The best books that show children making a difference

Marlene Targ Brill Author Of Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad
By Marlene Targ Brill

Who am I?

I chose this focus because it fulfills one of my main goals of writing—to empower young readers by showing how what they do matters. Even the simplest actions can have huge consequences, no matter what someone’s age is. Whether someone saves another person’s life, like Allen Jay did, or stand up to a bully, doing what’s right makes a difference. Also, I like to right children into history so they understand that they’ve always played a key role in bettering this world.


I wrote...

Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad

By Marlene Targ Brill, Janice Lee Porter (illustrator),

Book cover of Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad

What is my book about?

I’ve been told that this easy reader represents white people being good. Eleven-year-old Allen Jay lives on a family farm that provides a safe stop along the Underground Railroad, the secret network of safe houses along a route to freedom for runaway slaves. Allen's parents give food and shelter to slaves escaping to freedom in Canada. One day in 1842, Allen's father needs him to help a runaway slave. Can he find the next stop by himself? Is Allen brave enough? This exciting true adventure relates how Allen meets Henry James, an African American runaway slave seeking freedom from slavery, and how Allen and Henry struggle to outrun slave catchers who want to enslave Henry again.

The books I picked & why

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Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust

By Eve Bunting,

Book cover of Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust

Why this book?

This classic is about the need to speak up when someone sees something wrong. The story mirrors what many seemingly good people did not do during the WWII Holocaust. This story is told about different groups of animals, which is easier for young readers to understand. When the Terrible Things come to take away one group, the others feel relief. But one by one the Terrible Things take away another group. During this time no one speaks against what’s happening. They are just happy their time hasn’t come. By the time the Terrible Things come for the last group, there is no group left to protest and save them. The author wrote this book to “encourage young children to stand up for what they think is right, without waiting for others to join them.” That’s exactly what children in my books do and what I want to encourage in readers.

Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust

By Eve Bunting,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The animals in the clearing were content until the Terrible Things came, capturing all creatures with feathers.

Little Rabbit wondered what was wrong with feathers, but his fellow animals silenced him. "Just mind your own business, Little Rabbit. We don't want them to get mad at us."

A recommended text in Holocaust education programs across the United States, this unique introduction to the Holocaust encourages young children to stand up for what they think is right, without waiting for others to join them.

Ages 6 and up


The Peach Pit Parade: A World War I Story

By Shana Keller, Margeaux Lucas (illustrator),

Book cover of The Peach Pit Parade: A World War I Story

Why this book?

During times of war, children often wonder what they can do to help. When Polly’s father joined fighting in World War I, she planted food, stopped eating meat on Mondays, and wrote to her father overseas. But she wanted to make more of a difference. After her teacher asked kids to save their peach pits for soldiers to use as filters in their masks, Polly suggested her town hold a peach pit parade to gather more peach pits. She made signs, wrote to newspapers to announce the parade, and sent notices to other classrooms, schools, and Girl Scout troops. In the end the parade gleaned enough peach pits to filter hundreds of gas masks—all from one girl’s idea. I try to emphasize that each child can make a huge difference with seemingly small and everyday actions.

The Peach Pit Parade: A World War I Story

By Shana Keller, Margeaux Lucas (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Peach Pit Parade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Let the Children March

By Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Book cover of Let the Children March

Why this book?

Many have studied how in 1963 African Americans marched to gain equality, especially in southern towns, like Birmingham, Alabama. But I never knew that the first main march involved thousands of children and teens who marched so their parents wouldn’t lose their jobs. These brave youth found the courage to face their fears and the hatred of whites who fought to keep them separate and unequal. Their protest march encouraged adults to join them. Hateful efforts to stop the march were broadcast across the country, ultimately changing the direction of the civil rights movement. Bold pictures show everyday children and civil rights leaders finally gaining rights to playgrounds and diners and eventually better schooling. An important story, simply written—and about children who made a difference.

Let the Children March

By Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Let the Children March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

By Marsha Amstel, Ellen Beier (illustrator),

Book cover of Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

Why this book?

Most people learn in school about Paul Revere’s ride in 1775 to warn colonists that British soldiers were coming to attack them. But few learn about the 16-year-old girl who made a similar run to gather militia for a surprise attack. Sybil supposedly rode alone at night about 40 miles in pouring rain, ultimately gathering 400 men to battle the British soldiers. She rode farther than Paul Revere in worse weather, and didn’t get captured as he did. This ordinary teenager, Sybil, was able to complete an ordinary feat.

Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

By Marsha Amstel, Ellen Beier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Bully

By Patricia Polacco,

Book cover of Bully

Why this book?

I have been a Patricia Polacco fan for years. Her books show real situations that kids face growing up. One is dealing with a bully. That takes courage. This story recounts how a girl named Lyla gets caught up with being popular, only to find that kids in that group can be nasty to others, especially her best friend Jamie. Lyla decides that she doesn’t like when Jamie is bullied by this group and finally tells them. Similarly, her best friend tells the principal when this group tries to make it look like Lyla cheats, but he knows differently. Bravery shows itself in many ways. In this case it’s speaking the truth and standing up for others.

Bully

By Patricia Polacco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bully as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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