Theme Guide: Activism

This reading list is all about rising up and making a difference! Social justice and activism are at the forefront in these books that are perfect for classroom and library use.

Picture Books

Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs
Written by Susan Hughes
Illustrated by Valérie Boivin
Kids Can Press, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77138-653-1
IL: Ages 7-9 RL: Grade 4

In this engaging informational picture book, author Susan Hughes provides a fictionalized story of the life of Jane Jacobs, an urban thinker and activist who made planning and development of healthy cities her life’s work and whose influence is still felt today. Kids will be inspired to notice the “sidewalk ballet” around them and to protect what makes their communities — and their cities — great!

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The Water Walker
Written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson
Second Story Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77260-038-4
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2-3

Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibwe grandmother, walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi (water) for future generations and for all life on the planet. Nokomis has walked around all the Great Lakes from the salt waters (oceans) all the way to Lake Superior. Young readers are challenged to take the responsibility to protect our water, the giver of life.

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Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Pandas on the Eastside
Written by Gabrielle Prendergast
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4598-1143-0
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-8

When 10-year-old Journey Song hears that two pandas are being held in a warehouse in her neighbourhood, she worries that they may be hungry, cold and lonely. Horrified to learn that the pandas, originally destined for a zoo in Washington, might be shipped back to China because of a diplomatic spat between China and the United States, Journey rallies her friends and neighbours on the poverty-stricken Eastside. Her infectious enthusiasm for all things panda is hard to resist, and soon she’s getting assistance from every corner of her tight-knit neighbourhood.

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The Summer We Saved the Bees
Written by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4598-0834-8
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-6

Wolf’s mother is obsessed with saving the world’s honeybees. He gets that. But it’s another thing altogether when she announces that she’s taking her Save the Bees show on the road — family style, complete with mortifying bee costumes. Can Wolf and his sisters convince her that dragging the family around in a beat-up panel van may not be the best idea she’s ever had?

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Young Adult Fiction

Matt, a white quarterback from Montreal, Quebec, flies to France (without his parents’ permission) to play football and escape family pressure. Freeman, a black football player from San Antonio, Texas, is in Paris on a school trip when he hears about a team playing American football in a rough, low-income suburb called Villeneuve-La-Grande. Matt and Free join the Diables Rouges and make friends with the other players, who come from many different ethnic groups. Racial tension erupts into riots in Villeneuve when some of their Muslim teammates get in trouble with the police, and Matt and Free have to decide whether to get involved and face the very real risk of arrest and violence.

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In Plain Sight
Written by Laura Langston
Orca Book Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4598-1416-5
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades  3-4

Fifteen-year-old Megan “Cause Queen” Caliente is president of the political science club and likes to make her voice heard. But after the protest she organized on the Las Vegas Strip takes an unexpected turn, she is suddenly wishing she could disappear. When her mother comes to pick her up at the police station, Megan learns, to her horror, that her whole life has been a lie. Her father is a convicted terrorist, responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people, and her mother has been living under an assumed name for 15 years. Now everyone, students and teachers alike, is treating Megan differently now. Cruel accusations and gossip, as well as persistent reporters, follow her everywhere. Worried that she is destined to follow in her father’s footsteps, Megan, with the help of the charismatic Matt Mendez, the only person at school who hasn’t turned on her, decides to track down the father she thought was dead and get some answers.

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Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School
Written by Laura Scandiffio
Annick Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-5545-1797-8
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

In many countries around the world, universal access to education is a seemingly unattainable dream; however, determined individuals with vision and drive have made this dream come true for many. Fight to Learn highlights people such as Okello, a former child soldier in Uganda, who founded a school for children like him whose education was derailed by war; Chicago teen Deonte Tanner, who changed one high school’s culture from guns and gangs to talking and learning; Shannen Koostachin, a feisty 13-year-old Cree whose fight for the right of First Nations children to have proper schools endured even after her untimely death.

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Meet Viola Desmond
(Scholastic Canada Biography)
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Scholastic Canada, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4431-6387-3
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2-4

On a rainy November day in 1946, Viola decided that she would not give up her seat in the unofficial white section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Viola knew she was being asked to move because she was black. She was jailed, tried and found guilty of an unfair charge. But Viola and her supporters persisted in their campaign for social justice — all the way to Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court. Because when Viola decided to do something … she did it! This new picture book biography series features simple text and full-colour, comic-flavoured illustration with speech balloons that help bring the story alive. Historical photos and a timeline support the narrative.

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Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World
Written by Janet Wilson
Second Story Press, 2013
ISBN 978-1-9269-2095-5
IL: Ages 7-12 RL: Grades 3-4

A girl who spoke out against her government for the rights of aboriginal children, a boy who walked across his country to raise awareness of homelessness, and a former child soldier who wants to make music not war. Here are true stories of kids just like you who are standing up for their rights. Read about how they have made a difference. Dylan Mahalingam from the USA started an online charity to raise money to fight child poverty. The bravery of Nujood Ali Mohammed from Yemen inspired other girls who were being forced to marry too young. of them are making a difference for children’s rights.

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You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World
Written by Caroline Paul
Illustrated by Lauren Tamaki
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-68119-822-4
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 6-7

Passionate about politics? Dedicated to saving the environment? This guide book, featuring change-maker tips, as well as anecdotes of young activists around the globe, is for those with a fierce sense of justice, a good sense of humour and a big heart. So make a sign, write a letter, volunteer, march or take part in a sit-in! You’re never too young to change the world!

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