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Father & Son's Social Justice Picture Books for Children & Adults

Stuart Chen-Hayes
The list author says: "My 8-year-old son and I enjoy these books with social justice and equity themes and we have been building the list since he was 2. They have great characters; captivating illustrations/photos; engaging story lines; a big fun factor; varied cultural, linguistic, and national identities; family diversity; and hold the interest of kids of all ages. All 40 titles are in no specific order. We are big fans of local media and buying books from (and give props to!) local independent booksellers, too."
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
"Nobel Prize winner Wangaari Maathai and her greenbelt movement in Kenya that mobilized women in Kenya (and elsewhere) to recognize and challenge deforestation at home through the act of planting trees. Describes her challenging sexism, classism, and violence through her earth-friendly advocacy. Thanks to Jazam's books, Princeton, NJ, for this find."
The Harvey Milk Story
The Harvey Milk Story
"The story of the USA's first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk, affectionately known as the "Mayor of Castro Street" in San Francisco is a powerful tribute to fighting for justice and challenging heterosexism. Thanks to A Different Light bookstore, San Francsico (on Castro St.) for this find."
¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A. (English and Spanish Edition)
¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A. (English and Spanish Edition)
"Si, Se Puede! is a bilingual English/Spanish book that challenges classism and linguicism through the story of union organizing in LA for the early 2000s' successful janitor strike and the story of a young Mexican-American boy and his mother, first-generation immigrants,  who helped lead the organizing."
Ruby's Wish
Ruby's Wish
"Children and adults love how Ruby's grandfather in 1800s China challenged traditional patriarchy and allowed her to study at college. In the midst of oppression, there are always potential allies."
The Sissy Duckling
The Sissy Duckling
"Fierstein's ducky characters show the path for nontraditionally gendered boys and girls to stay strong and stand up to bullying and fears of difference as the boy hero saves his father. Thanks to Women & Children First, Chicago, for this find."
A Day's Work
A Day's Work
"A bilingual Mexican-American boy and his monolingual  recent -immigrant grandfather seek day labor as the grandson interprets. Making mistakes, honesty, family and linguistic diversity, and immigrant worker issues are addressed."
Nine Candles (First Person Series)
Nine Candles (First Person Series)
"A boy's mother is in prison and this is their story. An excellent read for all ages to consider that most persons in prison, women in particular, are in for nonviolent crimes. Kids love to joke about going to jail and this empathic story promotes critical thinking. Thanks to Books Etc Portland, ME for this find."
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
"Powerful story of the rise of unionist and United Farmworkers President Cesar Chavez. Terrific for teaching about classism, immigrationism, linguicism, racism, and struggles for equity and justice through collective action. Pre-K-elementary."
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
"Famous artists and friends of legendary lesbian couple Gertrude and Alice are featured with playful illustrations and post-modern phrases that evoke her wonderful wordsmithing. It's a most creative and unique book--Gertude and Alice LIVE! And my son learned not to judge a book by it's cover. Thanks to Gay Parent Magazine for this find."
The Name Jar
The Name Jar
"A Korean kindergarten girl immigrates to the USA and encounters teasing about her name.  A European-American boy devises a clever plan to help. The story celebrates linguistic and cultural difference, and captivates children consistently. Thanks To Asian American Writers Project, NYC, for this find."
And Tango Makes Three
And Tango Makes Three
"Nature takes care of its own even when different from average. Two male penguins raise a baby female penguin from birth. Teaches family diversity for two-leggeds, four-leggeds, and feathered and finned friends. Thanks to Gay Parent Magazine-sponsored book signing by the authors for this find."
King and King and Family
King and King and Family
"A playful follow-up to the authors original classic tale of two princes who fall in love "King & King," the sequel provides another chapter in this post-modern fairy tale series in how they create a family. Challenges heterosexism and familyism. Thanks to Two Lives Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, for this find."
Coolies
Coolies
"A true account of two brothers' bravery enduring classism, racism, and linguicism facing Chinese immigrant laborers building the first USA east-west railroad. Text honors filial piety and immigration/labor struggles. Their sequel, "Brothers," follows yet another brother and his biracial friendship with an Irish boy and his family."
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks
"The bus imagery brings to life a story for all ages with skillful story-telling and artwork make for a great way to teach children about a powerful civil rights leader."
Sam and the Lucky Money
Sam and the Lucky Money
"A young Chinese boy in the USA attends Lunar New Year festival and stumbles over an older man who is likely homeless. He decides his Hong Bau (lucky money) might be better used for something unique rather than the toys he had planned. A story of courage, honesty, and compassion."
The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)
The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)
"Boys and girls need to learn that girls are not just about looks.  Prince Ronald needs that lesson, too.  Add in a rowdy dragon and the book celebrates the power of smart girls and shows all genders (and ages) that what's inside a person is always more important than clothes or appearance. Thanks to Eslite Bookstore, Taipei, Taiwan for this find."
Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro (English and Spanish Edition)
Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro (English and Spanish Edition)
"Bilingual Spanish/English book with a great strong girl character who becomes a SuperSHEro and saves her mom at the Mexico/USA "border". A great challenge to immigrationism, linguicism, and racism. Fun illustrations and text; currently out of print. We enjoy Herrera's other works, too."
The Village that Vanished
The Village that Vanished
"True story of an African village that outsmarted "slavers" seeking to capture villagers and send them abroad. A grandmother, mother, and daughter develop and implement a successful plan to resist and disappear into safety. Thanks to Books Etc, Portland, ME for this find."
Henry & The Kite Dragon
Henry & The Kite Dragon
"Early 1900s New York City adventure story about Chinese-American and Italian-American immigrant children. It shows a nonviolent resolution to the "usual" fighting with fists. Chinese and Italian cultural traditions are honored with excellent text."
