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Lettuce Get In Trouble
Author: Linda Kuo
Illustrator: Mariana Rio
Co-Authors: Cynthia Benjamin & Paula Rees
Published May 17th, 2022 by Center for Design Books

Summary: Sara Little Turnbull was a designer, an observer, a mentor, and not afraid to cause a little trouble while making the world a better place. As a global traveler, she made connections between people and found wonder in the everyday objects they hold dear.

As a very petite female designer in the world of large men, Sara used her unique perspective and curiosity to design a wide range of revolutionary products–from facemasks to cookware to astronaut suits–and to encourage others to see the world through new eyes. Sara was a mentor to designers of all ages and in Lettuce Get in Trouble, she helps children understand the basics of design: observing the world around them, asking questions, and trying out new things. One day, the Ministry of Food asks Sara Little to convince the children to eat more vegetables. Instead of offering a stern lecture, however, Sara Little brings her young friends to her Little Lab to explore the colors and shapes of food and why we eat anything at all. Together they design a grand event, inviting children to gather, play, and design tasty new creations.

Sara Little Trouble Maker Series Information: New Children’s Picture Book Series Introduces Young Readers to the Basics of Design by asking “Why?”

Lettuce Get in Trouble is the first volume in the Sara Little Trouble Maker series from Center for Design Books—a children’s picture book that teaches the basics of design in a way that is easy for young readers to understand. Inspired by a little-known but influential designer, Sara Little, Lettuce Get in Trouble helps children learn to problem-solve by observing the world around them, asking great questions, and trying out new things.

“Sara wears many hats and one tiny upside-down clock on her black turtleneck. She is always asking a lot of questions.”

Why?

In Lettuce Get in Trouble, we meet Sara Little, a troublemaker of the best sort; she asks great questions starting with Why? Sara looks at the world a little differently than other adults—by doing so, interesting problems and the need for design solutions come her way. This first story focuses on Sara’s design influence with new foods and is set in her beloved city of New York. One day, the Ministry of Food asks Sara Little to convince the children to eat more vegetables. Instead of offering a stern lecture, Sara brings her young friends to her Little Lab to explore the colors and shapes of food and why we eat anything at all. Together, they plan a grand event, inviting children from around the world to design fresh, tasty creations. “The children will cook, and we shall allow them to play with their food!” says Sara. Will the leader of the Ministry of Food be happy? Will the children learn to love veggies?

“Good design solves problems and also makes the world more beautiful and fun.”

Through experimentation, discovery, and planning, Sara teaches children that “good design solves problems and also makes the world more beautiful and fun.” In Lettuce Get in Trouble, the children—and designers of all ages—learn to make their world a better place by being curious, ‘taking the time to see’ and not being afraid to cause a little trouble.

“When you take the time to see, the wonders become commonplace, and the commonplace become wonders.”

About the Real Little Sara: Sara Little (1917-2015) was a designer, teacher, and observer not afraid to cause a little trouble while developing innovative solutions to fulfill our basic needs. As a global traveler, she made connections between people and found wonder in the everyday objects, tools, and rituals their cultures hold dear. As a very petite female designer in the world of large men, Sara used her unique perspective and curiosity to design a wide range of revolutionary products—from medical masks which inspired the N95 to cookware to astronaut’s spacesuits—and encouraged others to see the world through new eyes. This first story reflects Sara’s influence on the American lifestyle by promoting casual dining with buffets and finger foods.

About the Creators: 

Linda Kuo designs products for children and loves creative storytelling. She has a BFA from Parsons School of Design in New York and an MFA from Stanford University, where Sara Little mentored her. Sara often said, “Design is to create order.” Linda practices Sara’s teaching in all her projects as the Design Director at Pottery Barn Kids & Teen, headquartered in San Francisco, and serves as a board member of the Center for Design.

Mariana Rio is an award-winning illustrator and educator in Porto, Portugal. She graduated in Communication Design from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto. With over a decade of experience, she is happy to spend her days creating characters and visual narratives for publishing houses and institutions worldwide. Her illustrations have been featured in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair exhibitions. Mariana is always eager to learn, and she found Sara Little’s legacy a huge inspiration. Find more at: www.marianario.com

The Sara Little [Turnbull] Center for Design Institute is a non-profit (501c3) in Seattle, WA, with a mission to educate and enhance the public’s knowledge of design and further the education of under served women and girls. Profit from the book series will support that work.

