Category Archives: Activism

Turning to Children’s Books to Help Our Students Make Sense of Racism and Injustice

Like all of you, I am troubled, saddened, and horrified by what has transpired in the US (world) over the past week (year, century).  Racism exists there, here, everywhere.   It exists now and it existed then.  But I believe if there is one positive thing to come out of  this tragic event is the possibility that a slightly brighter light is being shined on the treatment of minorities – possibly an historical tipping point.  Many of us will never truly understand the feeling of injustice so many face on a daily basis.  But by helping to bring greater awareness of these issues to our students, we can all do our part to promote inclusion and equality.

Children notice injustice.  They see it and hear it in the playground, in the community, on TV, but perhaps don’t have the schema, the memory or fact pockets, to make sense of it all.   And so, as in so many learning opportunities that arise in our daily lives, I turn to children’s books to help me help them.  Between the covers of these books are the stories we can use to start the conversations we MUST be having with our children now; conversations about racism, about injustice, about segregation, about intolerance, about peaceful protests, about rioting, about civil rights, about activism, about marching for freedom.  It is never too early to start these conversations!

Below are my recommended anchor books, many based on true events, that can spark important conversations about racism, activism, segregation and social justice.  While I recognize that all people of color have experienced racism, the majority of these books are focusing more on issues stemming from racism against black people in the US because those are likely the conversations you will likely be having, given the situation there at the moment.  This is by no means diminishing the issue of racism against any other minority.

While this is not one of my official OLLI posts, click HERE for a response template your students could use with any of these books.

Let’s Talk About Race – Julius Lester

Likely my favorite book to read aloud to a class to spark conversations about race.  Julius Lester’s voice in this book is so real, so honest, so personal, so intimate, so authentic – it feels as if he stepped into the classroom and is speaking directly to us.  Lester uses “story” as a metaphor for race – we all have a different story to tell.  The book is filled with questions which makes it great for interactive reading.

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The Undefeated – Kwane Alexander

A beautiful celebration of black Americans throughout history: both the “dreamers” and the “doers,” who have made a difference, despite the many injustices endured and challenges they faced.  Alexander Kwane wrote this poem “The Undefeated” when Barack Obama was elected to office. It is a powerful poem accompanied by gorgeous oil painted illustrations by Kadir Nelson.

Race Cars – A Children’s Book About White Privilege – Jenny Devenny

This book uses metaphor to explain the issue of race and privilege.  In it, 2 best friends, a white car and a black car, that have different experiences and face different rules while entering the same race. I like the way the book offers a simplistic, yet powerful way to introduce these complicated themes to kids.

Something Happened in Our Town – A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice – Marianne Celano

This is a timely book aimed at younger children. The story starts with a police shooting where an unarmed black man is killed. Two children ask their families why it happened: the girl is white, the boy is black. So readers get two different points of view and distinct emotions. But they both share the feeling of injustice.  I was impressed with how the story addresses social/racism issues in a way that younger children can easily understand and I really like the two perspectives.  Excellent back notes for parents and teachers.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railway – Ellen Levine

This is the true story of escaped slave Henry Box Brown. The book follows his life from his childhood as a slave on a plantation and as an adult working as a slave in a tobacco factory. After the devastating event of having his wife and three children sold to different masters,  Henry decides to mail himself to a place where there are no slaves. With the help of a white doctor, Henry is mailed in a crate to Philadelphia and most amazingly is successful.  This story is both heart-breaking and hopeful and Kadir Nelson’s stunning illustrations once again bring the story alive.

The Story of Ruby Bridges – Robert Coles

On November 1960, in New Orleans, 6 yr. old Ruby Bridges was selected as one of the first African American student to attend an all white elementary school (William Frantz Elementary)  Many parents kept their kids home that day and gathered outside the school to protest.  Accompanied by US Marshalls,  little Ruby said a quiet prayer to herself and marched through the mobs of angry white people, shouting and jeering at her up the steps and into the school.  This is SUCH an inspiring story!  Ruby demonstrates courage, determination, faith, and kindness.  We can all learn a few things from Ruby.

