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Outstanding Children’s Picture Books on Social Issues

Children's books on SOCIAL ISSUES kids books
Talking to our children about social issues is not easy, but it’s definitely a topic worth discussing with them. Reading books about human rights is a perfect way to start that conversation.
 
These illustrated stories will help your kids understand what it feels like to be a refugee, to encounter racism, or to have to fight for the freedom which others take for granted.

 

Poverty | Race Relations | War / Refugees 

 


Poverty


 

Circles of Hope children's bookCircles of Hope

Ages 5-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD720L
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/9/2011
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5396-7
Price: $ 10.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 9.5 x 10
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Young Facile wants to plant a tree in honor of his new baby sister, but he faces many obstacles. The first seed he plants is eaten by a goat, the second seed is washed away in a storm, and another seed is burnt by a scrub fire. Will Facile ever be able to plant a tree that will grow strong for baby Lucía?

In this story of determination, faith, and love, author Karen Lynn Williams introduces readers to the realities of rural life in the mountains of Haiti. Imbued with brilliant colors, expressive characters, and vivid landscapes, Linda Saport’s illustrations capture the indomitable spirit of hope.


 

Four Feet children's bookFour Feet, Two Sandals

Ages 7-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 620L
HARDCOVER; Published: 8/1/2007
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5296-0
Price: $ 18.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 12 x 9
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When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year- old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.


 

Wenceslas children's bookGood King Wenceslas

Ages 4-8
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
HARDCOVER; Published: 7/26/2005
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5209-0
Price: $ 18.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 10.25 x 10.5
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This story, based on actual events that occurred in the tenth century, tells of a kind-hearted king and his page who set out to help a poor man on a cold winter’s night and experience a miracle along the way. Tim Ladwig’s energetic paintings bring new life to the familiar words and remind readers of all ages that helping others is a blessing.

I Am a Bear children's bookI Am a Bear

Ages 4 to 8
HARDCOVER; Published: 9/8/2015
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5447-6
Price: $ 16.00
34 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.25 x 11
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An emotionally stirring book about kindness and friendship

Life isn’t easy for a bear. Not when he has to sleep on the sidewalk among cardboard boxes and old clothes. Not when he lives in a city full of people who are repulsed by him. Not when he’s hungry and homeless. But one day a young girl smiles at the bear, and he realizes that maybe there is something that could make life a bit easier — a friend.

This poignant, heartwarming tale will move readers of all ages and inspire them to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others.

I Like, I Don’t Like

 


Race Relations


The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Chris Barton
Don Tate
Ages 7 to 10
HARDCOVER; Published: 4/1/2015
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0
Price: $ 17.00
50 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.375 x 10.75
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A unique biography of a remarkable Reconstruction figure

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.


The Beatitudes childrens books for kidsThe Beatitudes

From Slavery to Civil Rights
Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 980L
HARDCOVER; Published: 11/13/2009
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5352-3
Price: $ 18.00
34 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.5 x 11.25
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Since the earliest days of slavery, African Americans have called on their religious faith in the struggle against oppression.

In this book the Beatitudes — from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount — form the backdrop for Carole Boston Weatherford’s powerful free-verse poem that traces the African American journey from slavery to civil rights.

Tim Ladwig’s stirring illustrations showcase a panorama of heroes in this struggle, from the slaves shackled in the hold of a ship to the first African American president taking his oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Readers of all ages will find this a book to return to again and again for encouragement and inspiration.


Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation childrens book for kidsBen and the Emancipation Proclamation

Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 670L
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/11/2020
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5541-1
Price: $ 9.99
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.5 x 11
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Ben, a young slave, uses every chance he gets to teach himself to read, practicing with the words he sees on street signs and in shop windows and even in cast-off newspapers he finds in the gutter.

But after the Civil War breaks out, his master leaves town and Ben finds himself in a slave prison. One night, the prisoners bribe a guard to get their hands on a newspaper, and to the applause of his fellow slaves, Ben reads aloud the momentous news of Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — surely one of the most remarkable readings of that document ever.

Based on the true story of Benjamin Holmes, Pat Sherman’s stirring text and the memorable illustrations of Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper pay tribute to the power of freedom — and to the power of the written word.


https://www.eerdmans.com/Products/5317/ethan-suspended.aspxEthan, Suspended

Pamela Ehrenberg
Ages 11-14
Lexile: 820L
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/2/2009
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5317-2
Price: $ 9.00
272 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.25
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As he tries to find his way in this new world, Ethan also struggles with issues from the world he left behind — guilt about the events surrounding his suspension, anxiety about his parents’ separation, loneliness for the company of his family and friends.

Slowly, Ethan adjusts. He makes a few friends; he joins the jazz band and learns a new instrument; he even gets used to dried-out dinners at 4:30 pm. Along the way he learns a lot about prejudice and acceptance — and about himself and his changing family situation.


I Lay My Stitches Down childrens books for kidsI Lay My Stitches Down

Ages 10 & up
Full-color illustrations throughout
Lexile: 990L
HARDCOVER; Published: 1/1/2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8
Price: $ 19.00
34 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 9 x 12
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This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note.


