Women's March Book Roundup


As the Inauguration and Women’s March on Washington draws near, we thought it would be an apt time to compile a list of books that revolve around female activism and empowerment as a reminder to our daughters and sons the challenges that we’ve faced, and the struggles that still await us. We hope these books inspire you and your kids to take action to ensure that women’s rights are human rights, and to help create communities that champion inclusivity and diversity.

To find a Women’s March near you, check out the Sister March page at https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters.


Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl 


1. Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Kate Schatz, the author of Rad Women A-Z is back with an equally (if not more so) cool and inspiring book covering extraordinary women from all over the world. The book includes 40 women, with a short bio for each and awesome paper cut portraits by Miriam Stahl. From more well known figures (Angela Davis) to the obscure (the Quintreman Sisters), from the ancient (Queen Hatshepsut) to the contemporary (Malala Yousafzai), Schatz’s book is as richly diverse as it is rewarding. There’s even an added 250 names of rad women included in the back of the book as a reference for readers to continue their own research. Age range: grades 5 and up, adults will love this book too!


2. For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock

Rebecca Langston-George offers a powerful tale, based on the true story of activist Malala Yousafzai’s life and struggle. Though she was raised in a culture where women rights were repressed, Malala was determined to make education accessible for every girl. Unlike similar books in the genre, For the Right to Learn stays true to historic fact, and is not overly watered down. But the engaging illustrations and brevity of the picture book text makes it a great pick for young readers grades 2-4.


3. Fight Like A Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, by Laura Barcella

Feminism is not an easily defined movement or label that can be wrapped up neatly in a box with a bow. Laura Barcella understands that, and instead of offering simple answers, she provides readers with a history of feminism by way of the leaders who defined it. Similarly to Rad Women Worldwide, Fight Like A Girl includes serious breadth and diversity. For each figure there is a short bio, a bullet point list of key take aways (called “cool credentials”), and famous quotes. The line drawn portraits and casual language give the book a zine-like quality that makes it an approachable and fun read for pre-teen to teen readers.  



4. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock (Adapter), Susan Buckley (Adapter), Illustrated by PJ Loughran

In this thought provoking, evocative book Lynda Blackmon Lowery offers a powerful account of just how it felt to be one of the youngest participant in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom does not gloss over the day-to-day racism and injustices Lynda experienced, but instead delves head first into the uncomfortable and ugly truth of our nation that we often try to forget. By the same token, the courage and strength needed to become a civil rights activist as a teenager is not underestimated. With a riveting narrative and a graphic novel feel, this book will be welcomed by readers grades 7 and up.

5. Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, by Ellen S.Levine

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Ruby Bridges are household names in the Civil Rights movement. But what about the children and teenagers who put their lives on the line to protest segregation, secure voting rights for people of color, and stand up against daily encounters of racism and hate? In this book, thirty young civil rights activists share their true stories of their struggles to secure freedom for future generations. Reading accounts of how it felt to enact sit-ins, walk-outs, and protests as a person under twenty is immensely humbling and influential, especially for a young readers whose feelings of helplessness or apathy prevent them from fighting against racism and hate in their own communities. These upfront, deeply personal and unapologetic stories are perfect for grades six and up.


6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia 

In the summer of 1968, three strong-willed, close-as-can-be sisters board a plane from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to stay with their mysterious, unimaginably stern mother Cecile who treats them like unwanted pets. Neglected and confused, they spend their days at a community center run by the Black Panthers and try to piece together all the commotion in their neighborhood--men in berets shouting "Black Power" in the streets, flyers talking about revolution, and "Free Huey" graffitied on the walls. Over the course of the summer, the sisters come to find their place during this pivotal, turbulent moment in African American history, and learn to reconcile their relationship with their poet-activist mother who, while hardly a maternal figure, empowers her girls nonetheless. One Crazy Summer is a perfect read for grades four through seven. 



