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Seeing past and present

Good books for kids on race and history

Seeing past and present

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

Caldecott-winning artist Pham presents a heartwarming take on the COVID-19 pandemic, helping children see their place in the worldwide, historic event. The book’s narrator begins by snuggling her cat and watching through the window as disease forces those on the street to go inside. Vietnamese-born Pham then captures the highs and lows of quarantine life with warm, sentimental spreads of resilient children and families around the world. (Ages 3-6)

Creative God, Colorful Us by Trillia Newbell

The author of God’s Very Good Idea traces God’s plan of redemption for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Cheerful illustrations complement the friendly text, as Newbell follows the problem of racism to its root: man’s fall. She then unpacks how Christ cleanses and equips His people, through His Word, to love their neighbors no matter their skin color. Each chapter closes with a simple, creative activity, making the book a good choice for devotional use by families and churches. (Ages 6-12)

Rescue on the River by Marianne Hering and Sheila Seifert

For young chapter book lovers, the Imagination Station’s three-book story arc on the Civil War provides an age-appropriate introduction to anti-slavery heroes like Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman. In the series’ Civil War book from 2019, ­Rescue on the River, young time-­travelers Beth and ­Patrick meet Harriet Tubman and help a young slave escape to Canada. Characters often pray for help and emphasize Christian values. (Ages 7-9)

Brave Heroes and Bold Defenders by Shirley Raye Redmond

Redmond’s 2020 picture book helps young readers see God’s family as ethnically diverse throughout history. Redmond includes simple, one-page descriptions paired with portrait-style illustrations of Christian men from centuries past, like John Knox, and modern Christians from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. One caution: Redmond published her biography of Ravi Zacharias before recent revelations of his abuse of women. For heroines of the faith, see Redmond’s Courageous World Changers. (Ages 8-10)

Attacked at Sea by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O’Leary

Tougias (The Finest Hours) teamed last October with O’Leary for the World War II disaster book, Attacked at Sea. The book starts slowly and characters aren’t always admirable (lying, revenge). However, Tougias and O’Leary present German enemies fairly and Christian faith positively. Once the action starts, readers will be hooked.(Ages 9-14)

Reflections by Rosa Parks by Rosa Parks and Gregory J. Reed

In lieu of recent biased teen history books that distort civil rights leaders, families with older teens might consider this book. While Parks shares some controversial opinions (such as her approval of Malcolm X), she also explains how Christian faith shaped her moral vision. Middle readers and up might also see Rosa Parks: My Story.

American History by Thomas S. Kidd

Christian families and teens who want a clear-eyed understanding of race and history should consider this book. A 2019 WORLD Book of the Year, the 600-plus page textbook gives a detailed Christian perspective on America’s past that avoids idolizing or unfairly demonizing America’s leaders. WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky says it’s his “overall favorite [history book] for smart high-school-age students or college survey courses.”

—The next story in the Children’s Books of the Year section is on a movement to cancel classic books.

Emily Whitten

Emily Whitten

Emily is a book critic and writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Mississippi graduate, previously worked at Peachtree Publishers, and developed a mother's heart for good stories over a decade of homeschooling. Emily resides with her family in Nashville, Tenn. Follow her on Twitter @emilyawhitten.