Review: Lettuce Get in Trouble is such a great inquiry book! It shows the importance of asking questions, asking more questions, pushing boundaries, and never letting someone judge you by their assumptions.

I found the collage-esque and colorful illustrations mixed with the multi-format of the picture book just so much fun to read and as unique as its subject. It also has such a quick pace that could have been detrimental but instead kept the reader wanting to move forward to see what Sara is going to tackle next.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think the first thing I would do with this book is start with the WHY and have students come up with their own questions then find answers. Use Sara Little’s inquiry to inspire their own inquiry. There are also other mentor opportunities such as answering Sara’s questions and having students write a letter that they would have written to Sara.

Also, there is so much to learn about Sara Little Turnbull. She changed our world yet is too unknown. Students can use this book/series as a jumping off point to learning about her career and inventions. After reading the book, students could be grouped and each group assigned one of her designs/inventions to research and share.

Learn more about Sara Little at The Center for Design, the Sara Little Troublemaker website, or this Fortune article about her for Women’s History Month.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did Sara do differently than others at the Ministry of Food?
  • What traits does Sara have that made her such a great designer and thinker?
  • What did Sara’s mom do to help her become the inquisitive thinker she was?
  • What questions do you have like Sara?
  • How did Sara think about food differently than others?
  • Why did the Center for Design decide to start a series inspired by Sara Little?

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Read This If You Love: Nontraditional picture book biographies

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**Thank you to Claire McKinney PR for providing a copy for review!**

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Kamala Harris by Tonya K. Grant and Stacey Abrams by Melissa H. Mwai
Published January 4, 2022 by National Geographic Kids

Summary of Kamala Harris: Explore one of the most powerful and highest-ranking female figures in American history with this biography of Vice President Kamala Harris in this Level 2 reader.

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris made history. That day, she became the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected as Vice President of the United States. Young readers will learn about Harris’s childhood, her early career, and her journey that led to winning the vice presidency. This early reader also explores how Harris devoted her life to helping others, from serving as the Attorney General of California, to being elected as a U.S. Senator, to working alongside President Joe Biden on the campaign trail and in the White House.

The level 2 text provides accessible, yet wide-ranging information for independent readers. Explore Harris’s life, achievements, and the challenges she faced along the way to becoming a barrier-breaking leader and an inspiration to young people everywhere.

Key features include:

  • Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 5 to 8
  • Engaging and brilliant historical images sourced by National Geographic
  • Fun approach to high-interest biographies

About the series: This high-interest, educationally-vetted readers series features magnificent National Geographic images accompanied by text written by experienced, skilled children’s book authors. Each reader includes a glossary and interactive features in which kids get to use what they’ve learned in the book. Level 1 readers reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. Level 2 readers feature slightly higher-level text and additional vocabulary words. Level 3 readers have more layers of information to challenge more proficient readers. For emerging readers, the Pre-reader level introduces vocabulary and concepts, and the Co-reader level provides a collaborative reading experience.

Praise for National Geographic Readers:

“Reliable in format and solid in execution, this series works well to introduce children of varying
levels of reading comfort to nonfiction and research formats.”
―Maggie Reagan, Booklist

Complete your collection with these popular National Geographic Biography Readers:

  • National Geographic Readers: Stacey Abrams (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Harriet Tubman (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Level 3)
  • National Geographic Readers: Barack Obama (Level 2)

Summary of Stacey Abrams: Learn about the voting rights advocate and politician Stacey Abrams and her groundbreaking achievements in this appealing Level 2 reader. Young readers will find out about Abram’s childhood and her early career as a city attorney and as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. The reader also explores her run in Georgia as the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor, and how losing
that race inspired her to devote her life to making elections and the voting process more equitable for everyone.

The level 2 text provides accessible, yet wide-ranging information for independent readers. Explore Abrams’s life, achievements, and the challenges she faced along the way to leading the fight against voter suppression and becoming a champion for change.

