Resilient Readers: 10 books for Teaching Persistence by Megan Fink Brevard
Resilience is a quality of the human condition that is essential for growth. Adults and children need this ability to rise above adverse conditions and to persevere despite obstacles. Angela Duckworth writes in her book GRIT, “growth mindset leads to optimistic self-talk…which leads to perseverance over adversity.”
As a librarian, I admire books for kids and teens that reflect showing readers their capacity for resilience and grit. These heroes and heroines are determined and committed to their own growth. From picture books to young adult novels, characters can model the capabilities to teach adaptability and to overcome dire situations and to rise above internal self-doubt.
WARRIOR GIRL UNEARTHED by Angeline Boulley
Angeline Boulley deftly transports her readers into a suspenseful mystery in the Ojibwe community on Sugar Island. Perry is consumed with finding the missing ancestors’ remains and their possessions that her Anishinaabe tribe is fighting to bring home to the reservation from museum collections. Perry must also fight to advocate for herself as there are several Indigenous women who are missing and an enemy, who is stealing their ancestors’ remains. When she discovers the human skeletons of her ancestors in the possession of a “collector,” Perry is outraged and develops a plan to restore justice.
THIS IS MY BRAIN IN LOVE by IW Gregorio
Gregorio describes the painful yet essential importance of mental health awareness. Using two narrators, Jocelyn and Will both encounter mental health challenges in their search for love. Gregorio has personal experiences with depression and the obstacles in seeking treatment. She openly shares in the author’s note why she wanted to write this book to give others hope for their own journeys.
T4 by Ann Clare LaZotte
T4 by Ann Clare LaZotte describes the deadly reality for mentally ill and physically challenged people during Hitler’s regime in WWII era Germany. Hitler’s “T4” edict ordered all people with mental or physical challenges to be euthanized or sterilized. The name “T4” is from the address at Hitler’s Tiergartenstraße 4. Paula is deaf and must flee the Nazis and go into hiding. Her escape leads to an encounter with Kurt, another refugee, who is a Romani “gypsy,” another group targeted by the Nazis as being “unfit” according to their racist agendas.
A NIGHT DIVIDED by Jennifer Nielsen
A NIGHT DIVIDED by Jennifer Nielsen describes the night the Berlin Wall was built between Western and Eastern Germany during the Cold War. Gerta’s family members became separated by the wall in 1965. She must plan a way to reunite her family. She and her mother and brother Fritz are trapped in East Germany controlled by the Soviets. Her father and her middle brother are in West Germany, controlled by the United States. Gerta sees her father across the wall and she realizes they must try to escape.
Dash by Kirby Larson
Mitsi Kashino never imagined having to give up her home, her school and her dog, Dash. Mitsi is a Japanese-American citizen who is sent with her family to the Japanese incarceration camps during WWII. Her dog, Dash, is left with a trusted neighbor, who writes letters to Mitsi. This gives Mitsi encouragement and hope that she will one day regain her dog and her freedom.
THE WAY by Joseph Bruchac
Cody is angry all the time, at the kids from his school for teasing him about his stutter and at his father for leaving. When his Uncle Pat, a martial arts sensei, comes to visit him, Cody discovers a channel for his emotions in martial arts. Award-winning author Joseph Bruchac practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu himself and weaves the mindfulness lessons of martial arts into his novel.
The What Ifs by Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Zoe Persico
Cora has lots of worries. She worries about her piano recital, her family, her school work. These are Cora’s “Whatifs?” and they follow her around every day. A friend suggests a way to reframe her worries and address her anxieties. With adorable illustrations and text, Cora finds her inner strength.
I’m Happy Sad Today by Lori Britain, illustrated by Matthew Rivera
This phenomenal book describes emotions and the combinations of feelings kids will have. It is a wonderful guidebook for teaching social and emotional learning to children. The adorable illustrations and examples highlight how kids can trust their feelings and talk to a trusted adult or a parent about how they feel. As the author states, “When I have more than one feeling inside me, I don’t have to choose just one. I know that all my feelings are okay at the same time.”’
I am Strong by Suzy Capozzi, illustrated by Eren Unten
A young boy’s quest to find his strengths during a school field day forms the plot of this Rodale Kids Curious Readers series. With an excellent exploration of how to have a growth mindset and a positive inner voice, Suzy Capozzi describes how kids can believe in their abilities.
Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems
The maestro author/illustrator Mo Willems delves into the growth mindset exploration with Elephant and Piggie. Piggie believes she will fly and shows her persistence to make her dream come true. Gerald the Elephant is skeptical and keeps criticizing his friend’s ideas. The ending truly shows humor and friendship can be excellent teachers.
Megan Fink Brevard has a Masters in Library and Science and passion for connecting fabulous books with incredible students. She began her career in children’s book publishing, but fell in love with libraries while working for the New York Public Library. She has served on national award committees such as: the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and the YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. She has also served on the Teen Read Week and the Best Books for Young Adults committees. Megan has written for VOYA, YALS and BOOKLINKS magazines and she has written TEEN SERVICES 101 (2015) with the American Library Association.
Some great titles. Thanks for sharing these important books.