Imagining Peace and Social Justice: The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award

by Susan C. Griffith and Donna Barkman

Elementary school through high school

How can people of all races, cultures, nations, and economic systems live peacefully together? How can we think more creatively and humanely about injustice and conflict? In 1953, pacifist and activist members of the Jane Addams Peace Association, the educational affiliate of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, created the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award to recognize children’s books that address these questions. The award, presented annually since that time, honors children’s books that invite young readers to think deeply about peace, social justice, gender equity,and world community. Books commended by the award over the past 50 years encourage young readers to stretch their imaginations beyond the concerns of their individual and family lives so

that they can grapple with the world’s problems courageously and nonviolently.

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award reflects the accomplishments of its namesake—a woman who struck at the roots of social injustice through astute, persistent, thoughtful action during the first decades of the twentieth century. Addams worked tirelessly for reforms in child labor law, sanitation, and housing and working conditions for early four decades. Firmly grounded in the Chicago immigrant neighborhood surrounding Hull House, the settlement

house she founded with Ellen Gates Starr in 1899, Addams’ vision went far beyond its boundaries. In 1915 she founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and in 1931 she was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Early childhood educators, elementary through college-level teachers, and public and school librarians make up the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award jury. All members of WILPF, they live and work throughout the United States. Through book discussion groups in their own locales and via e-mail with other committee members, they discuss books that show how problems can be solved nonviolently or that give examples of how prejudice can be overcome. Full of the strong opinions that often characterize the thinking of peace activists, their lively discussions center on the effectiveness f the books’ literary and visual elements in promoting compassionate understanding of human needs and in presenting struggles for human rights so that young readers can approach life with self-confidence and strength. After three months of discussion, committee members choose a winner and honor books in two categories—Picture Books and Books for Older Children. Books honored by the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award emphasize creativity and resilience in problem-solving and the importance of listening

carefully to what people have to say for themselves. The books below include the winners and a selection of honor books from 1998 through 2004.

Picture Books


Painted Words/Spoken Memories: Marianthe’s Story. 1998. 64p. Greenwillow, $16.99 (0-688-15661-4).

K–Gr. 3. Told in two parts, from the front, then from the back, Mari’s story is one of universal feelings. As a very young immigrant, she fearfully starts school, unable to speak English. She’s encouraged by an understanding teacher and her mother, who tells her, “You will look and listen and learn.” First, she paints her words, and her classmates understand. Later, she is able to tell her whole life story in touching detail.

Hearne, Betsy.
Seven Brave Women. Illus. by Bethanne Andersen. 1997. 24p. Greenwillow, $15.99 (0-688-14502-7).

K–Gr. 3. “My grandmother did great things. Betty lived during World War II, but she did not fight in it.” Chapter by chapter, Hearne describes the bravery of her female ancestors, defining history not by heroics in battle, but by the ourage and accomplishments of the women in her family, finding the unique in each and inspiring the next generations of girls.

Krull, Kathleen.
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. Illus. by Yuyi Morales. 2003. 48p. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-201437-3).

Gr. 3–up. Chavez’s life is traced from his comfortable Arizona farm childhood as a shy and sensitive boy, through drought, loss, and backbreaking field labor, to his adult leadership in organizing migrant workers. The hardships of a grape boycott and a 340-mile protest march led by Chavez result in a 1965 contract for farmworkers, the first in the nation. Krull’s suspenseful text and Morales’ stunning illustrations portray Chavez as the hero he is.

McGill, Alice.
Molly Bannaky. Illus. by Chris K. Soentpiet. 1999. 32p. Houghton, $16 (0-395-72287-X).

K–Gr. 3. Benjamin Banneker, a renowned eighteenth-century American scientist, learned to read from his grandmother, Molly. His grandfather, Bannaky, was first purchased as a slave by Molly, who vowed to set him free. Together they farmed, thrived, married, and had children and grandchildren—an accomplished life for resourceful Molly, who started as a dairymaid and was exiled from England as punishment for spilling milk.

Myers, Walter Dean.
Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam. Illus. by Ann Grifalconi. 2002. 40p. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-028363-7); HarperTrophy, paper, $6.99 (0-06-073159-1).

Gr. 3–up. “In war, shadows are enemies, too.” These words are spoken by a frightened young soldier in Vietnam trying to determine just who the enemy is: “a brown woman with rivers of age etched deeply into her face”? “Little enemies crying on the mud roads”? The poetic and gritty text is strikingly supported by Grifalconi’s collages, whose beauty does not diminish the reality of brutal conflicts but shows the tenderness of combatants. Adult guidance is suggested with younger readers.

Rappaport, Doreen.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Illus. by Bryan Collier. 2001. 40p. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (0-7868-0714-8).

