These days, it feels like we all need motivational reminders of the goodness of people. These new children's books seek to reassure children of their worth and introduce a fighter for justice for all.
"The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger" by Colin Meloy; illustrated by Nikki McClure; HarperCollins; 48 pages; $18.99.
Pete Seeger rallied civil rights activists and war protesters for decades with songs like "We Shall Overcome," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "If I Had a Hammer." His messages of social understanding and environmental justice inspired generations and left an undeniable legacy.
Nikki McClure's bold cut-paper illustrations — only in black, white and mustard — are timeless and active throughout this lyrical, moving book. It's Meloy's folksy, rhyming words though that tell a spellbinding, rousing tale. "Hammer Bringer! River Singer! Sailor, Soldier, Lean Bell Ringer/A fighter in peace, musician in the war/He followed that string till he couldn't no more," is one refrain, just before "But before we get this string a-singing/All strings must have their first beginning..." That begins Seeger's amazing story, from growing up in a performing family to cheering up soldiers, as a pacifist, in World War II, to teaching folks to organize, unionize and fight for free speech. Seeger persisted through blacklist, but that didn't stop him, and he sang and harmonized and fought for inequalities his entire life.
Meloy's timely introduction to Seeger reminds young readers that they too can be powerful enough to speak out, whether through music, art, writing or their own voices.
"I am a Warrior Goddess," by Jennifer Adams; illustrated by Carme Lemniscates; Sounds True Publishing; 32 pages; $17.95.
Jennifer Adams wrote this motivating book before the female empowerment movement of late, when her mother was battling cancer. Dedicated to her late mother, who battled hard, but with kindness and grace, Adams introduces a red-haired girl with big aspirations. The girl begins her day by appreciating the sun, the earth and the wind, and trains her body and mind for battle by reading and by being a leader of the strong and defender of the weak. In this scenario, Carme Lemniscates' appealing, cheerful pictures show the girl leading other kids with a ladder to help a cat stuck in a tree.
Though the title could suggest the girl is a superhero who takes on bullies, it's actually a gentle reminder to kids that the most powerful weapon is kindness. Adams' little girl also remembers to be grateful, saying goodnight to the sun, earth and wind. As she carries the rescued cat around, it's also a sweet lesson in taking care of the less fortunate. Her mother would be proud.
"I Am Enough" by Grace Byers; illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $18.99.
Actress and activist Grace Byers penned this picture book, a lyrical ode to self-confidence and kindness for girls of all colors and backgrounds, at the perfect time. (Though there is no bad time for those reminders). Featuring an African-American girl with huge hair on the cover, her pages, illustrated realistically by Keturah A. Bobo, show active kids of all colors doing handstands and karate, and running on a track, with one falling down, to "Like the water; here to swell. Like the fire, here to burn. Like the winner, I'm here to win, and if I don't, get up again."
Byers is realistic, and adds, "I'm not meant to be like you; you're not meant to be like me. Sometimes we will get along; and sometimes we will disagree," with two able-bodied girls and one in a wheelchair flipping a jump rope.
Currently starring in "Empire," Byers clearly has a talent for motivational picture books. Bravo!
"Life Doesn't Frighten Me" by Maya Angelou; paintings by Jean-Michel Basquat; Abrams; 40 pages; $19.95.
It's a great time for a re-issue of this brilliant poetry book, first published in 1993. An amazing blend of powerful words and strong words, this revised edition includes brief biographies of Maya Angelou and Jean-Michel Basquat, the later who lived only to age 27. Angelou's long poem empowers young readers with words such as "Life doesn't frighten me at all/Bad dogs barking loud/Big ghosts in a cloud...Mean old Mother Goose, Lions on the loose/They don't frighten me at all." Basquat's childlike sketches convey innocence and some scariness, but the combination of her words and his pictures is bold and invigorating.
"I've got a magic charm that I keep up my sleeve, I can walk the ocean floor and never have to breathe," celebrates the courage in everyone lucky enough to view this special, special book.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.