Social Justice in USBBY’s 2017 Outstanding International Books List

By Holly Johnson

This week I continue sharing both novels and picture books from USBBY’s 2017 “Outstanding International Books.” I want to pay particular attention to the issue of social justice in these selections with the hope that readers will re-evaluate some of the current thinking within the U.S. I strongly believe that books provide us with “windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors” (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990). There are times when what we read can help us determine what we believe and perhaps what actions we take in respect to others as well as our own beliefs.

social justice, Don't Cross the Line by Isabel Minhós Martins

I begin with The Journey by Francesca Sanna, which has already been discussed by Lauren Freedman in December’s WOW Currents. Told through one young person’s perspective, it is a wonderful book that combines refugee stories from around the world. It is a picture book, but if you think that makes it simple, don’t be fooled — it is a powerful book that can open readers’ minds as well as their hearts. This would be a great book to start a unit on immigration or a great way to start a discussion on current issues. Read it! You will love it.

After reading The Journey, set your sights on Isabel Minhós Martins’s Don’t Cross the Line! This is a somewhat whimsical picture book that also carries a strong message about the arbitrary lines we (countries?) create to determine who can cross and who cannot. This would make an interesting pairing to The Journey, as it can also be used in a text set on immigration, current events and the often capricious decisions made in respect to national boundaries and people.

Two picture books I want to share are The Pact by Amanda West Lewis and The Last Execution by Jesper Wung-Sung. Both are novels based on true events. The Pact gives readers a story about one young man who joined the Hitler Youth and the process of his indoctrination — fascinating — and a story that needs to be shared. It is as relevant today as it was in 1930s and ’40s Germany. The Last Execution is about the 1853 execution of a 15-year-old boy in Denmark — the last execution in that country. A harrowing account told through the accounts of 11 bystanders, who continue to ask themselves: Does this boy deserve to die? Both of these books engross readers and will stay with readers long after the last page has been read.

Finally, I want to highlight Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson. A celebratory book from communities across the world who embrace the human and civil rights of LGBT people as well as advocates, readers will gain insight into the history of Pride Parades and Celebrations. Another timely book that addresses current issues, readers will delight in this colorful and informative book. It is filled with engaging photographs as well as resources.

Next week, I will wrap up March with additional books from the USBBY OIB List.

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One thought on “Social Justice in USBBY’s 2017 Outstanding International Books List

  1. MARILYN CARPENTER says:

    HOLLY,
    I AM REQUESTING EACH OF THESE BOOKS FROM OUR LIBRARY. I AM MAKING A LIST OF APPROPRIATE BOOKS FOR THE STORY TELLERS AT OUR CHURCH TO SHARE. THESE SOUND LIKE GOOD CANDIDATES.
    MARILYN CARPENTER

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