Wednesday, November 18, 2020


      Fall is a wonderful, refreshing time of the year and especially the Thanksgiving season and all it means to friends and family. Lots of great children's books are out there that celebrate the season. I contacted the children's librarian, Heather McCue, in Columbia, SC, at the Richland County Library. They have a fabulous, up-to-date collection of kidlit books. She was gracious enough to send me a list of the more popular books in her downtown library. She broke them down into three categories--Families and Food, Gratitude, and Thanksgiving. I decided to pick two from each group. You may have your own favorites, but maybe you will add some of these to your list.

                                                              FAMILIES AND FOOD

All for Pie, Pie for all by David Martin.

This  is a cute book with whimsical illustrations that are detailed and denote a warm and cozy feeling. An especially good book for preschoolers that features animals--cats, mice, and ants. Each group feasts on the Thanksgiving pie leftovers, with the ants finishing the last crumbs. I could see children joining in on the repeated phrases--Little brother ate a piece, big sister ate a piece, momma cat ate a piece, poppa cat ate a piece and Grandma cat ate a piece. Once the pie is gone, hunger sets in and with a joint effort from the cats, the mice and the ants, a fresh pie is produced--this time it's blueberry.

Grandma's Tiny House by Janay Brown Wood 

This is a sweet story I think children can relate to. Even
though social distancing seems to be in order for now, they can remember times of big family get-togethers and
can look forward to more in the future. The cast of diverse characters gives children their place in the book. The rhyme draws you in and it's nice to have a counting book that goes past the number ten. There is always something new in the illustrations that the reader may not have noticed before. The young reader will be excited to see that a child has the solution for the too-full house.


We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell.

This book rings true because Traci's mom was a part of the Cherokee nation, and Traci herself lives within that nation. The book starts with fall, since that represents the Cherokee New Year, and goes through each season with bright and colorful illustrations of everyday things that are celebrated. This book is good for all ages and introduces Cherokee culture in a charming and relatable way. For added interest, the illustrator decided to put a pileated woodpecker in each spread so the reader would have something to look forward to.

Gracias Thanks by Pat Moira 

A young Mexican/Caucasian boy shares everyday things to be grateful for. The acrylic illustrations by John Parra are full of fun details that pop with color and vibrancy. From the moment he wakes up to the bright sunshine's warmth until he goes to bed to the sound of chirping crickets, he gives thanks for the things and people in his life. The poetic writing on each page gives us the Spanish version of what's being said. (I got to practice my Spanish) This bilingual book would be a great read-aloud for classroom story time. The author's endnote challenges the reader to make a list of what he's thankful for.


One is a Feast for Mouse by Judy Cox.

What a fun book with lively and engaging illustrations. Mouse peeps out of his hidey hole and spies the leftovers of a big Thanksgiving feast. One green pea catches his eye and seems to be the perfect feast for one little mouse. Or is it? Reading the online reviews, I especially liked one idea of a home-schooling mom who concocted a sequencing activity. She traced the  mouse and drew a picture of each food that he adds to his stack. The kids colored and cut out the mouse, along with the foods. Then, she had them recall the foods added and glue each item  in order, just like in the book. Maybe some other families would like to try this idea.

I Know an Old Woman who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson 

Lots of versions of the "Old Lady" stories exist, but this one is perfectly suited for a Thanksgiving read. Things that might show up on the readers' table are mentioned here--pie, turkey, squash, salad, rolls, etc. The illustrations are whimsical and chaotically fun, getting more and more ridiculous. The ending is clever as she is finally big enough to be a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. In a review, one mother said she made a cardboard cut-out of the old lady, cut out a stomach, and let the kids draw and color their favorite foods to "feed" her with. Cute idea for a theme-related activity.

Some other books you might want to add to your list are Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson, and Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller. Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Craft of Revision with Author Hope Lim

Welcome to the GROG Blog, Hope Lim! It’s always a pleasure to showcase the work of picture book authors and to learn more about the craft of writing for children. 

Let’s begin with Hope’s debut book: 


Written by Hope Lim

Illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Candlewick, February 2, 2021


To help our GROG Blog followers learn more about you, Hope, please share five facts.