Key features include:
*Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 5 to 8
*Engaging and brilliant historical images sourced by National Geographic
*Fun approach to high-interest biographies

About the series: This high-interest, educationally-vetted readers series features magnificent National Geographic images accompanied by text written by experienced, skilled children’s book authors. Each reader includes a glossary and interactive features in which kids get to use what they’ve learned in the book. Level 1 readers reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. Level 2 readers feature slightly higher-level text and additional vocabulary words. Level 3 readers have more layers of information to challenge more proficient readers. For emerging readers, the Pre-reader level introduces vocabulary and concepts, and the Co-reader level provides a collaborative reading experience.

Praise for National Geographic Readers:

“Reliable in format and solid in execution, this series works well to introduce children of varying
levels of reading comfort to nonfiction and research formats.”
―Maggie Reagan, Booklist

Complete your collection with these popular National Geographic Biography Readers:

  • National Geographic Readers: Kamala Harris (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Harriet Tubman (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Level 3)
  • National Geographic Readers: Barack Obama (Level 2)

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for NavigationThese two books about trailblazing women are so inspiring. I read both books with my sons, and they were very inspired. These books beg to be shared. Teachers might set up learning stations for students. Each table could read a different National Geographic Kids book to learn about a different biography. Then, students might jigsaw to share key moments in the individuals’ lives. After reading this book with my sons, I asked them how the lives of Harris and Abrams could be used to inspire their own lives. They had some great answers. Every classroom needs to have a copy of these early readers.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some of the key moments in Harris’ and Abrams’ lives?
  • How do the text features build on your understandings?
  • How do Harris and Abrams inspire you?

Read This If You Love: Biographies; Informational Texts; Texts about Inspiring People

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Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson
Author: Sandra Nickel
Illustrator: Helena Perez Garcia
Published March 8, 2022 by Abrams

Summary: An inspiring picture book about the meteorologist whose discoveries helped us understand how weather works. When Joanne Simpson (1923-2010) was a girl, she sailed her boat beneath the puffy white clouds of Cape Cod. As a pilot, she flew her plane so high, its wings almost touched them. And when World War II began and Joanne moved to the University of Chicago, a professor asked her to teach Air Force officers about those very clouds and the weather-changing winds.

As soon as the war ended, Joanne decided to seriously study the clouds she had grown to love so much. Her professors laughed. They told her to go home. They told her she was no longer needed. They told her, “No woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will.”

But Joanne was stubborn. She sold her boat. She flew her last flight. She saved her money so that she could study clouds. She worked so hard and discovered so much that—despite what the professors said—she received a doctorate in meteorology. She was the first woman in the world to do so.

Breaking Through the Clouds tells the story of a trailblazing scientist whose discoveries about clouds and how they work changed everything we know about weather today.

Praise: “An energetic, compassionate examination of a determined researcher who left her mark on the field of atmospheric sciences.” — Publishers Weekly

About the Author: Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel
Facebook: @sandranickelbooks
Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Review: I love learning about the women in our history that have broken through barriers to make it so we are where we are today with women’s rights, and there are so many and so many wonderful stories to tell–I am always so happy when I find a new one, and this one is a gem! Joanne Simpson is so kick butt! She not only broke barriers, she smashed them, jumped in a plane, and then broke through the clouds (hence the title!). It was so wonderful learning about her and how she stuck it to the men and showed what a phenomenal person she was.

Nickel does a fantastic job balancing Simpson’s story as a meteorologist with her story of the sexism she faced during her education and working. We learn about how she used the traits that others saw as negative, like stubbornness and focus, to take the world by storm. Along with the colorful, page-filling illustrations, this book is beautiful, educational, and inspiring.

Curriculum Guide with Activities and Discussion Questions:

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, especially about science, weather, or women’s history

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Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Loveis Wise
Published February 22, 2022 by HarperCollins

Summary: Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring and stunningly illustrated picture book biography of American artist Alma Thomas.

Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.

As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel.

In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with color.

Ablaze with Color includes extensive backmatter with photos, an author’s and illustrator’s note, a timeline, and a list of sources and resources, which will be a great tool for parents, educators, and librarians. Perfect for Women’s History Month and Black History Month units.