The Lorax (Classic Seuss)
The Lorax (Classic Seuss)
"Dr. Suess classic about the importance of taking care of the Earth so that it can take care of us takes on greater urgency daily and continues in its relevance for all ages."
Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Books)
Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Books)
"Celebrates multiracial (Chinese and  European-appearing) bilingual families. It is the story of an elementary school girl whose Chinese grandfather immigrates to the USA and they bond by teaching each other how to count in a new language."
My Dream of Martin Luther King (Dragonfly Books)
My Dream of Martin Luther King (Dragonfly Books)
"My son is fascinated by this book and concerned why MLK is harmed. It is an introduction to adults' mistakes due to ignorance and fear. Part fiction and part fact, the text, illustrations, and commitment to nonviolence are exemplary."
Ballerino Nate
Ballerino Nate
"Awesome story to challenge gender stereotype that dancing is only for one gender. A boy's older brother learns that the dance world is not just for girls. Challenges sexism and opens minds and hearts of all ages."
Children of Native America Today
Children of Native America Today
"Few books show real Native American Indian/Indigenous children.  The photographs and text are an antidote to November (or any time of year), when other media only show elementary school students wearing Pilgrim costumes and inauthentic/offensive Native American "feather" caps."
Brothers in Hope (Coretta Scott King Honor - Illustrator Honor Title)
Brothers in Hope (Coretta Scott King Honor - Illustrator Honor Title)
"The courageous true story of how a group of thousands of young Sudanese boys  walked hundreds of miles to safety encountering multiple challenges and obstacles in war-town Sudan and Ethiopia into safety in Kenya over a 1,000 miles from home."
Barrio: Jose's Neighborhood (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
Barrio: Jose's Neighborhood (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
"Also in Spanish, the story of a Chicano boy's life in San Francisco's Mission District. It  includes social justice struggles and attending Cesar Chavez elementary school. A balanced story of city life about poor and working class first-generation immigrants, particularly Chicanos/Latinos and challenging violence and ableism. Real photographs bring home the text."
Aani and the Tree Huggers
Aani and the Tree Huggers
"A true story about a young woman in Northern India who inspires nonviolent resistance with a group of other villagers when men seek to chop down the trees surrounding their rural village."
Skin Again
Skin Again
"bell hooks early reader book is at the heart of challenging racism. All of us must notice skin color and how identity comes from within our collective/personal stories. To understand race, ethnicity, and racial/ethnic identity, meaning is below the surface. This is hard for adults, and hooks is fun, clear, and effective for kids."
Why?
Why?
"If  a picture is worth a thousand words, then this book is priceless. It has no words, only illustrations. It leaves the reader to decide how to make peace and what two warring factions of animals could have done instead to prevent war (and lesser conflicts). Thanks to Joann at Jazams in Princeton, NJ for the recommendation."
Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming
Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming
"Manitoba, Canada-based story has a universal message for kids of all ages to end global warming; contains an anti-smoking sub-plot using polar bears who protest human alteration of the planet and their habitat. Funny, inspiring, advocates simple action steps for healthy people and a healthy planet. Thanks to Books, Etc, Portland, ME, for this find."
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (CitizenKid)
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (CitizenKid)
"Based on a true story of a Ghanian boy that teaches children the concept of microloans, which economically empower millions around the world and challenge classism and other oppressions. This boy's journey helps many others in his town/country/region all starting with a microloan."
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
"A true story of peace-making in the midst of war in Iraq and how the librarian fought for peace with war around her by saving the books in the library teaches children (and adults) the ability to make a difference for peace in the midst of  war. A portion of the book's sales go to rebuild the Basra library."
You Can Call Me Willy: A Story for Children about AIDS
You Can Call Me Willy: A Story for Children about AIDS
"There are so few books that help children to learn about HIV/AIDS from the perspective of a child.  This book focuses on a child who is living with HIV/AIDS and the focus is on her life with a disability and her love of baseball and her grandmother and her culturally diverse network of allies."
My Name Is Bilal
My Name Is Bilal
"Story that teaches how to challenge bullying and the importance of standing up for one's cultural and religious beliefs when targeted by dominant group members. Great to challenge religionism, immigrationism, and beautyism/looksism."
Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman
Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman
"Every child and adult can learn from the wisdom and challenges to racism and classism that Nelson Mandela faced throughout his life and career in bringing equity to South African and challenging apartheid. Thanks to Women & Children First, Chicago, for this find."
Baseball Saved Us
Baseball Saved Us
"The story of how a group of boys and families coped during the internment camps for persons of Japanese ethnicity with baseball to distract from the pain of oppression and challenged the classist, racist, and immigrationist policies of imprisonment and asset forfeiture during WW II. Elementary grades."
Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope
Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope
"A story from the children of Port au Prince in Haiti, ravished by greed and famine and US policies that promote the needs of the wealthy over the poor and how children challenge oppressions classism, racism, and familyism (homelessness). Thanks to Left Books (online) for this find."
Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska
Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska
"The only book of its kind that shows modern children and families of varied Native Alaskan ethnicities. Photographs bring home the mix of modern and traditional identities. Thanks to Jazams Books, Princeton, NJ for this find."
Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
"We are big Faith Ringgold fans and this is the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad with great train illustrations and understandable text. Lots of questions are provoked about slavery and how African Americans and Whites and Native American Indian allies collaborated against oppression."
All Kinds of Friends, Even Green!
All Kinds of Friends, Even Green!
"Green iguanas parallel the story of Moses, an elementary school boy living with spina bifida, sacral agenesis, and some body organ deficiencies.  Kids love the real pictures and the setting with Moses at school writing a story. The pictures illustrate students with and without disabilities and affirm inclusion."