A Jewish Child, a Hateful Note, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Looking for great picture books about Martin Luther King, Jr. to read with children of all ages? Look no further.

In Honor of Martin Luther King, great picture books to celebrate the great man.jpg

I was in Mr. Terry’s seventh grade civics class when I found it. Just weeks away from my Bat Mitzvah, I walked into the crowded classroom, headed to my desk, and sat down to find a note waiting for me. It was a folded up piece of paper, and it had my name, Lauren, scribbled on the front. I remember smiling as I opened it up, because what kid doesn’t love getting notes, waiting with anticipation to discover the sender? But when the paper was spread out in front of me, I inhaled sharply. I vividly remember trying to fight back the tears that flooded my eyes, the fear that paralyzed my body. I recall my hands shaking as I tried desperately to catch my best friend’s attention, all while wondering which of my other classmates were laughing at me as I suffered.

What was inside this awful note? A crude, black swastika.

As a Jewish child, I grew up learning about the evils of religious persecution and racial discrimination, but this was the first time it hunted me down and stared me in the face, the first time I was personally affected by such despicable hatred. This experience left an indelible scar on my heart, right before the momentous day I was meant to rejoice at becoming a Jewish young woman. It was on this day I truly understood that people would engage in abhorrent behavior simply because they don’t like how you look or agree with what you believe.

As you know, sharing #booksforbetter has become a true passion of mine. I love sharing books that help us bridge divides and teach kids that we are all one and the same — all of us human beings with beating hearts and big dreams and a thirst to learn and grow. It has also become important to me to share books showcasing the dangers of hatred — and how love, communication and understanding can help assuage this dark stain on our world.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

And so it is that I have always had a deep appreciation for stories about Martin Luther King, Jr. Every time I read about or watched his powerful “I have a dream” speech following that hateful act in civics class, I believed he was also speaking to me, a young Jewish girl seeking to understand why someone would want to hurt me because of my religion, just as people wanted to hurt him because of his skin color. I hoped his vision included a world where black and white children played together alongside children of all other races and religions, too. After all, one of the core tenets of Judaism is to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” a commandment which comes with no qualifications or asterisks. MLK’s words and brave actions in the face of extreme danger gave me hope at a time when I was terrified, hope that we would all — White, Black, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Gay, Straight, you name it — find a way to love one another wholly and unconditionally. His words continue to bring me hope today, especially in light of recent events in our country like the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the horrific murder of eleven Jews worshiping at Shabbat services in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

While many believe we have made significant progress both as a society and as a country, racial and religious discrimination still lurk behind dark corners. It is sickening — and thus vitally important that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is taught to and celebrated by children around the globe. Why? Because MLK is a hero to us all, and his legacy will continue to motivate future generations to carry out his great vision. His mighty words can find a home within every person’s heart and soul. They have the ability to inspire each and every one of us to reject prejudice and strive for a society where equality, compassion and respect reign supreme.

I sincerely hope that if you do one thing on Monday, January 21st or during Black History Month this February, you read a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. with your children and students. There are phenomenal picture books about MLK’s life that can be discussed with kids of all ages, and I cannot stress how important it is to share this one lesson with the next generation: Hate is a learned behavior. Only when we listen to one another and embrace our glorious differences can we eradicate hate and replace it with love.

Books we love reading with kids of all ages to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr..jpg

We hope you enjoy these remarkable books as much as we do.

Be a King picture books about Martin LUther King.jpg

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome: I love reading this beautiful book with my youngest students, for it imparts all of the values MLK stood for, without going into the more painful details of his journey. This book encourages a new generation of young people to be kings by emulating MLK’s remarkable character traits and actions. The lovely illustrations show kids how they can reenact his teachings in their own lives by always standing up for peace, breaking the chains of ignorance, and stamping out hatred by putting a foot down and standing tall.

Martins big words picture books for kids.jpg

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Through his own famous quotes, this beautiful picture book brings MLK to life. Beginning with his life as a young boy and his vow to one day get “big words” like his father, to his death at a garbage worker’s strike, this biography is a fabulous introduction to one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of my favorite books to read with early elementary students, for its simple narrative that doesn’t stray from the gritty facts but hits all the right notes for younger readers. Age appropriate, powerful, and elegant.

I have a dream picture books about Martin Luther King Jr.jpg

I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: On August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. It was there he delivered one of the most powerful speeches our nation has ever witnessed. His words from this monumental speech are paired with Nelson’s exquisite paintings, making this a magnificent book to be treasured, memorized and honored for generations to come.

I am Martin Luther King kids books about Martin Luther King.jpg

I am Martin Luther King, Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: We absolutely love the Ordinary People Change the World series for the way it tackles big stories and remarkable heroes in a kid-friendly, accessible manner. Through comic illustrations and word bubbles, this story gives voice to MLK as a child, then subsequently showcases his journey to changing the American landscape through peaceful protests and powerful words. This series is a favorite of my students.

As Good as Anybody picture books about Martin Luther King Jr.jpg

As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon: We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Abraham grew up years earlier in Europe, and as a Jewish man, he too, faced atrocious persecution. Abraham fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality. This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice. An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.