Immersed in Under Water, Under Earth + Q&A with the Creators


Under Water, Under Earth by Aleksandra Mizielinska & Daniel Mizielinkski, published by Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press.


Internationally renowned illustrator duo Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski are back at it again with the tremendous Under Water, Under Earthwhich just released and is in stores today. The Polish couple are founders of their creative incubator Hipopotam Studio and are the masterminds behind children’s books Welcome to Mamoko and Maps. Their immersive art, always teeming with color and information, is captivating for kids and parents alike--making them a favorite here at Illustoria.


In Under Water, Under Earth the Mizielińskis continue the encyclopedic theme of their past work Maps with a visually explosive double-sided book that explores the worlds that exist beneath the surface. Readers traverse their journey by starting from the surface and making their way down, beginning with earthworms and ending with the Mariana Trench, the lowest point of the ocean. The book’s organization is playfully idiosyncratic, hopping from root vegetables to subway train stations to tectonic plates. 


Flip the pages and you’ll see each topic is stuffed to the brim with astonishing factoids, wildly vibrant illustrations and imaginative diagrams. The Mizielińskis offer an otherwise impossible look into the coolest things out there, like a train tunnel being gorged out of a mountain or boreholes that go 7.5 miles beneath earth’s surface. What’s even more astonishing is its breadth--the Mizielińskis seamlessly bring together ecosystems, technological processes, natural phenomena, physics and history. It’s easy to get lost in the artists' distinctive cartoon style, which is highly detailed and, given a second look, secretly mischievous.


You and your ever-curious youngin’ will want to devote an entire afternoon digging into this masterpiece. And don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a cool fact book your kid will read once and then tuck away forever in the closet. Rather, this enormous atlas is one they’ll want to return to again and again, each time to learn a new, mind-boggling fact. We were fortunate enough to get an interview with Daniel Mizielinski, thanks to Phoebe and Jean at Candlewick Press...so read on!

Q & A with Daniel Mizielinski 

Can you talk about the research process for your books?

We follow information on internet sources, and check them with real people working in the field. After that, there are usually two or three or four specialized editors—we have a biologist, someone from construction, and so on, reading pages with images and text and they’re finding mistakes that we correct.

How do you find these experts? 

They may be editors for other publishing houses, or in one of our books we had a physicist from CERN who’d done a book about space exploration and physics. Every person is just six Facebook or Twitter friends away, it’s really true. Whenever I can’t find someone, I just throw a question at my Academy of Fine Arts net of students, and within a day I have answers.


Please describe your roles in working together on your books. 

In every book we have both text and images created by me and Ola. It’s hard for me to define how exactly we do that because it’s so seamless we don’t really think about it. We met at the first year of college and we learned how to design and created our first commercial, [bad] projects together and learned from our mistakes. We just know each other so well. 

What is your drawing process? What mediums do you use?

Everything you see is drawn on paper and then usually colors are created in computer. And of course all the layouts are done on computer. But we always start on paper. We design both video games and books, and even with games we do sketches by hand. Usually a lot of assets are drawn by hand. 


I think this is because the education process in the arts schools in Poland is different than in the US. In the US you have this very narrow specialization, and in Poland you go through everything, from the very traditional 16th-century graphics—I had two years of making fresco and other ancient techniques—through design, type design. On the side we are both programmers. There’s a lot of diversity. It’s good because you can always change what you do. If you have a low budget [for a commercial project], you don’t have to hire an illustrator.

Do you think that’s why there’s such creativity today in Polish children’s books?

There’s always been that creativity. The problem was that in the 90s, after Poland regained its independence and the capitalism came in, all those great old publishers didn’t know how to work in the new reality. Before the ’80s or the ’90s, all the books in Poland were published in runs of hundreds of thousands…. The ’90s were a period when people were adjusting to a new reality. We had a lot of great products, but we had a lot of cheap products. After [the collapse of the big publishing houses], small publishing houses started to pop up, created by two or three people, like our publishing house, Dwie Siostry. When we came to them, it was 2007, we’d just graduated from college, and they had like two books. We started working with them when they had this moment where they knew what they were doing but they still hadn’t sold a lot of rights to their own books.

