Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Pauli Murray: An activist’s life in verse

Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist & Civil Rights Activist, by Rosita Stevens-Holsey & Terry Catasús Jennings, (Feb. 2022, little bee books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781499812510

Ages 8-12

Haven’t heard of Pauli Murray before? Remedy that and pick up this biography in verse, written by one of the civil rights activist’s nieces and Terry Catasús Jennings, author of the Definitely Dominguita chapter book series. Born in 1910, Pauli Murray chafed under the Jim Crow South and what she called “Jane Crow”: further prejudice against women. She would become a friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and a voice for the oppressed; she created arguments that would eventually form the Brown vs. Board of Education Topeka backbone (with no credit) and the 1964 decision that won workplace equality for women (credited, thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

Pauli Murray is told in verse, giving poetic gravitas to her life from her early childhood; the early death of her mother and separation of the siblings, which saw Pauli Murray  move to Baltimore to live with her aunt, who eventually adopted her; her life in the Jim Crow South, which awakened the activist in her, and her work to dismantle the white male patriarchy that sought to “other” her and hold her, and other women and people of color, down. Queer and Black, she was a force for positive change. She went to jail for refusing to sit in a broken seat in the back of a bus long before Rosa Parks, and, like Martin Luther King Jr., was inspired by Ghandhi’s promotion of protest through nonviolence.

Back matter includes author’s notes, a timeline of Murray’s life, endnotes, and a bibliography. An eloquent, powerful biography for upper middle graders and middle schoolers.

Read more about Pauli Murray at the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice’s website and the National Women’s History Museum. VideoNotes and More has a free mini doc on Pauli Murray at TeachersPayTeachers.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for babies, too! Anti-Racism, Climate Change, Oceanography, and Mammals!

Babies need fun books, too! #HomesCool doesn’t just start with school-age kids: let’s take a look at some of the best board books out this summer, ready for you to read to your lap-sitters as we head into Fall.

Anti-Racist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi/Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, (June 2020, Kokila), $8.99, ISBN: 9780593110416

Ages 0-4

If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy Anti-Racist Baby yet, please find a copy now! National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi and illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky have created a gorgeous, playful book for readers of all ages that celebrates diversity and offers simple, wonderful ways that we can teach our children, from the  youngest ages, to be actively anti-racist. There are easy concepts to grasp here; it’s our job as parents and caregivers to use the vocabulary to break down large concepts as “see all colors” “and “blame the policies, not the people” to our kids. The illustrations are bold, upbeat, and feature diverse groups of families. The rhyming scheme will keep kids entertained, introducing them to new words – just like STEM board books! – while we show them concepts through our own actions. Consider this for your collections, display and read with books like Feminist Baby, Woke Baby, and A is for Activist.

Anti-Racist Baby has a starred review from School Library Journal.


Climate Change for Babies, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680826

Ages 2-5

Another Chris Ferrie STEM board book! I love his STEM series for babies and toddlers. Here, Chris Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou teach littles about climate change, using the idea of a blanket keeping planets warm: that’s the atmosphere. Different planets have different blankets, but Earth’s blanket is just right, thanks to our trees, animals, and oceans… but not when people start changing the blanket with transportation, pollution, and livestock! When our blanket gets too hot, Earth doesn’t feel well, and makes a lot of things go wrong. What can we do? Lots of things, like plant more trees, cut down on coal, oil, and cars and factories! Simply illustrated with bright colors and pictures of happy and sad planets, vehicles, and landscapes, kids will be entertained while we grownups digest the big picture and talk about keeping our world safe and healthy.


ABCs of Oceanography, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680819

Ages 2-5

It’s a Chris Ferrie Fest! ABCs of Oceanography is the seventh(ish?) book in Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou’s ABCs series. Like other books in the series, this book grows along with your little ones: Colorful pictures illustrate each alphabetical concept, with the letter and word bright and bold, standing out against a stark white background: “A is for Algae”, with an illustration of algae. Next, for young learners, the concept word is used in a descriptive sentence: “Algae are aquatic life that conduct photosynthesis”; using bigger vocabulary words in a scientific context, to introduce preschoolers to the basic words they can expect to learn in kindergarten. Finally, a fuller definition, perfect for children moving up into elementary school, yet still easy enough to grasp, to give them the full breadth of the definition and ownership of the concept. There are familiar words, like Dolphin, Island, and Octopus, and newer words, like Euphotic Zone, Gyre, and Quahog. Pair with Baby Shark and get some flannel ocean figures out!