Praise: 

* “This charming biography…is a must for art and biography shelves.” — Booklist (STARRED review)

* “Superb picture-book biography… Harvey’s poetic text is imagistic and deftly paced; Wise’s digital artwork is boldly, fittingly colorful.” — Horn Book (STARRED review)

* “An inspiring introduction for artists and appreciators” — School Library Journal (STARRED review)

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey has had many jobs, ranging from working as a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney for high-tech companies to a writer of magazine articles to a teacher of Language Arts and writing workshops at a public middle school. She has also been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey
Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Loveis Wise is a nonbinary illustrator and designer from Washington, DC, now based in Los Angeles. They have collaborated and imagined with clients such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, HarperCollins, Google, Disney Hyperion, and Adobe, to name a few. Their work often speaks to themes of joy, mindfulness, and liberation. For more information visit: loveiswise.com.

Instagram: @loveiswiseillu

Review: I am a sucker for amazing picture book biographies, anything celebrating women, and any book sharing the love of art, so this book has my heart. Alma Thomas is a phenomenal artist, and I didn’t know about her life until reading Ablaze with Color. I am so glad that Jeanne Walker Harvey told us Alma’s story, and her narrative is so lyrical and beautifully written. Combined with Wise’s vibrant and Thomas-inspired artwork, the book packs into it not only the story of Thomas as an artist, but also her story of resilience against the inequity and racism she faced on her way to becoming a world-renowned artist and the first Black woman to be hung in the White House. A stellar book!

Educators’ Guide: 

Flagged Passages: 

View the below spreads, a book trailer, and more at https://www.jeanneharvey.com/ablaze-with-color.

Read This If You Love: Art, Picture Book Biographies

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The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Laura Freeman
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publication Date: January 11, 2022 by Random House

Summary: Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings dedicated his life to public service. This comprehensive and visually stunning biography details his humble beginnings and unwavering faith as he waged an endless battle for truth, justice, and equality.

We can do better.

When Elijah Cummings was a little boy, he struggled in school. His teachers thought he talked too much and asked too many questions. They said he’d never be able to read or write well.

Despite his difficulties, Elijah never gave up. He persevered, having faith that with hard work, he’d be able to achieve his goals.

Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman marry words and images beautifully in this picture book biography of politician and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings, detailing his inspiring journey–from his humble beginnings as the son of former sharecroppers to his unwavering faith as he became a lawyer, state legislator, and leading congressman. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.Discussion

Ricki’s Review: This book had phenomenal pacing. I felt like I really came to understand Elijah Cummings’ life story, and I learned a lot. It includes information about his childhood through his adulthood, which I really appreciated. All three of my children loved reading it, and even my two-year-old sat for the entire book and asked questions.

In classrooms, some stories are highlighted and emphasized every year, and I was glad to read a book highlighting Elijah Cummings’ story and his impact on the Civil Rights movement. He was a phenomenal human being who contributed greatly to the world, and this story beautifully depicts his story.

Kellee’s Review: You can always trust Carole Boston Weatherford to write a beautiful, researched, and well done piece of art, and this is no exception. Elijah Cummings was called the North Star of Injustice because he was a beacon for others to follow in what was just.

However, unlike other civil rights leaders, his history is less known, so this book will perfectly serve as an introduction to Cummings’ life from childhood to death. It shows how his foundation for faith and justice built him up to be the man he was.

I also loved the shout out to the library and librarians! (Though the story of his school counselor telling him he couldn’t be a lawyer was devastating, and I am so glad he proved them wrong!)

And I cannot talk about this book without talking about the beautiful illustrations. Freeman’s art brings the story to life and is so realistic!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about Elijah Cummings?
  • How did Elijah Cummings’ early life impact his adulthood?
  • What contributions did Elijah Cummings make on the Civil Rights Movement?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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A Seat at the Table: The Nancy Pelosi Story
Author: Elisa Boxer
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Published September 7, 2021

Summary: This inspiring picture-book biography about Nancy Pelosi shows her journey from the child of Baltimore’s mayor to her marble-ceiling-shattering four terms as Speaker of the House, including the historic events of January 6th, 2021.

Nancy Pelosi grew up watching her father, the mayor of Baltimore, welcome in people of all different backgrounds to sit at their table and make their voices heard. Nancy’s mother always stood beside him, working behind the scenes to help her husband and the people he served. When Nancy grew up, she continued working behind the scenes in politics until a friend asked her to run for Congress herself–jump-starting a 33 year career as a political representative and taking her higher than she could have once imagined.

