You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
You Are Mighty:  A Guide to Changing the World Book Poster Image
Lively, left-leaning how-to for kid activism.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of facts about problems kids might want to solve like plastic pollution in the ocean and eating less meat to have a positive impact on the environment. Historical facts about past protest movements and brief biographies of people who have changed things for the better. Different ways to make your voice heard and ideas for helping solve problems. Explanations of different kinds of direct action like marches and sit-ins, and how you can participate in or start your own direct action. Words like "privilege" and "intersectionality" explained in the context of modern protest movements. A reading list at the back for further inspiration. Provides blank space for answering questions that encourage creative solutions and help kids focus on actions and results.

Positive Messages

You're powerful, and you can make a difference by following the examples of others who've made a difference. It's good to collaborate and enlist friends and family to help. Direct action like marches and sit-ins can be dangerous, especially for people of color, so you must think carefully about what you want to do and talk to your parents before participating in any direct action. Think about ways you're privileged and be a good ally to those who aren't. Activists need a lot of resilience because change takes a long time. Sometimes protesters break the law in order to uphold a higher moral law -- that's called civil disobedience. The book encourages use of social media to spread messages and organize events but doesn't provide any online safety guidelines for kids.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Historical and modern figures who've made the world a better place, some in small ways and some in really big ways, show kids how they can fight injustice, improve the environment, get involved in politics, and make the world a better place. Illustrations of kids are racially and culturally diverse.

Violence

Police brutality against marchers in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 and against Standing Rock protestors in 2016-17 mentions fire hoses, tear gas, and attack dogs, but doesn't describe anything in detail. Mention that direct actions like marches and sit-ins can be dangerous, especially to people of color. Brief mention of 9/11 terrorist attacks killing thousands of people. Mention of a young black man shot by police in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sex

"Cis-gender" and "transgender" explained in brief biography of transgender activist Jazz Jennings, and as examples of people who have privilege and people who don't. An example of an editorial statement in a kids' newsletter is about that community's vote to ban same-sex marriage.

Language

Making fart sounds mentioned.

Consumerism

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Piggybackr.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An illustration shows a man with a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World is a how-to for budding, socially progressive activists by Caroline Paul (The Gutsy Girl:  Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. It guides kids step by step through lots of different ways they can change the world, from using less plastic to staging a walkout. Examples of causes range from the Dakota pipeline to school lunches, among many more. Most lean to the left, politically, like using negative words about a ban on same-sex marriage and about Donald Trump while using positive words about Hillary Clinton supporters and opposing a U.S.-Mexico border wall. It strongly encourages using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, crowdfunding websites, and posting videos on YouTube, without providing guidelines for online safety or mentioning any minimum-age requirements these outlets may have. It also provides a sample press release instructing kids to put their names and phone numbers or email addresses on it. It's a good opportunity to talk to your kids about your family's guidelines for using social media and providing personal information for public distribution. Teamwork and collaboration are encouraged often, and the need to talk to parents before taking direct action is mentioned. Iffy suggestions like using gum to stick signs on walls, or using lipstick and pillowcases to make signs, have "ask permission" disclaimers at the bottom of the page. Lots of diversity in the illustrations and in the people used as examples of different kinds of activism.

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What's the story?

YOU ARE MIGHTY: A GUIDE TO CHANGING THE WORLD is a how-to that takes kids step by step through a wide range of things they can do to solve problems and make their voices heard. Real-life examples of successful activists show how small changes can make big differences and that even kids can help bring about the changes they'd like to see in their communities. Workbook pages encourage kids to research their issue thoroughly, collaborate, enlist help from friends and family, to think creatively, and to carefully decide whether they action they want to take is the best way to accomplish their goal.

Is it any good?

Brimming with energy, this lively how-to will encourage kids to feel powerful enough to change the world and take them step by step through fighting the good fight. You Are Mighty:  A Guide to Changing the World will inspire a sense of activism and the confidence that comes from empowerment. Along the way, kids will find plenty of good humor and vivid illustrations that enhance their understanding and show diverse examples of the people and topics discussed.

Although it's true that the advice can apply to taking action on any side of any issue, author Caroline Paul's socially progressive bias is pretty easy to detect and may put more socially conservative readers off. Social media, press attention, and posting videos are all strongly encouraged without mentioning pitfalls or safety guidelines, so parents may want to make sure their kids understand their family's guidelines and expectations about using those tools. Being aware of safety concerns and talking to parents is encouraged when it comes to direct action like marching or staging walkouts.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how You Are Mighty shows kids they can make the world a better place. Does it give you any ideas for problems you can help solve? How would you get started?

  • Social media can be a powerful took for getting information to a lot of people quickly and for generating interest in ideas and causes. What are your family's rules and guidelines about who can use social media, how much, how you stay safe, and what information should stay private?

  • Which activist do you admire the most? Why?

  • The author says, "this book doesn't tell you what to stand up for, or against … [or] define right from wrong." Does the author show her point of view about the issues she uses as examples? 

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love stories of civil rights and social justice activism

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