We envision a future where people actively work to dismantle injustices and build a more peaceful, equitable world.

Summer Freedom Reading!

Summer for some means more freedom, not having to follow a school schedule.

For some this freedom may coexist with the stress of unstructured time.

For some, summer means more reading time.

This summer gives us a long overdue and welcome “Freedom Day” holiday as Juneteenth became a national holiday AND a reminder that working for justice means learning our history and talking about race in schools, voting rights, stopping police violence, reparations and more.

Here’s a small selection of a variety of Jane Addams Award titles to invite deep thinking about the meaning of freedom focusing on…

The freedom to dream

The freedom to wear what feels good

The freedom to speak your language

The freedom to use your chosen name

The freedom to practice your religion

The freedom to celebrate your culture and traditions

The freedom to vote

The freedom to know your history

The freedom to make art and music

The freedom to experience joy and live without fear

This diverse selection of books invites young people and all people to explore the meaning of freedom, the meaning of human rights, think deeply about freedom in their lives and the lives of others, and take action to bring more freedom and equity into the world.  

We wish you a happy summer with the freedom to delve into and enjoy many good books.

In this newsletter find summaries and resources for these books, action inquiry and activities, celebrations and reflections about Juneteenth and Pride and more!

From “Hot Day on Abbott Avenue” by Karen English and Javaka Steptoe

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone

This riveting work of nonfiction chronicles the astonishing story of the Mercury 13—the group of women who should have been the first female astronauts. Never before has the whole history of this case been presented with such documentation and deliverance in a book for young people. Giving context to the women who were almost astronauts, the author writes, “It was 1961 when they took their shot at being astronauts. Back then, women weren’t allowed to rent a car or take out a loan from a bank without a man’s signature; they could not play on a professional sports team at all. They couldn’t report the news on television or run in a city marathon or serve as police officers. They weren’t allowed to fly jets, either.” Despite these larger obstacles and many, many smaller hoops, a cadre of capable and determined women proved they had the “right stuff.” While piloting records and stringent NASA test results showed their ideal candidacy for an astronaut training program, ultimately their efforts were thwarted. Only recently was the source of the trail of red tape tracked back to a hidden file in a presidential vault. Tanya Lee Stone’s stirring work is enriched by numerous photographs and fascinating details from her extensive research. (Age 12 and older)CCBC Choices 2010. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2010. Used with permission.

Delivering Justice by by James Haskins and illustrated by Benny Andrews

Summary from the Madison Public Library (2005)

“Grow up and be somebody,” Westley Wallace Law’s grandmother encouraged him as a young boy living in poverty in segregated Savannah, Georgia. Determined to make a difference in his community, W.W. Law assisted blacks in registering to vote, joined the NAACP and trained protestors in the use of nonviolent civil disobedience, and, in 1961, led the Great Savannah Boycott. In that famous protest, blacks refused to shop in downtown Savannah. When city leaders finally agreed to declare all of its citizens equal, Savannah became the first city in the south to end racial discrimination.

 Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The effects of trauma are explored with great honesty and sensitivity in a novel that never becomes graphic in its depictions of abuse. Ten-year-old Della and her teen sister, Suki (both white), had been living with their mother’s ex-boyfriend, Clifton, ever since a meth-related incident landed their mother in prison years ago. When Suki catches Clifton abusing Della, the girls are placed in a foster home with blunt-but-caring Francine. Suki, who has always been Della’s staunch protector and caregiver, struggles to cope with the years of sexual abuse she has kept secret. As Suki reaches a crisis point, Francine finally succeeds at getting mental health treatment for both girls. With the help of a therapist, Della begins to recognize her own feelings, understand what is happening to Suki, and practice healthy coping skills as she processes her own trauma. At school, Della stands up to a boy in her classroom who has long gotten away with snapping his classmates’ bra straps, underscoring the important lessons about consent in a story in which the fortitude of both sisters is admirable and not unrealistic. (Ages 9-13)CCBC Choices 2021. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2021. Used with permission.

 Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Riding the train home from the swimming pool, Julián and his abuela see women clad in elegant, mint-green dresses trailing tail fins: mermaids. Wide- eyed Julián drifts into a fantasy: submerged in water, his hair lengthens and he’s swept up in a stream of sea creatures, a tail where his legs had been, a large blue fish presenting him with a coral necklace. Once home, while Abuela takes a bath Julián removes his clothing, tucks fern leaves and flowers into a headband, and kneels on the vanity to apply lipstick. From the gauzy window curtain he fashions a tail and strikes a pose—only to be discovered by a towel-wrapped Abuela, who promptly walks away. Julián’s relief is palpable when Abuela, dressed in blue, returns to present him with a beaded coral necklace. Without a word, she takes Julián’s hand and leads him to the mermaid parade, where they join in the celebration. A soft, colorful palette and gorgeous watercolor and ink illustrations on brown paper realistically portray bodies of all different sizes in this touching story of an abuela’s love and acceptance of her gender-creative grandchild. (Ages 3–8)

CCBC Choices 2019. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2019. Used with permission.

When My Name Was Keoko By Linda Sue Park

Growing up in occupied Korea during World War Two, Kim Sun-hee is ten years old when she learns that she and her family, like all Koreans, must take new Japanese names. Overnight she becomes Kaneyama Keoko and her 13-year-old brother, Tae-yul, becomes Nobuo. This is just the latest in a long string of new laws aimed at suppressing Korean culture. Already Sun-hee has excelled in Japanese at school where speaking, writing, and reading Korean is forbidden, to such an extent that she is sometimes called chin-il-pa (lover of Japan). Spanning the years between 1940 and 1945, the story unfolds in the alternating points of view of Sun-hee and Tae-yul, who respond quite differently to the same events. Whereas Tae-Yul wants to follow in the footsteps of their politically subversive uncle who works for the underground, Sun-Hee tries to follow the example set by her scholarly father, quietly subversive in his own right as he struggles to maintain a Korean identity for his family. Winner, CCBC Newbery Award Discussion; Honor Book, CCBC Printz Award Discussion (Ages 11-14)

CCBC Choices 2003 . © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2003. Used with permission.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

When Nisha and her twin brother Amil turn 12, Nisha receives a notebook from her family’s beloved cook, Kazi. She uses it as a diary, writing entries in the form of letters to her mother, who died when the twins were infants. Observant, sensitive Nisha is an excellent writer, but anxiety makes it difficult for her to speak. India has recently been freed from British rule, and when tensions among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs erupt in her hometown of Mirpur Khas, Nisha fears for her family’s safety. Nisha and Amil’s mother was Muslim, but their father and grandmother are Hindu, putting them at great risk when their part of India becomes Muslim Pakistan after Partition. Nisha observes that her “childhood would always have a line drawn through it, the before and the after.” Forced to leave their comfortable life—and Muslim Kazi—behind, the family flees on foot, setting off across the desert for the “new India,” with only a few jugs of water in hand. They encounter many dangers on their harrowing journey, only to arrive at a place that is not home, and where they have nothing but one another. Nisha effectively communicates not only the profound pain of loss and separation faced by this family during a tumultuous period of Indian history, but also the comfort of learning how to express love and gratitude for one another. (Ages 10–13) CCBC Choices 2019. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2019. Used with permission.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai and Felicia Hoshino

Under the harsh summer sun, Mari’s art class has begun. But it’s hard to think of anything to draw in a place where nothing beautiful grows – especially a place like Topaz, the internment camp where Mari’s family and thousands of other Japanese Americans have been sent to live during World War II. Somehow, glimmers of hope begin to surface – in the eyes of a kindly art teacher, in the tender words of Mari’s parents, and in the smile of a new friend. Amy Lee-Tai’s sensitive prose and Felicia Hoshino’s stunning mixed-media images show that hope can survive even the harshest injustice.

Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.

THE SURRENDER TREE Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

Who could have guessed that after all these years,

the boy I called Lieutenant Death

when we were both children

would still be out here, in the forest,

chasing me, now,

hunting me, haunting me . . .

It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in concentration camps with too little food and too much illness.

Rosa is a nurse, but with a price on her head for helping the rebels, she dares not go to the camps. Instead, she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her. Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war?

This book is also available in bilingual English and Spanish

From Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)


 I See the Rhythm by Toyomi Igus and Michele Wood

Joyful paintings visualize the musical roots of centuries beginning with once forbidden drums of many African heritages to the beats of the 1990s. “Fathered by funk and nurtured by mother Africa, I see the rhythm of hip hop and the rhythm lives on in me,” writes Toyomi Igus. Each page spread of this full-color history of black music can be enjoyed in multiple ways. A timeline in a small typeface provides selected historical background for each section: Origins, Slave Songs, Birth of the Blues, Ragtime, Jazz Beginnings, Swing Jazz, Jazz Women, Bebop, Coll Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues/Soul Music, Black Rock, Funk, Rap and Hip Hop. Igus previously collaborated with artist Michele Wood on the book Going Back Home, an autobiographical essay on the artist’s personal roots. In this new venture, Wood has hidden a little girl in every scene. Sometimes this child is a baby on a mother’s back, or she might be playing the piano. Although that is a small detail, it’s one that can increase the visual pleasure of a singularly handsome volume, especially for children young enough to feel the power of Wood’s words but not quite ready for the background information about history. (Ages 9-14)

CCBC Choices 1998. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 1998. Used with permission.


 Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare Lezotte

Mary lives in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard in 1805. Along with a significant portion of the population of Chilmark, Mary can’t hear (the term “deaf” was not used at the time). There is no distinction between those who can and cannot hear and most in the community know and use sign language. When a scientist from the mainland arrives, it quickly becomes clear he thinks people who can’t hear suffer from an “infirmity” and are less intelligent than hearing people. Kidnapping Mary, he takes her to the mainland, turning her over to another scientist who plans to conduct research to understand why some people can’t hear. The kidnapping plot makes for high adventure, but it’s as a work of historical fiction illuminating Mary’s community and its little-known history that this novel shines. Author LaZotte, who is Deaf, includes an informative note telling more about the high incidence of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard and other aspects of the island’s history. The novel’s fascinating backstory is wonderfully realized in her depiction of the setting and people of Chilmark. The story and author’s note also reference the complex, troubling, and too often unacknowledged history of how colonialism and white settlement impacted Indigenous Wampanoag and Black community members. Fictional Mary’s attitudes toward Wampanoag and Black members of her community are likely be progressive for a white person of the time. (Ages 9-12)CCBC Choices 2021. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2021. Used with permission.

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Sugar works in the sugarcane fields of a plantation on the Mississippi River. An orphan, Sugar abhors her name with its constant reminder of the crop that has defined her life in many hard ways. Although some of the recently freed slaves have headed north, those with the fewest resources-like Sugar-are stuck in the cane fields and inescapable poverty. A friendship with Billy, the son of the plantation owner, gives Sugar some pleasure and freedom in her daily life, but no one among Billy’s family or Sugar’s fellow workers approves of their relationship. When the plantation owner brings in a group of Chinese laborers to help with the harvest, the other African Americans feel threatened and resentful of the newcomers until Sugar makes the overtures that ultimately allow the two groups to find connections. This accessible and compelling tale, set at a time about which little has been written for children, focuses on the transformative power of compassion and humanity. While Billy’s attitudes may be unrealistically progressive for the era, they mark a sense of hope found in few African American books of historical fiction. (Ages 8-12)

CCBC Choices 2014. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2014. Used with permission.


The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren and Fabio Santomauro

The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden.

It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The soldiers patrolling their street are growing suspicious, so Carl and his mama must make their way to the harbor despite a cloudy sky with no moon to guide them. Worried about their safety, Anett devises a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor.

Based on a true story.

Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.

“Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice” by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood , illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

“This collection of poems by women of color covers topics relating to social justice, activism, discrimination and empathy, focusing on the need to speak out and inspiring middle-graders.” –Vogue

Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice
 is a collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists.

Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out. 

With Theodore Taylor’s bright, emotional art, and writing from Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, kids will be inspired to create their own art and poems to express how they see justice and injustice.

With a foreword by best-selling author Jason Reynolds.Publisher description retrieved from Google Books

Taking action for

Freedom & Social Justice:

Social Justice Learn and Do

What can you learn? What Can you do?
Intermediate and Middle School Age Online Inquiry and Social Action Activities

Arising from the words and work of our Jane Addams Children’s Book Award authors and illustrators, each inquiry and social action learning activity here can be completed online with no need for outside resources aside from pencil, paper, and occasionally art supplies. While created in response to the coronavirus school shutdown in the spring of 2020, the activities have been updated to be as useful now as then. Click on the titles below each picture and find materials from and about the author along with guiding questions for reading, writing, reflection, and action.

Angela Joy dedicated Black is a Rainbow Color to children who ask difficult questions and adults who brave the unknown for answers. 

Adults, let’s hold the space for those questions to arise!

While reading Black is a Rainbow Color written by Angela Joy and illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Children can

REFLECT: Ask themselves as they read or as the book is read to them…

Just how is black a rainbow color?  

ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE: Talk about it/write about it/draw about it, stopping along the way and after finishing…

What surprises you? What excites you? Why? What do you wonder more about? Might be time to explore the Author’s Note and the information in the back pages!  

TAKE SOCIAL ACTION: Consider what Black is a Rainbow Color urges them to do and try something new…

Angela Joy says,” Black is a rainbow, too.” What does that mean to you? Do you see yourself in the Black rainbow? Do you see others in the Black rainbow? What can you do to show you see the rainbow with words or actions? What will you try that you’ve never done before?

A Book Pair Focusing on Freedom

Juneteenth sometimes known as “Freedom Day” is a day of remembrance and celebration on the day in 1865 that soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery in the United States which was two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth, Caribbean Heritage Month and any time is a great time to reflect deeply on the meaning of freedom, where it’s experienced, by whom and when.  These two poetic and colorful books invite joyful, celebratory deep thinking that can lead to action for freedom.

Click for links to summaries and resources for “Black is a Rainbow Color” by Angela Joy and Ekua Holmes and “Freedom Soup” Tami Charles and Jacqueline Alcantara

Find more Social Justice Learn and Do Resources like this on our website

Click the link to go directly there

Freedom to be the Change we Want to See

Being the change we want to see and reflecting the diverse appearance, perspectives and cultures of the myriad young people in the world and inspiring those young people to be the change they want to see…

THAT is what the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award is all about! You can listen to all of Angela Joy’s honor book acceptance words here. Also find all authors’ and illustrators’ acceptance speeches on our website.


Thinking of LGBTQ+ Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous & all youth who need books by authors & illustrators like them,

thinking of everyone who needs to see all kinds of people represented

and thinking of authors and illustrators and all people who don’t feel free and safe being “out”.

Shown are a handful of LGBTQ+ Jane Addams authors, illustrators and friends.  

Young people who see others like them are more likely to feel safer, empowered, and joyful.

Jane Addams’ books invite dialogue, passionate response, purposeful reflection, and deep questioning about how people can build respect & understanding for differences and for the worth and importance of all individuals and groups.

Twenty-six years after the writing of “Melanin Sun” do young people have a plethora of books in which people like Melanin see themselves, in which they see different kinds of families and come away with the message that it’s important to love who you want as long as you’re happy?

Melanin Sun’s mother named him for the pigment that makes his skin so beautiful and black, and for the sun she sees shining from his eyes. For as long as Melanin can remember, he and mama have been a family – loving close…Then she tells him something that makes him feel as if his entire world has shattered: she is a lesbian, and she is in love with a white woman, Kristin. Melanin wants to deny the truth, but to do so would deny his mama. “I couldn’t stand having her touch me but if she wasn’t holding me then who would I be? Where would I be?” Angry and scared (”If she was a dyke, then what did that make me?”), Melanin lashes out, no longer easy with his mother and unwilling to find room in his life – or his heart – for Kristin. There is no easy solution in this courageous novel which addresses the fear that fuels homophobia, but there is honest emotion and real love, and these are what begin to open Melanin’s mind.
(Excerpt from CCBC Choices 1995. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 1995. Used with permission.)

See this book in great company along with other resources in Learning for Justice’s  “Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students”.

Find “From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun” by Jacqueline Woodson and all Jane Addams books on our website.


Authors reflect

on Juneteenth and Freedom

Watch and listen to some essays from prominent and emerging writers, artists, activists, community leaders and teachers reflecting on Juneteenth and how this consequential moment in American history deeply resonates today on the Smithsonian Channel.

Read more about Juneteenth at the Zinn Education Project

Read more and find resources about Juneteenth at the Zinn Education Project.

Who was Jane Addams?

Let young people see themselves in Jane Addams by knowing what she fought for as well as who she loved. We intentionally repeat another version of this information for Pride Month but of course it’s for every month!

Follow us on social media for more resources and book suggestions.

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Help Put Jane Addams Children’s Books in more Hands!

Social justice literature and illustration fosters empathy & respect and invites change making!

Help put these Jane Addams Peace Books into the hands of more children, especially those in communities that have historically been marginalized and experienced oppression. Your gift will support this effort!

Your gift of any amount will help to support the meaningful work of the Jane Addams Peace Association. Click here to donate.

Know of a good book published or to be published in 2021 that helps children engage in deep dialogue that leads to positive change? 

Take a look at the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award criteria and guidelines here and submit your book suggestion here! Thank you!

See in you in the fall for our next newsletter!

Jane Addams Peace Association