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The real Ruby Bridges.

Smoky Night – Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting wrote this book after the riots and looting in Los Angeles in 1992 because she wanted to help children understand such events, especially those who actually live through them.  The story is told from Daniel’s perspective during one night when he, his mother and their cat witness rioting and looting outside their apartment.  They eventually have to flee to a shelter as the riots get closer and sadly, their cat gets left behind.  When this book was released in 1994, Eve Bunting received considerable criticism for the subject matter being too mature for children. She later received the Caldecott Award in 1995 for the book.

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White Socks Only – Evelyn Colman

In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked “Whites Only” because she is wearing her white socks.  This is a heartbreaking, touching story and while the story is fictional, the events like separate entrances, water fountains, etc. for black and white people make it a good choice for introducing segregation to intermediate students.

Freedom on the Menu – The Greensboro Sit-Ins – Carole Boston Weatherford

In 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, 4 black college students sat down at a counter at Woolworths during a time of segregation, marking a major event in the Civil Rights Movement.  This historical event, known as the Greensboro Sit-In, is told through the eyes of a young black girl, who shares her experiences living a segregated life.   The book below is based on the same event.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down – Andrea Davis Pinkney

 

We March – Shane W. Evans

In simple prose and images, Evans tells the story of one child whose family participated in the 1963 March on Washington.  The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.   I love how this story uses simple text but manages to capture the thrill of this young child’s experience.  You feel as if you are joining in the March, too.  A great book for teaching about civil rights and includes information in the back.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer - Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Voice of Freedom – Fannie Lou Hamer – Carole Boston Weatherford

I didn’t know anything about Fannie Lou Hamer until I read this book. She played an integral role in the civil rights movement and despite fierce prejudice and abuse fought for the equal right to vote.  I like the way this story is told in first person free verse poems and spirituals.   A story of determination, courage, and hope.  Weatherford includes additional information about Hamer as well as a timeline at the end of the book, which I found helpful as I did not know her story.

Rosa – Nikki Giovanni

Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus sparked a huge wave in the civil rights movement and, eventually, to the desegregation of public buses.  This book gives readers a little more background before and after the incident, which I always enjoy.  I have such a vivid memory of reading this book to a Grade 2 class many years ago and being absolutely amazed at the depth of conversations they had about injustice, race, and segregation.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged – Jody Nyasha

Every Canadian child should know the story of Viola Desmond who, in 1946, was arrested and dragged out of a movie theater in Nova Scotia because she refused to move to the “black” section of the theater. After being fined $20 she was released but did not give up.  With help from black community groups, she appealed the case and although unsuccessful, her fight began the Canadian Civil Rights movement, eventually outlawing segregation in the late 1950’s.  I love the narrator in this story – speaking directly to the reader and the illustrations are bright and bold.

Stamped – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Lots of buzz about this new book by Jason Reynolds that came out in March which is a remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s adult book “Stamped From the Beginning”.   In it, Reynolds explores the history of racism from the past (“this is NOT a history book”) to right here and now.  While written for a younger audience (high school), it’s apparently an excellent read for everyone, especially for those not living in the US and don’t know a lot about the different shapes of racism.  I have not read it yet, but am very excited about the audiobook with Jason Reynolds narrating!

Antiracist Baby – Ibram X. Kendi

Wonderful rhyming board book that introduces nine steps to being antiracist.  While not really geared for babies, I love that the book introduces younger children to important language connected to racism.  This book will be released on June 16th.

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The Other Side – Jaqueline Woodson

Such a powerful story about two young girls – one black and one white – who observe each other from different sides of a fence.  This poignant story explores racial segregation and the tentative steps toward interracial friendship that are taken, despite the barriers (both physical and social) the girls face.   This is such an important book for so many reasons and when I get to the last page of the book, I always get teary.  “Someday, somebody’s gonna come along and knock this fence down.”