Maps is another gorgeous, large-format book by the authors that flaunts an incredible breadth of information about the world and its inhabitants through detailed illustrations and hundreds of fascinating facts.

Discover something new as you draw, color, and doodle your way around the globe in the Maps Activity Book

Here, because Poland is so much smaller than the US, the only way to make a living making books for children is to sell foreign rights. So Dwie Siorstry were the first ones to do this huge leap. This is the main reason we could abandon making any commercial projects and just do books and games, and they can have this greater reach and publish good books that are also not expensive in Poland…It’s very important here to keep the low price, because you don’t want to create exclusive books that are printed in low runs that designers want to put on their bookshelves. You want to create books for kids that are not only in the center of Warsaw but also in low-income areas. Those books are designed to be really for kids. Not just a trophy for us as graphic designers to create these achievements. We are lucky to have this publisher. It’s great to see your book in a library in a school where maybe students don’t have as many opportunities.

It sounds as though you’re driven to make sure that your books reach kids.

I hear from a lot of writers, not just designers but writers, that writing a book for children is something like a lesser task for a writer, right, it’s better to write some nonfiction for adults, you know what I mean? In Poland, when you look at illustrators and graphic designers, it was never like that. All the great designers, the famous Polish designers, they all did books for children; in the academies, in the art schools, books for children were always one of the most interesting topics. 

Throughout my childhood, all of those books were designed really, really well. I was lucky enough to be taught by some of the teachers who created some of those books, because they’re still alive—because I’m not that old—and it was a great experience. I don’t know if it shaped this consciousness that you need to design for kids or something like that, but I think it’s shaped this idea that a book can be a really great experience. 

Another captivating series by the authors, equally entertaining and scrumptious for kids and grownups. 

Another captivating series by the authors, equally entertaining and scrumptious for kids and grownups. 

Every one of our books is written using those two languages: one is words, one is images. We treat the visual language on the same level as written language, and we try to be careful that those two are not mirroring each other. The worst thing in my opinion an illustrator can do is when there’s a text says, “Mary’s going through a forest,” and you’re just drawing a regular Mary who is walking through a regular forest, and maybe there’s a blob of green for the trees. The best thing you can do is interpret a text and add things that are not in the text. We always try to do that, because it works great in educational books to write that way. If you can convey something much quicker using images, then why use a text?

How have your own children, twins who will be two in January, shaped your work? Do they like your books?

Thankfully, all of our books that we show them are working as designed. As I said before, we want the books to go directly to children, not to designers, that’s true—but while we’re making a book, we don’t think about those children. It’s funny but we make as good a book as possible [for ourselves], back when we were children or now. We were lucky enough that our idea of a good book is similar to a kids’ idea of a good book. 


One more from Under Water, Under Earth.


We always treat children as adults who just have less knowledge. In the Polish language, there is this tendency, I don’t know if I know the correct term in English, [diminutives]— there is a “cat”, and there is a “kitty.” In Poland, you can say stół, a table, you can say stolik, like a small table, and you can say everything in this manner. A lot of the people who write for children are using this super-childish and stupid language. A lot of people who talk to their children also use this language—you know, because they’re children. In Polish, it’s very easy to do that. [Aleksandra and I] never use it. It’s called zdrobnienie—making something smaller. We never do that. We never do that. We never do this, in the language layer of our books or in the layer of knowledge. 

If we're writing about radiation for kids, we say, ‘OK, the kid who is reading this book is about 9 years old. What else about radiation can I explain or omit? Will they ignore it or skip ahead?’ This is the only consideration. It’s not: ‘Can I tell them about radiation, it’s a hard topic?’ Yes I can. Only maybe you have to fill some knowledge gaps for them. But this is true for every human being. So you can write about anything you want. 

Instagram followers: go to @illustoria_mag and enter to win our Under Water, Under Earth giveaway! 

