Posted in picture books

Sarah Rising is a child’s-eye view of protest and social activism

Sarah Rising, by Ty Chapman/Illustrated by Deann Wiley, (May 2022, Beaming Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781506478357

Ages 5-8

Sarah is a young girl about to start her day as usual: breakfast, then caring for her pet bugs. But her father tells her they’re going to a protest, because police “had killed another Black person”. While at the protest, Sarah tries to save a butterfly when an officer swipes at it, and ends up separated from her father. The crowd protects Sarah, eventually helping reunite her and her father. The butterfly emerges as a symbol of hope, damaged but resilient – the butterfly, like Sarah, like her community, rises. The relationship between Sarah and her father is a positive one: he is a man teaching his daughter to call out injustice where she sees it and to take action. A strong theme of community runs through the book, illustrating the importance of relying on one another for support and protection. Inspired by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Sarah Rising is an important book when talking to children about social justice and change.

Back matter includes an author’s note from Ty Chapman on growing up in Minnesota, where George Floyd was murdered, and the problematic history between police and the Black community. There are also tips for children and families on creating change, and a discussion guide for parents and educators.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Place Inside of Me is necessary reading

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, by Zetta Elliott/Illustrated by Noa Denmon, (July 2020, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-374-30741-7

Ages 4+

This has been an ugly year; there’s no better way to put it. Let this Black Lives Matter poem by award-winning author, poet, and playwright Zetta Elliott and illustrated by the fantastic Noa Denmon, be the must-read book that will start important conversations and inspire hope and joy. A young Black child works through his shifting emotions over the course of a year in A Place Inside of Me: summertime brings joy, and hoops with friends at the basketball court; the joy turns to sorrow as the news covers a story about a child being shot, and sorrow becomes fear, which festers into anger. Anger isn’t enough to satisfy the hunger for justice and freedom, and with the end of Fall and Winter, comes Spring, bringing pride, peace, compassion, hope, and love; a wish for brighter futures and better days, and a reminder that Black Lives Matter.

Zetta Elliott’s verse is powerful, loaded with emotion like pain, anger, and hope; Noa Denmon’s artwork is colorful and vibrant, with an expressive child who invites us to follow through their dialogue. Color sets the child apart in the foreground, as washed backgrounds show them skateboarding against a neighborhood, playing basketball against a mural-painted wall in the court, and the neighborhood barber shop, where a look at photos on the wall lets you rest your eyes on a rendering of a slave ship’s blueprints. It’s a reminder of a history where Black lives most certainly did not matter. There’s a poster of Malcolm X in the child’s room, and a collection of Black faces like Beyonce’s, Mae Jemison’s, Martin Luther King’s, and Jackie Robinson’s form a stunning display as the child raises his arms in a gesture of pride. See more of Noa Denmon’s artwork at her Instagram, @noadenmon.

If you can’t understand why Black Lives Matter, rather than “all lives mattering”, I beg you, please read this book.

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.