Doc Key believes that animals can do anything: He teaches his horse Jim to read, write, spell, solve math equations and more! Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, written by Donna Janell Bowman and illustrated by Daniel Minter, tells the story of a man who was born into slavery and lived a long and inspiring life. He helped enslaved people find freedom via the Underground Railroad, became a doctor, fought in the Civil War and confronted racism and segregation as he toured the world with his famous horse.
“An incredible story of how kindness and education can change lives.”
After winning the lottery, two gay couples buy a big, old Victorian house in Toronto. They then settle into a life filled with love and learning in which their seven children (all named after trees) and an assortment of pets can thrive. When their grumpy grandfather comes to live with the family, 9-year-old Sumac has to give up her room and be his guide. The Lotterys Plus One, written by Emma Donoghue and illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono, invites readers into a perfectly imperfect modern family.
upper elementary and middle school
“A fun-filled story about an unusual family that, like all families, has to learn to be open to life’s changes.”
Lois Parker-Hennion, Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member
Angie Thomas writes The Hate U Give from the perspective of 16-year-old Starr Carter, the only witness to the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil by a police officer. Readers follow Starr’s path as she is asked to testify in front of a grand jury and speak out in support of her late friend. Repercussions within her predominantly black neighborhood and majority-white school make for compelling final decisions.
“An important look at activism, justice and racial stereotyping from almost every perspective.”
Amy Melik, Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member
Patricia A. Jennings’ Mindfulness for Teachers is an accessible text for educators wanting to learn more about an increasingly popular concept. Jennings begins with the premise that teaching is an emotional practice. Unconscious reactions to emotions can cause harm in the classroom, so using mindfulness techniques can help an educator create space between an experience and the reaction. This space provides more options to intentionally respond to a student or a situation in a way that will produce a more desirable outcome for all. Each chapter unpacks key components for a mindfulness practice and provides easy-to-use activities. The book concludes with a review of evaluated mindfulness programs for schools.
“A user-friendly book to help teachers become more intentional in their practice and create a more supportive classroom environment.”
Hoyt J. Phillips III
Ruby Danes is about to experience a major life change the summer before she starts middle school. She’s done an impressive job of keeping her life on the outside very separate from the one on the inside, where her mother is serving a 20- to 25-year prison sentence. Don’t have anyone over so they don’t ask questions. Don’t ask questions so you don’t open yourself up to answering any. But a new friend—her first, real best friend—inspires her to live authentically. Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Ruby on the Outside explores how friendship and understanding can make all the difference.
upper elementary and middle school
“A beautiful way to encourage empathy and seeing others for the complex beings they are.”
Monita K. Bell
Like most seventh-graders, Stef Soto just wants to fit in. But her parents’ embarrassing, smelly taco truck makes that difficult, especially when her schoolmates start calling her “Taco Queen.” Jennifer Torres’ debut middle-grade novel, Stef Soto, Taco Queen, captures this universal period of identity development in one sweet story. Filled with the trials of friendships and family, the book relates Stef’s journey as she learns to value her unique culture and her parents’ different (but delicious) job.
“This deeply relatable novel will ring true for anyone who has grappled to understand their own distinct and diverse identity.”
Peppered with photographs and quotes, this informative book provides a detailed account of the 1966 March Against Fear, begun by James Meredith. After Meredith was shot and wounded, thousands of people took up the 220-mile march from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. So, why did such a dramatic event fade into obscurity? In The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power, author Ann Bausum explores this question, chronicles the march and puts it into historical context.
“A fascinating examination of the last major civil rights march of the 1960s and how the demand for Black Power transformed the movement.”
Why the SUN Rises: The Faces and Stories of Women in Education presents 29 interviews with teachers that can serve as rich sources of strength and inspiration for educators. “Why do you rise each day to teach?” is the question put to each teacher, and their answers show resilience and optimism. Dr. Doran Gresham and Meredith Chase-Mitchell compiled the interviews of a diverse and socially conscious group.
“Inspirational reading for anyone teaching or considering a career in teaching.”
The Kindness Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Ignite Goodwill and Transform Lives Around the World
By Leon Logothetis
Middle and High School
Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today
By Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
By Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
An earlier version of this page, as well as the print edition, inadvertently misidentified the author of Step Right Up. The author's correct name is Donna Janell Bowman. We regret the error.