If you have been following us for a while, you know there is nothing I love to read more than a book that celebrates books — and if it also happens to be an amazing book about strong girls, even better! Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, is one of those books!Read More
If your kids love books about strong girls who have overcome considerable odds to achieve lasting success, then you must read this fabulous nonfiction picture book biography, How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine!Read More
Looking for great picture books about Martin Luther King, Jr. to read with children of all ages? Look no further.
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.
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.
We hope you enjoy these remarkable books as much as we do.
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.
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, 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, 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: 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.
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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.
Another year, another incredible array of nonfiction picture books for your youngest readers! The nonfiction picture books for kids released in 2018 were simply unbelievable. The stories were engaging, the facts intriguing, and the illustrations truly remarkable.Read More
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Gandhi
Use your words. It's a phrase parents and educators know well. It's one of the first things we teach our children when they begin to speak. "Use your words," we say, when they are pointing instead of asking. "Use your words," we remind them, when they are hitting instead of talking. It’s one of the mantras that plays like background music - a soundtrack to those infamous toddler years - because getting our children to use words instead of hands is pretty critical. And as important as it is to instill in our children, it is of utmost significance that adults, too, follow and live by this mantra. This is perhaps why I have always been intrigued by Mahatma Gandhi and his belief in nonviolence to create social change— his belief that words possess more power than punches.
I am thus thrilled to be a part of the I Am Justice blog tour to share Brad Meltzer's fabulous book, I am Gandhi, an empowering story in the Ordinary People Change the World Series. We adore this series, especially I am Gandhi, for the way it teaches children that violence is never a means to an end.
I am Gandhi tells the story of how Gandhi, as a young man, was appalled by the unequal treatment of Indians. Refusing to tolerate injustice, Gandhi came up with a brilliant and powerful plan to protest discrimination against Indians in South Africa and to end British rule in India. Like the series' biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi's story focuses on peaceful heroism in the struggle for civil rights and social evolution.
One of the reasons I so love this book is because Gandhi's peaceful, nonviolent teachings can be understood by children of all ages. His beautiful words can teach kids how to create impactful change without violence and aggression. I am Gandhi can be read in a variety of ways within your home or classroom and paired with so many complementary learning and literacy activities. Have your kids or students write peace pledges, identifying how they can use their words to embody peaceful action in their schools and homes. Have students identify problems in their communities, and brainstorm peaceful ways to tackle and address these challenges. Create kindness concept posters to showcase the many ways in which we can peacefully address conflict. The possibilities are endless… and if we emphasize Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, our kids will be at the forefront of a kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic generation. Can we ask for anything more?
Want the book? Get it here! I am Gandhi, by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. HEE received a copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
Here’s another one of our favorite books about strong girls for your kiddos. We adore this one about a very favorite author of ours here at Happily Ever Elephants!
Another one to add to our collection of books about strong girls! Picture book biographies are flooding our shelves these days, and each one seems to be better than the next. The women and men I have learned about from these books are both inspiring and courageous, and their legacies - their stories of hope and determination and perseverance -- are ones I love to share with my boys and students. But the one I've been most excited about recently is Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Erin McGuire. Because, of course, as cliche as it may sound, To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite book (yes, I still have my original version from 9th grade). And this new biography hit a perfect note - here’s to amazing books about strong girls.
Alabama Spitfire tells the story of Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee, on April 28, 1926 in segregated Monroeville, Alabama. An overall-wearing, tree-climbing tomboy, Nelle would spend afternoons at the courthouse watching her father, an attorney, fight for justice. From him, she learned to fight for what was fair and always took up for the underdog, including her good friend Truman Capote (yes, that Truman Capote!) Nelle and Tru both loved books, and with him, she began to embrace her love for words. What follows is Nelle's evolution from feisty child to famous writer: her move to New York City, her dream of becoming an author, and the events that inspired her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the seminal books of the twentieth century.
Alabama Spitfire is such a phenomenal picture book to pair with any child holding To Kill a Mockingbird in their hands for the first time. It is also a wonderful story of being true to yourself and following your dreams. With famous quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird woven throughout the text, this gem of a book is a testament to the power of words and an ode to the writer whose story become a classic in American literature. Two trunks up!
Looking for more amazing books about strong girls? Check these out!
Want the link? Get it here! Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Bethany Hegedus. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. However, all opinions contained herein are entirely our own.
There is too much hate in the world. Hate and anger and divisiveness. But then you read a book like Grandfather Gandhi, written by Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi, and illustrated by Evan Turk, and you are reminded that beauty still exists in the world. Not only does beauty exist, but people try to harness it, hold on to it, and infuse the world around them with peace and goodness.
In Grandfather Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi is viewed through the unique lens of one of the book's authors: his grandson, Arun. The story describes Gandhi as a loving and honored man, one who guides those in his village with a gentle hand and wise words. Arun and his family come to live in Gandhi's service village, and though Arun adores his grandfather, he feels burdened by carrying the Gandhi name. How can he live up to his grandfather's legacy? One day on the soccer field, a disagreement with another child sparks Arun's anger, causing him to seek out his grandfather for advice. Their resulting conversation is tender, enlightening, and one that will resonate deeply with both children and the adults who read to them.
Grandfather Gandhi is a phenomenal book - the most special of stories - and such a fitting way to kick off All The Wonders' #booksforbetter campaign. The message conveyed within the pages of this beautiful story is profound- yet it is delivered with such a masterful hand that it in no way feels forced or moralistic. To the contrary, it feels as gentle and wise as the man it is honoring. Grandfather Gandhi fittingly shines a light on peace, on how to channel your anger into light. In today's seemingly broken world, this is the precise book that every child, everywhere, needs to be read. We all need to be reminded - or to learn for the first time - that anger can be used to make a change, and a positive change at that. We all need to be reminded to shine a light for our children.
Read Grandfather Gandhi at your next story time. I have no doubt its message will lead you and your little ones on a journey to create a world where compassion and goodness are the virtues steering our hearts and guiding our days. Our children deserve nothing less. Thank you, Bethany and Arun, for such a beautiful and significant story.
Want the book? Get it here! Grandfather Gandhi, by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus. *This is an affiliate link.