We need community now more than ever. Having a sense of community brings us together. It helps us understand that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Being part of a community provides opportunities to connect with people, achieve goals, and makes us feel safe and secure.
We’ve highlighted books throughout October that depicted “people power.” Whether it’s thinking about people that make up a community or people working together to bring about change, books can be powerful tools to show us how our small actions can create a ripple of mighty outcomes. Here are a few of our favorites.
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley, Cedella Marley, John Jay Cabuay
As a young girl goes on with her day in school, she comes across several instances of teasing and intimidation. But with loving action and some help from her friends, she’s able to make things right for herself and others. (Ages 3-5)
The One Day House by Julia Durango, Bianca Diaz
Wilson longs to be able to help his elderly neighbor, Gigi. He dreams of one day painting her house orange and yellow like the sun, but Gigi assures him that he is all the sunshine she needs. He is so consumed with his ideas of fixing her stairs and planting a garden that he shares them with everyone from the ice-cream man to his teacher. In the end, the community works together to create Gigi’s “One Day” house. (Ages 3-7)
Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde, John Parra
There is a wall in Ángel’s neighborhood. Around it, the community bustles with life: music, dancing, laughing. Not the wall. It is bleak. One boy decides to change that. But he can’t do it alone. This is such a great book to show the vibrancy of the people in a community despite its lack of economic resources. (Ages 4-8)
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson
When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make . . . (Ages 4-8)
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
Sophia Valdez helps elderly neighbors, takes pets for walks, rakes leaves, just about anything to help her family and friends. When abuelo gets injured on a mound of trash in her neighborhood, she gets an idea. She gathered the neighbors for suggestions but quickly realized that they wanted her to do the work. How could a second-grader create change? She mustered up the courage to go to City Hall (bureaucracy at its finest), where she was able to spell out her plan to the powers that be. Through petitions, hearings, surveys, taxes, and endless levels of even more bureaucracy, Sophia brought the community together to create something that was Of, By, and For them. (Ages 5-7)
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, Shane Evans
As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky–she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. (Ages 5-9)
Everything Naomi Loved by Katie Yamasaki, Ian Lendler
Naomi’s whole world was just outside her window. 11th Street had everything. It had Mister Ray’s Automotive, honking, blaring, booming cars, the corner bodega, nature, and her best friend, Ada. It was alive. As Naomi felt 11th Street’s vibrancy slowly fading, Mister Ray gave her an idea. As shops close and friends move away, replaced by luxury buildings, Naomi channels her grief, energy, and pride into remembering how it once was through her murals. (Ages 6-8)
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami
Yasmin has a goal to read a new book every single day. Each morning she stops by to see Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a lending library in her neighborhood. She peruses the books on Book Uncle’s rickety cart, but he always can figure out “the right book for the right person for the right day.” When the mayor tries to shut down Book Uncle’s cart, Yasmin knows something has to be done. She hops into action, enlisting the help of her friends, family, classmates, and neighbors to save the lending library. They are able to oust the mayor but soon learn that the desired election outcome is not the end of the journey. There is still work left to be done… Were her efforts enough to save the lending library? (Ages 7-10)
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
Ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn is trying to be the hero that his dad writes about in his journals, but he struggles. Since his father’s death a year ago, his sister Charlie is continuously asking questions, mama seems to be withdrawing and drinking just a little bit more, and he can’t quite seem to get all of the words circling through his head out on paper like he used to.
As his mom copes with the grief of losing her husband, the family loses their home and moves into the “Smoky Inn.” If only Isaiah can earn enough money to find a place of their own, everything will be okay. He clings to his dad’s journals for hope and to escape his current reality. As he sets a plan in motion, he learns a valuable lesson about community power and what real strength is. (Ages 8-10)
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their rights. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy. (Ages 12+)
What are your favorite books about community? Please share it in the comments with our reading community.