You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World

By Caroline Paul, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018. 128 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $12.59/eBook. Recommended for ages 9 and up.

You Are Mighty is a practical book of strategies for kids who want to do something effective and significant to make a better world. The author states, “This book doesn’t tell you what to stand up for, or against.” However, some pro-liberal-activist and anti-Trump bias (which the reviewers personally share) is evident in her selection and description of young activists and their projects.

This book could be the textbook for a course on social change. The chapters comprise a full spectrum of activist strategies: Change Your Habits, Make a Protest Sign, Petition!, Volunteer!, Raise Money, Write a Letter, Speak Face-to-Face, Boycott, Use Social Media, Shoot a Video, Perform Guerrilla Theater, Be the Media, Write a Book, Invent Something, Take Them to Court, March, Walk Out, Just Sit Down, Go to It!

Each chapter follows a pattern: Caroline Paul describes the type of action involved and defines terms. Then she gives examples of real young people using these strategies to address various issues. This is followed by a one- or two-page “workbook” offering both questions and suggestions. Sometimes an “activist tip” gives deeper information such as considering privilege or intersectionality—how a person’s privilege can change in different roles or settings. In the later chapters, she points out both the value and risk of taking direct action.

You Are Mighty is written in a direct, matter-of-fact style. The author recognizes that the concerns one has will lend themselves more easily to some approaches than to others and that people have different skill sets they may bring to the issues they confront. Not everyone can write a book, but sixth-grader Nancy Yi Fan wrote Swordbird, a chapter book on the theme of peacemaking, which made the New York Times bestseller list.

You Are Mighty concludes with this warning:

 You and your community may execute every single one of these tactics with great flair, and yet, to your dismay, fail to see an immediate change in the world. That sucks. But change is rarely sudden. If it does seem sudden, chances are you have simply built on the work of others before you, who themselves saw no discernible impact. This is why activists are hardy people who know that standing up and speaking out always shifts the world, even if that shift is imperceptible in that moment. This is called resilience, and like AA batteries, it is not included. But resilience, unlike AA batteries, can be found in your heart and your friends’, too.

We highly recommend You Are Mighty for young people who see things that the world needs and want to do something about it.

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