We hope these selections of poetry and books in verse serve to educate and encourage a dialogue on topics of social justice.

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart by Zetta Elliott

“There is a place inside of me, a space deep down inside of me where all my feelings hide.” In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year. Summertime is filled with joy—skateboarding and playing basketball—until his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace. In her stunning debut, illustrator Noa Denmon articulates the depth and nuances of a child’s experiences following a police shooting—through grief and protests, healing and community—with washes of color as vibrant as his words. Here is a groundbreaking narrative that can help all readers—children and adults alike—talk about the feelings hiding deep inside each of us. This title celebrates Black voices and experiences.

Available formats: Book

Hush!: A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho

In an endearing lullaby, a mother asks a lizard, a monkey, and a water buffalo to be quiet and not disturb her sleeping baby. This title celebrates Asian and Pacific American voices.

Available formats: Book

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell

At the mountain’s base sits a cabin under an old hickory tree. And in that cabin lives a family—loving, weaving, cooking, and singing. The strength in their song sustains them through trials on the ground and in the sky, as they wait for their loved one, a pilot, to return from war. With an author’s note that pays homage to the true history of Native American U.S. Service Members like WWII pilot Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, this is a story that reveals the roots that ground us, the dreams that help us soar, and the people and traditions that hold us up. This picture book in verse celebrates the voices of native nations.

Available formats: Book

Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker

Poet and activist Alice Walker personifies the power and wanton devastation of war in this evocative poem. Stefano Vitale’s compelling paintings illustrate this unflinching look at war’s destructive nature and unforeseen consequences. A thoughtful collection of verses that look at the consequences of war. 

Available formats: Book

Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico!: Americas’ Sproutings by Pat Mora

Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more. Here is a luscious collection of haiku celebrating foods native to the Americas. Brimming with imagination and fun, these poems capture the tasty essence of foods that have delighted, united, and enriched our lives for centuries. Exuberant illustrations bring to life the delicious spirit of the haiku, making Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico!: America’s Sproutings an eye-popping, mouth-watering treat. Open it and dig in! This is by a Mexican-American own voices author.

Available formats: Book

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind—and all kinds of possibilities. This novel in verse captures the realities of refugees fleeing their homeland. 

Available formats: eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Audiobook (Hoopla)

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: 50 Inspiring Poems with a Beat by Nikki Giovanni 

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a celebration of poetry with a beat. Poetry can have both a rhyme and a rhythm. Sometimes it is obvious; sometimes it is hidden. But either way, make no mistake, poetry is as vibrant and exciting as it gets. And when you find yourself clapping your hands or tapping your feet, you know you’ve found poetry with a beat! Celebrate with remarkable poets, including: Eloise Greenfield, Mos Def, Lucille Clifton, Oscar Brown Jr., Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Nikki Grimes, Walter Dean Myers, Common, and, of course, Nikki Giovanni. This title celebrates Black and Brown poets and singers.

Available formats: Book

Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus

Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian, Maya Angelou’s life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya’s life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people. A foreword by Angelou’s grandson, Colin A. Johnson, describes how a love of literature and poetry helped young Maya overcome childhood trauma and turn adversity into triumph. Coupled with Tonya Engel’s metaphorical and emotive illustrations, this biography beautifully conveys the heartaches and successes of this truly phenomenal woman, and is a powerful tribute to the written word. This title celebrates Black voices and experiences. 

Available formats: Book

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

For centuries, accomplished women of all races have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for the gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially compared to their male counterparts. In this poetry collection, poet and author Nikki Grimes creates wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women. Each poem is paired with a full color illustration by a female African-American Illustrator.  This title celebrates Black voices and experiences.

Available formats: Book

The Women Who Caught The Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield

This nonfiction work highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield’s poetry and Daniel Minter’s art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwives over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America” begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women” both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also, included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise. This title celebrates Black voices and experiences. 

Available format: eBook (Hoopla), eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand) 


We love helping people find books, movies, and more.

Tell us about your preferences, and our librarians will create a list of titles selected specifically for you.