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152: Books that Encourage Activism in Young People

In this episode of the Unabridged Podcast, we share book recommendations that we believe promote and encourage activism in young people. Our selections include Brandy Colbert’s The Voting Booth, Dave Cullen’s Parkland: Birth of a Movement, and Monica Clark-Robinson's Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison. We also share what we're currently reading in our Bookish Check-In, and we share some activism accounts that we love in our Give Me One segment. Don't miss Jen's Bookish Fave from Monday highlighting more great choices!

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Jenny Han’s We’ll Always Have Summer

Jen - Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff

Sara - Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (after Jen’s recommendation in our cozy reads episode!)

Our Recommendations for Encouraging Activism

Ashley - Brandy Colbert’s The Voting Booth

Jen - Dave Cullen’s Parkland: Birth of a Movement

Sara - Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison (illustrator) Let the Children March (picture book)

Mentioned in Episode

Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down

Dave Cullen's Columbine

Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl: The Manga, Volume 1

Give Me One - Activist Accounts on Instagram

Jen - @nicstone

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Bookish Check-in

book cover of Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Sara said, "So, I am reading this one, thanks to Jen. In one of our prior episodes she talked about Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series. And when she was describing it, I had never heard of it. It just felt like something that I needed in my life. So I went to my library's app right after we recorded the episode, and they had the first one available for audio right away. So, I have been listening to that. And I'm just loving it. It is totally a cozy mystery, in my opinion. The protagonist, I'm not going to tell you a whole bunch because Jen just talked about on another episode, but the protagonist is an 11 or 12 year old girl. She is very precocious and super smart. And she likes solving mysteries. So there's a murder and she is, along with the police, much to their dismay, she is also investigating and going to the crime scenes and collecting clues and oftentimes before the police get there. It is just great. I love it and audio is fantastic. The narrator is amazing. So, I'm just really enjoying it. I listen to it when I walk or exercise and it just captivates me and takes me away and I feel like I'm in this little this town.

Ashley said, "I am listening to Jenny Han's We'll Always Have Summer, which is the third in a trilogy. So I'm loving it, it is about Belly. She is the main character. And she and her brother and their mom always spend the summers at a house with the mom's best friend, and her two sons. So, it's the four kids, the two brothers, and then Belly and her older brother. Belly is the youngest of the four, and they have grown up together, but only in the summers. And it's just a really sweet story about her coming into her teenage years and developing a crush on one of the brothers. And then the story evolves from there. And I think one of the things I love about Jenny Han is she does a great job of bringing in memories of past experiences, and then weaving those into the current time. And I think she does that really well in this one as well. So you get some backstory about the summers that have led up to the one that is called The Summer I Turned Pretty. And I mean, I just think it's been a really great experience. So I have to say that I think I still love To All the Boys I Loved Before more. I love that series better, which maybe is because I read it first. But I am really loving this one as well. And I'm glad that I came around to it. I told Jen and Sara that I honestly do not find either the title of the first book or the cover appealing. I've actually seen some other cover since, but I used to have it in my classroom, and a lot of students liked it. So the title and the cover that I had seen, neither of those things were working for me, which is part of why I had not gotten around to reading it. And then when I realized it was Jenny Han, I love her so much. So anyway, it's been great. And I'm excited to finish up the trilogy. So again, that's Jenny Han's We'll Always Have Summer, and it's the last in that series."

Jen said, "So I am reading Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down, the graphic novel, which is illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff. I'm not sure if I said that right. We tried to find the pronunciation, but could not. It is absolutely gorgeous. So, we have talked about Long Way Down, the novel in verse, a lot on the podcast and absolutely love that. And I'm a real fan of graphic novel adaptations. There was one recently for Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. And there's one I love for Anne of Green Gables. So I think they work with classic works and more modern ones. And this one, I think does what the best adaptations do. It takes the story, it remains faithful to it. But it just changes the medium. It's just this really impactful art. It is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like watercolors. And there's this really clever use of color and of black and white to highlight certain elements on each page that are important. You see Will descending into this despair after his brother is killed at the very beginning. And then because this is a book that has elements of the paranormal or of magical realism, the art is able to emphasize that element of it as well. So, I have not seen--I'm assuming that it will--that the story will stay the same through the end. But I have not seen the way the ending has been adapted yet. I'm really intrigued by that. But I didn't want to peek ahead. So I'm looking forward to that. And that, you know, as graphic novels always are, it's a fast read. But there's so much to look at on every page. I've thoroughly enjoyed that adaptation. So again, that's Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff."

Main Segment - Great Books to Encourage Activism in Young People

Ashley said this about her choice, "I did choose Brandy Colbert's The Voting Booth. And I chose this one because I think it's timely. And I think that she does such a great job of exploring the way that teenagers can be active and engaged in the voting process in America, and I just think that's really awesome. I think it's really cool to see how teens even before they're 18, and of voting age, can be involved in democracy, and can be excited about making changes and can help people make those changes. So I think all that's really cool.