Preschool–Gr. 3. This is a simple and elegant retelling of the story of King’s life and philosophy, alternating the author’s words with his: “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Large-format collage illustrations, inspired by the colors of stained glass, glow on each page. A chronology and resource list are appended.

Skármeta, Antonio.
The Composition. Illus. by Alfonso Ruano. 2000. 36p. Groundwood, $16.95 (0-88899-390-0); paper, $5.95 (0-88899-550-4).

Gr. 4–up. When can a child begin to understand the secrecy needed to survive in a dictatorship? Chilean author Skármeta poses this question through the story of a schoolboy who may inadvertently reveal his parents’ political resistance. The child’s composition about “What My Family Does at Night” may win him a soccer ball—and expose his parents to harsh retaliation. He finds a way out after he learns the meaning of repression.

Selected Honor Books

Bang, Molly.
When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry . . . 1999. 40p. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (0-590-18979-4); paper, $5.99 (0-439-59845-1).

Preschool–Gr. 3. Losing to her sister in a fight over a coveted toy gorilla, Sophie simply has a fit: “She kicks. She screams. She wants to smash the world to smithereens.” And when “She roars a red, red roar,” the energy and intense color of the illustrations burn the page. Then Sophie figures it all out, by being alone, climbing a tree, and letting “the wide world” comfort her.

Cohn, Diana.
Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A. Illus. by Francisco Delgado. 2002. 32p. Cinco Puntos, $15.95 (0-938317-66-0).

Gr. 2–6. In this story based on actual union organizing in 2000, young Carlitos helps his mother become a leader in a janitors’ strike. With the help of a supportive teacher, he and his school friends make protest signs, with Carlitos’ sign saying, “I love my mamá. She is a janitor.” In Spanish and English.

Grifalconi, Ann.
The Village That Vanished. Illus. by Kadir Nelson. 2002. 40p. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2623-6); Puffin, paper, $6.99 (0-14-240190-0).

K–Gr. 3. Told in the style of a traditional tale—“Gather round, my eople, gather round”—this original story evokes a time when slavers, both white and black, were capturing free Africans. Three women of three generations together devise a plan to trick the slavers and save their village of Yao.

Hopkinson, Deborah.
Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings. Illus. by Terry Widener. 2003. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Anne Schwartz, $16.95 (0-689-83300-8).

K–Gr. 6. “Girls can’t throw. Girls can’t play baseball,” says a skeptical coach when Alta Weiss, a girl with an “arm,” applies for a job. She proves him wrong, playing several seasons with an all-male team, then leaves to pursue a career as a physician. Readers will remember her as a gum-cracking, knuckle-ball-throwing pitcher immortalized

by Hopkinson’s zesty text and Widener’s bold drawings. A photo of the real Alta Weiss graces the back cover.

Igus, Toyomi.
I See the Rhythm. Illus. by Michele Wood. 1998. 32p. Children’s Book Press, $15.95 (0-89239-151-0).

Gr. 1–up. This is a colorful and energetic celebration of African American music, from its origins in Africa to slave

songs, blues, and jazz, up through rock, funk, and hip-hop. A book that can be appreciated for the beat of its

text, the history incorporated on each page, the power of its illustrations, and its unique page-by-page design.

McCann, Michelle R., and Luba Tryszynska-Frederick.
Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen. Illus. by Ann Marshall. 2003. 48p. Tricycle, $16.95 (1-58246-098-1).

Gr. 3–6. Soon after suffering the brutal loss of her own young child, Luba Tryszynska saved 54 abandoned children during World War II. Hiding them from concentration camp guards, she obtained food through bargaining and clever deceits. Framed with excellent historical notes about the war, the text includes an epilogue in which Luba is reunited with the now grown-up children she saved.

Mochizuki, Ken.
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story. Illus. by Dom Lee. 1997. 32p. Lee & Low, $15.95 (1-880000-49-0); paper, $6.95 (1-58430-157-0).

Gr. 4–8. Appropriately dark and tense illustrations help describe the situation of Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat to Lithuania in 1940. Against the orders of his government, he signed thousands of visas for Jewish refugees, saving their lives during the Nazi Holocaust. Told in the voice of his son, Hiroki, who was five years old at the time, this story memorializes the heroicism of Hiroki’s father, mother, and aunt.

Williams, Vera B.
Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. 2001. 72p. Greenwillow, $15.95 (0-06-029460-4); HarperTrophy, paper, $6.99 (0-06-057182-9).

Gr. 1–5. Eighteen spare, unrhymed poems describe the daily lives of two young sisters who are often alone while their mother works and who await the return of their father. Remember “how Daddy lost his job . . . / how Daddy needed money . . . / how he forged the check . . . .” An album of drawings accompanies this gentle, loving family portrait.