Mississippi MorningMississippi Morning

PAPERBACK; Published: 10/2/2017
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5497-1
Price: $ 10.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8 x 11
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It’s the middle of the Great Depression, but James William still enjoys his life in rural Mississippi. But his happiness starts to unravel when he discovers the fire that burned down the local preacher’s house wasn’t an accident, but a hate crime. When his friend LeRoy tells him about the Klan and their hanging tree, James William has a hard time grasping this harsh reality, until an unexpected encounter brings the issue close to home.

A thought-provoking story of one boy’s loss of naiveté, Mississippi Morning will challenge young readers to question their own assumptions and confront personal decisions.

 


War / Refugees


 

Adara

PAPERBACK; Published: 8/7/2002
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5216-8
Price: $ 9.00
160 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.25
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Adara has always longed to do the things that well-brought-up girls of her time are not supposed to do. She wants to learn to read and write — like men. And she wants the freedom to travel — like men — outside the boundaries of her sheltered life.

One day she awakens to a blast of trumpets as the Israelites and Arameans battle just outside the safety of her village walls. Curious, Adara sneaks out to see the battle. Little does she know that this will be her last day of freedom for a very long time.

Sold into slavery, Adara becomes a servant to General Namaan and his family and begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery, healing, and redemption — a journey that, in the end, faces her with the hardest decision of her life . . .


Always with You CHILDRENS BOOKAlways with You

Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD570L
HARDCOVER; Published: 1/14/2008
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5295-3
Price: $ 17.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.25 x 10.25
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After her mother is killed by an explosion that also destroys her Vietnam village, four-year-old Kim is alone and afraid. Eventually, she is rescued by soldiers who bring her to an orphanage.

Surrounded by the love of the couple who run the orphanage, the companionship of the children who live there, and her mother’s promise, “I will always be with you,” Kim finds the strength and courage to survive.

This picture book for older readers, based on a true story from the Vietnam War, portrays the hope that exists in even the most desperate situations. Poignant illustrations capture the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of kindness.


 

Attack of the Turtle ARC D.inddAttack of the Turtle

David A. Johnson
Drew Carlson
Ages 9-14
Black-and-white line illustrations
Lexile: 640L
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/2/2008
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5338-7
Price: $ 9.00
157 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.25
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It’s 1776, and the Revolutionary War is raging. Fourteen-year-old Nathan Wade is a patriot, but he’s too young to join the fight. Then his cousin David Bushnell comes to town with a secret. David has designed a water machine that can explode bombs underwater. And his mission is to launch it against the British warships in New York harbor.

Nate reluctantly agrees to help David build the weapon of war — dubbed the American Turtle. Although he’s terrified of water and worried about getting caught, when unlikely circumstances put Nate at the center of the action, he must face the murky waters of his fears head-on.

Based on actual historical events, this adventure story captures the drama of the first submarine used in naval warfare and the struggles of a teenager overcoming self-doubt.


 

Eva's Story children's bookEva’s Story

Eva Schloss
Ages 14 & up
PAPERBACK; Published: 7/23/2019
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5531-2
Price: $ 16.99
234 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5 x 8
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People around the world know the tragic story of Anne Frank, the teenage girl who lost her life in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. But most people don’t know about Eva Schloss, Anne’s playmate and posthumous stepsister. Though Eva, like Anne, was imprisoned in Auschwitz at the age of 15, her story did not end there. Together with her mother, Eva endured daily degradation and countless miseries at the hands of the Nazis. She was freed in 1945, but it would be decades before Eva was able to share her survivor’s tale with the world.

Concluding with new discussion questions and a revealing interview with Eva, this moving memoir recounts—without bitterness or hatred—the horrors of war, the love between mother and daughter, and the strength and determination that helped a family overcome danger and tragedy.



Friends of Liberty Children’s illustrated picture book about friendship kids illustrated book

Friends of Liberty

Beatrice Gormley
Ages 9—14
PAPERBACK; Published: 8/1/2013
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5418-6
Price: $ 9.00
192 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.25 x 8
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It’s 1773, and Boston is in political turmoil. As tension rises between England and the colonies, lines are being drawn between the Loyalists and the Patriots. And Sally Gifford, a shoemaker’s daughter, finds herself on the opposite side from her best friend Kitty Lawton, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.

Sally is torn between her cherished friendship and her loyalties to her own family and community in their fight for freedom. As the conflict continues to grow more charged in the weeks leading up to the Boston Tea Party, Sally finds within herself a bravery she didn’t know she had, and ultimately takes a stand for what she comes to find is most important.


Masada

The Last Fortress
Gloria D. Miklowitz
Ages 12 & up
Lexile: 850L
PAPERBACK; Published: 8/13/1999
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5168-0
Price: $ 9.00
198 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.25
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In the year 72 C.E., after a four-year war between Rome and Judea, only one fortress remains to be taken: Masada, high above the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. Two years later, the commander of the famous Roman Tenth Legion, Flavius Silva, marches toward Masada to capture or kill the 960 Jewish zealots who hold it.

