8 Picture Books About Ordinary Kids’ Everyday Activism

111 TREES: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl

Written by Rina Singh. Illustrated by Marianne Ferrer.

Girls are one with nature in the illustrations for this inspiring true story about a grieving Indian boy who wrapped his arms around trees when he missed his mother and grew into a man who plants them to honor daughters. Their tall, cylindrical bodies and rich brown skin mirror the trunks they tie with sacred threads; their leafy clothes sprout blooms of pink and gold; their limbs reach — for fruit where once there was barren, overmined land; for prosperity and education where there was poverty and neglect. An afterword lists eco-feminist causes.

36 pp. Kids Can Press. $18.99. (Ages 5 to 8.)

HARLEM GROWN: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Written by Tony Hillery. Illustrated by Jessie Hartland.

While volunteering at P.S. 175, across the street from a trash-filled vacant lot that kids call “the haunted garden,” Hillery (“Mr. Tony”) has an idea. Soon students are helping him clear the lot and plant 400 seedlings, “one for each kid.” Vegetables, herbs, berries, even watermelon. Hartland’s joyful folk-art illustrations bop from the gray-toned jazzy vibrancy of a bustling city neighborhood to the colorful harvest of a lush urban farm. Includes a step-by-step guide to starting a garden “anywhere.”

40 pp. Simon & Schuster. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8.)


Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.

This color-saturated, mouthwatering whirlwind of a book by a Caldecott honoree activates all five senses. Based on Tamaki’s experience volunteering at a small community kitchen that feeds the hungry, it bursts with energy from the moment its diverse group of characters starts chopping and slicing, whisking and whipping. (See them fly through the air on the cover!) Viewed from above and below, zoomed in and zoomed out, they pour and stir through swirls of steam, splashes of liquid. Until that first delicious slurp, when the rhyming cacophony of speech bubbles and shout bubbles settles to a quiet reverie, sated by everyday kindness.

48 pp. Abrams. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8.)


Written by Tracey Corderoy. Illustrated by Tony Neal.

Animals stand in for people in this lesson for little ones set in the “perfect” town of Sunnyville. One thoughtless toss of a candy wrapper by Rhino creates a garbage dump when everyone else follows suit; one flower picked in the park by Giraffe leads to a flowerless park; one loud song played in public by Penguin causes deafening discord. Soon Sunnyville has “lost its twinkle completely” and everyone is grumpy. Then Mouse wonders: What if she plants one flower and waters it? Skip the preachy back matter and you just might motivate a future do-gooder.

32 pp. Tiger Tales. $17.99. (Ages 3 to 7.)

BUTTERFLIES BELONG HERE: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Meilo So.

While the title is misleading (the characters and their project are fictional), the premise, of an immigrant girl who relates both to an endangered butterfly’s journey to its new home and to a shy caterpillar’s shedding of its skin, is smart. After learning English via books about butterflies, our narrator initiates the building of a monarch way station (a guide for which is included). So’s gorgeous illustrations pit boldly defined monarchs against a feathery watercolor world.

68 pp. Chronicle. $18.99. (Ages 5 to 8.)

STAND UP! SPEAK UP! A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution

Written and illustrated by Andrew Joyner.

Upset by natural disasters she sees on TV, a city girl, with the help of her spunky dog, does what she can to fight climate change. Signing up others leads to a gatefold of activity: rooftop beekeeping, rubber-tire tree planting, book sharing, clothing swapping, food composting. The inside jacket turns into an all-purpose sign. Joyner (“The Pink Hat”) raises chickens in Australia.

40 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8.)


Written by Claudio Fuentes. Illustrated by Gabriela Lyon.

The message of this book, which focuses on a student body’s divided opinion about an issue vital to its future, is that disagreements can lead to fruitful discussion, better understanding and great ideas. When a development project (promising much-needed education resources) calls for cutting down a tree that’s part of an endangered, thousand-year-old species linked to the Indigenous peoples of Chile, kids on opposite sides unite to find a solution.

56 pp. Greystone Kids. $18.95. (Ages 7 to 12.)


Written by Meena Harris. Illustrated by Ana Ramírez González.

When Kamala and Maya Harris were little girls — long before Kamala became our first Black female vice-presidential candidate and her sister became a lawyer and public policy advocate — they dreamed of turning their apartment building’s courtyard into a playground. In this retelling of the story by Maya’s daughter, they hang up posters, knock on doors, hold a tag sale and make it happen. Illustrations by an artist who worked on the movie “Coco,” plus family photos.

32 pp. Balzer + Bray. $18.99. (Ages 4 to 8.)

Jennifer Krauss is the children’s books editor of the Book Review.

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