*These are affiliate links.

Did you like this post? Hooray! Make sure to check these out, too — we think you will love ‘em! Amazing Books for Black History Month, Ten Favorite Books to Evoke Change, and Twenty Picture Books About Amazing Women.














Happily Ever Elephants' Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018

Another year, another incredible array of nonfiction picture books for your youngest readers! The nonfiction books for kids released in 2018 were simply unbelievable. The stories were engaging, the facts intriguing, and the illustrations truly remarkable. To say I’m in awe of the books I’ve added to my boys’ collection as well as our school library is an understatement. I’m truly astounded by the depth and breadth of these stories and the painstaking research that goes into each one. Each of these books is a remarkable achievement by the authors, illustrators, agents and editors that put them together, and I am continually grateful to these stellar teams for getting these stories into the hands of young readers.

Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids.jpg

And now, without further ado, these are the nonfiction books from 2018 that my children, my students and I most adored, the ones we read over and over again, and the ones that contained facts and illustrations that surprised, delighted and even tricked us as we read!

Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids.jpg

Our World

A History of Pictures for Children Best Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings, by David Hockney and Martin Gayford and illustrated by Rose Blake: If you have kids that love creating and can’t get enough or art and painting, this awesome book takes young readers on a journey through art history. Discussing everything from cave paintings to iPhone photography, you don’t want to miss this one for your budding artists!

Atlas Obscura Best Nonfiction Picture Books for Children.jpg

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and illustrated by Joy Ang: Have a kid who dreams of exploring the world as soon as he can? Have a child who thrives on adventure? This fabulous book describes one hundred of the coolest, weirdest places on our wondrous planet. It is your passport to some of the most incredible, breathtaking and unbelievable attractions around the globe, and if you have a child with wanderlust, he won’t be able to put this one down.

Lovely Beasts Favorite Nonfiction Books.jpg

Lovely Beasts, by Kate Gardner and illustrated by Heidi Smith: This fabulous book encourages young readers to challenge what they think they know about some of the worlds “scariest” animals. Gorillas, porcupines and rhinoceroses may certainly be frightening, but they do exhibit some surprising - even gentle - characteristics. I absolutely love the way this book challenges preconceived notions children (and adults!) have about wild animals and the manner in which it inspires them to move beyond first impressions.

Earthrise Apollo 8 and the Photo that Changed the World Best Nonfiction Picture Books for Children.jpg

Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo that Changed the World, by James Gladstone and illustrated by Christy Lundy: Many of us learned about the Apollo 8 mission to explore space. But did you know about the photograph astronauts took from the spaceship that sparked hope worldwide and electrified the environmental movement? This book elegantly weaves facts into an accessible, mesmerizing narrative, and I fell in love with its simplicity, beauty and profound message.

The Elephant Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018.jpg

The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond: Did you know elephants walk on their tip toes? Or that they can detect the rumbling of other elephants from nearly six miles away? We absolutely adore Jenni Desmond’s non-fiction offerings, including The Blue Whale and The Polar Bear, and this beautiful picture book about the endangered elephant is another stunner filled with gorgeous, true-to-life illustrations and fascinating facts for little minds.

Dinosaurium Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

Dinosaurium: Welcome to the Museum, by Lily Murray and illustrated by Chris Wormell: Calling all dinosaur lovers! Raise your hand if your kids are obsessed with learning about these gigantic, ancient beasts. If your hand’s up, you need this fabulous guide in your home! Welcome to the Museum is a beautiful, informative series, and this installment features a wide range of dinosaurs for kids (and adults!) to learn about, from the triceratops to the much less known tsintosaurus. Your children will be mesmerized! And make sure to check out the other books in this awesome series, Botanicum and Animalium.

Drawn from Nature Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri: Oh my gosh is this book exquisite! You won’t want to miss this one if you teach your kids or students about our four seasons. The illustrations are intricately made from pressed plants and include leaves, seeds and petal. The result? A uniquely gorgeous feast for the eyes, capturing our world’s natural wonders in a majestic way.

National Parks of the USA Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

National Parks of the U.S.A., by Kate Siber and illustrated by Chris Turnham. If you love the great outdoors, this is a book your kids need on their shelves! This book has already been awarded a 2019 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K-12, and it’s no secret why. Through captivating illustrations and text, this guide through our national parks, divided into six regions, introduces students to the various flora and fauna of 21 different parks, complete with a summary of each park’s makeup as well as illustrations of the animals and plants that live in each.

Flying Machines.jpg

Flying Machines, by Ian Graham and illustrated by Stephen Bietsy: Have a child that can’t get enough of airplanes? This fabulous interactive book describes eight of the most incredible flying machines of all times, while also introducing famous aviators and the first aircrafts. Flaps and fascinating details about planes and helicopters make this a fabulous introduction for children!

