The best books with children being unapologetic and having agency and autonomy

The Books I Picked & Why

Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh!

By Wiley Blevins, Marta Kissi

Book cover of Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh!

Why this book?

I am personally recommending this book because it is hands down one of the funniest books I have ever read. Trevor Lee is unapologetic. He is who he is. He is an Appalachian boy who doesn’t like school much and doesn’t want anyone to know he is not a big reader. To escape Parent’s Night, he tries and fails to get out of it and has to seek his Maw-Maw’s help. I love this book. Whenever I am in a negative space, I can always count on the dog-eared pages to have me cracking up.

For me, it is humor and laughter can be the light we need in the darkest of days. I also love how Maw-Maw has the answer. This book is about the support of family as well. Trevor Lee is unapologetically hysterical. I love this book so much. Everyone should have a copy on his or her shelf.

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Nigel and the Moon

By Antwan Eady, Gracey Zhang

Book cover of Nigel and the Moon

Why this book?

Nigel and the Moon is a story about a young boy who’s afraid to tell the world his dreams, so he tells them to the moon at night. This book is about children dreaming. This book allows Nigel to see himself in the world. He can dream and whisper his wishes to the moon. This book is about #Identity, #BlackBoyJoy, and children trying to find themselves and their placement in the world. Nigel has agency and autonomy. This is going to be a classic book. Mark my words.

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Roller Coaster

By Marla Frazee

Book cover of Roller Coaster

Why this book?

This book is brilliant, and it was introduced to me by my therapist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital. It is about the anxiousness and tension buildup of riding a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters. But Frazee’s beautiful illustrations show a diverse group of riders. I don’t think I see Black folks and ADOS folks on the pages of picture books just enjoying life. I think this is why it will forever be one of my TOP 5 picture books. No oppressive language. No stereotypes. No slave narrative. Just folks and their kids out to have a great time. To see this documented on the page is so special to me. And the illustrations. Man, those joyful illustrations give me life.

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Rou and the Great Race

By Pam Fong

Book cover of Rou and the Great Race

Why this book?

This book is the first of its kind. It is a dystopian picture book. Flowers are almost non-existent. It’s a rarity. So, every year, there is an annual race. Rou wants to win, but not for her. She wants the flowers for her grandmother. I love that she put someone before her. This book is gorgeously illustrated and the message of what you would do to please the ones you love is abundantly clear. I love this book.

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Each Kindness

By Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis

Book cover of Each Kindness

Why this book?

This is another book that is in my top 5 for picture books. I think the true theme of this book is “Missed Opportunity”. When a new girl shows up at the school, a girl and her friends refused to let her into their circle. But when the student never returned, the girl wished she had been kinder. I love this book. I read it weekly just to remind myself that not all picture books have a happy ending. Jacqueline Woodson is the queen of tackling difficult topics in children’s books. And EB Lewis consistently leaves things off the page. His illustrations spark conversations and are perfect to be read at home and at school. 

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