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A is for Activist Board book – November 19, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up—Not your typical alphabet board book, this one packs a powerful message both visually as well as verbally. Each spread presents a letter and a bit of social commentary urging children to take a stand against war and violence, develop an awareness of our environment, and promote acceptance and equality for all cultures, races, religions, genders, and walks of life. For example, "A is for Activist./Advocate. Abolitionist. Ally./Actively Answering A call to Action." "Y is for You. And Youth./Your planet. Your rights/Your future. Your truth./Y is for Yes. Yes! Yes! Yes!" Despite the format, this introduction to social justice is best suited to older children, who will need plenty of explanation and discussion to help them understand issues such as feminism or workers' rights. Nagara relies upon colorful illustrations—many representing the energy behind activism with arms and fists raised—lots of alliteration, and rhyming for each letter and idea. An ever-present black cat hiding or prowling on each letter's page seeks to hold listeners' interest as well. An unusual offering that may plant the seeds for and spark discussions about activism.—Susan Shaver, Hemingford Public Schools, NE
"Finally! A sassy and heartwarming board book to teach our children the alphabet of humane values. Innosanto Nagara knows that activism begins in the cradle, but to be sustainable, it has to be wide-ranging, deep-rooted, and based ultimately on a sense of fun and community. A is for Activist covers all this ground with a playful rhyming style that makes you want to turn the pages and read the book over and over again.The illustrations are so colorful, beautifully executed, little works of art in and of themselves. What a great book for children of all ages." --Julia Alvarez, author of A Wedding in Haiti: the Story of a Friendship and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and founding member of Border of Lights, an ongoing movement to promote peace and collaboration between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, borderoflights.org
“Reading it is almost like reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, but for two-year olds—full of pictures and rhymes and a little cat to find on every page that will delight the curious toddler and parents alike.”—Occupy Wall Street
"Full of wit, beauty, and fun, we can think of no better way to learn the alphabet."—Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, author of The Shock Doctrine / filmmaker
"Fun, funny, exquisitely illustrated and brilliantly written with a message that is sure to resonate with kids. May a thousand young activists bloom!"—Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Global Exchange and Code Pink
"I wish this beautiful and inspiring book was around when my daughter was young, but fortunately there were plenty of cool children around today who will devour what Inno is serving up!"—Dan Zanes, maker of 21st century all-ages music and Grammy Award winning album Catch that Train!
"The alliteration and rhymes have the rhythm and fun of standard ABC books, burrowing into little ears and prompting memorization and spontaneous recitation."—Yes! Magazine
"A is for Activist offers an opportunity for parents to explore their values with their children. At this time in history we need books for children that use words like justice, ally, freedom, and advocate."—Rona Renner, RN, parent educator, and host of Childhood Matters radio show
"A is for Activist speaks to the possibilities of change, of proactive parenting, of creating community, and of celebrating our collective histories. This book is rad!"—Tomas Moniz, writer/editor rad dad zine, a zine on radical parenting
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Some pages are perfect for the board-book set. The "K" page - "Kings are fine for storytime/knights are fun to play/but when we make decisions/we will choose the people's way" - is one of my favorites. It's a great, age-appropriate introduction to anti-imperialism. The "W" page has an absolutely beautiful poem about celebrating diversity. Several pages have a very lyrical rhythm to the writing that reminds me of rap music or spoken word poetry and is very fun to read.
Others, however, aren't really age appropriate. The "R" page, for example, uses a facetious/sarcastic tone that is way beyond the understanding of young children, especially when it's such a departure from the tone of the rest of the book. The "S" page has a great little poem celebrating solar power, but follows it up with "silly selfish scoundrels sucking on dinosaur sludge? Boo! Hiss!", a line I could easily imagine leading to a rather upsetting conversation for a sensitive preschooler, since right now the vast majority of families simply don't have access to fully sustainable power sources. The "D" page references, and is solely illustrated by, the donkey/elephant symbols of American party politics, which besides being internationally limiting is way over the heads of the target audience.
On the more academic side of things, there's the issue that this is, ostensibly, an *alphabet* book. The page for "U" - which says "U is for..." for several "W" words before correcting itself - drives my teacher sensibilities crazy. Ditto for the illustration for the "T" page, which doesn't depict any of the objects-starting-with-T that the text lists.
And while I wouldn't take off stars just for this, I do think there was a missed opportunity here for some parent education...I'd have loved to see a page in the back listing brief descriptions of the people mentioned in the text. There were some I'm not familiar with, and a little more to go on for looking them up would have been useful (there are several names on the "J" page, in particular, that I'm not sure if they're meant to reference specific individuals or not).
It's a great concept, and overall I like it and intend to keep it on my bookshelf, but I'm definitely bummed about the varying quality of writing from one page to the next.