Jane Addams Award for Peace and Justice

jane addams award

“The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peacesocial justiceworld community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” From the Website http://www.janeaddamspeace.org/jacba/


oney judge

McCully, Emily Arnold. The Escape of Oney Judge. Farrar Straus Grioux, 2007. 32 pages. $17.99

ISBN-13: 978-0374322250

Picture Book Biography

Age Range: 7-12

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 1 out of 5 for popularity.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2008

Oney Judge is a slave belonging to George and Martha Washington. Although she is treated well by her owners, the reality of her life was one in which her decisions and family relations were not hers to dictate. As Martha Washington talks about her eventual death, she tells Oney that she will be passed on to a relative. Oney is appalled at the fact that she will be forced to separate from her family and work for people who she doesn’t like. The book is filled with many small examples of the ongoing injustices of life as a slave and one feels for Oney when she makes her escape through the resources of local friends. I found it very interesting that because of the status of her owners, her escape had to be kept hushed to an extent that even though they knew where she was, the Washingtons could not really do anything to get her back. The illustrations are lovely and vibrant, giving this interesting story life and movement. The facial expressions are particularly interesting, Martha Washington is often of sour disposition, or totally oblivious.  I am very drawn to the idea of an award for children’s books that emphasize peace and justice, and this one has some themes that are better suited to children that have a bit more experience in the world than a preschooler.

Read Alikes

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge by Ann Rinaldi

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Oney run away? How does she manage to stay independent.
  2. One of the reasons Oney resents slavery is the loss of control families have to stay together, yet in order to be free she has to leave her family. How do you think that makes her feel?

Book Talker

If Martha Washington were your boss, you might have a life of ease and prestige, but what if she owned you. What if you could not use you skills or knowledge to pursue your own career or interests? What would you do if you had to choose between freedom and your family?


Author Website http://www.emilyarnoldmccully.com/

Historical Biographical Note from Mount Vernon http://www.mountvernon.org/educational-resources/encyclopedia/oney-judge

Brief Interview with author at the blog Historically Speaking http://nancycastaldo.blogspot.com/2007/09/interview-emily-arnold-mccully.html

 planting trees of kenya

Nivola, Claire, A. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The story of Wangari Maathai. Frances Foster Books, 2008. 32 pages. $18.99 ISBN-13: 978-0374399184

In an effort to overcome deforestation in Kenya, Wangari recruits other women to slowly plant trees, an effort which wins her the Nobel Prize.

Picture Book Biography

Age Range:  5-12

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2009

ALA Notable Book, 2009

When Wangari was a little girl, Kenya was a lush, green, beautiful place. After returning home from pursuing a biology degree in the United States, she finds her home trees gone and the fields and streams replaced with tea plantations. This transition took away the trees families used for firewood and fuel, as well as the gardens used to feed them. Wangari said “When we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution.” With this in mind she began to organize the local women to plant trees to help hold the topsoil and replace the fields to graze the cattle and goats. She spread her mission and over 30 million trees were planted in 30 years. This story is not only exceptionally inspirational by itself, this telling is simple, moving, and beautiful. Nivola’s illustrations are incredibly detailed, full of color, liviness and beauty.   This author has done other beautiful biographies of strong, environmentally aware women, so I would collect and recommend anything by here, but this book is especially beautiful.


Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya Donna Jo Napoli

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Book discussion questions

  1. Why did Wangari organize women to plant trees?
  2. Who else did she recruit into her work?

Book talking

Are there trees where you live? How about grass and bushes? What if you left and came back and your home was empty of all you remembered being beautiful? What would you be willing to do to make it better?


Interview with author at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2104



Book Battle: The Revolutionary War

Both Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and he Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party. by M. T. Anderson look at the Revolutionary War from the perspective of a black slave. To view this moment in American history, one traditionally full of discussions about independence and representation in government through this lens takes us away from clearly defined views of history into the grey zone of complicated moral quandaries. I see these books as challenging the way our more conservative society is working to canonize the founding fathers, and honoring the fact that all people in all parts of history are flawed. Chains wins this battle, being the more exciting and having better characters. Octavian Nothing spends too much time setting the scene for the ultimate betrayal, but is less gripping and did not keep my interest as well.