The Color of Us – Karen Katz

This story is about a girl named Lena who wants to paint a self-portrait.  She realized that in order to get her skin color, she would have to mix some colors in order to get the perfect shade. Her mother takes her on an adventure through her community where they notice different shades of brown, connecting the colors to food such as butterscotch, ginger and coffee.  Uplifting, colorful and positive.

Skin Again – bell hooks

“The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story.”  This story tells young readers that the skin they have is just that – skin. If you want to truly know someone, you have to dig deeper to get to know them on the inside.  Love the poetic text that address readers directly and Chris Raschka’s signature illustrations.

I hope you are able to find a few books from this list that will help spark some important discussions with your students in the coming days.    Be well, everyone.

 

 

 

 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? New for Spring 2020 (Read, Sniff, Share!)

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It’s actually Tuesday but better late than never!  Sniff! Sniff!  Can you guess?  I’m in book sniffing heaven!  I am extremely fortunate to receive copies of new books from exceptional Canadian publishers twice a year.  Thank you to Orca Books, Raincoast Books, and Kids Can Press for sharing your new spring titles with me so I can share them with everyone!  Hooray for new books!  Check out more #IMWAYR posts on  http://www.teachmentortexts.com/ or http://www.unleashingreaders.com/

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What If Bunny’s Not a Bully?  – Lana Button (Kids Can Press)

I loved this book! Unique and important look at bullies through the lens of inclusion, empathy and second chances.  Lovely rhyming texts and adorable illustrations are delightful making this a perfect read-aloud for your Pre-K, K, and Gr. 1 students.

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Why Do We Cry? – Fran Pintadera

A little boy asks his mother why we cry and she gently explains all the different emotions expressed by tears: sadness, anger, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and happiness. Wonderfully expressive illustrations and so many beautiful moments.  LOVE!  Oh my.  This is definitely an “Adrienne” book!  Filled with poetic language, imagery, metaphors, deep thinking questions – a perfect anchor for writing and also for teaching “Transform” and nudging our thinking about the concept of crying.  (I would use this book with the “one word” activity -“cry”).

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A Stopwatch from Grampa – Loretta Gabutt (Kids Can press) 

A simple and touching story about a child coming up to terms with his/her grandfather passing away.  This book features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns used) experiencing the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in a sensitive and subtle manner.  This is a perfect choice for discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss.

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What Grew in Larry’s Garden – Laura Alary

A lot of punch packed into 32 pages of this book, based on a true story of an elderly man and his “pay it forward” attitude.  While gardening is a big part of the story,  you could use it for so many themes including friendship, problem solving, small acts of kindness, community action and the power of kids to help make change in the world.   I would use this book to launch a unit ways to support our local community.

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I Got You a Present! – Susanne McLennan and Mike Erskine-Kellie

Fast-paced, lively story for younger primary students about a Ducky who is trying to buy his friend the perfect birthday gift.  Bright, fun illustrations – this would make an engaging read-aloud, great for making connections and illustrating the concept of “determination”.  LOVE the surprise ending!

We are Water Protectors – Carole Lindstrom

This book focuses on the indigenous perspective and would be a great one for discussing pipeline issues and standing up for environmental injustices.  I enjoyed the story but equally the back notes, which provided important background information about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Gorgeous, colorful illustrations.  I would pair this with The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson.

Hike Pete Oswald

Beautiful celebration of parent-child relationships and the magic of the wilderness.   This story follows a child and father as they experience a hike together.  It is nearly wordless and a perfectly paced adventure that invites readers to appreciate the beauty of nature along with the child and father; to pause, wonder, and marvel at the views they experience on their hike.  Gorgeous watercolor illustrations.   I LOVE hiking and I LOVE this book!

