Rob Sanders’ Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (2018), is an invaluable contribution to children’s literature that should be in every school and public library. Although the story focuses on Harvey Milk, a historically significant figure all children should learn about, it does so by positioning him within a vibrant community. As a result, the brightly illustrated picture book gives young readers a strong sense of the importance of community belonging and community building, while also paying homage to a courageous figure in US history.

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Minh Lê’s Drawn Together

Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and imaginatively illustrated by Dan Santat, lives up to its clever and dimensional title. It is a thoughtful story about collapsing linguistic and generational divides through love and shared passion, in this case, of art. Drawn Together is a significant contribution to children’s literature that tells both a specific tale about immigration and assimilation and a more general one about establishing inventive ways to connect. Continue reading

Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva’s La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

La Frontera: My Journey with Papa (2018) is a much-needed bilingual children’s book that thoughtfully explores one family’s experience of immigration to the United States. Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva co-authored the text, which is based on Alva’s experience arriving in the United States with his father over thirty-years ago. Mexican illustrator Claudia Navarro’s beautifully detailed images help communicate the emotional significance of the story by carefully capturing expressions and gestures of characters. Importantly, La Frontera does not just make us feel; it also makes us think about immigration contextually by subtly introducing political and economic explanations for the actions and experiences of the characters.

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Celano, Collins, and Hazzard’s Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice

I really wanted to like Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice. I really wanted to, but I didn’t. Several psychologists with a history of working together in Atlanta, Georgia (Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard) collaborated to write the book, which is nicely illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. The synopsis, printed on the back of the book, states: “Something Happened in our Town follows two families – one White, one Black – as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community.” Continue reading

Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings’s I am Jazz

I am Jazz (2014) is an autobiographical children’s picture book co-authored by Jessica Herthel and the title character, Jazz Jennings. Jennings, now a young transgender woman with her own TLC show, first entered the spotlight in 2007 when she was featured on a 20/20 documentary about transgender children. This book is a significant contribution to LGBTQ* children’s literature, since it is co-authored by, and narrated from the perspective of, the transgender child protagonist.

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Maya Gonzalez’s When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity in Oppressive Times

Maya Gonzalez’s necessary children’s picture book, When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity in Oppressive Times (2017), sends a positive message to children about the power of creativity, awareness, self-care, and community engagement. When a Bully is President requires reflection and discussion, preferably with a knowledgeable person who can help children work through complex connections between the “big” and “small,” past and present, forms of bullying Gonzalez describes.

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Josh Funk’s How to Code a Sandcastle

How to Code a Sandcastle, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios, is a silly take on a serious subject – the lack of women, especially minority women, in coding. The text begins with a foreword by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. Saujani suggests that coding should be “a familiar part of every child’s world.” Funk’s book certainly contributes to this project. Pearl, the pigtailed russet-brown protagonist and narrator, makes core concepts in coding engaging and accessible for even very young audiences.

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Helga Bansch’s Odd Bird Out

Written and illustrated by Helga Bansch, Odd Bird Out is the story of a flamboyant raven named Robert. Bansch introduces a fabulously queer character who finds himself by leaving his repressive nest. Although not widely available, Bansch’s raucous picture book is worth the hunt! Continue reading

Stacy B. Davids’ Annie’s Plaid Shirt

Annie’s Plaid Shirt (2015) is the cleverly crafted tale of a plaid shirt loving girl whose mother doesn’t quite understand how important her shirt is to her identity. Written by Stacy B. Davids, a clinical psychologist, and warmly illustrated by Rachel Balsaitis, this text earns four thumbs up from me and my three-year-old. In fact, he’s made me read it so many times it felt like a betrayal to pick it up on my own to write a review!

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Christine Baldacchino’s Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (2014), thoughtfully written by Christine Baldacchino and warmly illustrated in deep swirling oranges by Isabelle Malenfant, is my favorite of the many books about gender creative children published since Cheryl Kilodavis’s 2009 My Princess Boy.

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