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Bravery Rules the Day

Lee Littlewood on

Books about bravery and standing up for what you believe in are more important now than ever before. These thoughtful books celebrate girls -- one in space and another fighting for educational justice, a warhorse with two Purple Hearts and a bevy of kids of all kinds being brave.

"Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala" by Lina Maslo; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

With gentle colors and free flowing art, Lina Maslo's empowering true tale of an activist Pakistani girl is clearly penned and succinctly inspiring. Like all girls in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was considered unlucky when she was born, but her father had faith in her and knew she could do whatever she chose. Malala secretly went to school, and she and her father eventually traveled her country to speak up for the right of every child to be educated.

With a breezy free-flying bird theme as backdrop, lyrical quotes and extra information, facts and a timeline at the end of this tale, "Free as a Bird" is an inspiring picture book look at the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the father who helped her soar.

"Sergeant Reckless" by Patricia McCormick and Lacopo Bruno; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

Subtitled "The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero," award-winning author Patricia McCormick's picture book proves how selfless and full of honor animals can be. Reckless was a hungry little horse when a Marine in the Korean War had the idea that the horse could carry heavy ammunition uphill. The Marines only had bread and oatmeal to feed her, but had faith the forgotten little racehorse could be trained to help. Iacopo Bruno's personality-filled illustrations show a hungry horse, (that drinks Coca-Cola), with tons of spitfire and determination, and young soldiers who clearly care for her as much as they do each other.

Infused with humor, (Reckless ate $30 worth of poker chips while playing cards with the guys), McCormick's picture book tale has the makings of a classic. During her most heroic battle day, Reckless made 51 trips over 35 miles up and down steep terrain hauling 9000 pounds of ammunition and was hit by shrapnel. Thankfully, Reckless was recognized with two Purple Hearts and retired with full military honors, which proves the mysterious bond between humans and animals. A lovely, beautiful story of a little horse with a huge heart, "Reckless" is a must-read.

"Brave" by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Running Press; 32 pages; $16.99.

What does a brave kid do? "A brave kid has a courageous heart," (while a boy checks under a bed for his little brother); "A brave kids speaks for truth and stands for justice," (a little boy stands up to an older girl bully, and "A brave kid leads the team,"(a girl leads a row of ducks across a stream). A vividly colored, bold picture that's easy to read, "Brave" introduces boys and girls of different races, as well as disabilities, cleaning up the earth, apologizing when wrong, and comforting sick siblings. A perfect inclusion for the We Need Diverse Books movement, "Brave" is a fantastic teaching tool for preschools and younger grades, and a smart book for any brave child's shelf.

"Mae Among the Stars" by Roda Ahmed; illustrated by Stasia Burrington; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

"You will find your way, Mae. Because if you dream it, believe in it, and work hard for it, anything is possible," is the advice young Mae Jemison got from her dad when she asked how to become an astronaut. As the first African-American woman in space, in 1992, Mae did achieve her dreams, but this is the story of her extraordinary drive as a child, and should inspire other kids, especially girls, to study and work hard and follow their dreams.

I couldn't help but think of the brave African-American women who invaluably helped our space program in "Hidden Figures." Mae Jemison certainly deserves her own movie role, and actually appeared as a real astronaut on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Roda Ahmed's super fun, empowering picture book should inspire other little girls to accomplish their own goals.


To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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