The Kids Are All Right

School Shootings, Ketanji Brown Jackson, & More

Hey there kidlit friends, this has been a very sad week here in Nashville. The Covenant School shooting occurred just 10 minutes away from where my own daughter was in preschool. Words cannot express the despair, sadness, frustration, and anger I and my community are feeling right now, and I hope those feelings are happening nationwide. Please U.S. subscribers, call your representatives and ask for their support of an assault weapons ban. This is S.25 for the Senate and H.R.698 for the House. I’ve called every day this past week.

In light of yet another school shooting, I thought it would be good to recommend some books for talking to your kids about recent events. We have elected to not discuss it with my preschooler unless she brings it up, which she hasn’t. I’m going to have these books on hand for when she’s older, however.

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Bookish Goods

Ban Guns Not Books T-Shirt by Official Ally Shop

Ban Guns Not Books T-Shirt by OfficialAllyShop

It’s sad this is something that needs to be said. $27+

New Releases

Cover of Ketanji Brown Jackson: A Justice for All by Charles

Ketanji Brown Jackson: A Justice for All by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jemma Skidmore (picture book)

This lyrical picture book biography follows Ketanji Brown Jackson from her childhood as the daughter of a principal and lawyer to becoming the first Black justice appointed to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite being discouraged by a high school counselor, Justice Jackson attended Harvard University and Law School and became a renowned lawyer and judge. I love how great this one is to read aloud, and the child-friendly, vibrant illustrations.

Cover of Once There Was by Monsef

Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef (middle grade)

Last week, Publisher’s Weekly posted this article asking “Where Have All the 13- to 15-Year-Old Protagonists Gone?” This new middle grade fantasy stars a 15-year-old protagonist and is also a great MG/YA crossover. Marjan’s Iranian American veterinarian father has been murdered, and the police can’t figure out why or even how. For her entire life, he’s gone on brief, mysterious veterinarian trips. Then one day, while she’s working the front desk at her father’s vet practice, a strange woman comes in and hands her tickets to England. She says her father was part of a group of veterinarians who help magical creatures, and that she needs Marjan’s help to care for a griffin. This is Marjan’s chance to finally learn her father’s secrets and to perhaps discover why he was murdered. This is a really charming, beautifully written fantasy that I hope finds a lot of readers.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

With the recent school shooting, I thought it would be wise to share some picture book resources with caregivers. Also check out this article from Yale Medicine about talking to kids about school shootings. I am so sad and angry these books are necessary.

Cover of One Thursday Afternoon by DiLorenzo

One Thursday Afternoon by Barbara DiLorenzo (picture book)

I believe I’ve recommended this picture book before, but it’s such an important resource. It’s about a young girl who doesn’t feel safe at school after they practice a school lockdown drill. By being supportive and calm, her grandfather helps her to see the beauty in the world once more. This is a really lovely and necessary book. One of my friends had her 3-year-old come home recently discussing a daycare lockdown drill. How have we gotten to this point.

Cover of A Kids Books About School Shootings by Miller

A Kids Book About School Shootings by Crystal Woodman Miller (picture book)

The Kids Book About series often have books to address tough topics like this. The series has no illustrations and uses simple text and vivid typography to address kids. This one is written by a Columbine survivor. There’s really no way to normalize school shootings, but this does a good job of validating feelings of anxiety and fear and will help guide adults in having this important conversation.

Cover of Something Happened at Our Park by Hazzard

Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence by Ann Hazzard, PhD, Marianne Celano, PhD, and Marietta Collins, PhD, illustrated by Keith Henry Brown (picture book)

This picture book doesn’t discuss school shootings; it does, however, discuss gun violence. When Miles’ cousin Keisha is shot and injured at a local park, he feels anxiety and fear. He no longer wants to go to the park, and wishes his family could move. Keisha, his family, and the community help him to turn his fear into activism by helping his community and promoting peace.

Cover of The Breaking News by Reul

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul

In this simple picture book, a young girl’s parents become disturbed after listening to the news. She worries and becomes increasingly anxious as they react to something that is clearly horrible. Their teacher also speaks to the class about looking for helpers, and the girl decides she wants to be a helper. But how? This is another one that encourages hope and action in the face of tragedy.

It also might be wise to have books around about death and dying. While I don’t have the space here to review them, some of my favorite picture books about death and grief are The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Goodbye, Bear by Jane Chapman, A Garden of Creatures by Sheila Heti and Esme Shapiro, and Still Mine by Jayne Pillemer and Sheryl Murray. Sending much love to everyone affected by this (and any) school shooting.

Instead of a picture this week, I wanted to shout out the young activists that have been protesting at Nashville’s capitol and around the state this week. Thank you so much. You give me hope that things can and will change. If I could, I’d replace every Tennessee politician with one of you. You can watch a video of these fantastic activists here.

If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is

Until next Tuesday!

Margaret Kingsbury