KIDS ON THE MARCH (Cybils 2021)

A strong theme in the 2021 Middle Grade Nonfiction Cybils award nominees was civil disobedience. Almost like 2020 was a really difficult year or something. 

Either way, I think the kids are onto us: We adults are mucking everything up, just like our ancestors before us.

Thank you to Algonquin Books for the review copy of KIDS ON THE MARCH: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting, and Fighting for Justice by Michael G. Long.

From1903 to 2020, this book chronicles mostly under-discussed, children-led protests in the USA, taking the reader along for a ride through American history that schools don’t necessarily teach – if they can avoid it. The kids featured hail from a diverse cast of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Everyone save Greta Thunberg (Chapter 12) is American.

Again with the book’s American focus, comes a prevalence of American social issues: Around half the protests discussed are about racism/civil rights. However, kudos to Long for carrying the dialogue beyond Black and white: the 1968  Student Walkouts of East Los Angeles/2019 Marching for Dreamers and 2016 Running for Water* are an important but little-discussed dimension of civil rights in the USA.

Loved

  • From 1903 mill worker kids sneaking away from marching to go swimming, to 2018 slumber parties in (extremely affluent) Parkland, the kid protestors are clearly depicted as KIDS. Their intelligence and benevolence comes through, but so does their humanity and often-funny antics. 
  • Long relates these kids’ participation in a way (Emma Gonzalez’s note cards and stage fright; Mary Beth Tinker’s initial failure to grasp how huge her 1968 Suprene Court win was) that makes them more human and relatable than the media would have us believe. 
  • While 260+ pages of text is a lot, almost every page spread is broken up by visuals – a pop-out quote, photographs, and/or legal documentation that really makes the story come to life.
  • KIDS ON THE MARCH does not shy away from mentions of violence against protestors, but it is always done in an age-appropriate manner.
    • Yardstick: I live in an extremely, ahem, conservative community (adjacent to one of the communities featured here; where cops’ wives felt comfortable holding an anti-BLM protest at my kids’ school a few months ago), and this is a book I’m comfortable passing onto my child’s classroom library even if people know it was I who donated.
  • Long includes a brief and consumable (but strong and effective) chapter at the end telling kids how to research and get involved in causes they care about and how to stay safe before/during/after their protest.
  • With almost 15 pages of citations alone; this book has more backmatter than any nonfiction children’s book the panel saw this past year.

Verdict

This book is absolutely amazing, and I look forward to seeing more from young readers from Michael G. Long.

KIDS ON THE MARCH: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting, and Fighting for Justice is available now from Algonquian Young Readers.

My hometown had its own issues 100+ years ago…

Stats

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Algonquin Young Readers
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 23, 2021
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 254 pages

*DAPL was at least in part about racism, both in intent and in impact. Sorry not sorry.

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