Books about protest

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“What are all those people doing?” This might be a question you get from a child who sees a protest in the news.  Sometimes we see events happening, and we wonder how we’ll talk to our kids about them. They seem complicated or too political or maybe dangerous and we might think that we’ll talk about it when they’re older. But even when we don’t know how to explain something, we can sometimes turn to a book to help start the conversation. This is a list of books that could start a discussion about something kids might wonder about – protests.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin is the story of Farmer Brown’s cows who, feeling a bit cold in the barn, type a letter requesting blankets.  But Farmer Brown decides to take a stand and not give any cows any electric blankets.  So, the cows go on strike.  No milk today!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt also starts with a letter, this time to Duncan from The Crayons.  Each crayon writes Duncan their own letter to give him some feedback about how they feel when Duncan uses them.  Red feels upset that he has to work on holidays (think Valentine’s Day AND Christmas).  Beige is sad because he never gets used.  Black only gets to draw outlines.  Even dutiful crayons have feelings!

This Land is Your Land illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen brings images to the words of the song written by Woody Guthrie.  This well-known song speaks to the splendor and vastness of America by listing the great features of the country.  What is less well known is that the song meant to rally the feeling that America is meant for everyone, not just the ones with money or means.  One of the later verses says “As I went walking I saw a sign there/And on the sign it said No Trespassing/But on the other side it didn’t say nothing/That side was made for you and me”

Another good book is Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter.  Lillian, who is 100 years old, lives in the Hill District in Pittsburgh and every election day makes the climb up the hill to her polling place.  As she walks, she remembers the difficult journey her parents and grandparents had in their times when they tried to vote, and how the important Voting Rights Act is to her and millions of other Americans who protested for the right to vote.

I’m also going to mention the March Trilogy by John Lewis for teen readers.  This three book graphic novel series shows the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.  John Lewis, now a U.S. representative, was involved in the movement as chairman of the the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.  He helped organize people to protest segregation in non-violent ways like sit-ins, marches and rallies.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

When Farmer Brown’s cows find a typewriter in the barn they start making demands, and go on strike when the farmer refuses to give them what they want.

The Day the Crayons Quit

When Duncan arrives at school one morning, he finds a stack of letters, one from each of his crayons, complaining about how he uses them.

This Land Is Your Land

This well-known folk song is accompanied by a tribute from folksinger Pete Seeger, the musical notation, and a biographical scrapbook with photographs.

March. Book One

Civil Rights activist John Lewis tells the story of his childhood and early years as a student in Alabama. His dedication to the principles of non-violence and equality lead him and fellow students to organize protests against segregation in their city. Exciting, inspiring and educational, Lewis’ first book shows how a legend is made.

March. Book two

Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality,imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the movement’s young activists place their lives on the line while internal conflicts threaten to tear them apart. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

March. Book Three

The concluding volume in Congressman John Lewis’ graphic memoirs, Book Three focuses on the Civil Rights campaign for voting rights in the still-segregated South. Covering key historical moments like the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama and the confrontation between peaceful protesters and armed policemen on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the struggle for equality continues through the sacrifices of heroes like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others.