Young girls, especially, will be inspired by Nancy’s journey and her commitment to using her voice to help others and to make sure women are heard in government. The backmatter also includes an exclusive interview with Nancy Pelosi herself.

Praise: 

“Pays due homage to its subject.“–Kirkus Reviews

“Sends a resilient message.”–Publishers Weekly

An ­accessible introduction with a focus on Pelosi’s influences and role as a woman in politics.”–School Library Journal

About the Author: Elisa Boxer is a Maine-based, Emmy-winning journalist and columnist whose writing has appeared in publications including The New York TimesInc., and Fast Company. Having worked in newspaper, magazine, and television journalism, Elisa is thrilled to bring her reporting and storytelling skills to the world of children’s literature. She is the author of A Seat at the Table: The Nancy Pelosi Story and The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History.

Marta Álvarez Miguéns is an author and children’s book illustrator living in A Coruña, Spain. In 2007, her artwork was selected and exhibited at the Bratislava Biennial of Illustration (BIB). She illustrated Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, which was named one of the Best Children’s Books of 2017 by Parents Magazine, and won the Blue Spruce Award in 2018. She also painted the funny and charming illustrations for What Is Poo?, which won the Silver Award at the Junior Design Awards 2017.

About the Illustrator: Laura Freeman received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and began her career illustrating for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated many fine children’s books over the years, including Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, written by Deborah Blumenthal, and the Coretta Scott King Honor book Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. Laura now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Elisa Boxer has crafted a very informative homage to Nancy Pelosi showing her foundation and her ambition. It was wonderful reading about how Pelosi climbed to the top of politics and became the highest-ranked female (until Kamala Harris). I think it is important to note that although we do learn about Nancy Pelosi’s views and most important platforms, the book itself is written as a non-bias biography. This will be a wonderful addition to a picture book biography text set and/or history unit. (And don’t miss out on reading Boxer’s entire interview with Nancy Pelosi at https://elisaboxer.com/nancy-pelosi-interview-elisa-boxer.html.)

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Nancy’s dad’s job as mayor inspire her?
  • Although her mother wasn’t in politics, how did her mother inspire Nancy?
  • How has the view on women changed since Nancy’s childhood?
  • How did Nancy’s privilege of position help propel her into politics? On the other hand, how did being a woman add obstacles to her journey?
  • What does the saying “a seat at the table” mean and how does it relate to Nancy’s story?
  • Why did Nancy change the saying to “marble ceiling” instead of glass?
  • How did Nancy moving to minority leader in 2011 effect Nancy?
  • How does the backmatter add to the book?

Flagged Passages: 


Listen to a sample of the audiobook HERE.

Read This If You Love: Biography picture books, learning about politics through picture books

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer Public Relations for providing a copy for review!**

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Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World 
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Published August 17th, 2021 

Summary: Mahatma Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. both shook, and changed, the world, in their quest for peace among all people, but what threads connected these great activists together in their shared goal of social revolution?

A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century.

A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America.

Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared wish, both would go on to be icons of peaceful resistance and human decency. Both preached love for all human beings, regardless of race or religion. Both believed that freedom and justice were won by not one, but many. Both met their ends in the most unpeaceful of ways—assassination.

But what led them down the path of peace? How did their experiences parallel…and diverge? Threads of Peace keenly examines and celebrates these extraordinary activists’ lives, the threads that connect them, and the threads of peace they laid throughout the world, for us to pick up, and weave together.

Praise: “The book’s attractive design, lucid text, and carefully chosen details combine to create an inviting and original treatment of its subjects. History has been carefully intertwined with the present in this engaging and reflective book.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

About the Author: Uma Krishnaswami is the author of several books for children including Book Uncle and Me (International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book) and Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (Asian Pacific American Librarians Award, FOCAL Award). She was born in New Delhi, India, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. To learn more, visit her website: umakrishnaswami.org.