1. The ideas for my stories are drawn from real-life experiences.

2. I’m originally from South Korea.

3. I have many notebooks filled with my favorite poems and my own drawings from my childhood. 

4. I like to have espresso with sparkling water. 

5. I run almost every day and use it as time to reflect. 

Share the inspiration behind your debut book I AM A BIRD.


The idea for I AM A BIRD started after an encounter with a stranger in Golden Gate Park. I thought she was strange at first, but I immediately recognized my perception was unfair and started to reflect on our innate fears and biases toward each other. When I came home, my husband told me about how my daughter made joyful birdcalls on their way to school on the back of his bike. I was struck by the contrast between my daughter and my simultaneous experiences. At that moment, I knew I had to write a story about exploring the fear of the unknown and combined it my daughter’s soaring spirit. That’s how I AM A BIRD was born - a story of celebrating kindred spirits discovered unexpectedly all told from a child’s perspective. 

List three words to encapsulate the spirit of I AM BIRD.

1. kindred spirit

2. friendship

3. empathy 


To become effective and proficient writers, students in my classes follow five-steps to write a polished/published piece of writing. Students learn skills and strategies and gain confidence through practice and revision. This third step of revision needs dedicated time to write and rewrite, redo, reconfigure, and reconsider.

Writers of children’s literature understand the importance of revision, too. Writing manuscripts requires numerous revisions and edits and countless hours prior to publication. 

Hope understands the importance of revision. She shares meaningful tips for the craft of revision and the process she uses to work from a draft to revision as she polishes her manuscripts preparing them for publication.


Everyone has a different revision process and technique. For me, the revision stage begins when I share my story with critique partners. They all offer different suggestions and I read them and try to see their suggestions from their perspective. 


The revision process needs time, patience and a lot of re-imagination. As a writer, self-editing skills can be very helpful. Self-editing begins when I have a complete draft, no matter how rough it is. I keep rewriting until the draft loses its roughness and generates ideas for a new structure, character, or ending. After going through multiple re-writes, I stop when I feel it’s close enough to share with my critique partners. I wait at least a few days to make sure it’s ready before I solicit opinions from my CPs. I find the feedback on a polished manuscript helpful. 

With early drafts, I often receive conflicting ideas on undeveloped areas, whereas polished ones tend to get similar feedback on an outstanding issue. When I receive the comments, I let them sit for a few days before applying them. I may share the revised version with them again or share it with my agent. My approach to revisions with my agent or an editor is similar. I try to look at my story from their perspectives based on their comments and start to revise only when I understand the direction they suggest.

Thank you, Hope, for sharing your thoughts and perspective about the craft of revision and how you make your stories better through time and rewriting.


These two spreads share the just right words, including onomatopoeia, that Hope created after numerous revisions. The bright and colorful illustrations by Hyewon Yon compliment the story line.

Just a few more wonderings . . . Tell us about five objects that sit on your writing desk. Perhaps some are functional and others provide inspiration.

1. A journal 

2. Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

3. Piles of picture books and New Yorker Magazines

4. AirPods

5. A glass of water and a cup of coffee

Please share a favorite literary quote.


What is essential is invisible to the eye.” — The Little Prince

What stories are you currently hard at work writing and creating? What books should we look for in the near future?


I am currently working on several stories, some new and some old. I’m trying to find a new way to transform my old stories while slowly putting time into new ones. MY TREE by Neal Porter Books will be out in May 2021, and MOMMY’S HOMETOWN by Candlewick will be out in fall 2022. 

Congratulations, Hope, on your debut book, I AM A BIRD, and two more books to follow! Thank you for sharing your success and a craft of revision tip on the GROG Blog today. Wishing you all the best as you continue to read, write, revise, edit, polish, and repeat.

Hope Lim is a children’s book author from South Korea and currently lives in San Francisco. Her debut book, I AM A BIRD, is to be released by Candlewick on February 2, 2021. Her debut will be followed by MY TREE, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House in May 2021 and MOMMY’S HOMETOWN, Candlewick, in Fall 2022. You can find Hope on Instagram @hopelim_sf, Twitter @hope_lim or

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Jazzing Up Your Writing with ONOMATOPOEIA! Plus a Bonus WORD LIST By Eileen R. Meyer





What exactly is Onomatopoeia?

