Be the Change

In a world where suffering and injustice perdure, it's difficult not to feel overborne by a sense of hopelessness. National Make a Difference Day, celebrated this year on October 28, reminds kids that they can spread the milk of human kindness through simple, everyday actions, as do these three picture books. Find more related books and articles from here and here; or click the Activism, Social Reformers, and Community Helpers subject tags in the Horn Book Guide/Reviews Database.

Gorman, Amanda Something, Someday

40 pp. | Viking | September, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-0-593-20325-5 $18.99

Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Front endpapers depicting a stark mountain of rubbish, and a title-page image of a Black boy peeking out from behind a jam-packed trash can, set the stage for this unflinching parable about confronting the world's ugliness. When the boy clears away sidewalk trash with the help of a light-skinned man in a wheelchair, he uncovers a wildflower that inspires the creation of a public garden box that rallies their diverse community. Gorman urges readers to resist any suggestion that they should wink at societal problems and assume powerlessness. "Someday, somewhere [you'll] find a friend" with whom to do "something small" to tackle big issues is the book's hopeful promise. Robinson's pared-down paint and collage illustrations offer a wealth of white space, giving readers room to process the serious subject matter.

Singh, Rina Imagine a Garden: Stories of Courage Changing the World

48 pp. | Greystone Kids | September, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-1-77164-713-7 $18.95

Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. On Manitoulin Island, an Anishinaabe girl becomes an internationally recognized water advocate after attending her first water ceremony. A restaurateur on the Greek island of Samos braves xenophobic backlash to provide free meals for Syrian refugees. In Mexico City, a multidisciplinary artist transforms illegal firearms into musical instruments, then forms an orchestra to promote pacifism. To omnify the value of moral courage, Singh shares real-life stories — encapsulated in imagistic, free-verse narrative poems — of seven citizen heroes from around the world. Hadadi's luminous tissue-paper collage illustrations are as creative as the architects of hope profiled, whose identities and backstories are revealed in the back matter. This topical book offers much for the young social studies learner and will be useful for springboarding age-appropriate conversations about peace and conflict.

Smith, Nikkolas The Artivist

40 pp. | Penguin/Kokila | September, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-0-593-61965-0 $18.99

Smith's testimony of his artivism journey illuminates the heart of an artistic Black boy desperate to make the world a better place. The text reflects on the concept of "artivism" and what it can achieve, as well as the character traits required to be an artivist. The artivist is many things, readers learn — an ally in the fight against injustice, a memory keeper, visionary, and more. With their studied rawness and striking visual metaphors, Smith's painterly digital illustrations are concept art-esque, and depict the boy ten toes down — wielding his paintbrush to peacefully protest gun violence, environmental degradation, housing inequality, and other societal transgressions. An image showing a mural, painted by the boy, becoming a viral sensation highlights the tectonic, auxiliary role of social media in contemporary resistance art movements.


Summer Edward

Summer Edward is a Trinidadian American author, children’s book editor, educator, K-12 literacy specialist, Caribbean children’s and YA literature advocate, and commentator on books for young readers. She holds an M.S.Ed. degree in Reading, Writing, Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania and founded Anansesem, an online magazine that for 10 years covered Caribbean children’s and YA literature. She has written for Kirkus ReviewsSchool Library JournalThe Horn BookWOW Stories: Connections from the ClassroomLiteracy Dailysx salon, KidLit TV, the Commonwealth Education Trust, Social Justice Books, and more. Learn more about her work at

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