Book Reviews: Two Books for Young Activists


A is for Activist
Written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara

An alphabet board book that introduces progressive ideas of activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant issues, education, protest, gender…you name it, it’s here.

Reasons I love it:

  1. Finally, a book that is unapologetic about introducing young children to complex issues of social justice and human rights! This book not only covers a wide variety of topics, it also promotes independent thought, critical thinking and ideas for creating change. I love that the book can grow with young readers. The ideas may be incomprehensible at first, but it provides a foundation of language, questioning and learning about some important issues of our time. It is never too early to start! The layers and issues are so deep that I can see this book used as a text to facilitate discussions in college classrooms.
  2. The pointed social critique is balanced by a playful rhythm used throughout the book. Alliteration and rhyme create a light-hearted tone that even the youngest infant will enjoy. My son loved this book as a baby, and he still consistently pulls it off the shelf as a toddler.
  3. Diversity is inherent on every page. Nagara’s illustrations include children of various races and ethnicities. Multiple languages are present in the text and artwork. Children are not drawn to be overly-gendered, and are often depicted countering gender norms. Youth in wheelchairs are included. It is clear that Nagara made a conscious effort to represent marginalized communities. Through these images, the book sends a positive message of empowerment and social engagement to all youth.
  4. The illustrations are bold, colorful and deeply symbolic. Faces of worldwide civil rights including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, Ella Baker, Cesar Chávez and Malati Choudhury are embedded throughout the book. Nagara provides a “Who’s Who” guide on his Facebook page. Other illustrations – like the “O” page include modern-day symbolism: does the owl allude to the Occupy Movement? Does the bull represent Wall Street? What do they mean together? Again, this book could be used in upper level classrooms, but is still engaging to young readers.
  5. There are cats hidden on every page! Oh, and it’s an ABC book! In addition to all the deep stuff, this book teaches kids the alphabet!

Two Wishes: The letters of the alphabet are sometimes difficult to find – particularly if a reader is still learning them – and they alternate between capital and lower-case letters. As an alphabet book, I wish the letters were shown consistently and more visibly in the same case. In addition, there are a few passages in which the rhythm is difficult to maintain, which can make the reading choppy. It would be nice if the rhythms throughout the book were also consistent.


Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Written by Doreen Cronin • Illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. His problem only gets bigger, however, when the cows begin leaving notes with demands. Then they go on strike. Then, the chickens join them. This is a hilarious story of a typewriter, activist cows and the poor farmer who just wants the balance of power to stay the same as always! At least the duck is neutral….or is he?

Reasons I love it:

  1. It is freaking hysterical! Between the bizarre story line, unexpected twists, brilliant illustrations and notes from cows that read, “Sorry. We’re closed. No milk today.” this book makes me giggle every time I read it.
  2. It’s a book about literacy, peaceful protests, movements, and strikes. Through the entertaining story, this book will empower young readers to fight for their rights; it is an engaging, yet nuanced way to introduce these concepts to children. Sometimes when I read to my son at night, I just want to be entertained; this book covers my funny and educational bases in one go.
  3. Repetition and onomatopoeia make this a fun read aloud.
  4. The watercolor illustrations add more to the humor. The cartoonish style hilarious animal expressions pair perfectly with the outlandish text. This was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2001.

One Wish: No wishes for this one. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! This is one of my all-time favorites!

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