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains. Atheneum, 2010. 320 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-1416905851

Isabel and her sister Ruth are sold to a loyalist family in New York at the brink of the Revolutionary War.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Ages 10-16

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Scott O’Dell Award, 2009

National Book Award Nominee for Yong People’s Literature, 2008

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008

When Isabel’s master dies the will said she and her sister would be freed, but the nephew who inherits has other ideas and quickly sells of Isabel, aged 13, and Ruth, aged 5, to a mean loyalist couple from New York. Isabel’s life is hard, full of kitchen drudgery and cleaning, bossed by a nasty woman who is afraid of Ruth’s epilepsy. Isabel is constantly watching out for her little sister and trying to keep from being in trouble with the owners, but because the Revolutionary War is underway, she is also asked to spy on the owners by the rebel army.  This book explores the deep irony of revolutionaries demanding liberty from England, but who cannot even imagine giving the slaves they own freedom. It is an exciting narrative with complex characters, interesting and tragic situations. Isabel is a wonderful character who deals with moral questions and situations in an authentic way. This book is well reviewed by librarians and young people are clearly drawn to this author for her willingness to be honest.

Read Alikes

Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Sophia’s War by Avi

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Book Discussion Questions

  1.        Anderson does not shy away from the problems of a call for liberty for only some people. Have your thoughts about the revolutionary war changed after reading this book?
  2.        Curzon believes in the fight for independence, why doesn’t Isabel?

Book Talking

Isabel wants to be free, as do many of the colonists around her, but because of the color of her skin, she is less likely to benefit from the push for liberty.


Author website http://madwomanintheforest.com/

Interview with author about historical accuracy http://bcove.me/fiotslxs

Author talks about censorship



octavian nothing

Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party. Candlewick, 2006. 368 pages.  $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0763624026

Octavian, a slave raised as a prince in a philosophical society, finds trouble and increasing tensions at the start of the Revolutionary War.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age: 15 and up

Rating: 3 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

National Book Award Winner, 2006

Printz Honor Book, 2006

Boston Globe-Horn Book award for Fiction and Poetry, 2006

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007

Octavian and his mother live in decadence and wealth in a philosophical society run by Mr. Gitney. Secluded and well educated, it is only with the onset of the Revolutionary War and the changes in finances that cause Octavian to realize the realities of his enslavement, and of the conditions of slavery in the colonies. After Mr. Gitney hosts a pox party in an attempt to inoculate his friends and relatives with the small pox, Octavian runs away and joins a rebel militia. Told in beautiful, rich language as a testimony by Octavian, it is also filled in with letters and other documents to give it the feel of a court case. It has the unique perspective of a slave evaluating the complications of the colonists demanding liberty for themselves but refusing it for the enslaved blacks. It looks at the brink of a war from a perspective of militia men, slaves, and philosophers. It is a fascinating mix of characters. That all being said, it was a very hard book to get through. It starts slow, building up the strangeness of Octavian’s upbringing and the odd characters he is surrounded by. The excitement of the plot point lasts only briefly before the author changes voices and tells the story through letters sent from a militia man to his family as he befriends Octavian and prepares to fight battles. This section is hard to understand because of the language, and of less interest because to get the story about Octavian, the reader has to read through other tidbits about characters that are not fleshed out or interesting. I can absolutely see why this won awards for young adult literature, for it is literature, but it is not fun, in fact it can be quite gruesome.


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Day of Tears by Julius Lester

47 by Walter Mosley

Book Discussion Questions:

  1.        Why does the nature of Octavian’s experiment change? How does this change Octavian?
  2.        Why didn’t Octavian try to make it into Boston to try to fight for the British?


