We’ve compiled a list of some of the noteworthy new and forthcoming activism-themed books due out this spring for young readers. Children and teens can learn about famous figures who have changed the world, past and current social, political, and environmental injustices, and the many ways they can get involved and make a difference.
Picture Books and Board Books
Areli Is a Dreamer: A True Story
Areli Morales, illus. by Luisa Uribe. Random House, June 8 ISBN 978-1-984893-99-4. Ages 4–8.
In the first picture book written by a DACA dreamer, Morales tells her own powerful immigration story and how she slowly became a New Yorker—but not an American citizen.
Butterfly for the King: Saving Hawai'i's Kamehameha Butterflies
Cindy Trumbore and Susan L. Roth Lee & Low, Feb. 9 $20.95 ISBN 978-1-62014-971-3. Ages 8–12.
This nonfiction picture book introduces the Kamehameha butterfly and the people all around Hawaii who are helping it survive.
Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States
Compiled by Warren Binford, foreword by Michael Garcia Bochenek. Workman, Apr. 13 $19.95 ISBN 978-1-5235-1348-2. Ages 8 and up.
The voices of real children are paired with the artwork of 17 Mexican and Mexican American artists, including Pura Belpré Award winner and Caldecott Medalist Yuyi Morales and Pura Belpré Award winner Raúl the Third, in this moving picture book for older children and families. Backmatter includes resources and discussion questions.
I Have the Right to Save My Planet
Alain Serres, illus. by Aurélia Fronty, trans. from the French by Shelley Tanaka. Groundwood, Apr. 6 $19.95 ISBN 978-1-77306-487-1. Ages 4–7.
This follow-up to I Have the Right to Be a Child illustrates a child’s right to advocate for the environment, as proclaimed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and what children can do to help.
Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Alicia D. Williams, illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. Atheneum/Dlouhy, Jan. 12 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5344-1913-1. Ages 4–8.
From the Newbery Honor–winning author of Genesis Begins Again comes a picture book that shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the African American writer who, with wit and resourcefulness, overcame numerous obstacles to change the face of American literature.
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Heather Lang, illus. by Jana Christy. Boyds Mills & Kane, Feb. 9 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-68437-177-8. Ages 7–10.
Young readers can learn about renowned tree canopy biologist Margaret Lowman and how her efforts have helped save rainforests around the world as well as inspired a global movement.
Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Sister Corita Kent
Matthew Burgess, illus. by Kara Kramer. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 ISBN 978-1-59270-316-6. Ages 7 and up.
This biographical picture book draws readers into the life of Sister Corita Kent, an educator, artist, and activist whose work and commitment in the fight for social justice pushed us to question the existing framework of society.
Marching for Change: Movements Across America
Joyce Markovics. Sleeping Bear, Jan. 1 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5341-8677-4. Ages 8–9.
This book covers some of the most famous protest marches in U.S. history—and encourages readers to stand up for the things they believe in.
Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea
Meeg Pincus, illus. by Lucy Semple. Sleeping Bear, Mar. 15 $16.99 ISBN 978-1-5341-1118-9. Ages 7–8.
Bringing ecological issues to the surface, author Pincus rhymes her way through a recipe for Ocean Soup—the product of pollution, excess, and plastic waste. Readers are encouraged to become active in keeping their own communities clean.
Old Enough to Save the Planet
Loll Kirby, illus. by Adelina Lirius. Abrams, Feb. 9 $16.99 ISBN 978-1-4197-4914-8. Ages 8–12.
This book introduces 12 young activists from around the world who are speaking out and taking action against climate change.
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race
Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, illus. by Isabel Roxas. Rise x Penguin Workshop, Mar. 16 ISBN 978-0-593-38263-9. Ages 2–5.
The first in this heavily researched board book series begins a conversation on race, with an approach that aims to support both the child and the adult. Backmatter offers additional resources and ideas for extending this discussion.
Samantha Thornhill, illus. by Shirley Ng-Benitez. Lee & Low, Jan. 12 $15.95 ISBN 978-1-64379-208-8. Ages 4–7.
In the ninth book in the Confetti Kids early chapter book series, Lily learns that the community garden is going to be torn down and made into a parking lot. Upset by the news, Lily and her friends decide to form a protest and call on friends, neighbors, and reporters to participate.
Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch
Heidi Tyline King, illus. by Ekua Holmes. Putnam, Apr. 13 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-101-99629-4. Ages 4–8.
This picture book biography illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Holmes tells the story of MaVynee Betsch, an African American opera singer turned activist and conservationist, and the legacy she preserved.
Send a Girl! The True Story of How Women Joined the FDNY
Jessica M. Rinker, illus. by Meg Hunt. Bloomsbury, Mar. 9 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5476-0174-5. Ages 4–8.
This picture book biography details the life and career of Brenda Berkman, the woman who broke gender barriers in one of the most macho life-saving organizations in the U.S.
The following are new additions to the chapter book series inspired by the bestselling picture book She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger, about women who spoke up and rose up against the odds:
She Persisted: Virginia Apgar
Dr. Sayantani DasGupta, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, Apr. 6 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11578-7. Ages 6–9.
Despite having a professor discourage her from becoming a surgeon, and the lack of women attending medical school at the time, Apgar became a renowned anesthesiologist and created the famous Apgar test to check the health of newborn babies—a test still used today.
She Persisted: Nellie Bly
Michelle Knudsen, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, May 4 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11574-9. Ages 6–9.
A journalist and one of the first investigative reporters, Bly raced around the world while undercover to expose wrongdoing so she could write about the experience for her newspaper.
She Persisted: Claudette Colvin
Lesa Cline-Ransome, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, Feb. 2 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11584-8. Ages 6–9.
Before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., 15-year-old Colvin made the same choice. She insisted on standing up—or in her case, sitting down—for what was right, and in doing so, fought for equality, fairness, and justice.
She Persisted: Sally Ride
Atia Abawi, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, Mar. 2 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11593-0. Ages 6–9.
Ride broke barriers when she became the first American woman in space. But she didn’t stop there: after leaving NASA, she created science and engineering programs that would help other girls and women make their dreams come true as well.
She Persisted: Sonia Sotomayor
Meg Medina, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, June 1 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11602-9. Ages 6–9.
Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history, overcame many challenges to achieve her dream.
She Persisted: Harriet Tubman
Andrea Davis Pinkney, introduction by Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Chelsea Boiger and Gillian Flint. Philomel, Jan. 5 $5.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11566-4. Ages 6–9.
Born enslaved, Tubman became one of the most successful, determined, and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad.
Sofia Valdez’s Big Project Book for Awesome Activists
Andrea Beaty, illus. by David Roberts. Abrams, May 4 $14.99 ISBN 978-1-4197-4944-5. Ages 4–8.
The youngest go-getters and changemakers can learn what it takes to make a difference in their community as they engage in more than 40 activities that are all about activism, politics, and the governmental process.
Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence
Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano, and Marietta Collins, illus. by Keith Henry Brown. Magination, Apr. 27 $16.99 ISBN 978-1-4338-3521-6. Ages 5–9.
In this follow-up to Something Happened in Our Town,,when Miles’s cousin Keisha is injured in a shooting, he realizes people can work together to reduce the likelihood of violence in their community.
Standing on Her Shoulders
Monica Clark-Robinson, illus. by Laura Freeman. Orchard, Mar. 2 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-338-35800-1. Ages 4–8.
A celebration of the strong women who influence us—from our mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers to the women who fought for equality and acceptance in the United States.
Flight of the Puffin
Ann Braden. Penguin/Paulsen, May 4. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-984816-06-1. Ages 10 and up.
Libby comes from a long line of bullies, but she wants to be different. To bolster herself, she makes a card with the message “You are amazing,” which sets off a chain reaction that ends up making a difference in the lives of some kids who could also use a boost.
The Good War
Todd Strasser. Delacorte, Jan. 26 $16.99 ISBN 978-0-593-17365-7. Ages 10 and up.
What starts out as a friendly competition at Ironville Middle School’s new video game club takes an unexpected turn for the worse when one player takes the game too far. [See our q&a with Strasser.] https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/85310-q-a-with-todd-strasser.html
Growing Up Elizabeth May: The Making of an Activist
Sylvia Olsen and Cate May Burton. Orca, May 11 $24.95 ISBN 978-1-4598-2370-9. Ages 9–12.
This biography introduces middle-grade readers to May and the story of her lifelong environmental and political activism.