     Besides being a word that we all have trouble spelling correctly, Merriam-Webster defines onomatopoeia as “the naming of a thing of action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz or hiss).” Simply put, onomatopoeia words are sound words. Clap, growl, jangle, vroom—all of these choices have distinctive sounds and are examples of onomatopoeia.


Why use Onomatopoeia?

     Using effective sound words in your writing—such as clang or achoo—will certainly help you come up with the most creative way to convey what is happening in a scene. Importantly, it also enhances the sensory experience for the reader. And it’s FUN!

You’ll also find that your sentences can be trimmed of unnecessary words—one onomatopoeia word choice usually replaces a much lengthier description. If you are writing children’s picture books where the economy of words is especially important, utilizing sound words will help you keep your word count low. Consider these examples:

“She made a low, mournful sound as if she were in pain” or She groaned

“He ejected gas spasmodically and noisily from his stomach through his mouth” or He belched

You get the picture. Onomatopoeia allows you to be concise. Additionally, sound words inject an element of humor and playfulness into your piece.


Children’s Books that showcase Onomatopoeia:


There are oodles of children’s picture books that effectively employ onomatopoeia. Here are a few of my favorites:


A Mouthful of Onomatopoeia, by Bette Blaisdell

Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson

Boom Boom, by Sarvinder Naberhaus

“Buzz,” said the Bee, by Wendy Lewison

Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type, by Doreen Cronin

Hush!: a Thai Lullaby, by Minfong Ho

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, by Candace Fleming

Roller Coaster, by Marla Frazee

Split! Splat!, by Amy Gibson

Squeak! Rumble! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, by Wynton Marsalis

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams

Watersong, by Tim McCanna

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen

Who Likes Rain?, by Wong Herbert Yee

Whoosh, Crunch, Roar: Football Onomatopoeia, by Mark Weakland

Zin! Zin! Zin!: A Violin, by Lloyd Moss


A Handy-Dandy Onomatopoeia Word List

             Writers love tools that save them time—at least, I know I do.  I recently began working on a picture book project where I wanted to associate a key sound with each of my anthropomorphic characters. I searched on the internet for an expansive list of sound words.  I found a few pretty good listings, but I couldn’t find ONE complete list that included the entire universe (or close to it) of great onomatopoeia words. So I took one for the team and gave up an afternoon to put all those lists into one comprehensive onomatopoeia word list. And POW!— I’m sharing it with YOU, our devoted GROG Blog Readers so that you may take advantage of it, too.


Find my list on this page on my website:


Note: I’m sure that YOU, our whip-smart blog readers may know some onomatopoeia words that I missed. If so, comment with additional words on this GROG post and I’ll add them to this handy listing. In a few weeks, I’ll reshare the document. Happy writing!

AND the winner of the picture book, SMELLY KELLY, by Beth Anderson is Angie Quantrell. Congratulations!



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Saving Grandaddy's Stories - an Interview with Shannon Hitchcock

Leslie Colin Tribble

Years ago, when there was such a thing as in-person conferences, I traveled from Wyoming to Georgia to a lovely state park to participate in WOW, A Week of Writing. I met the other Groggers there as well as many other talented writers, one of whom was Shannon Hitchcock. Shannon recently released her debut picture book biography, Saving Granddaddy's Stories. I caught up with her via email and I'm so happy she let me tell the story of this wonderful book. 

Where did the idea for your book come from? Why was it important for you to write this story?

In 1983, the year I graduated from Appalachian State University, Ray Hicks was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. I tucked that information away in my mind, and many years later when I was searching for my next writing project, I dreamed about Ray. Ray is famous for telling Jack Tales, and my mother read Jack and the Beanstalk to me many times when I growing up.

How long did you work on the manuscript?

This is a really embarrassing question. I tried writing picture book biographies, (with no success), before I ever tried writing middle grade novels. In 2009, an early draft of this manuscript was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award, but never published. The feedback I received was it was too regional.

You usually write MG novels? Why did you want to write a picture book?