This is the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Boston is unsettled, and the Novanglian College of Lucidity is trying to determine the classification of Africans by experimenting on the intellect and psyche of Octavian, who was raised by the College since infancy. Things are changing and this book has runaway slaves, war battles and a party of upper class intellectuals and merchants who all willingly submit themselves to smallpox.


Author Website http://mt-anderson.com/

Acceptance Speech for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award http://mt-anderson.com/blog/he-talks-talks-2/on-octavian-nothing-and-terry-pratchett/

NPR Interview


2 Coretta Scott King Book award winners.

CSK Winner - Watermark“The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” from the ALA website  http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawarde

 one crazy summer

Williams-Gracia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. 218 pages

$16.89 ISBN 978-0-06-076089-2

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern spend a summer with their estranged mother in Oakland, CA in 1968, where there they attend a day camp run by the Black Panthers.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age Range: 9-14

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality. 5 out of 5 for popularity


Coretta Scott King Award, 2011

Newbery Honor, 2011

Scott O’Dell Award, 2011

National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, 2010


Delphine, Vonetta and Fern were abandoned by their mother when Fern was a baby, but now are heading out to spend the summer with her in Oakland. Set in 1968, this book explores the way the Black Panthers participated in social justice and outreach, for the 3 sisters, this means Black Panther day camp, free breakfast and performing at a rally. Delphine, the eldest at 11, mothers her two younger sisters, and tries to understand the strange, distant woman who is their mother, but who does not behave the way she thinks a mother ought too.

This is an excellent, likable book that imparts a little history and a little social consciousness into a story of a young girl and her mother. The story does not follow predictable patterns and I found the resolution to be satisfying without being schmaltzy.


Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance by Eleanora E. Tate

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you heard of the Black Panthers before this book? Were they portrayed the way you expected? What was different or the same?
  2. How did the girl’s performance at the rally effect their experience of the summer and of their mother?

Book Talking Points:

Black Panthers! An unsupervised visit to San Francisco. Chinese food every day. Black Power Day Camp.


Author Website http://www.ritawg.com/

National Book Award Interview with the author

Author discusses the book





Nelson, Marilyn. Carver: A Life Poems. Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, 2001. 112 pages. $16.95 ISBN-13: 978-1886910539

Using poetry, the author tells the life of George Washington Carver through the voices of the people he interacted with.

Genre: Biography/ Nonfiction/ Poetry

Age Range: 11-15

Rating: 5 out 5 for quality. 3 out of 5 for popularity


Boston Globe Horn Book – Fiction & Poetry Winner, 2001

Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2002

Newbery Honor Book, 2002

George Washington Carter was born a slave, but because of the kindness of his owners, was given freedom and was thus able to pursue an education. Supporting himself through washing he went to college and got degrees in science, eventually getting a Master’s degree and becoming the head of the agricultural department of the Tuskegee Institute. The poems tell his story in the voices of the people he interacted with: his teachers, his students, even random individuals who he came in contact with. Because of this, the picture of him is more enticing than complete. The poems focus on his creativity and his relationship with God more than the facts of his life.

This is such a beautifully done book that makes the reader feel intimate with George Washington Carver, like a friend. He is presented as incredibly smart, friendly and enthusiastic about his work and the whole of creation. The photographs from his life helps create further the feeling that the reader is participating. It is the show of a biographies’ strength that the reader is not fully satisfied and wants to find out more about the subject. Books written as a poetical narrative are interesting to me, and while that may be what draws a reader to pick up this book (I found it in the poetry section of my library), what will keep the reader engaged is the lovely voice of a beautiful, creative man.


Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford

Book Discussion

  1. How does poetry affect the way the reader understands the story?
  2. Why does the author tell the story from different points of view/ how does this affect the way we learn about George Washington Carver?


Author website http://marilyn-nelson.com/

Author Interview with Cooperative Children’s Book Center  http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/authors/experts/nelson.asp

Interview of author by two fifth graders )