Books for Older Children


Bridges, Ruby.
Through My Eyes. 1999. 64p. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-590-18923-9).

Gr. 4–up. This chronicle of the 1960 integration of a New Orleans public school is movingly told by Bridges. The only black student in the school, she was, in fact, kept isolated—the only student in her first-grade classroom—as angry white parents withdrew their children from the school. Her determined mother and a dedicated teacher supported Ruby through this tumultuous year. Dramatic photographs accompany the fine text.

Ellis, Deborah.
Parvana’s Journey. 2002. 208p. Groundwood, $15.95 (0-88899-514-8); paper, $5.95 (1-88899-519-9).

Gr. 5–8. In this wrenching survival story, Parvana, a young Afghan refugee, saves herself and three other children whom she encounters as she searches for her family. The desperate conditions of a war-torn country are portrayed credibly, as Parvana, disguised as a boy, defies the stringent gender restrictions of her culture. (Also see "Surviving War-Torn Afghanistan," below.)

Naidoo, Beverley.
The Other Side of Truth. 2001. 272p. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-06-029628-3); HarperTrophy, paper, $5.99 (0-06-441002-1).

Gr. 5–8. Twelve-year-old Sade and her brother, Femi, only 10, are alone on the streets of London after being smuggled out of Nigeria for their own protection. Political corruption and oppression are the overarching issues here,

and suspenseful intrigue drives the plot. Facing loss and seeming abandonment with strength and resourcefulness is the personal theme of this striking book.

Naidoo, Beverley.
Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope. 2003. 176p. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-06-050799-3).

Gr. 5–up. In these stories South African apartheid and its aftermath are experienced and challenged, decade by decade, by young, courageous protagonists whose portrayals cross races, classes, and genders. The author, a once-exiled South African, uses her expert knowledge to explore the complexities of fighting oppression in ways that can be seen as examples for today’s youth in many parts of the world.

Nye, Naomi Shihab.
Habibi. 1997. 272p. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-80149-1); Aladdin, paper, $5.99 (0-689-82523-4).

Gr. 5–8. In this “reverse” immigration story, 14-year-old Liyana is moving from Missouri to Jerusalem, her father’s home. She must relinquish friends, neighborhood, her first kiss, and even wearing shorts, in order to accommodate her new Palestinian family and their culture. Ultimately, she finds she lives in the land of
habibi—Arabic for "darling”—with a heritage that offers her richness and love.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz.
Esperanza Rising. 2000. 272p. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-12041-1); Signature, paper, $5.99 (0-439-12042-X).

Gr. 5–8. The brutal murder of her father forces Esperanza, almost 13, and her mother to leave their flourishing Mexican ranch and move to California during the Great Depression. Along with other migrant workers, they suffer humiliations and deprivations, yet Esperanza, inspired by her abuelita’s words—“We are like the phoenix”—helps herself, her mother, and her people to survive.

Wolff, Virginia Euwer.
Bat 6. 1998. 240p. Scholastic Signature, paper, $4.99 (0-590-89800-0).

Gr. 4–8. This story is told in the strong, individual voices of 21 girls, members of two sixth-grade softball teams that face each other in a long-awaited game. Shazam can’t forgive her father’s death at Pearl Harbor (eight years ago) and, consequently, can’t forgive Aki, a Japanese American girl on the opposing team. Tension mounts and explodes, resulting in injuries to both the girls and their communities, in this insightful and suspenseful commentary on prejudice and the long-lasting impact of war.

Selected Honor Books

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.
Kids on Strike! 1999. 208p. Houghton, $20 (0-395-88892-1); paper, $8.95 (0-618-36923-6).

Gr. 5–up. A social history, warmly personalized by individual children’s stories, this review of the child labor movement in America is characterized by an engrossing narrative, telling illustrations (both photographs and drawings), and expert research. Bartoletti dwells on not just the hardships of the labor but the young resisters, usually teenage girls, who organized strikes and fostered reform.

Bruchac, Joseph.
The Heart of a Chief. 1998. 160p. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2276-1); Puffin, paper, $5.99 (0-14-


Gr. 5–8. In this engaging story, a 12-year-old boy hopes to be accepted in his new white school yet remain loyal to his Mohawk culture. Bruchac delves into issues of Indian reservation culture, acceptance and discrimination, the building of casinos, and even the myths of Pilgrim Thanksgiving.

Crowe, Chris.
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. 2003. 128p. Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman, $18.99 (0-8037-2804-2).