I never wanted to write a picture book, but a picture book biography. They are my favorite kind of picture book—probably because I love history.

Do you have other pb manuscripts in the works?

Yes, I recently signed a contract for two more picture books. Saving Granddaddy’s Stories will be the first book in an Appalachian trilogy. I asked my editor, Wiley Blevins, if he would be interested in looking at a second manuscript of mine about an Appalachian ballad singer. He really liked the manuscript, but thought it should be a trilogy. I didn't have a third book written so I got busy and wrote one. It really was a case of an editor connecting with a story. Wiley is from West Virginia so the mountains and Appalachian culture resonated with him. I also included in my pitch that educators could use Saving Granddaddy's Stories as a tool to  teach figurative language, for analyzing how Jack and the Beanstalk has been retold by different cultures, and for exploring the Appalachian Region and its traditions.

Do you have an agent and who publishes your works?

My agent is Deborah Warren at East/West Literary Agency. My middle grade novels are published by Scholastic Trade and my picture books by Reycraft.

Do you have a favorite page in the book?

Yes, I like the spread with the beanstalk and the cow.

Did the publisher pair you with the illustrator? What do you like about her illustrations?

Reycraft chose Sophie Page to illustrate the entire series. Sophie is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and the folk art feel of her illustrations pairs perfectly with my figurative language. Sophie crafts her images in two and three dimensions using clay, paper, fabric, and wire.

How are you promoting your book during COVID time?

Covid complicates everything, but I’m doing virtual events and blog posts and hoping for the best. I will be participating in an SLJ event tomorrow, but it will be taped and available until December:

I also have a middle grade novel, (FLYING OVER WATER) releasing on October 20th and I'm doing a virtual launch through The Writing Barn, but will also give a shoutout to Saving Granddaddy's Stories:

I'm scheduled to appear on Kirby Larson's blog for Friend Friday on January 29th.

Thanks, Shannon for giving us this wonderful story. I really enjoyed reading it and think it will resonate with lots of children and adults. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Guest Post by Beth Anderson: Being There: In Search of Setting + a Give-away!

Beth Anderson is no stranger to the Grog Blog. She offers wonderful picture book biography wisdom. Her new book, "Smelly" Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly's Nose Saved the New York City Subway debuts October 13th from Calkins Creek, & it is fabulous! Today Beth shares about setting in picture book biographies. 

Setting is one of the basic elements of story, and when a story is set in a different time or place than our own, it calls for research. Searching out clothing, technology, buildings, transportation, and more, we aim to avoid anachronisms and make our characters’ world come to life. But setting is more than a “costume” or fa├žade to make a story look right. Setting creates conflict, brings meaning, and is a vital part of point of view. So how can you “be there” as a character when you can’t travel to a place or time?

When I researched Elizabeth Jennings for Lizzie Demands a Seat, I pored over maps to get the lay of the land and locate her home, streetcar route, church, and courthouse. Putting myself in 1854 New York City, I imagined her footsteps clicking…wait…was there pavement? Basic questions like this lead us to seek out and examine images. Details on daily life, clothing, and weather help enhance scenes. 

But as I got to the heart of Lizzie’s story, I needed information on social aspects of life like class, gender, race, traditions, “unspoken rules,” and attitudes. How did she fit in her time and place? How did setting clash with her character? We can understand segregation on transportation being unjust, but how did it impact black lives? And Lizzie as a teacher—an educated, African American female who likely loved children—isn’t unusual today. But when we embed that fact in setting, we see her as exceptional. And when we look deeper, Lizzie as educator indicates she’s part of the abolitionist movement to secure equal rights and end slavery. Looking at her world through her eyes intensifies the emotions and adds meaning. Learning about the social fabric came from reading widely beyond her immediate surroundings, and about what happened before and after her actions. 


“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses called for setting research with a different focus. James Kelly’s story was more dependent on understanding the physical setting. I studied photographs of New York City from the 1930s to 1950s. I pored over subway maps to find locations of various incidents. And to “be there” as a character with super senses, I had to perceive his world as he did—through his senses. What would he have smelled with his super sniffer? What sounds would’ve bombarded his ears? I found some amazing historical maps— stench, sound, and industry maps! The sound map linked to newsreel clips! Though I didn’t use much of what I discovered, I could immerse myself in his sensory world. 

