SJC Book Recommendations

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You”
Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
ages 12 and up

This award-winning Young Adult book is a powerful “not a history book” primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. Have five minutes? Watch this clip on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Trevor or listen to the authors on NPR.

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas
for young adults

This novel shares the award-winning story of Starr Carter, a 16 year old Black woman code-switching in her two worlds between the poor neighborhood where she lives with her deeply loving family and the elite suburban prep school she attends with white peers. As described by the publisher, “The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer…His death is a national headline.”  We are brought into a fictional yet all too real drama of how one young woman lives into being an activist handling the meaning and the weight of speaking out. Click here for a video recommendation from South Church’s own Neily Ware. Neily also recommends the prequel, CONCRETE ROSE (2021) by Thomas.

Angie Thomas received The Coretta Scott King Award,  given annually through the American Library Association 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.

“Just Mercy Adapted for Young Adults”
Bryan Stevenson
grades 6-12

What does justice mean? How does faith call us to see each other as more than the worst thing we’ve ever done? Author Bryan Stevenson gives us a storyline and context to discuss these questions with our youth. Watch Youth Board’s Amy Joyall’s recommendation here.

“Trombone Shorty”
Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews
ages 4+

According to Goodreads, “Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest. Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.” Illustrator Bryan Collier won the 2016 Coretta Scott King Award for Trombone Shorty, capturing the spirit of Andrews’ life, New Orleans and Jazz. Collier has also won the Coretta Scott King Award five other times, and been an award honoree three additional times. Every year, ten awards are given: an author, an illustrator, a new talent author, a new talent illustrator, and three honorees each for authors and illustrators. As the national award highlights, Collier is an outstanding African American illustrator of children’s books that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.

Troy Andrews’ band is called, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. He created The Trombone Shorty Foundation to preserve the musical history of New Orleans. This foundation partnered with Tulane University to create the Trombone Shorty Music Academy, which “provides music and business education, instruction, and a mentorship experience to New Orleans high school students who are gifted in music.” Go to  for more info about this musician and mentor, or listen to Trombone Shorty Stays True to New Orleans 2008 NPR Troy Andrews interview (8:16)

For an uplifting sampling of  Trombone Shorty’s music, try these YouTube links:

Tortoise or the Hare?
Toni Morrison, Slade Morrison
ages 4-8

Here’s a new version of a very old story, Tortoise or the Hare? Esteemed author Toni Morrison and her son Slade Morrison reimagine the classic Aesop fable to create an opportunity for Tortoise and the Hare to both shine in the end. The Hare and Tortoise are exceptionally talented each in their own way, but both are shunned by their community. They each figure out a way to use their gifts to make the most of the race. Through “running” in the race, they come to realize the race is more important than who wins, and “While winning is important, isn’t making a true friend the best prize of all?” (Bookshop)

Ms. Morrison  authored numerous children’s books as well as 11 adult novels and essay collections. In 1993, author Toni Morrison was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for her book, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Among her other publications were celebrated works like “Song of Solomon,” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 (NYTimes). ” Have a book to recommend? Let us know – Social Justice Coalition of South Church.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
Carole Boston Weatherford
Grades 3-5 

Follow Harriet Tubman’s physical and spiritual journey. Weatherford and illustrator Kadir Nelson retell her story of bravery and faith via the Underground Railroad.

Want more children’s books on the Underground Railroad?  Check out Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson or  William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railway by Don Tate. 

For Adults, view the PBS film (TV-PG) based on this book, The William Still Story (55:16) or read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers
Sarah E. Warren
ages 6-9

The biography of one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century and a leader of the Chicano civil rights movement, Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, tells the story of Dolores as a teacher, a mother, and friend. Watch Betsy’s recommendation here. Beyond these roles, the author, Sarah E. Warren, describes this American hero as her life unfolds to build a community-based justice movement striving for fair, safe and humane treatment of migrant workers. The compelling text, illuminated by Robert Casilla’s vibrant watercolor-and-pastel illustrations, brings Dolores’s amazing journey to life.

When you hear the rallying chant, “Si se puede!” or “Yes, we can!” think of Dolores Huerta who coined the phrase on behalf of the children and families she led to create lasting, national fair labor legislation. Recognized as a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Book for Younger Children (ages 6-9) and with “a legacy Award from the YWCA of Minneapolis Children’s Center for her work supporting their mission: Eliminating racism/Empowering women,” (book jacket) this book will encourage questions and discussion about poverty, healthy working conditions, and the impact a woman of color can have through community leadership. For more on Dolores Huerta, read about her Foundation for Community Organizing.

Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!
Veronica Chambers
ages 5-8

The biography, Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! written by Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Rachelle Baker (ages 5-8), “captures the essence of the trailblazing advocate and politician Shirley Chisholm with a conversational narrative that highlights action words representative of the stateswoman. Declaring ‘verbs are words that move the world forward,’ the picture book biography sets apart nearly 30 verbs with capitalized, aqua blue typeface.” (Publisher’s Weekly). Watch Betsy’s recommendation here.

The biography illuminates how Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and in 1972 became the first Black and female US presidential candidate. Her life as the daughter of immigrants and a voracious reader, teacher, and organizer are vividly portrayed. As a force to be reckoned with, she blazed the way for many to follow.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace
Wangari Maathai
ages 3-7

Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the subject of Jeanette Winter’s eloquent picture book, Wangari’s Trees of Peace, for children ages 3-7. In this combination story and biography, readers can embrace a shining example of how one woman’s passion starting with nine seedlings grew into a Green Belt Movement planting 51 million trees across Kenya. Winter’s images appear in framed, same-size squares on each page, “creating a flat, frieze-like effect that pays off as Wangari’s movement grows and the activities within each frame multiply—a powerful demonstration of Wangari’s work.” (Publishers Weekly). Families can use this platform to discuss why the forest was important to Wangari and how replanting the forest helps her community. As a parent raising your child to love justice, consider how to frame Wangari’s actions of breaking the law to protect the trees that the government people wanted to cut down. Does your child need the blessing of actionable hope as expressed through the phrase “planting seeds of hope?” Listen to Betsy’s recommendation here. catalog link here  to borrow a copy.

Click here for a YouTube Read Aloud including Author’s Note

Additional information:,in%20Africa%20have%20these%20traditions.