The best books about making “good trouble”

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning author who has written books for all ages and genres – a Young Adult historical novel, several works of non-fiction for middle school students, two picture books for children, an adult work of non-fiction, and an adult memoir. I love a great story, and, for each book, I target the audience I believe is best suited to my narrative. Several of my books were inspired by my mother’s story of childhood immigration as she fled Nazi Germany for America and the emotional legacy of that experience.


I wrote...

Is It Night or Day?: A Novel of Immigration and Survival, 1938-1942

By Fern Schumer Chapman,

Book cover of Is It Night or Day?: A Novel of Immigration and Survival, 1938-1942

What is my book about?

Civil Rights activist John Lewis has famously said: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.” What did he mean? Speak truth to power. Make a difference. Never give up. Acts large and small fall into Lewis’s philosophy of “making good trouble.” 

My mother, Edith, was an unaccompanied minor who fled Nazi Germany for America in 1938, and she falls into the category of never giving up. When she was only 12 years old, Edith traveled all by herself from her home in Germany to a place that seemed as foreign as the moon: Chicago, Illinois. My historical novel, Is It Night or Day?, a Junior Library Guild title, captures the story of the challenges many immigrants face as they make a new life in America. For my mother, simply surviving was an act of making good trouble.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of March: Book One

Fern Schumer Chapman Why did I love this book?

American icon John Lewis, one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement, always lived by his own words “to make good trouble.” His first-hand account, March, the cornerstone of my best books list, captures his life-long struggle in a three-part graphic novel series. Book One spans Lewis' boyhood on a farm in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was a young man, the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins to stop segregation.

In 1958, the comic book, “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” inspired Lewis, and his book, March, will undoubtedly do the same for a new generation of activists. I picked this book because Lewis’ life comes to life in the graphics in these pages.

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award…


Book cover of Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice

Fern Schumer Chapman Why did I love this book?

A gripping collage of moving stories of the poor, the wrongly convicted, and the marginalized, and Bryan Stevenson’s efforts to fight for their freedom. In this compelling Young Adult edition, Stevenson engages readers with his riveting storytelling. The author, who won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, makes complicated legal issues understandable for young people. I picked this book because I believe every student should read it to understand the American judicial system. Many will find Bryan Stevenson so inspiring that they want to follow in Stevenson’s footsteps.

By Bryan Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The young adult adaptation of the acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestseller Just Mercy--now a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan, Jaime Foxx, and Brie Larson and the subject of an HBO documentary feature!

In this very personal work--adapted from the original #1 bestseller, which the New York Times calls "as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so"--acclaimed lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom.

Stevenson's story is one of working to protect basic human rights…


Book cover of Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers

Fern Schumer Chapman Why did I love this book?

With authenticity and honesty, Michelle Obama uses her own life to inspire readers to challenge themselves, to be bold, and to determine who they really are and what they will become. From her modest beginnings on the south side of Chicago, to her early years of marriage, and her struggle to balance work and home, Michelle Obama details her life as the powerful First Lady of the United States, her marriage, and her role as mother. She makes “good trouble” by modeling how to lead others. By describing her process of Becoming, she challenges readers to accept themselves as they are. I picked this book for its inspiring message to commit to an evolving life dedicated to helping others.

By Michelle Obama,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Becoming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Michelle Obama’s worldwide bestselling memoir, Becoming, is now adapted for young readers.

Michelle Robinson was born on the South Side of Chicago. From her modest beginnings, she would become Michelle Obama, the inspiring and powerful First Lady of the United States, when her husband, Barack Obama, was elected the forty-fourth president. They would be the first Black First Family in the White House and serve the country for two terms.
 
Growing up, Michelle and her older brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family’s upstairs apartment in her great-aunt’s house. Her parents, Fraser and…


Book cover of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Fern Schumer Chapman Why did I love this book?

Claudette Colvin best summarized making good trouble when she said, “When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’” In this beautiful book, Philip Hoose shines a light on the extraordinary, but little-known teenager, Claudette Colvin, who sparked the historic bus boycott, even before Rosa Parks. Through Colvin’s own words, Hoose brings to life the segregated world in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. I picked this book so that readers will learn that many who change the world receive little recognition.

By Phillip Hoose,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Claudette Colvin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

"When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" - Claudette Colvin
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge…


Book cover of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fern Schumer Chapman Why did I love this book?

An inspiring and lively biography that captures the courage of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a cultural icon who made good trouble by changing gender equality laws and breaking down the patriarchy one case at a time during her long, honorable, legendary life. Through the book’s illustrated timelines, archival photos and documents, annotated dissents, and text, the reader comes to know RBG’s drive, ethics, and personal story. I picked this book because it is a wonderful introduction to legal history, gender equality, and civil rights for young people.

By Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notorious RBG as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"A tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that does more than catalog her achievements; it conveys her spirit, one that will leave readers in awe."*

This New York Times bestselling version of the acclaimed biography Notorious RBG is an excellent way to share with middle grade readers just why Justice Ginsburg was such a powerful role model. This entertaining and insightful full-color 200-page young readers' edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon to millions. Her tireless fight…


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Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

Book cover of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

Kerry Aradhya Author Of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Not long ago, while rummaging through old storage containers in our garage, I came across a board game I had invented during elementary school. But I hadn’t made it for a school project or because anyone had asked me to make it. I had made it simply because I was passionate about creating…and I still am. As a children’s author, science editor, and dancer, I am fascinated by the creative process. I chose these books because they depict many of the ups, downs, and often unexpected outcomes of the creative process, all within the context of inventions for kids!

Kerry's book list on nonfiction picture books with inventions kids love

What is my book about?

This picture book biography of Ernő Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of this fascinating and sometimes frustrating puzzle.

A solitary child, Ernő Rubik grew up in post-World War II Hungary, curious about puzzles, art, nature, and their underlying patterns and structures.

As a young professor of architecture, and in a quest to help his students understand three-dimensional movement, he fashioned a cube made up of smaller cubes that twisted and turned without breaking, unexpectedly inventing the most popular puzzle in history!

Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

What is this book about?

This first picture book biography of Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of a bestselling puzzle that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.

In 2023, the world record for solving the Rubik’s Cube was broken by Max Park, who finished in 3.13 seconds!

And then there’s you. Did you ever get so frustrated with a Rubik’s Cube that you wanted to pull it apart and put it back together in order? Were you to do so, you’d see how cleverly one of the world’s most popular toys is…


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