I’ve always wondered what was beneath those sidewalk grates and manhole covers. I needed to know about subway tunnels and access to infrastructure beneath the street. You Tube is a treasure trove! From teens exploring abandoned tunnels to workers building the subway, I learned about the underground world. [And let me add a special shout out to You Tube. I’ve used how-to videos, re-enactments (musket shots!), tours, historical footage, videos of animals, street sounds, drives through the countryside, and so much more.]

 Kelly’s radio crackled…” Wait a minute—would he have had a radio? How did he get messages to go check out clogs or leaks? An expert answered my question. No radios. He would have used phones marked by blue lights in the tunnels. Note for illustrator. 

Skyscrapers went up…their foundations went down. The city grew. How did that impact Kelly? Broken lines and mains, more miles of track to inspect [museum records]. Drips and leaks threatened cave-ins and explosions. Kelly could be electrocuted by the third rail. Inherent dangers inspire fear, tension, action.

 Why did he investigate a leak in a hotel and a stink in a tavern? Ahhh, everyone blamed that new-fangled, mysterious underground subway. Articles revealed attitudes.

 Media and trends influence how people see their world and sometimes offer interesting possibilities for imagery and writing. Smelly Kelly’s time, the heyday of detective stories and the emergence of superheroes, inspired me to play with both, and I ended up with a superhero thread that tied into the special heart that framed my telling. 

Different stories and characters require you to dig into different aspects of setting. In An Inconvenient Alphabet, I needed to delve into education, reading, writing, and language of the Revolutionary War period. Primary sources revealed traditions, attitudes, implications, and plenty of odd spellings which provided conflict and helped me take readers into the mix.  

It’s important to get the details of setting right and present your character’s world accurately. Even if you’re writing fiction, setting details make your world real and enhance the telling. There are plenty of online tools to gain access to a character’s world: maps of all kinds, Google Earth, You Tube, photographs, images, personal narratives, first-hand accounts, town records, digitized archive materials, varied media of the time, and EXPERTS! But to get past merely “dressing” your story in setting, consider the impact of all you’ve learned about the time and place on your character and the deeper meanings that emerge. Setting isn’t a backdrop and props, it’s sort of a living entity that affects character decisions, actions, and emotions. Some of the most important parts of setting involve aspects you can’t see.

 Dig deep and wide. Wrap yourself in the social fabric. Visualize physical details. Take in the sensory world like Smelly Kelly. But don’t just “stand” in that time and place. Immerse your heart in it. Be there. So your reader can be there, too. 

Thank you, Beth! To win a copy of "Smelly" Kelly & His Super Senses, please leave a comment for Beth by October 31. (U.S. addresses only)

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. Author of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET (S&S 2018), LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT! (Calkins Creek, 2020), and “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES (Calkins Creek, Oct. 2020), Beth has more historical gems on the way.

Book Trailer for Smelly Kelly:

Signed copies of my books available at Old Firehouse Books  
and Boulder Book Store



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What Past Pandemics can Teach Us ~ a conversation with Gail Jarrow

by Sue Heavenrich

In March, the schools and businesses in my county closed down for, what we thought at the time would be, a short period of time. But seven months later here we are, still in the midst of a pandemic. Humans have faced plagues and pandemics for at least as long as recorded history. Surely, in the last thousand years, we must have learned something? 

To find out, I called Gail Jarrow. She’s written about bubonic plague and typhoid fever, examining the science as well as the social and cultural events surrounding outbreaks of those diseases.

“With any new disease there are so many unknowns,” says Gail. When bubonic plague came to the US in the late 1890s-1900, scientists and doctors had some knowledge of bacteria. But they still had no understanding about how the plague was spread. The disease showed up in San Francisco, brought by ship from China, and scientists scrambled to find the cause and a cure. While public health officials fought the disease, politicians tried to hide it. They didn’t want people to know that it was in their community. Meanwhile, a French scientist working in India had written up a report on fleas as the agent of transmission – but it took 10 years for the scientific community to accept his findings. 

