Let The Children March (Monica Clark-Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Let The Children March, written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison, a powerful account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade.

In Jim Crow Alabama, a little girl’s family attends church to hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. He is trying to raise a peaceful army to march for civil rights, but the attendees are reluctant for fear of losing their jobs. But a remarkable group from the congregation step forward to volunteer: teens and children, who sagely point out that they have no jobs to lose. The adults, including Dr. King, are hesitant – even peaceful protests can and often do turn violent – but the children insist; it’s their own rights they’re marching for, after all. On a sunny Thursday, one thousand children begin their march and, over the course of three days, thousands more would join – despite being harassed, threatened, brutally assaulted by police, and arrested. But in the end, their courage was a landmark moment for the movement that caused the world to sit up and take notice, and began a wave of desegregation in Birmingham less than a week later.

I am always shocked that the Birmingham Children’s Crusade is not a more wildly-known event, likely because of the national shame the horrific treatment of American minors brought. Clark-Robinson handles this difficult story deftly, putting the reader into the perspective of a young, unnamed marcher and allowing them to connect to the pain, pride, and perseverance of the children and teens who marched. Each child is illustrated in exquisite detail, giving every character vivid personality and humanity. The art also doesn’t shy away from the violence, an bold choice – children are seen huddling against fire hoses and cowering from attacking police dogs, clothing tattered and bloody. It’s never exploitative, but brutally and vitally honest of what these kids risked to be heard. The length is fine for most reading levels, and JJ was spellbound by the heartbreaking art. This is a book that should be read by bookworms of every age, to pay tribute to these brave young people and remind us that courage knows no age. Baby Bookworm approved.

Pocket Bio: Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Al Berenger)

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Hello, friends! Our books today are from the Pocket Bio series by Al Berenger, specifically three notable figures in civil rights: Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each book gives the reader a brief history of the subject’s early life, their influences, their actions, and their legacies. Mandela’s focuses on his imprisonment and triumphant election as president of South Africa after his release – the first election he was able to vote in – and touches briefly on his Nobel win and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Parks’s includes her famous bus ride, and King’s looks at his involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott, the Selma march, and his “I Have A Dream” speech.

As early-learner primers for these historical figures, these aren’t terrible. King’s is the most informative, making note of his early influences (Jim Crow south, his father’s religious work, his study of Ghandi, etc.) and even his courtship with Coretta Scott. His murder is mentioned (though not depicted), and the book ends on a note of surprising honesty, noting that racism is still a problem that needs to be fought, but King’s work made great strides and encourages us to make more. Mandela’s book is serviceable, delving into the racist policies of Apartheid and mentioning the violent, often deadly protests that took place, but glossing over the reformation years pretty heavily. Most disappointing is Parks’s book, which relies almost solely on her arrest; the bus boycott that follows is made to seem entirely the idea of MLK (Parks volunteered to be the face of the boycott at great personal risk and sacrifice), and her work as a secretary and investigator with the NCAAP gets zero mention. Likewise, the bobble-headed illustrations are just okay – engaging for younger readers but occasionally at odds with the tone of the subject matter (a scene depicting a meeting of Mandela’s Spear of the Nation militant group is laughable). The length is fine, the backmatter – maps, timelines, etc – is a nice addition, and JJ enjoyed them for the most part. Somewhat uneven, and definitely only a jumping-off point, but worth a browse. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Case For Loving: The Fight For Interracial Marriage (Selina Alko)


Hello, friends! Today’s review is The Case For Loving: The Fight For Interracial Marriage, written by Selina Alko and illustrated by Alko and Sean Qualls, which tells the true story of the family behind the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia. 

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in a small town in Virginia. Both were quiet, humble, and kind, and eventually they fell very much in love. It never mattered to either of them that Richard was white and Mildred was black/Native American. Unfortunately, it mattered to the state of Virginia; at the time, it was illegal there and in 17 other states for people of different races to get married. Richard and Mildred wanted to be together though, so they married out-of-state, but were still arrested when they returned home to Virginia. So the Lovings decided to fight for their right to be together, and hired lawyers to argue their case in court. And in the midst of working and raising three children, the two quiet, humble people won their right to be together, and changed the laws of the United States in the process.

I adore the story of the Lovings, so I was delighted to see a children’s book that recognizes this courageous family. And this absolutely lived up to expectations: the Lovings’ story is simplified well for young readers, yet treated with honesty and respect. It takes the time to explain the anti-miscegenation laws and systemic racism that infringed on the couple’s right to be a family, and gives easily-understood context for the prejudice they suffered. The illustrations are lovely and fit the romantic and inspiring themes of the story well. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. This is a must-read for little ones, to show them the importance of standing up for what’s right, and that no matter what it looks like on the outside, love is love. Baby Bookworm approved!

Rosa (Nikki Giovanni)


Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosa, written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier, the story of Rosa Parks’s famous act of defiance and the fire it lit in the Civil Rights movement.

Rosa Parks is a seamstress, an activist, and a well-respected woman in her town of Montgomery, Alabama. One December afternoon, she is riding the bus home, seated in the section of the bus designated for use by either black or white people. Suddenly, the bus driver demands that she stand up, and quiet, mild-mannered Rosa does something that no one expects: she refuses. Reminiscing of all the work and protesting that she and others have done to bring equality to all Americans, Rosa decides that she will not give up her seat on the bus, and is arrested. When word of this gets out, a women’s political action group immediately sets to work raising support for Rosa, and eventually they and several other groups organize protests, a boycott, and marches to protest the unfair laws that separate white and “colored” people in public places. With the movement gaining both steam and the support of their fellow Americans, the buses are soon desegregated by a Supreme Court ruling… and it all began with one woman’s simple act of defiance.

This was a great retelling of a seminal moment and figure in the Civil Rights movement, featuring a brisk yet powerful story and gorgeous art. The story has some great messages about courage and the right to equality and the illustrations are powerful and evocative. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. There a few small issues: there’s a strange moment that seems to imply that men have a right to more space on public transit than women, which I didn’t love. But overall, this is still a story about how one very ordinary woman had the power to inspire others to fight for what’s right, and we liked it. Baby Bookworm approved!

A Is For Activist (Innosanto Nagara)


Hello, friends! Today, we read A Is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara, a children’s guide to human rights, equality, and civil disobedience. 

As with any alphabet book, the reader is taken through their ABC’s, this time using progressive subjects and topics to illustrate each letter. For instance, E is for Environmental Justice, L for LGBTQ rights, and F is for Feminism. Each letter provides a short primer of a multitude of subjects for young radicals, following trippingly free-verse rhymes to encourage little readers to question, support, protest and unite.

First thing’s first: if you prefer your children’s books apolitical, this is NOT the book for you. This book is thoroughly and unapologetically liberal, and focuses exclusively on civil and global political themes. However, if that is a mindset you want to introduce to little ones early on, this book is the perfect way to do it. The number of topics covered here is dizzying, each one being touched on briefly before moving to the next. This gives young readers the chance to be introduced to these issues with the intent of opening up conversation with the adults in their lives to expand on the information given. The mixed-media illustrations are colorful and bright, creating slightly abstract scenes that weave together the issues very nicely. And the detail of including a cat on each page for little ones to spot is a clever one. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. This is definitely a more niche book, but for those looking to encourage activism in their children’s lives, it’s near about perfect. Baby Bookworm approved!