How to Change the World: From Rebel Girls, and Boys, Who've Done So

By Lee Littlewood

October 26, 2018 6 min read

Millions of women have been changing their social media profile photos to black squares this month, but as a descendant of Helen Keller and a woman who helped enact Title IX for athletic equality, I've decided to be outspoken. These children's books, all written by women, should inspire girls and boys to rise up against tyranny and injustice of any ilk.

"Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice" by Veronica Chambers; HarperCollins; 195 pages; $16.99.

The thoughtful forward by Sen. Cory Booker reminds kids it is imperative "to pay back the blessings we have inherited from those who have resisted with our own continued struggle, service and resistance." Booker assures young readers to never let their inability to do everything undermine their determination to do something, now especially. Brief (3 to 4 pages each), true tales of famous resistors inspire readers to act. Features include Sitting Bull, Rachel Carson and Nelson Mandela, plus those less famous, such as singer Miriam Makeba, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and disabled artist Anastasia Somoza. Each name is followed by hashtags such as "#resist1882" or "#resist1962, for Carson," with motivational quotes and concluding resistance lessons. Environmentalist Carson's reads, "Earth is our home. When we fight for nature, we fight for ourselves."

Author Veronica Chambers' collection of profiles of men and women who helped bend the arc of history toward justice is a clearly penned eye-opener for readers ages 8 to 12.

"The Radical Element" by Jessica Spotswood; Candlewick Press; 308 pages; $17.99.

Twelve talented female writers chronicle a century and a half of heroines of all colors and creeds — young women standing up for themselves and their beliefs. The stories here are fictional, but historically accurate and absorbing. They take place in very real settings, from 1838 Savannah, Georgia, to 1923 Los Angeles to 1984 Boston. Anna-Marie McLemore's "Glamour" gives Mexican-American Graciela and disabled transgender boy Sawyer the space in Golden Age Hollywood that history would have tried to deny them. Dhonielle Clayton explores the black history of Martha's Vineyard, starring a young girl who figures out how to love and hate her country simultaneously. Sara Farizan's "Take Me With U" relates 1980s music to her family's time spent figuring out whether to love America after emigrating from Iran.

Author's notes follow each fascinating short story, sure to broaden young readers' minds about girls who may have kicked butt during other tumultuous times in history.

"Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless She Persisted" by Susan Wood; pictures by Sarah Green; Abrams Young Readers; 40 pages; $18.99.

Whether or not she runs for president, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks her mind. The phrase "Nevertheless, she persisted" was meant to quiet Warren last year as she tried to share a letter in the Senate chamber from Coretta Scott King regarding another senator she didn't believe was a good fit for top lawyer. Every time Warren continued to speak, she was interrupted and told to sit down. Still, Warren persisted with her letter outside the Senate doors.

In this motivational picture book, Susan Wood eloquently describes all this and Warren's childhood, plagued by problems with money and parental health, and her quest for justice for working-class families to advance economically. Sarah Green's flowy illustrations seem lighthearted and optimistic, the perfect backdrop to a woman who advocates for fighting for yourself and those in need.

"Baby Feminists" by Libby Babbott-Klein; illustrated by Jessica Walker; 24 pages; $9.99.

Hilariously cool, this irresistible board book features fun illustrations of feminist icons as adorable babies. Author Libby Babbott-Klein realized that heroes all start life the same way, and wanted a book to teach her toddler daughter about equality. Budding feminists can lift flaps to see a serious Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a bespectacled baby with a gavel. Baby Frida Kahlo sports her signature eyebrows; Dr. Mae Jemison plays with a space shuttle mobile as a baby; and Michelle AND Barack Obama, who "championed women and girls around the world," wave at readers from their blocks.


Too many girl-power books, not enough space. So here's a list of more:

"Herstory" by Katherine Halligan, is an epic, oversized picture book celebrating 50 powerful women who changed the world. "Girls Resist!" is "A Guide to Activism, Leadership and Starting a Revolution" by Kaelyn Rich. Kathryn J. Atwood's "Courageous Women of the Vietnam War" chronicles female nurse, reporters, protestors and revolutionaries through the upheaval of a very destructive war. "Fly Girls" by P. O'Connell Pearson is a gorgeously penned account of the remarkable female fighter pilots of World War II, while "A Thousand Sisters" by Elizabeth Wein looks at "The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in WWII." Lightening it up just a tad, "Coco Chanel" by Susan Goldman Rubin is a grand introduction to the struggles the fashion designer encountered in an era when most women were expected to marry.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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