Sourcebooks has a Baby University page on their publisher website, that features Chris Ferrie’s books organized into series: For Babies, ABCs, and Picture Books.


Curious About Mammals, by Cathryn Sill/Illustrated by John Sill, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-198-0

Ages 0-3

This book is adorable and informative! The second book in Peachtree’s and author-illustrator team Cathryn and John Sill’s Discovering Nature series, Curious About Mammals presents one-sentence facts about mammals, accompanied by elegant, detailed wildlife artwork by wildlife illustrator John Sill. The sentences contain basic facts and plenty of sight words for young learners, with the accompanying artwork showing animals in their daily lives: climbing; swimming; flying; alone, or with a group. Each animal’s common name appears under their picture, in small italic text, letting readers go back and discover their new favorite animals again and again. Some may be familiar, like the Northern Raccoon and Blue Whale; others may be brand new, like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit and American Badger. A great add to board book collections where you have burgeoning animals fans.

Posted in professional development

Anti-Racism Resources

It’s been a scary time over the last 8 days. I’ve been trying to write posts, but just feel like anything I have to say is just… yeah. That’s where I am right now.

There’s a wealth of great information and resources available. This is m

First and foremost, The Brown Bookshelf is hosting a KidLit Rally for Black Lives, organized by award-winning authors Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds. have organized a Kidlit Rally for Black Lives. It’s happening on June 4th, 7pm, at The Brown Bookshelf’s Facebook Live. Please spread the word about this event, and let’s give it the attendance it deserves and needs.

Librarian Cressida Hanson put together lists of titles to prompt conversation, organized by age group.


Kojo for Kids: Jason Reynolds Talks About Racism and The Protests – author Jason Reynolds spoke with radio journalist Kojo Nnamdi on his “Kojo for Kids” segment. The link includes a transcript and the playback of the segment.

School Library Journal/A Fuse 8 Production’s Antiracist Resources and Reads: Lists for All Ages. Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird has a fantastic compilation of reading and advice on being an ally. Resources for White Parents on raising white children is tremendously helpful. There are podcasts to listen to; films and videos to view; articles to read, and organizations to follow on social media, all suggested here. Follow her on Twitter @FuseEight.

Karen Jensen, better known as Teen Librarian Toolbox, also has a blog on School Library Journal. She’s also a force on Twitter, and her piece, Because Black Lives Matter: A Collection of Anti-Racist Reading Lists, includes resources for white readers in particular; something I find really helpful for me and my own family.

School Library Journal has a list of 15 social justice titles that address inequity and inequality, and encourage activism in younger readers.

Que(e)ry Librarians has an extensive #blacklivesmatter library, teaching, activism, and community resource list, constantly being updated; check in with this one often. It’s meticulously organized, and includes syllabi; reading lists for all ages; libguides; links to museums and archives; fact-checking resources, and so, so much more.

Embrace Race offers a list of 31 anti-racist books for children. If you wander around the website longer, you will discover, as I did, that they have an incredible wealth of resources, including webinars, reading lists, and action guides. The webinar “I [Still] Can’t Breathe: Supporting Kids of Color Amid Radicalized Violence looks like a powerful one, and it takes place on Friday, June 5th.

Books for Littles, another site I was just introduced to, has an “Anti-Racism for Beginners” list of books to read with and discuss with your kids about racial diversity. There are some great collections and topics in here; I’ve just added this to my reference resources. Check out the lesson planning resources and family action toolkits while you’re there.

A lot of white families may find it difficult to talk about race and racism with their kids. It’s been our privilege to avoid that conversation, but the time is here and now. This article from NPR on Talking Race With Young Children is a helpful start. has 75 ways white people can be helpful allies in the fight for racial justice.

This is what I’ve got for now. More booktalks are coming; it’s just been hard to stay focused these days.  Stay healthy, stay safe, stay strong.