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Snow White and the Seven Robots – Stewart Ross

Cute sci-fi twist on Snow White with robots instead of dwarves.  When the wicked step queen abandons snow white on a planet, she uses the space ship to build herself some robot helpers.  I was not aware of this “twisted fairy tale” series by Stewart Ross until now but am excited to check his other books including Octo-Puss in Boots and The Ginjabread Man.  

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Help Wanted: Must Love Books – by Janet Summer Johnson

A book about loving books?  Yes, please!!!!  This is such a delightful story about a young girl who sets out to interview potential “bed-time story readers” to replace her dad (she fired him!)  Next comes a string of familiar fairy tale characters applying for the job, but each one seems to have a problem (Sleeping Beauty falls asleep during the interview;  Gingerbread man steals her books and runs away).  Such a cute premise and I love the determination and spunk of Shailey, the main character.  Lots of chuckles with this one!

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The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World’s Largest Land Biome L.E. Carmichael.

Beautifully illustrated reference book about the seasonal changes of plants and animals in the Boreal Forest.  Not so much a “sit down and read in one setting” book but a perfect one for “snip-it read alouds”.   Lots of great descriptive, triple-scoop words (there is a lot of onomatopoeia) and amazing details about the forest.  I learned a LOT!

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Bringing Back the Wolves – How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem – Jude Isabella

Fascinating description of the 1995 reintroduction of wolves into the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park, after they were all but eliminated by hunters in the late 1800’s.   Gorgeous illustrations and simple nonfiction narrative style that younger readers will understand.  This is an excellent book to illustrate the concept of inter-contentedness of ecosystems.  I would pair it with Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker.

The Keeper of Wild Words – Brooke Smith

Shocking true story: the most recent Oxford Junior Dictionary, widely used in schools around the world, removed 40 common ‘wild words’ (words connected to nature) from their dictionary.  Their justification was that “wild words” like apricot, blackberry, dandelion, and buttercup were not being used by enough by children to warrant their place in the dictionary. (Seriously?)  One might infer from this drastic decision that children are becoming less and less engaged with the natural world so less likely to have the need to use these words.  GULP!  YIKES!  HELP!  I first learned about this shocking removal of words from the exquisite book “The Lost Words” by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by the amazing Jackie Morris.   While this book is stunningly beautiful, its sheer size (and cost) makes it less of a classroom book and more of a coffee table or gift book.  But the story itself needs to be be shared and so I am THRILLED to see this more accessible version for younger readers.  It weaves the story of a grandmother electing her granddaughter as the “Keeper of Wild Words” because the only way to save words is to know them, use them, and cherish them.   This book is a celebration of shared love between generations, nature, and words.  I can’t wait to share it, to inspire children to become more familiar with “wild words”, and to encourage some “wild writing”!!!  Buy this book.  Share this book.  That is all.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hoping one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Activism, bullying, Community, Emotions, Grief, IMWAYR, Indigenous Stories, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, JK-K, New Books, Picture Book, Transform, Writing Anchor book, Writing Anchors

IMWAYR – Gifting Books This Christmas! Top Holiday Picks for 7-12 year olds

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Well, Christmas is just 8 away but there is still time to do some last minute book shopping for the young book lovers in your life!   From fact book, to craft book, to recipe book, to novels – there is sure to be a book here for every “tween” in your life!  Here are some of my favorite 2018 “gifting” books for the holidays that will also make excellent additions to your school or class library!

For your Animal lover…

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by DK

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals – DK Publishing

A perfect gift book for the animal lover in your house. This 224 page encyclopedia format is jam packed with gorgeous photographs, illustrations, and fascinating facts about 104 creatures from the animal kingdom.  Children will love poring over the detailed images!  Amazing index packed with reference information including the size and location of each species.  I loved the addition of the tree of life showing how the animal groups are connected.  Gorgeous binding with fancy foil on the cover, gilded edged pages, and a shiny ribbon for keeping your place.  This is a real treasure!

