Kidlit for Social Change: Make America Grape Again and more

Because sometimes it takes something nasty and sour / To show us what’s sweet and remind us our power / Comes not from our I’s or our me’s but to trust / That we’ll all be okay if we just stick with us.

Have you heard the story of how one misguided orange almost ruined the whole fruit salad? Make America Grape Again, written by Jeff Durston, is a story about a misguided orange who wants to kick all of the wrinkly raisins and imported mangoes out of the fruit nation. Luckily, the fruit rally to oppose the sour message and they come to realize that their diversity is a source of strength, not division.

I can tell you that my kids loved it—Skyler mostly enjoyed identifying the fruit and empathizing with the facial expressions, while Hudson definitely recognized more of the social implications. Both understood the broader messages about being better together. Plus, the punny protest signs and clever satire kept it appealing for Aron and me, too.

The author Jeff is a high school teacher, and his wife Sara is a public interest lawyer. Together they self-published the book because they want to show their two small children that art and creativity can be powerful tools for social change. (For every book sold, a portion goes to non-profits focused on social justice.)

I asked Jeff if he would suggest additional titles that might promote curiosity and conversation about social engagement, and was thrilled when he agreed: “Any storyline that gets their kids asking questions and opens up a conversation about important values is a win in our book. (No pun intended!) If it gets the family laughing, even better!”

Here are some of his favorites…

I am Enough, by Grace Byers
In addition to teaching kids to love and respect others, we also need to teach kids to love and respect themselves. With beautiful illustrations, this book does just that.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, by Oliver Jeffers
This book introduces kids to big ideas (like the vastness of the world) but boils it down to a simple imperative: be kind. A great way to talk about the world and all its people, and a reminder to take care of the earth.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book, by Jon Agee
Like the title says, there is a wall in the middle of the book and the main character is afraid of the other side. It’s funny and light-hearted, but also leaves room for conversations about why people might be afraid of things (or people) they don’t know and how new people may have a lot to offer.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, by Mo Willems
Who doesn’t love Mo Willems? This book tells the story of a naked mole rat who *gasp!* wears clothes. It is so funny that kids won’t even know it is teaching them to feel confident being themselves.

One of a Kind, Like Me/Unico Como Yo, by Laurin Mayeno
This book discusses gender identity and expression by telling the story of one boy who wants to be a princess in his school parade. Our favorite part is the end, where the children discuss whether a boy can be a princess in a direct and simple way. It is also a bilingual book, written in both Spanish and English.

I want all of these for our home library! Have you read any of them with your children? What titles would you add? 

And of course, check out Make America Grape Again. Thank you, Jeff!

P.S. More Kidlit suggestions, including: favorite chapter books, Christmas books, and more books promoting diversity and social justice.

Images courtesy of Make America Grape Again. Jeff and Sara Durston’s hope for the book is that it will be a conversation starter, bringing much needed humor and optimism to the world. By offering an opportunity for kids to learn about inclusion in a fun and accessible way, and by donating part of the proceeds to non-profits (for every book sold, a portion goes to non-profits focused on social justice), they also hope to be part of a broader social movement.

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