challenges they will face as future leaders.

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