Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey’s Families

Families (2017), co-written by Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko, introduces young readers to family diversity through the lives of students at a school in Iqaluit, the capitol city of Nunavut, a Canadian territory, which is majority Inuit. The lesson that all families are different is deftly introduced as the protagonist, a child named Talittuq, moves through his first day of year two at school.

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Joanne Robertson’s The Water Walker

TheWaterWalker.jpgThe Water Walker (2017), written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, brings attention to the work of Mother Earth Water Walkers. The group began walking around large bodies of water, beginning with Lake Superior in 2003, to bring attention to the water crisis. Robertson’s book, written with urgency, optimism, and humor, makes this important environmental issue accessible to young children. Even more, the story explores Indigenous traditions and values while depicting the important environmental activism of Indigenous women.

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Debbie Levy’s I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (2016), is a deeply layered children’s picture book that tells a uniquely American story through the biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead of suggesting young girls should smile demurely it treats disagreeing intelligently and passionately as a moral imperative.

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Daniel Haack’s Prince and Knight

Prince and Knight (2018), written by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, immediately reveals its affinity to fairy tales. The title page depicts a typical fairy tale cartography: a castle surrounded by water and the far simpler homes of villagers. This broad overview of every fairy tale landscape, located somewhere far away, quickly shifts to the castle itself, which is lit from the inside against a blue night sky. Unsurprisingly, the text that hovers over the castle reads: “Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here…”. Continue reading

Jo Hirst’s A House for Everyone

A House for Everyone (2018), written by Jo Hirst and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff, introduces children to a range of gender expressions and identities while shattering stereotypes about gender norms. Bardoff’s rich and inviting images work wonderfully with Hirst’s text, which would otherwise struggle to deliver its message. This timely contribution to the ever-growing canon of LGBTQ* children’s literature presents gender with care and a much-needed matter-of-factness likely to appeal to adult readers using the text to encourage conversations about gender and acceptance.

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Julia Finley Mosca’s The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (2017), written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, is a smart biographical children’s picture book about Dr. Temple Grandin, a compassionate scientist with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Born in 1947, Temple Grandin became an important figure in the farming industry for her work refining the treatment of cattle. Grandin negotiated ASD and the sexism in her field at a time when ASD was poorly understood and women didn’t do “men’s” work. Writer and illustrator both do a very good job representing neurodiversity as a critical lens for seeing the world differently and making a difference in the world.

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