Empowering Books for Young Readers

By Conni Strittmatter, Children’s Librarian, Baltimore County Public Library

In the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month and the strides for justice made by those before us. In honor of these brave individuals, enjoy these tales of coming together, fighting for what you believe or maybe even just empowering yourself and others through imagination and knowledge.

Picture Books

“Farmhouse” by Sophie Blackall
A beautiful story about a house that provides a home for multiple families over the years. The author and illustrator, Sophie Blackall, uses found materials from an actual farmhouse as elements for her illustrations, which adds even more depth and beauty for all ages to enjoy in this picture book.

“The Three Billy Goats Gruff” by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are one of the funniest duos making picture books today. True to form, their adaptation of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” will make readers of all ages chuckle and cringe at the dry—and
sometimes gross-out—humor. Told in singsong rhyme, this is unlike any other version of the story you’ve seen!

“Good Night, Little Bookstore” by Amy Cherrix
This is a recent play on an old favorite, “Goodnight Moon.” In it, you follow the owner of an independent downtown bookstore as they close up for the night. You catch a glimpse of the diverse and colorful inhabitants and visitors in the bookstore—even the bookstore cat!

Beginning Readers & First Chapters

“Ty’s Travels: Lab Magic” by Kelly Starling Lyons
Ty loves to go on many adventures and visit new places. “Ty’s Travels: Lab Magic” brings the reader on Ty’s trip to the science center and all the exciting activities that come with it!

“The Secret Explorers and the Plant Poachers” by SJ King
The Secret Explorers is a series that follows a young group of children, each an expert in a different field. When troubles arise, they each step up to the task to lead the others in finding a solution. In “The Secret Explorers and the Plant Poachers,” Leah and Gustavo must use their expertise to protect an endangered plant from poachers in the wilderness.

“Aven Green: Music Machine” by Dusti Bowling
Aven Green was born without arms, but that doesn’t stop her from solving mysteries, baking and having fun with her friends while she’s at it! In “Aven Green: Music Machine,” Aven picks up a new challenge— learning how to play and instrument. If you love funny books about friendship and overcoming challenges, you’ll love reading about Aven Green!

“Cookie Chronicles: Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom” by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr
When Ben opens a fortune cookie, he takes the fortune a bit … too literally. In the Cookie Chronicles series, Ben’s literal interpretation of the cookies’ fortunes leads him on all sorts of hijinks and adventures.
Written by authors local to Maryland, this series is great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dogman. You can also follow the authors as they take their family on a nationwide road trip visiting Title I schools in all fifty states to give presentations and hand out free books! robbiandmatthew.com/busload-of-books Note: Read More About Swanson and Behr’s journey in “Journey of Joy” on www.baltimoreschild.com.

Middle Grade

“Red, White and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca
Written in verse, “Red, White and Whole” is a beautiful novel about family, community and the dreams of a young girl. Reha is an Indian American girl living in the Midwestern United States in the 1980s. Through poetic text, we learn about Reha, her struggles going back and forth between family and school and her hope of becoming a doctor one day.

Author Rajani LaRocca is visiting the Perry Hall branch of the Baltimore County Public Library at 7 p.m. March 10, the Cockeysville branch at 11 a.m. March 11 and the Woodlawn branch at 2 p.m. March 11.

“Black Brother, Black Brother” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Donte and Trey are brothers. They go to the same prep middle school but have very different experiences, based largely on the color of their skin. This book is a compelling journey through a difficult but important topic that will be familiar to many middle school readers and adults alike—how to find your voice and empowerment amidst persecution and racism.


“Whiteout” by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon
Told in six separate stories, all interconnecting, this book pairs romance, friends banding together and an unexpected whiteout snowstorm together. It’s the perfect book for a cozy reading nook in the winter.

“Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice” by Tommie Smith and Derrick Barnes
Olympian Tommie Smith tells his story, from his early life in Texas to the pivotal moment when he stood on the podium at the Olympics in 1968 and raised his fist in protest of racial violence and injustice against Black Americans. The engaging and expressive art style of this graphic novel will attract fans of sports, comic books, civil rights and literature. It’s a beautiful read, through and through.

“How To Excavate a Heart” by Jake Maia Marlow
Shani did not start her winter break off right. Not only does she get dumped by her girlfriend, but soon she gets into a car accident with her mom’s car. But when she runs into the person she hit with her car—this time on a walk—Shani sees a winter romance on the horizon.

All book cover images provided by publishers.

About Conni Strittmatter, Children’s Librarian, Baltimore County Public Library

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