Professor Astro Cat's Human Body Odyssey Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey, by Dominic Walliman and illustrated by Ben Newman: If your kids are totally intrigued by the human body — its inner workings, why we actually have certain body parts, and why we do the things we do — your little ones will love this book! Professor Astro Cat and his gang are back in this adventure through the human body, traveling from head to toe to teach kids everything they want to know!

two truths and a lie.jpg

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries, by Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Laurie Ann Thompson: My students can’t get enough of these crazy stories - they just can’t believe they are true! This awesome book is a play on everyone’s favorite party game — it tells two true stories and one fake one, and you have to guess which ones are real and which is false. Kids are always astounded when the most unbelievable stories turn out to be factual. It is wild, informative, and a totally engaging read, especially for those kids who are more reluctant to pick up non-fiction.

Highest Mountain Smallest Star Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

Highest Mountain, Smallest Star: A Visual Compendium of Wonders, by Kate Baker and illustrated by Page Tsou: Do you have a child wondering about the height of the tallest mountain on earth? Whether a bird can fly faster than an airplane? This gorgeously illustrated book is chock-full of comparisons and absolutely perfect for those of you with curious kids who can’t stop asking questions. From nature to dinosaurs, the solar system to trees, you don’t want to miss this if you have an inquisitive kid!


Biographies and Anthologies

Between the Lines Favorite Picture Books.jpg

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

The Eye that Never Sleeps Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

The Eye that Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln, by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes: Allan Pinkerton will forever be known as one of the greatest American detectives. Though he has a resume full of accolades, his most important and well known achievement was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his presidential inauguration in 1861. Though a group of assassins was attempting to murder Lincoln while on the way, Pinkerton foiled the plot and ensured the president made it to the capital safe and sound. A fascinating and little known slice of American history!

First Generation Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great, by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace: This fabulous anthology chronicles the lives of immigrants and refugees who have made phenomenal contributions to American society. These courageous men and women hail from countries world wide, such as Mexico, Syria, China and Somalia, and include iconic figures like Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein and journalist Jorge Ramos. It is at once inspirational and motivational, and children will be astounded by the obstacles overcome and the determination each of these figures possessed.

Game Changers Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport.

Herstory Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh. What a collection! This is a fabulous keepsake, a beautiful compilation celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of fifty women who changed the world and left an indelible mark on our society. Readers young and old will learn about the challenges these women faced as children and young adults and be forever inspired by their courage and stunning achievements.

How to Build a Hug Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and her Amazing Squeeze Machine, by Amy Guglielmo and illustrated by Giselle Porter: There’s nothing quite as inspiring as reading a story about a person who has overcome so many odds to achieve wild success. And Temple Grandin is at the top of that list - conquering such an array of obstacles that her achievements are simply mind-blowing. As a child with autism, Grandin hated hugs — but she so desperately wanted one. It wasn’t until she invented her amazing Hug Machine that she was able to realize her dream - and this was just one of numerous accomplishments. Astounding!

Just Being Jackie Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book for Kids.jpg

Just Being Jackie, by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos: Jackie Kennedy was not just JFK’s beautiful wife and an icon of style and grace. She was so much more than that! Jackie was smart, tireless in her work as first lady, a gifted journalist, a critical part of the preservationist movement to secure the legacies of national landmarks, and an award-winning editor. Her name alone evokes respect, brilliance and sophistication, and this book so beautifully highlights her life and achievements.

Pride The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag Favorite Nonfiction for Kids.jpg

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno: Harvey Milk had a dream to create a global symbol of unity and inclusion, one that would allow LGBQT people to be proud of not just who they are, but also who they love. This beautiful book tells the story of the Gay Pride Flag from its inception in 1978 thanks to Milk’s activism, all the way to the present day, describing how it became an important symbol worldwide. This is a story of love, hope, and equality that has an important place on every book shelf!

Little Dreamers Visionary Women Around the World Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison: In the highly anticipated follow up to her knock out book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, readers are introduced to the true stories of 35 influential women in their respective fields, some whose names will be recognized, and some you may not know. From trailblazing artists like Mary Blair to environmental activist Wangari Maathai, this book will leave you inspired to get out there and do something incredible.

Mae Among the Stars Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books.jpg

Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington: This beauty of a book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space! With her mother’s words of encouragement continually whispered in her ears, Mae’s intelligence and drive led her to conquer insurmountable odds until she found herself at NASA. “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.” You can even touch the stars.

Sonia Sotomayor Turning Pages My Life Story Favorite Nonfiction Picture Book.jpg

Turning Pages: My Life Story, by Sonia Sotomayor and illustrated by Lulu Delacre: Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court justice, inspiring children across the United States - and even world wide - to chase their dreams. But did you know that it was books and reading that inspired Justice Sotomayor? It was books that helped the Justice navigate her world, everything from her father’s death to her diabetes diagnosis to helping her connect with family in New York and Puerto Rico. If you simply turn the page, you are opening yourself up to a world where anything and everything is possible.

Which of these books are got two trunks up from your kids or students? What would you add to our list? Make sure to let us know on our Facebook page!

Did you like this post? We have a good feeling you will love these too! Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018, and Top 20 Picture Books of 2017. Make sure to check them out!

Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids.jpg