“In the heat of the moment, people, even scientists, can decide to accept one thing about a disease only years later to discover it was something else,” Gail says. In the case of bubonic plague, scientists were rushing to find a bacteria so they could develop a vaccine. “And mistakes were made,” Gail says. While scientists raced to find a cure, health officials leaned towards quarantines, an unpopular solution that conflicted with individual civil rights.

“We see many of these same tensions being played out with Covid,” says Gail. Pharmaceutical companies, local businesses, politicians, public health officials, and community residents each bring their own concerns and interests to a pandemic. 

“Just as with bubonic plague, we are learning things every day [about Covid-19],” says Gail. “We are going to make mistakes. In 1900 they made the best decisions they could with the information they had.” This is where we are at this point with the Covid pandemic: scientists continue to learn about the disease and public health officials are trying to make the best decisions they can. 

There are a lot of similarities between our current pandemic and the 1900 bubonic plague.
  • Both originated in China, spread from animals to humans and carried around the world. In 1900 is was ships, in 2020 it’s planes.
  • In 1900 San Francisco initiated a travel ban, and California monitored train stations and ports to make sure people wouldn’t carry the disease in or out of the communities. 
  • Public health officials tested people for the disease at the ports. In 2020 there were some travel bans and airports instituted temperature checks. But the US didn’t have the capacity to test vast populations and, at least in February and early March our airports were still open.
Covid testing is an issue, Gail notes. Not only are there limitations with using temperature as an indication, but we have yet to find a sure way to identify asymptomatic people carrying the virus.

Quarantine is an age-old approach to isolating disease. In Gail’s book about Typhoid Mary, medical detective George Soper eventually traced the outbreak of typhoid to Mary Mallon. But Mary refused to comply with quarantine and other medical directives because she never had any symptoms. With Mary, it became a battle of personal freedom versus public health – and here we are, once again deliberating quarantines, lockdowns, and contact tracing.

Check out Gail’s video on Covid-19, Pandemics & Disease

Most Notorious! A True Crime History Podcast features Gail in a podcast about deadly diseases in early 20th century America.

Gail’s newest book, Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease, is out this month and kicks off her new trilogy on Medical Fiascoes. She explores the science and history of Civil War medicine through actual medical cases and first-person accounts by soldiers, doctors, and nurses. You can find out more about Gail and her books at her website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Picture Books for Civic Engagement and Social Activism ~Christy Mihaly

A quick announcement up front: I'm excited to be serving as a Round 1 panelist for the Cybils book awards this season, in the Nonfiction category. I'll be very busy reading many fabulous books over the next couple of months! Nominations are open through October 15, and anyone can nominate a worthy book--more info here.

Today's Topic: Picture Books and Civic Engagement 
In 2020 we face an election year like no other. Amidst the disruptions to schools, schedules, and psyches, many adults are wondering how they can engage young people in meaningful conversations about our nation's challenges. 
Picture books can help. There's a cornucopia of recent releases to choose from. I asked a passel of creators of recently published picture books to share their inspirations, insights, and pointers for using these books in engaging with kids. 
Don't miss the additional titles they recommend, at the end of the post. And finally, I've included links to book-related additional resources.

Books about Civics
Sometimes we want a book that introduces the conceptual framework of democracy: elections, rights, and the roles of government officials. 

When Catherine Stier couldn't find a book to help her explain to her preschoolers what the President is supposed to do, she wrote it herself.  If I Were President (Albert Whitman, 1999, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan) offers a kids'-eye view of the presidency. 

Stier's recently released A Vote is a Powerful Thing (Albert Whitman, Sept. 2020, illustrated by Courtney Dawson), provides a kid-friendly take on elections. Stier says she encourages adults sharing this book to talk with kids about issues that are important to them, and encourage them to design campaign posters for causes they care about.

Ruth Spiro's "Baby Loves Political Science" board books explain democracy's basics to even younger kids. (Charlesbridge, 2020-2021, illustrated by Greg Paprocki.) It's never too early to start!
Ruth explains that these new additions to her popular "Baby Loves Science" series use everyday events and observations to teach the fundamentals of government. Democracy introduces elections, while Justice, along with the forthcoming Congress and The Presidency, cover the three branches of government.