For your Disney Lover…

 Disney Ideas Book 

This book is perfect for anyone who loves Disney!  Packed with over 100 Disney inspired arts and crafts, party games, puzzles, papercraft and many more fun and practical activities.  Stunning photography and clear step-by-step instructions to guide you through each project.  From creating Lion King animal masks to Winnie the Pooh party hats.  This book will provide hours of fun over the holidays!

For Your Young Activist….

Start Now!  You Can Make a Difference – Chelsea Clinton

What can I do to help save endangered animals? How can I eat healthy? How can I get more involved in my community? What do I do if I or someone I know is being bullied?  This book filled with facts, stories, photographs, and tips on how to change the world is perfect for school libraries and for the special activist in your life!   It has an index at the back, so teachers or parents can refer young readers to specific topics of interest and that fit.  LOVE this book and am going to be adding it to my Powerful Understanding book list on global stewardship.  Lots of ties to the new curriculum!

For your inventor…

Calling All Minds: How To Think and Create Like an Inventor Temple Grandin 

Kids who love to tinker, invent, and create will be inspired by this practical and inspirational book filled with personal stories, inventions and fascinating facts. Part personal memoir, part historic study of inventions and biography, and part DIY instructions, this book packs in a lot!  Author Temple Grandin, renowned scientist, inventor, and autism-spokesperson, shares the amazing true stories behind the innovations and inventions.  Imagination and creativity will soar!

For your Harry Potter fan…

Harry Potter Cookbook – Dinah Bucholz

Bangers and mash with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Hogwarts dining hall.  Mix a dash of magic and a drop of creativity, you’ll conjure up the meals, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform an ordinary Muggle meals into a magical culinary experience!  150 easy-to-make recipes, tips, and techniques.  Mrs. Weasley will be VERY proud!

For your Joke Teller…

Would You Rather?: Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children's Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2) by [Shaw, Donald]

Would You Rather? Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children’s Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2)  – Donald Shaw

Packed with crazy cartoons and holiday-related amusing scenarios which will make children laugh out loud in no time!  The second part of the book is a unique YES or NO Christmas game. This game can be played with friends, classmates, parents, or even grandparents!  A perfect book for Christmas day entertainment!

For your imaginative tender-hearts… (2 suggestions)

Inkling – Kenneth Oppel

Inkling is a black blob that one day slides off the page of Ethan’s dad’s sketchbook.  What follows is a touching, fantastical story about a family trying to deal with the loss of their mother.  Written by the great Kenneth Oppel, this book is sure to capture the imagination and hearts of every child who reads it.

Sweep – The Story of a Girl and Her Monster – Jonathan Auxier

This is my all-time favorite middle grade book of 2018.  I can’t say enough good things about this stunning story of courage, sacrifice, child exploitation, unconditional love, and civil disobedience mixed with just the right amount of historical elements and sprinkled with magic. Set in the late 1800’s in Victorian England, it is the story of Nan Sparrow, a young chimney sweep who is struggling to survive after her father disappears. She befriends and forms a remarkable bond with Charlie, a golem made from ash, and in the process, they save each other. I cried. Yes, I did. And you will, too. It’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, funny and poignant and just beautiful in every way.    

“We are saved by saving others.”   (One of my MANY favorite quotes from this book)

To inspire your reluctant risk taker…

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl – Stacy McAnulty

After being struck by lightening in a freak accident, Lucy Callahan becomes a math genius.  But after years of home schooling, she is now having to navigate through middle the perils of middle school.  A warm-hearted story celebrating friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone.

For Your Graphic Novel Lover …

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Hilo Book 4 – Waking the Monsters – Judd Winick

“Hilo” books are VERY popular in our school library so I am certain many children will be excited to know that book 4 has just been released!  In this book, the nonstop adventure continues with Space Boy Hilo, his sister Izzy, and their friends try to save the earth when giant robots threaten to take over.  Packed with humour and action! 