How to Be a Global Citizen
DK, June 8 $19.99 ISBN 978-0-7440-2995-6. Ages 10 and up.
This illustrated guide helps young people explore the global issues that matter most to them and aims to show them practical ways to actively participate at every level—at home, in the local community, nationally, and beyond.
How to Become an Accidental Activist
Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky, illus. by Jenn Playford. Orca, Apr. 13 $24.95 ISBN 978-1-4598-2611-3. Ages 9–12.
This biography profiles almost 100 activists from around the world, including change-makers such as Pete Seeger, Lilly Singh, and Greta Thunberg.
How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
Naomi Klein, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Atheneum, Feb. 23 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5344-7452-9. Ages 10 and up.
Klein and Stefoff include new data, interviews, kid-specific scenarios and profiles on young activists in this young people’s guide to battling climate change.
Kids on the March: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting, and Fighting for Justice
Michael G. Long. Algonquin, Mar. 23 $16.95 ISBN 978-1-64375-100-9. Ages 10–14.
This manifesto for young activists relays 15 accounts of passionate youths who transformed our country, with stories from the 1903 March of the Mill Children to the 2020 George Floyd protests.
Kidstory: 50 Children and Young People Who Shook Up the World
Tom Adams, illus. by Sarah Walsh. Atheneum, Mar. 9 $21.99 ISBN 978-1-5344-8515-0. Ages 8 and up.
Readers can learn about 50 kids, including Anne Frank, Pocahontas, Samantha Smith, and Emma Watson, who changed the world in this illustrated collection of short biographies.
Our World Out of Balance: Understanding Climate Change and What We Can Do
Andrea Minoglio, illus. by Laura Fanelli, Blue Dot Kids, Apr. 13 $21.95 ISBN 978-1-73500-053-4. Ages 8–12.
This guide to climate change offers tangible, simple things that every child can do themselves to help the planet. Each chapter ends with a “How You Can Help” section, and ideas throughout aim to inspire children to think about their role in keeping our world healthy.
Palm Trees at the North Pole: The Hot Truth About Climate Change
Marc ter Horst, illus. by Wendy Panders. Greystone Kids, Mar. 2021 $19.95 ISBN 978-1-77164-682-6. Ages 8–12.
This book explains climate change and encourages young activists to engage more deeply with the cause. A “Do It Yourself” spread is included, with more than 80 suggestions for action.
Race Against Time: The Untold Story of Scipio Jones and the Battle to Save Twelve Innocent Men
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace. Boyds Mills & Kane, Jan. 5 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-62979-816-5. Ages 10–14.
The Wallaces present the story of unsung African American early civil rights hero Scipio Africanus Jones, who led a momentous series of court cases to save 12 Black men who’d been unjustly sentenced to death.
Racial Justice in America: Topics for Change
Kelisa Wing, Hedreich Nichols, and Leigh Ann Erickson. Sleeping Bear, Jan. 1 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5341-8678-1. Ages 10–11.
This book explores current, long-avoided topics around race to encourage kids of all backgrounds them to approach these issues with open eyes and minds.
Simon B. Rhymin’
Dwayne Reed. Little, Brown, Mar. 5 $16.99 ISBN 978-0-316-53897-8. Ages 8–12.
Eleven-year-old Simon Barnes dreams of becoming a world-famous rapper, but for now, he’s just a Chicago fifth-grader who’s afraid to use his voice. When his new teacher assigns the class an oral presentation on something that affects their community, will Simon find the confidence to face his fears?
Take Back the Block
Chrystal D. Giles. Random House, Jan. 26 $16.99 ISBN 978-0-593-17517-0. Ages 8–12.
All that sixth-grader Wes Henderson wants to do is hang out with his crew and play video games, not go to the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy his neighborhood, everything changes.
Together We March: 25 Protest Movements That Marched into History
Leah Henderson, illus. by Tyler Feder. Atheneum, Jan. 19 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-5344-4270-2. Ages 7 and up.
The book features 25 groundbreaking protest movements that have shaped the way we fight for equality and justice today.
We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance
Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic Focus, Feb.2 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-338-25577-5. Ages 9–12.
In this narrative nonfiction account, Sibert Honor author Hopkinson brings the voices of Holocaust survivors to the page. With archival images and myriad interviews, the book honors the courage of the victims and also calls young readers to action.
