Never Too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, by Aileen Weintraub, illustrated by Laura Horton, 112 pp, RL 3
Never Too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference
by Aileen Weintraub, illustrated by Laura Horton
Never too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference is an invaluable addition to the fantastically diverse biographies being published for kids today and I just could not edit myself when writing this review, the subjects are so amazing. So, apologies for the length. While there are important historical figures who accomplished remarkable things as children that all readers should know about (Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, Mozart, Helen Keller, Picasso, Louis Armstrong and more) what surprised and delighted me most is the preponderance of subjects born in the last thirty years. In fact, more than half of the biographies in this book were born in or after 1980! And, while there is no doubt that the achievements of each person in this book benefitted humanity, it is both moving and impressive to see the charitable contributions of kids from the last two decades. Starting with an introduction and ending, "What Now?" that will inspire readers, Weintraub's one page biographies include quotes, when possible. The first paragraph sets the scene, with the rest of the biography detailing the inspiration, motivation, tragedy and/or challenge led to making a difference. After age, I was also impressed with the diversity of subjects. Starting with Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a nomadic Kazakh living in Mongolia and the subject of the documentary, The Eagle Huntress. Aisholphan became the first Mongolian female in history to enter and WIN the Golden Eagle Festival competition, the only child competing against forty men. In India, Akrit Jaswal was a child prodigy with a passion for medicine, he performed surgery at age seven. He entered college at age eleven and now, at age twenty-five, is working to find a cure for cancer. In Zambia, when Thandiwe Chama was eight years old, she led sixty classmates on a walk to find a new school when theirs was shut down. She went on to fight for the right to learn inside of a covered building instead of outside in the scorching heat. Her passion for education has also led her to support the rights of people who have HIV/AIDS and the right to educate and inform other about this. In 2007, at the age of sixteen, she was awarded the International Children's Peace Prize. And, in Sierra Leone, Africa, Kelvin Doe's scavenging for electronic waste and building generator that would allow his family home to have electricity for more than the one day a week they were allotted, was the start of this amazing inventor's career. At the age of fifteen he presented a TEDxTeen talk and now owns his own company that is working on a solar light that also charges phones.
Yash Gupta, now a student at USC, started a charity close to my heart - both because I've worn glasses since I was five (like Gupta) and know how miserable it is to be without them, and because many of my students come from families that cannot afford glasses and, if they can, rarely are able to afford replacements when kids inevitably lose or break their glasses. As a high school student, Gupta broke his glasses. Suffering without them while he waited for his new pair, Gupta began to think about children who have to live without glasses. He was shocked to learn that millions of people throw away their old glasses every year when they get new ones. Gupta created Sight Learning, a non-profit organization that, as of today, has collected and distributed more than $1,500,000 worth of used eyeglasses to children all over the world! When he was twelve, Nicholas Lowinger started Gotta Have Sole, a non-profit that provides homeless youth with "brand new shoes to help them feel confident, comfortable and special," which has donated over 45,000 pairs of shoes in forty-three states. Cassandra Lin started Project T.G.I.F. to collect grease that could be turned into fuel. To date, they have offset two million pounds of carbon monoxide, donated 21,000 gallons of bio-fuel to charities which has helped over 210 families stay warm. Lin also helped write and introduce a bill in her home state of Rhode Island that would require all businesses to recycle grease. And, as an eight-year-old, Katie Stagliano brought home a school project - a seedling that, when planted in her backyard, grew to a forty-pound cabbage. Katie wanted to do something special with her cabbage, and her parents helped her donate it to a local soup kitchen where it fed 275 people. From that experience, Katie went on to found Katie's Krops. With the unforgettable motto, "Fighting for a more generous world," Katie started off organizing local gardens to make food donations to gathering volunteers to grow and, with the help of local chefs, cook meals with harvested foods for those in need. Today, more than 100 gardens across the United States are growing food for donation, with every Katie's Krops Garden being youth based!
In 2008 at the age of thirteen, Adele Anne Taylor started A.L.L., which stands for Adele's Literacy Library. Driven by her passion for reading and an awareness that illiteracy and low literacy have profound affects on quality of life, she began collecting books to donate to communities in needs as well as starting an A.L.L. Ambassador Program to teach kids how to spread a love of books in their own communities! Now a student at Spelman College with a passion for Model United Nations and plans to become a corporate lawyer, Taylor continues to work to, "obliterate the literacy rate . . . just one book at a time."
Then there is thirteen-year-old Marley Dias. While she doesn't have a non-profit to her name (yet?) she does have a hashtag - #1000BlackGirlBooks! Two years ago, frustrated by the fact that almost every book she pulled off the shelf of her school library was about white boys and their experiences, she decided to try to collect one thousand books that featured a black girl as a character and her campaign was born. Speaking about her frustration, which Dias says is the, "fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea," she discussed her thought process:
I had a lot of choices about how I was going to address the problem. Option 1: focus on me, get myself more books; have my dad take me to Barnes & Noble and just be done, live my perfect life in suburban New Jersey. Option 2: find some authors, beg them to write more black girl books so I'd have some of my own, special editions, treat myself a bit. Or, option2: start a campaign that collects books with black girls as the main characters, donate them to communities, develop a resource guide to find those books, talk to educators and legislators about how to increase the pipeline of diverse books, and lastly write my own book, so that I can see black girl books collected and I can see my story reflected in the books I have to read.
Today, Dias is the author of her own book, Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!. Part memoir, part history lesson, part social activism primer, Dias wants to wake up readers to the fact that, as she says, "If black girls' stories are missing, then the implication is that they don't matter," and the reality that kids CAN do something about it.
I hope that my enthusiasm has inspired you to purchase Never Too Young: 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, or at least click through to the links and check out the incredible work their organizations are doing.