In a similar vein, in Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means (Albert Whitman, 2020, illustrated by Manu Montoya) my intention was help kids appreciate the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, and to understand how these freedoms shape our lives. I incorporated poems, historical vignettes, and a contemporary story in which kids exercise their rights to make the world a better place. While some high-profile adults don't always seem to understand the Constitution, I hope this book gives young readers a good start on the road to civic engagement. 

Books to Foster Social Engagement

What better way to capture a young reader's imagination than with a well-told story? That's what these picture books do. Here's a selection of excellent recent and forthcoming PBs that use true stories to bring history to life, promote empathy, and encourage young people to get involved in their communities.

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (Charlesbridge, 2020) profiles 14 contemporary young activists with brief bios and poems by diverse poets. Edited by Lindsay Metcalf, Keila Dawson and Jeanette Bradley, with art by Jeanette Bradley, this book invites kids to read it again and again. It includes back matter explaining the poetic forms, profiles of the poets, and suggestions for activism.

Jeanette Bradley says her daughter inspired her to create this book. After reading other picture book biographies, she told Jeanette, "I wish I lived in the past, so I could change things." This child had concluded, from her reading, that only famous dead people could make a difference in the world! Jeanette hopes that by collecting the stories of modern activist kids, she can correct this misconception and "empower kids to speak out and act when they see a wrong." 

The book's editors also created additional materials to inspire engagement. Keila wrote an activity guide, and Lindsay and Jeanette collected book club materials for teachers on Flip Grid. As Keila says, not only should kids learn about leaders from the past, but they also "can be a part of making history too."
Author Elisa Boxer is drawn to unsung heroes. In The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman's Words Made History (ill. Vivien Mildenberger, Sleeping Bear Press, 2020), she celebrates a lesser-known figure in the women's suffrage movement. Febb Burn was a mother who helped push through the ratification of the 19th Amendment by writing a letter to her lawmaker son. This story resonated for Elisa, who knew it could "help children realize the power of one voice, and one vote." She hopes her book will "inspire children to give voice to what matters to them." 
Beth Anderson was also moved to tell the story of a lesser-known woman. Lizzie Demands a Seat: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights (ill. E.B. Lewis, Calkins Creek, 2020) introduces readers to a young African American schoolteacher in New York City who fought against segregated streetcars in 1854, a century before Rosa Parks took her stand.

In presenting this book to young people, Beth highlights how the "heroic people that come before us inspire us and how we, too, have a responsibility to leave 'footsteps' to inspire others that follow us." Beth leads the kids in an activity in which they trace their feet on colored paper and cut out "footprints." On one footprint, she asks them to write the names of those who have inspired them, and on the other, how they'd like to inspire others.

Author Traci Sorell works to bring greater visibility to members of the Native Nations in literature for young people, and to empower kids to use their voices. Her first Picture Book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (ill. Frane Lessac, Charlesbridge, 2018), offers readers a look at contemporary Cherokee life. Traci continues to bring Native stories to light in many formats. Look for her forthcoming nonfiction picture books, Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer (Millbrook 2021), and We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know (Charlesbridge 2021).

Do you have other favorite books to share on these topics? Please leave them in the comments! 

More Recommended Recent Picture Books for Young Activists
☑ Sometimes People March, by Tessa Allen (Balzer + Bray, 2020)
☑ Shirley Chisolm is a Verb, by Veronica Chambers, ill. Rachelle Baker (Dial Books, 2020)
☑ Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, by Alice Faye Duncan, ill. R. Gregory Christie (Calkins Creek, 2018)
☑ Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World, by Susan Hood, ill. Sophie Blackall and 12 more (Harper Collins, 2018) 
☑ We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, ill. Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook, 2020)
☑ Vote for Our Future! by Margaret McNamara, ill. Micah Player (Schwartz & Wade, 2020)
☑ Peaceful Fights for Equal Rightsby Rob Sanders, ill. Jared Andrew Schorr (Simon & Schuster, 2018)
☑ The Teachers March: How Selma's Teachers Changed History, by Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace, ill. Charly Palmer (Calkins Creek, 2020)

Additional Resources