Review: First, happy book birthday!!!!!! 🎉 

In the Author’s Note, Krishnaswami notes, “Then, in 2008, I read The End of Empires: African Americans and India by historian and African American studies professor Gerald Horne. It was an eye-opener. I was born in India and I’d lived in the United States for nearly thirty years, but in neither country had I ever learned this history.” As I’ve noted over and over again when I review nonfiction or historical fiction, it is only through brilliant books that I have learned true history as my history classes were so US-centered that we hardly learn anything other than basic history about the world and it is so white-washed that even when slavery or Civil Rights is covered, it very much focuses on the successes. It is because of this that I am so thankful that books like this exist and allow me to share the erased history with students. Because even with Martin Luther King Jr., who all are familiar with, there is so much of him and his journey and point of view that are erased in history books. 

Everything I learned about India’s history was from some books before I read this: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, I am Gandhi (both picture book & graphic novel) by Brad Meltzer, and A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. That was all of my prior knowledge, so I was taken aback by the breadth of India’s history that I was ignorant about. Krishnaswami did a brilliant job telling about Gandhi’s personal life while also teaching about Indian history. In the second half of the book, we switch to Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the racial injustices happening in the United States. Again, the book focuses not only on King’s personal life but the history of the US at the time as well. I learned so much in this book. It made me think, reflect, get angry, cry, and have purpose for continuing with a focus on anti-racism. 

Uma Krishnaswami does a beautiful job using the imagery of threads figuratively throughout this book to tie Gandhi and King through their views on peace and nonviolence as well as Gandhi and King to the histories they helped shape. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: There is so much to discuss in this book! I could see parts of it being used to supplement curriculum, I could see it being used AS the curriculum, I could see it being used as a resource for research, I could see it being an independent reading book for an interested student…. It has endless potential. 

  • Why would the author choose thread to be the figurative imagery in the book? 
  • Although Gandhi and King both were focused on equality and nonviolence, they differed in many ways also–how so? 
  • In both cases, Gandhi and King continued their work despite potentially putting their family in danger. Why would they do this? 
  • How was India’s reach for freedom similar to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States? 
  • Both Gandhi and King had assassination attempts multiple times in their life. They both did not want their attackers charged–why not? What does this tell you about them? 
  • In the end they were both assassinated, how did hatred, fear, and ignorance lead to both of their deaths? 
  • Both had such strong women as wives. How did both women help support their husband’s mission? 
  • Do you believe that Martin Luther King Jr. would have the same beliefs without Gandhi pathing the way? 

Flagged Passages: “Chapter 25: Spinning New Threads of Peace”

To spin thread on a spilling wheel like the one Gandhi designed when he was in jail, you bein with a roll of fluffy, carded cotton. In the Hindi language, this is called pooni. You attach the pooni to a length of thread looped around a small metal spindle. You hold the fluffy cotton loosely in one hand and draw it slowly, outward and upward, to arm’s length. With your other hand, you turn a flat wheel. A few turns clockwise, then a quarter turn counterclockwise, over and over, until the rhythm takes hold of you and you no longer have to link about it. 

It takes patience. It takes time. Each had has to learn to do its work without getting distracted. 

At first, the cotton drifts apart. The yarn is not twisted enough. This it’s twisted too tightly. It breaks. The spindle falls off its course. The cord that drives the spinning wheel slips from its grove. But slowly, slowly, if you keep at it, the thousands of fibers contained within a single handful of cotton begin to twist around one another, becoming one, united and strong enough to endure. The cotton springs to life, and a thread begins to form! Only inches of it, but it is real cotton thread. 

The threads of peace movements are like that. They continue to spin outward over and over, long after they have been created. 

In April 1968, after Dr. King’s assassination, the Chicago Sun-Times published this cartoon: 

Look at Gandhi, seated on the floor, his hand outstretched, making his point to an attentive Dr. King. You’d think they were old friends. There they are in this alternate reality, perhaps even in the artist’s imagined heaven, reminding us that the voices of peacemakers can resonate long after they are gone. 

Although they never met, Gandhi and King were kindred spirits. Gandhi was aware of racial injustice in the United States and hoped that Black American would create their own nonviolent movement. 

Martin Luther King Jr. read books by and about Gandhi. He knew people who had met Gandhi. Gandhi’s teaching supported King’s own beliefs that grew out of the love of family, of community, of Jesus. King integrated Gandhian methods and principles into the work of his life, much as he did with the Christian gospel.”

Read This If You Love: I am Gandhi (both picture book & graphic novel) by Brad Meltzer; A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel; Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson; Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport; Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford; Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan; March trilogy by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin; A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Ramée; The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**