Children's Book Week Roundup


Children’s Book Week is 97 years old this year, and ILLUSTORIA is brand spanking new! But the nice thing about children’s books is that they bring together the young and the old, the new and the nearly-forgotten. So I thought I might take a moment and talk about a few of my favorite new and upcoming picture books, and also some older books that those titles bring to mind.

The Airplane Book , by Lisa Brown

The Airplane Book, by Lisa Brown

What Do People Do All Day? , by Richard Scarry 

What Do People Do All Day?, by Richard Scarry 

Remember the joy of being a kid, sprawled on the floor for hours, staring at Richard Scarry books? They gave me the sense that if I just stared long enough, I’d totally understand the world, with all its various details and motions and people and parts. Well, The Airport Book by Lisa Brown gives me that very same sense—that if I read it again and again, I might genuinely comprehend all the details and inner workings of the airport. (And let’s be honest—kids LOVE airports.)

When Green Becomes Tomatoes , by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Julie Morstad

When Green Becomes Tomatoes, by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Julie Morstad

A Child’s Garden of Verses , by Robert Louis Stephenson; illustrated by Tasha Tudor

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stephenson; illustrated by Tasha Tudor

I can still recite the poems I read in A Child’s Garden of Verses. In fact, I still probably mumble "The Swing" at least once a month, whenever I walk past a playground. And though the subjects here are different—Julie Fogliano’s new poems are all about the new buds and cold snow and falling leaves of the four seasons—I can’t help but wonder if kids today won’t be mumbling them in a few decades. Julie Morstad’s pictures are poetry too, and a perfect match for the grace and natural delicacy of When Green Becomes Tomatoes.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals , Lucy Ruth Cummins

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals, Lucy Ruth Cummins

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue , by Maurice Sendak

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue, by Maurice Sendak

These two books are very different, but I can't ever read about a hungry lion without remembering Sendak's Pierre. Both books marry sweetness and darkness, and both books end up in a slightly different place than readers might at first expect. There's also a generally classic feel to Lucy Ruth Cummins' art, and the book's design. I intend to give A Hungry Lion as a baby gift, as I've often given Pierre. Children need a little healthy fear in their lives. 

Good Night Owl , by Greg Pizzoli

Good Night Owl, by Greg Pizzoli

Owl at Home , by Arnold Lobel

Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel

I dare any fan of Arnold Lobel to stare at the cover of Good Night Owl, and not immediately think of  another owl, tucked into bed. 

From  Owl at Home , by Arnold Lobel

From Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel


Greg Pizzoli must have known this, and I admire his chutzpah. In fact, the two books are very different. Pizzoli’s story of an owl who can’t fall asleep because of a mysterious noise doesn’t offer quite the melancholy of Arnold Lobel’s tearwater tea in Owl at Home, but Good Night Owl is a wonderful book for early readers, and will make a perfect bedtime story for a jillion kids who can’t (or don’t want to) sleep.

This Is Not a Picture Book , by Sergio Ruzzier

This Is Not a Picture Book, by Sergio Ruzzier

The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It , by Carl Sandburg; illustrations by Harriet Pincus

The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It, by Carl Sandburg; illustrations by Harriet Pincus

I can’t exactly put my finger on why Sergio Ruzzier’s new book, This Is Not a Picture Book, reminds me of The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It, an odd picture book from my youth. But I love them both. In Ruzzier’s tale, a funny looking duck finds a book with no pictures, but then discovers how the experience of reading can conjure vivid images all the same. The Sandburg book is a strange tale of two household objects getting married, and really, couldn’t be more different. Yet—there’s something in the off-kilter landscapes Ruzzier creates, and the slightly surreal creatures, that leaves me feeling similarly (and wonderfully) discombobulated.

LAUREL SNYDER is the author of many award-winning novels and picture books for children and a mom to two boys. Her most recent titles include Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Julie Morstad, and Seven Stories Up. Visit her at laurelsnyder.com