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Kids Changing the World

  • January 15, 2011 1:28 pm

I love books about kids taking action to help others and make the world a better place. Children’s talents and abilities are underused in this world, I believe. Young people are often seen as incapable of holding valid opinions or exercising leadership. We generally do not allow children or young people a voice or any responsibility in running their own schools or communities.

Here are a couple of recent books which profile children and teenagers who have taken on leadership roles and made a difference in the world.   I hope that books like these will encourage adults to train young people for leadership roles, and to share leadership and responsibility with young people in an appropriate way.

Click on the titles below to buy these books.

Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet, by Janet Wilson features full-color, two-page spreads about 10 young people from around the world, as well as shorter profiles of 20 more. At the back of the book are suggestions for how readers can get involved and make a difference. My son and I enjoyed reading about William Kamkwamba of Malawi, who put together windmills using salvaged parts; Kruti Parekh of India, who incorporates environmental messages in her magic shows; Fang Minghe of China, who takes photos of illegal wildlife being sold in order to help the police catch these criminals; and all the other young people in this book.

Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change by Garth Sundem profiles 30 young people from around the world. The profiles are grouped into five categories: Kids Saving the Environment; Kids Standing Up for Themselves; Kids Helping Others; Kids Overcoming Challenges; and Kids Using Talents and Creativity. Unfortunately, this book includes no actual pictures or photos of the kids that are profiled. Despite this drawback, it is an inspiring book. Some of the young people in this book are also featured in Our Earth, but many are different.

I have included these books on both my girls and boys lists.

The Lunch Thief by Anne Bromley

  • December 4, 2010 8:27 am

Click image to buy book

Rafael, a sixth grader, discovers that a new boy, Kevin, has been stealing his lunch. Every day, Kevin steals a lunch from another student. But instead of trying to fight Kevin, Rafael decides to take his mother’s advice: “Use your mouth before your fists.” Rafael asks Kevin about his life and finds out he is from Jacinto Valley, which was devastated by fires. Although Kevin doesn’t want to talk about his situation, Rafael discovers that Kevin and his family are living in a motel room. Rafael then arranges to pack a second lunch for Kevin.

This is a great book to introduce upper-elementary kids to concepts of empathy and caring.  However, at first I was confused by the format of The Lunch Thief. It is a picture book, yet the drawings show kids who are about 11 or 12. The book is written for kids ages 8-12. I thought, do kids of that age read picture books?

Well, apparently there is a place for picture books in upper elementary grades. Check out this page: Teaching with Picture Books, which suggests that picture books can be appropriate for upper elementary grades as a way to quickly introduce concepts in a non-threatening way, and to create a focus for learning.

I have included this book on my boys list.

Tao-Girls Rule! by CJ Golden

  • October 24, 2010 2:12 pm

Click image to buy book

The subtitle of this book is: “Finding balance, staying confident, being bold, in a world of challenges.” Tao-Girls Rule! is a cross between a self-help book and a pep talk, with advice based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao.

According to this book, a Tao-Girl is tenacious, accepting, optimistic, grateful, imaginative, radiant, and loving. Chapters are organized around these seven qualities, and explain how girls can use Tao principles such as “tzu jan,” “wu-wei,” and “yin-yang” to deal with life’s challenges.

The author, CJ Golden, has worked with Girls Scouts of the USA to present Tao-Girls workshops, and stories from these girls are included throughout the book. Golden’s web site, www.taogirl.com, also features stories from girls who have completed her workshops.

I liked this book and I would recommend it, but I did not like some of the silhouette images on the cover. A couple of the images show girls with skirts that are far too short (in my opinion). All the girls on the cover are very thin. I do like the image of the girl in lotus posture. I would hope that, in a future edition of the book, the author and publisher would find a way to include silhouettes or drawings of a more realistic representation of teenaged girls on the cover.

That said, don’t judge this book by its cover! The advice inside is invaluable. I wish I’d had this book as I was growing up.

I have included this book on my girls’ book list.

Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs by Conover and Crane

  • September 18, 2010 5:46 pm

Click on image to buy book

Click on image to buy book

I came across this wonderful book of Islamic folk tales somewhat by accident. To tell you the truth, I had never read any Islamic folk tales before, although our family loves folk tales! The authors, Sarah Conover and Freda Crane, put together this collection because “there was, and is still, a lack of compelling material introducing Islam to children and young adults.”

The 39 stories in this book are retellings of tales collected from all over the world: from China to Africa to Indonesia — anywhere Muslims live. Many stories feature the folk character Joha (also known as Mulla Nasruddin Hodja, and Affanti), whose predicaments and funny responses teach the reader through humor.

Several stories feature important women in the Islamic tradition. Rabia Al Adawiya of Basra was a famous Sufi saint. In one story, Rabia stresses the importance of gratitude, and in another, she reforms a thief by teaching him how to pray. Khadija, Muhammed’s first wife, was a wealthy businesswoman and the first follower of Islam.

Women and girl characters are featured in other stories too. A clever girl in China named Sailimai outsmarted the emperor and saved her father-in-law. Fatimah, a clever, hard-working Turkish girl, found herself in China after many misadventures, and was able to fulfill a legend by building a magnificent tent for the emperor.

Because Islam is closely related to Judaism and Christianity, the three religions share some stories. Included in this collection is a story about Abraham; a story about Hagar (Abraham’s second wife, and the mother of the Arab people); and a story about the birth of Jesus.

The stories stress generosity, honesty, cooperation, simplicity, fairness, hard work, equanimity, humility, and the importance of education. Each story is introduced by a quote from Islamic literature. Twelve full-color illustrations by Valerie Wahl add to the beauty and charm of this book.

Background information on Islam is included in the introductory material. Source notes for each story and quote are included at the back of the book.

This is truly a valuable collection, and highly recommended. I am including this on both my girls list and my boys list.

Maggie and the Chocolate War, by Michelle Mulder

  • September 5, 2010 1:59 pm
Maggie and the Chocolate War

Click on image to buy book

This is a fictionalized version of a true protest led by children: a Canadian children’s boycott of chocolate bars in 1947, when the price went up in from 5 cents to 8 cents.

Maggie, a 9-year-old girl living in Victoria, British Columbia, wants to buy a chocolate bar for her friend’s birthday. She’s saving money from her job as a delivery girl for her dad’s grocery store. World War II is over, and food rationing is a thing of the past, but now the price of food is going up.  Maggie doesn’t pay much attention to the price of butter and bread, but when the price of chocolate goes up, she worries that she won’t have enough money saved in time for Josephine’s birthday.

Then she and her friends find out about strikes being held by kids in other parts of the country. They make signs and begin protesting outside of stores. Although Maggie feels bad that her actions are decreasing customers to her father’s store, she is encouraged by her mother, who has joined with other women to protest the price of food.

Finally, the kids’ actions convince several local shopkeepers to lower the price to 5 cents again.

The book is illustrated with photos of the real protests, and pictures of actual newspaper clippings covering the marches and protests. I found it fascinating to look at the photos and read about the real history behind this novel. Readers will also be immersed in the details of daily life from 1947.

This 90-page novel is part of the Kids’ Power series. I have included this book on my girls list.