"This is the story of Marva and Duke. Another thing I like about the book is it all takes place in one day, it all takes place on election day. So, I think that's really neat. I think books that span long periods of time are really interesting, and then I think books that are like a capsule examination of a single day are also like really fascinating. So I love that about the book too. But it is about Marva and Duke, and they do not know each other. But in the morning, when it's time to vote, Duke is not able to vote at the polling place, and Marva is a passionate, passionate activist who has been working very hard for all of her teenage years to encourage people to get out to vote, and to be involved. So she's so excited to finally be able to vote for herself. And then she sees this happening to Duke and she will not stand for it. And so because of that they develop this friendship, and it just opens up this adventure of them, trying to work through all the obstacles that he faces as he discovers that he can't vote. I don't want to do any spoilers, but there's a lot of really interesting things about what leads to that moment where he thinks that he knows where to go, he knows that he registered and yet when he gets there, he's not registered at that polling place. And again, that can be a huge obstacle for people. So, I loved how it looks at the voting process and the ways that there are significant obstacles for people that prevent them from being able to cast their vote. And so while I think that Colbert really promotes the importance of activists, getting people to vote, she also takes a pretty critical examination of obstacles that are unfairly placed on people that make it really hard for them to be able to cast their vote. So, I loved how that happened, that she simultaneously was able to say, voting is really important. And we all need to do our part, but also to showcase how it can be very difficult for people to actually get to exert their right to vote."

book cover of Monica Clark Robinson's Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Sara had this to say about her choice, "So I decided to do a children's book for this one. And I wanted to talk about Monica Clark Robinson, who is the the author and then Frank Morrison, who is the illustrator, their book, Let the Children March. So, this book is a nonfiction book. It tells a story about black children in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, who volunteered to march for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were inspired to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, and they protested laws that kept black people separated. So, they were protesting segregation. And I mean, these were really young kids. What I love about this book, is that I think sometimes it's difficult to talk to young,young kids, like I think about my daughter who's nine, and my son who's 12, it can be hard to talk to them about advocacy and how they can be advocates and how they can, you know, speak up. I think that this book is such a great story about these kids who saw these injustices and they did something about it. And then Frank Morrison's illustrations are gorgeous. I mean, they they are s just phenomenal. I read this with my daughter last summer. And I mean, she loves, I've talked about this on the podcast before, but she loves nonfiction stories. She loves stories that she can ask questions about. And the first question she always asks is, 'Is this the real story?' It's really nice to be able to show her these examples of these kids doing amazing things, and being advocates for what they believe in. And I just think this is a really excellent children's book"

Jen had this to say about her pick, "So I had a bit of a struggle, but I have landed on Dave Cullen's Parkland: Birth of a Movement. And I love this book. I will say it has been a little while and I don't want to misrepresent anything. So I'm not going to talk about it in detail. But I do just want to talk about what I loved about it.

"So Dave Cullen, I first became aware of him when he wrote his book Columbine, which was an account of the Columbine shooting, and that book is an incredible piece of journalism if you haven't read that. So he writes really honestly at the beginning of Parkland about how traumatizing that endeavor was that researching Columbine and writing about it and really focusing on the event itself and what led up to it. And so when he decided to write Parkland, it was this, 'Can I can I do this again,' but what he focuses on is the activist movement that arose from Parkland.

"It sounds weird to say that this is a book about hope, but I think it is and he is definitely very honest about the impact of the shooting at Parkland and the impact on the students who were survivors who decided that they needed to take this tragedy and make a change on the basis of it. And so he is really honest about the PTSD and the aftermath and the way some of the survivors seemed okay, at first and then later had difficulty, or the way they reacted to each other's reactions. It just obviously, something like that is very challenging, and so he writes with such honesty about his own feelings and about the feelings of the students, but what is so powerful is to see a group of kids who are able to come together. They're able to move beyond their sadness and their anger, to use it as fuel for something that they hope will bring about change.

"So to see him focus on each of these remarkable kids is just really inspiring, and so it is a book that is at turns sad. definitely, it made me angry. But it also, you think about the power of students and the power of kids, and the way that they see the world and the fact that that can be something different, that they can do something different. Sometimes they can do things adults can't do just because of our perspective and our way of approaching the world, that sometimes kids have access to social media. He talks about the masterful way that they use social media in ways that no protesters before had thought about doing. He talks about the training that they had had in their extracurricular activities, and the way that they turned those into into sort of scaffolding for the movement. So students who participated in debate used that. Kids who were in the theater could use that. So again, I don't want to go into detail because it has been long enough that I don't want to misrepresent anything, but I just think Colin is a remarkable journalist. But to see him approach these two similar events so differently, I think, shows us the way we as a country are approaching them hopefully differently. And the way that even though tragedies like this are still happening, there is also a lot of attention being paid to what we can do and the ways that we can combat that type of violence. So that is Dave Cullen's Parkland: Birth of a Movement."

Give Me One - Instagram Account that Supports Activism

Don't miss our Give Me One segment, where each of us share a an Instagram account that supports activism.


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