For Your Unicorn Lover…

The Unicorn Rescue Society – The Creature of the Pines – Adam Gidwitz

There are a LOT of unicorn-obsessed students at my school so I KNOW many will love this first book in the fully illustrated fantasy-adventure series.  Elliot and Uchenna, recruits for a secret organization to protect magical beasts, find themselves on a mission to save a Jersey Devil unicorn.  A story full of adventure, fun, and friendship, perfect for newly independent readers.  It’s fast-paced, fun, and hilarious writing.

For your Science lover…

The Third Mushroom Jennifer L. Holm

This sequel to the bestselling The Fourteenth Goldfish finds 11 yr old Ellie entering a local science fair with her Grandpa who has accidentally reverse-aged himself to a 14 year old.  They believe their new experiment just might be the secret to the fountain of youth.  This is a delightful book with lots of STEM connections!

For your athlete…

Lu – Jason Reynolds

The final book in the track series by Jason Reynolds which focuses on a different track stars (Ghost, Patina, and Sunny) and the personal challenges they are trying to overcome with the help of their Coach.  In this book, we follow Lu, a talented runner born with albinism.   Jason’s writing and “voice” for each of his complex characters is so authentic and he approaches difficult issues such as illness, injustice, bullying, gun violence, grief, addition, and death with so much honesty and heart.  I also like how each character models respect for their parents and their coach.  Love how Reynolds ties all the characters in at the end.

For your creative imaginative thinker…

The Cardboard Kingdom – Chad Sell

I love this graphic novel that follows a group of neighbourhood kids who transform ordinary boxes into costumes and castles and, in the process, discover friendships and develop strong identities.   I love the off-beat, “march to your own drum” characters and important themes included in this story celebrating imaginative play.  A perfect book to inspire MMT projects in your classroom. (you can read more about Most Magnificent Thing projects here)

For your “spooky book” lover…

Part mystery, part fairy tale and part thriller, this book will have your spine shivering and your mind guessing!   So suspenseful and gripping, (What happens next????!!!)  I could not put it down!  The story focuses on Ollie Adler, a sixth grade math whiz and fierce feminist who has withdrawn from her friends and school activities after her mother dies.   Her only solace is in books (my kind of gal!), so when she finds a woman trying to throw a book in the river one day, she steals it in order to rescue it. But when Ollie reads it, she finds that the book is a diary of horrific events that happened in the very place where her class will soon be taking a field trip…and that history may be about to repeat itself.  (Can you stand it????) You will be stealing this from your child’s room to find out what happens!!!

For your Social Justice supporter… (2 suggestions)

 

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

One of my favorite “read aloud” MG novels of 2018 this book has empowering messages about the limits placed on girls and women in Pakistan and the importance of family, literacy, and culture.  For Amal, her dream of being educated and becoming a teacher is shattered when she is forced to become a servant for a wealthy family.  Amal is such a strong, inspiring, and determined character who demonstrates what it means to fight for justice.  Compelling and inspiring.

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Harbor Me – Jacqueline Woodson

WOW.  Love, family, friends, middle school transitions, immigration, racial profiling, and the difficult realities faced by many children are just a few of the issues Jacqueline Woodson explores in this powerful book.  In the story, we are given a glimpse into the lives of six tweens who are part of a classroom for “special students.”  Every Friday afternoon, the students gather in the ARTT Room (“A Room To Talk”) to spend the last hour together, unsupervised, and are encouraged to talk about anything they want.  The conversations are so natural, so emotional, so honest.  In just over 200 pages, Woodson covers a lot of issues.  An extremely important book that will stimulate LOTS of important discussions.  Beautifully written, this book made me teary, gave me goosebumps, inspired me, and filled me with gratitude.   Would make a very powerful read-aloud in an upper Middle grades.

Hoping you found at least one book for the book lover in your family!

Happy Holidays and happy reading, everyone!

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Filed under 2018, Activism, Animals, Christmas, Creating, Harry Potter, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, social justice, STEM