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2014 Horace Mann Upstanders Book Awards: Books to Enhance Social Justice


I attended the 7th Annual Children’s Literature Conference & Horace Mann Upstanders Book Awards. This small but mighty conference is hosted by Antioch University in Los Angeles in an effort to celebrate children’s literature that promotes social justice. An upstander is defined as an individual who stands up to an injustice, even if they stand alone.

The-Real-Boy-211x300The 2014 recipient of the Horace Mann Upstanders Book Awards was Anne Ursu for her YA book, The Real Boy. As she received her award she candidly spoke about the inspiration for this story, her own 7 year old son with autism. She beautifully painted a world with her words and the need for children’s lit to encourage fantasy, dreaming,and creativity.  Paul Fleischman was awarded the Lifetime Upstander Award, and Linda Christensen and Rethinking Schools for Community Upstander Achievement Award. As Paul Fleischman spoke and shared a bit of how his wonderfully amazing brain works, I kept thinking how most schools don’t provide students opportunities to “think outside the box”, doodle, nor create things from scraps.  Many music and art programs have been scrapped in public schools. When Lina Christensen’s colleague accepted the award on her behalf, she shared a piece of history that I had never heard of, The Tulsa Race Riots. Whose history do we tell in our schools? Perhaps not everyone’s stories are told.

I also got a list of children’s books that begins to tell the stories of the children, men, women and groups of people who are the “others”, the ones without a voice.  I have read some of them to my first graders and I am always impressed by the level of understanding they have for important world concepts. I hope our children will stand up against injustices and maintain open minds in order to really listen to the other side. Most importantly, our students can have the opportunity to learn the art of dialoguing in a respectful and humane manner. As a teacher-friend put it, “To respectfully disagree. To find win-win solutions.”


Books to Enhance Social Justice. Compiled by Cynthia McDermott, Ed.D.

1. Almost Zero, by Nikki Grimes

2. How the Children Stopped the Wars, by Jan Wahl

3.  The Araboolies of Liberty Street, by Sam Swope

4. The Dunderheads, by Paul Fleischman

5. The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter

6. Violet the Pilot, by Steve Breen

7. Magical Hands, by Marjorie Barker

8. Grandpa’s Corner Store, by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

9. Unspoken, by Henry Cole

10. Mrs. Marlowe’s Mice, by Frank & Devin Asch

11.  Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse, by Frank & Devin Asch

12.  Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco

13.   Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell

14.  Angelo, by David Macaulay

15.  Biblioburro, by Jeanette Winter

16.  Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

17. That Book Woman, by Heather Henson

18. The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

19.  The Deliverance of Dancing Bears, by Elizabeth Stanley