Books on Social Justice & Diversity

StoryPlanet_Diversity

At Story Planet, we believe that books can open our eyes and our hearts to new perspectives and experiences. We also believe that hearing the stories that often go untold are so important for building more open and accepting communities. The following books all focus on issues of diversity and social justice, and we think that these books are more important than ever to add to our reading lists. We hope you enjoy them!

Secret Side of Empty by Maria E Andreu
Ages 7+

As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

With senior year of high school kicking into full swing, M.T. sees her hopes for a “normal” future unraveling. And it will take discovering a sense of trust in herself and others for M.T. to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience to tell a story that is timely, relevant, and universally poignant.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
Ages 8 – 12

In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.

Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

This moving, funny novel won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling
Ages 9 – 12

Young Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. Young Aki Munemitsu never expected to be sent away from her home and her life as she knew it. The two girls definitely never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected on a Southern California farm in a way that changed the country forever. Who are Sylvia and Aki? And why did their family stories matter then and still matter today? This book reveals the remarkable, never-before-told story—based on true events—of Mendez vs. Westminster School District, the California court case that desegregated schools for Latino children and set the stage for Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education at the national level.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird
Ages 9 – 12

curfew. Israeli tanks control the city in response to a Palestinian suicide bombing. Karim longs to play football with his mates – being stuck inside with his teenage brother and fearful parents is driving him crazy. When the curfew ends, he and his friend discover an unused patch of ground that’s the perfect site for a football pitch. Nearby, an old car hidden intact under bulldozed buildings makes a brilliant den. But in this city there’s constant danger, even for schoolboys. And when Israeli soldiers find Karim outside during the next curfew it seems impossible that he will survive . . .

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird is an exciting, enlightening and important story that brings to life the reality of events reported daily in the news, and will help young readers understand more about one of the worst conflicts affecting our world today.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Ages 9 – 13

When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz
Ages 10 – 17

Rad Women Worldwide tells fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. From 430 BCE to 2016, spanning 31 countries around the world, the book features an array of diverse figures, including Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica). This progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women’s history and belongs on the shelf of every school, library, and home.

Together, these stories show the immense range of what women have done and can do. May we all have the courage to be rad!
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Grease Town by Ann Towell
Ages 10+

A heartbreaking history of prejudice, family ties, and the loss of innocence.When twelve-year-old Titus Sullivan decides to run away to join his Uncle Amos and older brother, Lem, he finds an alien and exciting world in Oil Springs, the first Canadian oil boomtown of the 19th century.

The Enniskillen swamp is slick with oil, and it takes enterprising folk to plumb its depths. The adventurers who work there are a tough lot of individuals. In this hard world, Titus becomes friends with a young black boy, the child of slaves who came to Canada on the Underground Railroad. When tragedy strikes in the form of a race riot, Titus’s loyalties are tested as he struggles to deal with the terrible fallout.

Though the characters are fictitious, the novel is based on a race riot that occurred in Oil Springs, Ontario, on March 20, 1863. Grease Town is historical fiction at its finest.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

Ages 10+

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is. Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple’s conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way. “A must-read for those kids cringing at their own identities.”—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Dephine Mainoui
Ages 10+

Nujood Ali’s childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With harrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband’s hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom—an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married under the legal age. Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has inspired other young girls in the Middle East to challenge their marriages. Hers is an unforgettable story of tragedy, triumph, and courage.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis
Ages 10+

The first book in Deborah Ellis’s riveting Breadwinner series is an award-winning novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father ― a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed ― works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Ages 12+

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson
Ages 12+

The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years.
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

A Big Dose of Lucky by Marthe Jocelyn
Ages 12 – 16

Malou has just turned sixteen—hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own—and all she knows for sure is that she’s of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario’s cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can’t believe they might be related to her. After she finds work as a cleaner in the local hospital, an Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents. The answers are as stunning—and life-changing—as anything Malou could have imagined back at the orphanage.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Way to Go by Tom Ryan
Ages 12 – 18

Danny thinks he must be the only seventeen-year-old guy in Cape Breton—in Nova Scotia, maybe—who doesn’t have his life figured out. His buddy Kierce has a rule for every occasion, and his best friend Jay has bad grades, no plans and no worries. Danny’s dad nags him about his post-high-school plans, his friends bug him about girls and a run-in with the cops means he has to get a summer job. Worst of all, he’s keeping a secret that could ruin everything.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Ages 13 – 18

Based on a true story.

A school assignment to interview a residential school survivor leads Daniel to Betsy, his friend’s grandmother, who tells him her story. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls ― words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive. Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation. We wish to achnowledge, with the utmost gratitude, Betty’s generosity in sharing her story. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Sugar Falls goes to support the bursary program for The Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Meyers
Ages 13+

New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers tackles the social contract from a teen’s perspective in his novel All the Right Stuff. In one of his most thought-provoking novels to date, Myers weaves together political philosophy, basketball, and making soup in Harlem, with the depth that defines his writing career.

After his father is shot and killed, Paul Dupree finds a summer job at a Harlem soup kitchen. Elijah, the soup man, questions Paul about tough life choices, even though Paul would rather be playing basketball. Over the summer, Paul begins to understand the importance of taking control of your life.
– Summary from Amazon.ca

He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander
Ages 14+

Sparks will fly in this hip-hop-hot teen novel that mixes social protest and star-crossed romance, from Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Honor–winning author Kwame Alexander! He Said, She Said is perfect for fans of Walter Dean Myers and Rachel Vail alike. This paperback edition includes a Q&A with author Kwame Alexander.

He says: Omar “T-Diddy” Smalls has got it made—a full football ride to UMiami, hero-worship status at school, and pick of any girl at West Charleston High. She says: Football, shmootball. Here’s what Claudia Clarke cares about: Harvard, the poor, the disenfranchised, the hungry, the staggering teen pregnancy rate, investigative journalism . . . the list goes on. She does not have a minute to waste on Mr. T-Diddy Smalls and his harem of bimbos.

He Said, She Said is a fun and fresh novel from Kwame Alexander that throws these two high school seniors together when they unexpectedly end up leading the biggest social protest this side of the Mississippi—with a lot of help from Facebook and Twitter. The stakes are high, the romance is hot, and when these worlds collide, watch out!
– Summary from Amazon.ca