In this eloquent and powerful novel, we meet 17-year-old Simon ben Eleazar, son of the Jewish leader of Masada. Apprenticed too Masada’s only physician, Simon learns to help victims of the enemy’s onslaught as he struggles with his love for Deborah, the intended of his best friend, and with the painful decision he must ultimately make.


My Name is Sangoel children book for kidsMy Name Is Sangoel

Ages 6-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD440L
HARDCOVER; Published: 6/1/2009
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5307-3
Price: $ 18.99
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.5 x 11
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Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.

When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.

Written by the authors of the acclaimed Four Feet, Two Sandals, this poignant story of identity and belonging will help young readers understand the plight of the millions of children in the world who are refugees.


Soldier BearSoldier Bear

Bibi Dumon Tak
Philip Hopman
Ages 4-12
Lexile: 780L
PAPERBACK; Published: 9/26/2013
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5436-0
Price: $ 9.00
147 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.25 x 8.5
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Based on a real series of events that happened during World War II, Soldier Bear tells the story of an orphaned bear cub adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in Iran. The soldiers raise the bear and eventually enlist him as a soldier to ensure that he stays with the company. He travels with them from Iran to Italy, and then on to Scotland. Voytek’s mischief gets him into trouble along the way, but he also provides some unexpected encouragement for the soldiers amidst the reality of war: Voytek learns to carry bombs for the company, saves the camp from a spy, and keeps them constantly entertained with his antics.

Always powerful and surprising, Bibi Dumon Tak’s story offers readers a glimpse at this fascinating piece of history.


Son of a Gun children book for kidsSon of a Gun

Ages 11 & up
Lexile: 700L
PAPERBACK; Published: 4/18/2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5406-3
Price: $ 9.00
125 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.25
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I was crazy. Crazy mad. That’s how I felt when I turned in my AK-47 rifle. The commanding officer’s growl still haunts me: “This gun is your god. You listen to the voice of your god and go where your gun tells you.”

This powerful and gripping story describes the journey of a brother and sister, eight- year-old Lucky and ten-year-old Nopi, who are kidnapped from school and forced to become child soldiers in Liberia’s fourteen-year-long civil war.

Lucky and Nopi manage to escape, but must continue fleeing. Even after they are reunited with their parents, they both know the pieces of their lives will never fit together like they used to. When will the war really be over, and when will they get to have the childhood they still dream about?

This sensitive and compelling narrative is based on true stories of former child soldiers interviewed by the author. Son of a Gun also includes a section of notes and further information about Liberia.


A Story Like the Wind children's book for kidsA Story Like the Wind

Gill Lewis
Jo Weaver
Ages 9 to 14
HARDCOVER; Published: 10/30/2018
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5514-5
Price: $ 16.00
80 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6.5 x 8.25
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A masterful story about the power of hope

Rami is in a small dinghy filled with strangers, all of them refugees seeking a safe harbor. But with no motor, no oars, and a rising tide, their situation looks bleak. So Rami pulls out the only thing he brought with him—a violin—and begins to tell his fellow refugees a story through his music. And his story, about an indomitable white stallion and its struggle for freedom, gives them all the strength to remember the past and hope for the future. 

A Story Like the Wind is a beautifully illustrated fable that shows how music and stories can bring people together. Readers of all ages will be entranced by this sweeping story that feels both new and timeless.


Vanishing Colors Written by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen Illustrated by Akin Duzakin
This evocative story is a wonderful conversation starter about an important and timely topic.

Vanishing Colors

Ages 5 to 9
HARDCOVER; Published: 3/19/2019
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5518-3
Price: $ 18.00
40 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.625 x 12
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A haunting, poignant story about refugees

As a young girl and her mother take shelter for the night in their war-torn city, the whole world appears muted and dark. When the girl wakes in the middle of the night to find a bird watching her, she knows it’s the one from her mother’s stories, who flies down from the mountains to protect people from harm. She tells the bird what her life used to be like, before the war and destruction—she describes her favorite dress, the open market stalls, her dad playing music on the roof. As she continues to remember, colors slowly seep back into her life, and with them comes the courage to hope for a new beginning.

This evocative story is a wonderful conversation starter about an important and timely topic.


The War within These Walls children history books for kids
“A powerful, fictionalized memoir.”
– Christian Library Journal

The War within These Walls

Translated by Laura Watkinson
Ages 14 & up
HARDCOVER; Published: 10/16/2013
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5428-5
Price: $ 17.00
176 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 4.75 x 8.625
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It’s World War II, and Misha’s family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.

Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.


Why Am I Here?

HARDCOVER; Published: 10/16/2016
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5477-3
Price: $ 16.00
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 11.75 x 8.5
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A remarkable book for encouraging self- reflection

In this empathetic book, a young girl wonders what life would be like if she lived somewhere else. What if she lived in a city with millions of people? What would it be like to be a refugee from a war-torn country? Is she meant to be in a different place? Or is she right where she’s supposed to be?

Stirring and impactful, this book will cause readers to ponder life’s big questions and have a better understanding of their place in the world.

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