The Kids Are All Right

Children’s Books About Freedom

Dear Kid Lit friends,

I have been thinking a lot about freedom lately. I came across this poem in the wonderful anthology, Poems to Learn by Heart, edited by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J Muth.

This poem had me thinking about freedom and our shared responsibility for this earth. Which led me to think about books about freedom. Have you read any of these?

Sponsored by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic.

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a talking fox, a giant robot—and two ordinary children on a mission.

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

Picture Books

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie is a book my kids and I take off our bookshelves and read frequently. R. Gregory Christie’s stunning artwork combined with Carole Boston Weatherford’s sparse and lyrical language tell the story of Louisiana during slavery. In his speech accepting the Coretta Scott King illustrator honor award for this book, Mr. Christie commented on the use of black on the cover, depicting the cruelty and darkness of slavery.

Freedom Over Me, Ashley Bryan’s most recent illustrated book, is based on real slave-related documents related to the Fairchilds’ Appraisement in 1828. In that document, the Fairchilds estate was auctioned off, including cows, hogs, cotton, and eleven slaves. In his book, he not only gives voice to each slave but vocalizes their dreams for a better life, for marriage, for land, and for freedom. With stunning illustrations, Mr. Bryan brings a humanity to each person, breathing life into a long ago document and letting us into their imagined lives.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is the story of Henry Brown, a slave who as a boy was taken from his family and sold to work in a warehouse. When Henry grows older and gets married and has children of his own, his family is sold off. After this event, Henry plots his way to freedom using an improbable method: shipping himself up north.

Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson is one of my favorite picture books. It is about the celebration of the American flag and all it stands for. The text is spare and has multiple meanings, and the gorgeous paintings by Kadir Nelson makes it truly a work of art and a must-have in your personal library.

Middle Grade Books

This is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father is written by Khizr Khan, a lawyer who grew up in Pakistan with few of the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. He immigrated to America and became a citizen, raising his family to appreciate and honor all our nation has to offer. Khizr Khan is deeply passionate about the Constitution: the guarantees and protections it provides for each and every person and the beacon of light it shines throughout the world.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed is set in Pakistan and is about Amal, who one day wishes to become a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai begins on December 17, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee to safety. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.

I found Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry a very gripping book that I read in one sitting and then passed on to my two daughters to read. I found the writing very vivid and felt like I learned a lot about her as a person and her life. I cannot believe all of the journeys she made to help others travel to free states – what a strong, courageous person!


Path to the Stars (HMH, 9/4) is the autobiography of Sylvia Acevedo, former rocket scientist and who now serves as the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America. She grew up in poverty, but found opportunities to cultivate her leadership skills in the Girl Scouts, becoming the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This is a fascinating and inspiring biography about an extraordinary woman.

Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher (Groundwood Books, 8/7) is a gorgeous book about a girl exploring the depths of the ocean. The words and illustrations are beautiful.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is a new chapter book series based on the NYT bestselling book Rosie Revere. I think young readers will love this book!


I’d love to know what you are reading this week! Find me on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or email me at

Until next week!

I recently made a poetry vending machine with my daughters with recycled materials. We used instructions from Kazoo Magazine. Watch their instructional video here!

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