A new picture book pairs the stories of youth activists with #OwnVoices poems from exceptional adult poets who were inspired by their work. Unsurprisingly, there are queer voices among them.
“No voice is too small/to solve a problem/that’s big,” begins Lindsay H. Metcalf’s poem at the start of No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, edited by Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley, and illustrated by Jeanette Bradley (Charlesbridge). In its pages, we meet Samirah “DJ Annie Red” Horton, who shares anti-bullying messages through rap; Ziah Ahmed, who held face-to-face conversations with everyone in his high school as a way to forestall anti-Muslim hate; Levi Draheim, who became the youngest of 21 kids who sued the U.S. government for failing to act to stop climate change; Jasilyn Charger, who helped launch the Standing Rock Pipeline Resistance Movement, and more. Most are people of color.
Each person profiled gets a two-page spread drawn in Bradley’s digital pastels and charcoals on an earth-toned, textured background. The images feel warm and approachable. On the left page of each spread is a poem about the person’s impact; on the right is a prose paragraph with further details. The poems are by an array of well-known writers, including Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, which won an NAACP Image Award; Nikki Grimes, who won a Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bronx Masquerade and was given the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in 2017; and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, the Pura Belpré Award winner for her novel Under the Mesquite. Each poet shares at least one aspect of their identity with their young subject. Additionally, each poem uses a different poetic form, helpfully explained at the end of the book.
Also profiled is transgender activist Jazz Jennings, with a poem about her by author S. Bear Bergman, founder and publisher of queer micro-press Flamingo Rampant. We also meet Zach Wahls, whose speech about his two moms to an Iowa House committee went viral in 2011, and whose Scouts for Equality organization helped pressure the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay scouts. His poem is by Lesléa Newman, best known as author of Heather Has Two Mommies, but also an award-winning poet. (Side note: Wahls, now an Iowa state senator, pops up in a new book for the second time this week.) If all that wasn’t queerness enough, illustrator Bradley is herself a queer mom.
There are any number of queer-inclusive books about young activists, including Kid Activists, by Robin Stevenson (my review here), Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, by Rob Sanders (my review here), and the very recent V Is for Voting, by Kate Farrell (my review here). No Voice Too Small is an outstanding addition to the genre, offering not just profiles of its subjects, but poems that further inspire and empower.
Watch a trailer for the book below:
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