Can’t Take That Away
Steven Salvatore. Bloomsbury, Mar. 9 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-5476-0530-9. Ages 12 and up.
Carey Parker, a Mariah Carey-loving genderqueer teen, lands the (female) lead at their school play, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others at their high school. It’s up to Carey and their friends to defend their rights and stand up to the school administration.
Chella Man. Penguin Workshop, June 1 $8.99 ISBN 978-0-593-22348-2. Ages 12 and up.
In this memoir, part of the Pocket Change Collective series, Chella Man journeys through his experiences as a deaf, transgender, genderqueer Jewish person of color, and shows us that identity lies on a continuum.
Every Day Is Earth Day
Harriet Dyer. Andrews McMeel, Feb. 16 $12.99 ISBN 978-1-5248-6296-1. Ages, 12 and up.
Tips from creating a more eco-friendly home to advice on shopping sustainably encourage readers to become “mindful eco-warriors,” make planet-friendly choices, and live a more sustainable life.
From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement
Paula Yoo. Norton Young Readers, Apr. 6 $19.95 ISBN 978-1-324-00287-1. Ages 13 and up.
Yoo crafts a suspenseful portrait of a pivotal moment in civil rights history, and a man who became a symbol against hatred and racism.
Louisa Onome. Delacorte, Feb. 23 $17.99 ISBN 978-0-593-17259-9. Ages 12 and up.
Nelo loves her neighborhood, Ginger East, although it isn’t what it used to be. After a deadly incident at the local arcade and an act of vandalism targeted at her best friend’s family store, Nelo is shaken. And when the police and the media get involved with promises to “fix the neighborhood,” Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.
Love Is a Revolution
Renée Watson. Bloomsbury, Feb. 2 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-5476-0060-1. Ages 13 and up.
Black 17-year-old Nala Robertson almost immediately falls for Tye, the emcee at an open mic night for her “cousin-sister-friend” Imani’s birthday. Fearing Tye won’t like her as herself, she tells a little white lie about her “causes” in order to get to know him better.
#MeToo and You: Everything You Need to Know About Consent, Boundaries, and More
Halley Bondy. Lerner/Zest, Feb. 2 $14.99 ISBN 978-1-5415-8159-3. Ages 11–18.
The #MeToo movement has changed the way many people view the world, but how well do tweens understand it? Bondy explores sexually charged and emotionally abusive situations in detailed scenarios that provide valuable examples of what’s acceptable and what is not, along with tools to help everyone treat others appropriately and to stand up for themselves and their peers.
Off the Record
Camryn Garrett. Knopf, May 18 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-984829-99-3. Ages 14 and up.
When 17-year-old Josie Wright wins a contest to write a celebrity profile, she’s equal parts excited and scared. But when she uncovers the scandal of the decade, she knows she’s in over her head. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but is reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell.
One of the Good Ones
Maika and Maritza Moulite. Inkyard, Jan. 5 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-335-14580-2. Ages 13 and up.
When Happi’s teen activist sister Kezi attends a social justice rally and is killed afterward while in police custody, she becomes immortalized as “one of the good ones,” devastating Happi and her family and leaving Happi to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. The authors, who are sisters, explore the lasting impact of prejudice and the indomitable spirit of sisterhood, asking what it truly means to be an ally.
Separate No More
Lawrence Goldstone. Scholastic Focus, Jan. 5 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-338-59283-2. Ages 12 and up.
In this examination of the path to Brown v. Board of Education, constitutional law scholar Goldstone highlights the key trials and players in the fight for integration, offering context for the social, legal, and racial landscape of today.
Some Girls Do
Jennifer Dugan. Putnam, May 18. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-593-11253-3. Ages 12 and up.
In this contemporary queer YA romance, openly gay track star Morgan falls for closeted, bisexual beauty queen Ruby after finding out that being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. While Morgan doesn’t want to keep their relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet.
You Can’t Say That
Edited by Leonard Marcus. Candlewick, July 13 $18.99 ISBN 978-0-7636-9036-6. Ages 10 and up.
What happens when freedom of expression comes under threat? Prompted by Marcus’s questions, 13 top children’s and YA authors, including Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, Meg Medina, Lesléa Newman, Katherine Paterson, Dav Pilkey, R.L. Stine, and Angie Thomas speak out about what it’s like to have your work banned or challenged in America today.