Gr. 5–up. Crowe employs telling photographs and meticulously researched text to relate the grisly 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago. Till was murdered during a visit to Mississippi; his killers were acquitted. His mother, Mamie Till Bradley, refused to let her son’s murder go unnoticed: “The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.”

Hopkinson, Deborah.
Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880–1924. 2003. 144p. Orchard, $17.95 (0-439-37590-8).

Gr. 4–up. Readers experience the squalor, progress, and hope in the lives of five children who immigrated to the United States in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Carefully selected archival photos and thorough scholarship are important elements of Hopkinson’s work, as she tracks the immigrants from their tenement lives around 1900 in New York City to their eventual hard-won status as naturalized citizens.

Joseph, Lynn.
The Color of My Words. 2000. 144p. HarperCollins, $14.99 (0-06-028232-0); HarperTrophy, paper, $5.99 (0-06-447204-3).

Gr. 3–6. Politics and poverty overshadow the lushness and poetry of Ana Rosa’s life in the Dominican Republic. At 12, she wants most of all to be a writer, but when her brother Guario dies while fighting to preserve their community, her words are stifled. Inspiration returns when she realizes that she can memorialize Guario’s life by writing his story.

Partridge, Elizabeth.
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange. 1998. 128p. Viking, $19.99 (0-670-

87888-X); Puffin, paper, $10.99 (0-14-230024-1).

Gr. 5–up. With the narrative pace of a novel, yet not fictionalized, this biography of one of America’s most respected photographers is intimate and informed. Featured are more than 65 of Lange’s photographs, including her most famous pictures from the Great Depression and the Japanese internment camps, along with many taken of her throughout her career, one that often clashed with society’s expectations of a “woman’s role.”

Wolff, Virgina Euwer.
True Believer. 2001. 272p. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $17 (0-689-82827-6); Simon Pulse, paper, $7.99 (0-689-85288-6).

Gr. 6–up. While trying to put together a college future on a financial shoestring, LaVaughn doesn’t want to disappoint her mother—or herself. Yet she must also deal with her feelings of loss when her two best girlfriends join a narrow-minded religious group, and her feelings of surprise and betrayal when she sees Jody, her idol, kissing another boy. Insights into feelings and relationships make this a powerful sequel to Make Lemonade (Holt, 1993).

Audio Connections

Below are books from this bibliography that are available in an audio edition.

• Mochizuki, Ken.
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story. Read by the author. 2001. Live Oak Media. Paperback/CD read-along, $18.95 (1-59112-334-8). Also available on cassette.

• Ryan, Pam Muñoz.
Esperanza Rising. Read by Trini Alvarado. 2000. Listening Library. 3 cassettes (4¾ hrs.), $22 (0-8072-6207-2).

• Williams, Vera B.
Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. Read by Barbara Rosenblat, Carine Montbertrand, and Daisy Eagan. 2003. Live Oak Media. Paperback/CD read-along, $28.95 (1-59112-338-0). Also available in hardcover and on cassette.

• Wolff, Virgina Euwer.
True Believer. Read by Heather Alicia Simms. 2001. Listening Library. 3 cassettes (4½ hrs.), $25 (0-8072-0691-1).

Surviving in War-Torn Afghanistan

In 2004 a Special Commendation, only the fourth in the history of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards, was granted to author Deborah Ellis for her Breadwinner Trilogy. The three novels—
The Breadwinner (Groundwood, 2001),
Parvana’s Journey, noted in this article, and
Mud City (Groundwood, 2003)—are set in Afghanistan during a period of constant bombing, when thousands of Afghans were killed and many more thousands were uprooted, thus becoming

refugees. There are two breadwinners in this trilogy: Parvana, whose father is unable to support the family and whose female members are not allowed to leave the house, and Shauzia, whose family has died in the bombing. These 11-year-old girls disguise themselves as boys. With shorn hair and dressed in male clothing, they become tea runners in the marketplace, read and write letters for the illiterate, salvage and sell bones that they dig from

a cemetery, plough through garbage dumps for food, and beg. Parvana and Shauzia form a friendship that spans the three books, each with its own arc of challenge, suffering, and courage. These books are terrifying indictments of what war can bring to children and powerful testaments to the ingenuity and strength of young people in times of terror.

Web Connection

The Web site listed below can be accessed through the Book Links Web site at BookLinks. It as verified at the time of publication, but please check that the site remains valid before using it in an educational setting.

• For more information about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards, including a teachers’ guide and a complete listing of 51 years of honored titles, go to the Jane Addams Peace Association Web site at

Susan C. Griffith teaches children’s literature and writing in the elementary school at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee.
Donna Barkman is the current chair of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She teaches children’s literature at Bank Street College of Education in New York City and at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.