Monica Clark-Robinson’s Let the Children March

Let the Children MarchLet the Children March, written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison, is a brilliant and bold children’s picture book that brings the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963 to life for young readers.

In the South, Jim Crow laws enforced segregation, which led to unequal access to education, employment, health care, and housing. Leaders in the Black Civil Rights movement came up with many strategies to end segregation.

A powerful strategy of resistance, peaceful protest, prompted the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963. Children took to the streets to demand equality. Hundreds of brave young people were arrested, beaten, bullied, attacked with powerful hoses, and threatened with dogs. They continued to march. Images of their protest, and the violent state sanctioned response to it, were televised. Many of the protester’s demands were begrudgingly met as a result of the protest.

Clark-Robinson’s first-person narrative give the book a sense of urgency; events seem to unfold in real time as we march with the narrator. The first-person narrative also allows access to the narrator’s emotions, which range from fear to conviction and pride.

On page after page, Morrison’s images capture the complex emotions of all involved. Each illustration truly is a work of art. He unflinchingly conveys the brutality experienced by children. In a two-page spread, several Black children huddle against a building as three white men spray them with water that pounds their vulnerable bodies. Two dogs rip the clothes off children, drawing blood in the process.

In thoughtful words and detailed illustrations, this pivotal moment in US history is made accessible to children in all its pain, shame, and pride. Morrison’s images show what Clark-Robinson’s sparse, carefully chosen words tell.

While reading, it is impossible to ignore racism’s presence in US history, and of course, its present. Empowering back matter addresses children as activists who can become educated and participate meaningfully in community life.

This book will make a wonderful addition to school and personal libraries. It would work well as part of a multidisciplinary lesson about history, literature, and civic engagement.


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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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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Daniel Vandever’s “Fall in Line, Holden!”

Written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever, “Fall in Line, Holden!” (2017), subtly references the American government’s forceful separation of indigenous children from their families, community, and culture. Sent to boarding schools, indigenous children were required to adopt Western names, hairstyles, language, and culture in a violent effort at assimilation. Vandever focuses the story on the rebellious spirit of a child who refuses to fall into line, highlighting the inability of powerful groups to stomp out resistance.

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Diana Cohn’s ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!

¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! (2005), a bilingual text written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, explores the Los Angeles Janitor Strike of 2010 from the perspective of a family participating in it. The text opens with the mother of a young boy, Carlitos, tucking him into bed before she leaves for work. The boy’s bedroom is tidy and bright, and Delgado’s bold and detailed illustration captures the young boy’s sleepiness and his mother’s love as they share a glance.

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