2011 Social Justice in Children’s/YA Reading List

Drumroll please… here is my 2011 LIS 7963 Social Justice in Children’s/YA course intro and reading list!

Course Overview

Students in this course will learn how to select, read, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. Through various genres of literature intended for both the child and adolescent reader, students will develop an informed awareness of the complex perspectives, uses and boundaries of literature and will learn to recognize and analyze how adolescent and children’s literature depict stories related to social justice, tolerance, equality and social change.

We will engage in a variety of teaching/learning methods to cover the course material, including but not limited to: lecture, small/large group discussions, independent and group projects, written and oral presentations.

Course Objectives

  • To gain an understanding of the history of social justice-related children’s literature;
  • To become familiar with a range of authors, works, genres and media depicting social justice issues for youth;
  • To gain experience in discussing, evaluating and promoting children’s literature/resources that depict social justice issues;
  • To learn strategies for connecting young people with social justice literature;
  • To identify and discuss literary and societal trends and social justice issues (war, refugee, migration, class, gender, etc) represented in materials for youth.

By successfully finishing this course, students will be able to select, evaluate, and recommend a variety of materials depicting social justice issues for young audiences.

Reading List

  • Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell
  • Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin
  • Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom by Dia Cha
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch
  • When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
  • Tasting the Sky:  A Palastinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
  • Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
  • Denied, Detained, Deported:  Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration by Ann Bausum
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
  • Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
  • Shi-shi-Etko by Nicola I. Campbell
  • Sacajawea by Joseph Bruchac
  • Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  • The Traitor:  Golden Mountain Chronicles, 1885 by Laurence Yep
  • When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright
  • Voices from Another Place:  A Collection of Works from a Generation Born in Korea and Adopted to Other Countries edited by Susan Soon-Keum Cox
  • Planting the Trees of Kenya:  The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola
  • Aloha, Kanani by Lisa Yee (American Girl series)
  • Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  • The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria, and Elisa Amado
  • Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
  • My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams
  • This Thing Called the Future: A Novel by J.L. Powers

Details for the first week of class

WEEK 1: Tues May 31 (Introduction)

  • Nodelman, Perry.  “The Other:  Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children’s Literature.”  Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 17.1, 1992.
  • Larrick, Nancy.  “The All-White World of Children’s Books.”  Saturday Review, Sep. 11, 1965.
  • Derman-Sparks, Louise. “10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism.”  From Anti-Bias Curriculum:  Tools for Empowering Young Children.  Washington, DC:  NAEYC, 1980. [Google search for the PDF from UNCC]


  • Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  •  Bring to class a children’s or YA book that you think speaks to a social justice issue.

WEEK 1: Thurs June 2 (Slavery and Colonizing the Body) 


  • Bring a book about slavery (fiction or nonfiction, for children or young adults)



  • Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

8 thoughts on “2011 Social Justice in Children’s/YA Reading List

  1. Jean Stock

    Hi Sarah,

    I love your booklist and plan on reading the titles you provided. I read The Giver about ten times. After my online lit class finished, I still had books to read that were enteresting. I read the sequels to The Giver; Gathering Blue and Messenger. The two extra books, especially Messenger, ties the books together. I have the book Baseball saved us; a great campanion book would be Music for Alice by Allan Say. I picked up The black book of colors during my class. The Braille will wear out easily as its not made with strong paper. A nice companion book would be Colors by Ruth Heller. I used the two books for an assignment In my children’s literature class. My list of books to read in the future includes more works by Linda Sue Park and Lois Lowry.

    1. Hi Jean – thanks for the suggestion of Colors. There are so many books about the Internment – it’s hard to pick just one! I have – and love – all of Linda Sue Park’s books. People often ask if we’re related, but alas, we are not :o) Happy reading!

    1. Sure, if you’re a St. Catherine University student :o) Rachel, which press do you work for? I just saw Arthur Levine in Minneapolis last weekend! I love his new picture book!

  2. Is this an online class or a class you are doing through your blog? I’m just curious. I am setting up an online book club and will be reviewing MS books this summer. I’d be interested in having a guest speaker for one week – the book of your choice – would you be interested in sharing on my blog at: http://FamilyLiteracyandyou.blogspot.com?

    Maybe the week of July 4th?

    Let me know – Tina “The Book Lady”

  3. Pingback: achieving equity in publishing « Fledgling

  4. Erin Schultz

    Thanks for the list Sarah! I love that we’re reading The Surrender Tree for this class. It was one of my favorites from last semester :o)

    1. Hi Erin! I tried to make sure that too many books didn’t overlap, but The Surrender Tree is one I absolutely love and could not resist putting on the list :o) I’m looking forward to having you in class again!

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