A flatlay depicting a variety of inspiring books on a colourful background.

In recent years, movements such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion have been at the forefront of progress, flying flags for change across and for the world – and there are many other activist groups and individuals across the globe who continue to inspire people to stand up and speak out.

What’s even more inspiring is the number of young people joining, or even starting, their own rebellions. Young activists like Greta Thunberg, who fights for the planet's future, and Malala Yousafzai, who campaigns for all children to have access to education, have made their marks by demanding action and refusing to be ignored.

Now it’s your turn. The books on this list demonstrate the strength and power of young people while echoing the sentiment that every voice – young and old – counts.

Becoming: Adapted for Younger Readers by Michelle Obama (2021)

Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir Becoming has now been adapted for younger readers. From humble beginnings in Chicago, Michelle Obama went on to become a successful lawyer, loving mother, and the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Whilst in the White House, Michelle got really involved in activism. One of her biggest dreams is to ensure all girls get an education, so she started her Let Girls Learn initiative to provide better opportunities for girls all around the world. Learn all about Michelle’s remarkable life in this inspirational book.

How to Change the World by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Annabel Tempest (2021)

Not a bad book to pick up if you’d like to follow in the footsteps of the Gretas and Malalas of this world. It’s amazing what can be achieved when we all work together, and these 15 true stories in How to Change the World will show you exactly that. It includes the stories of the tireless campaigners for women’s rights; the 1950s boycott in Montgomery, Alabama that stopped bus segregation; and the fight for marriage equality. Whoever you are, whoever you want to be, this book will show you how joint efforts can change the world.

Climate Rebels by Ben Lerwill (2020)

Climate change is well and truly happening, but it’s not too late to make changes and follow in the footsteps of the amazing individuals in Climate Rebels. You’ll learn about Greta Thunberg, who began campaigning whilst still at school; broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who has always championed the natural world; and the Guajajara Guardians who patrol the Amazon rainforest to protect it from loggers wanting to chop down trees. These plus 22 other inspiring stories show that anyone can help save planet Earth.

The Extraordinary Life of Rosa Parks by Dr. Sheila Kanani & Nan Lawson (2019)

Dig deeper into the lives of extraordinary figures throughout history. This series focuses on the stories of game-changers like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandi, and Mary Seacole. Take Rosa Parks for example; a Black woman who faced unimaginable odds, and took on the whole world the day she chose to refuse her seat to a white person on a bus in 1955. Her strength in that single moment triggered the modern civil rights movement and changed the world forever. 

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi & Ashley Lukashevsky (2021)

It’s time to uproot racism from our society, and this board book from Ibram X. Kendi empowers children and adults to do just that. Ashley Lukashevsky’s bold art alongside Kendi’s playful rhymes introduces the concepts and power of antiracism and provides grown-ups with the foundations for those critical conversations. Let’s build a more equitable world together!

Big Ideas for Little Philosophers: Equality with Simone de Beauvoir by Duane Armitage, Maureen McQuerry & Robin Rosenthal (2020)

"A philosopher is a person who loves wisdom. Wisdom means knowing things that help you live better and be happy." The Big Ideas for Little Philosophers series teaches children important life lessons, and in this board book, little ones will learn about equality and respect. Simone de Beauvoir knew it wasn’t right that girls and boys are expected to do different things; everyone should have the same opportunities. This colourful book explains her ideas gently, and is sure to empower the youngest thinkers.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & Kerascoët (2017)

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, Malala tells her own tremendous story and paints a picture with her words and metaphors, describing the magic pencil she once dreamed of as a child, a pencil that could make anything and everything happen for the better. Malala’s fight for equality and the right to an education has inspired a generation; this book is a beautiful reminder that we all deserve to be heard. 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (2018)

They're brave. They're bold. They changed the world. These 40 trailblazing Black women have made huge impacts on world history, setting in motion enormous changes individually. All of them broke down boundaries and made their voices heard, and this book illuminates the impacts they’ve made. Little Leaders tells real-life stories of both iconic Black women and lesser-known ones, including nurse Mary Seacole, politician Diane Abbott, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and singer Shirley Bassey. 

Florence and the Mischievous Kitten by Megan Rix (2019)

A uniquely inspirational re-imagining of the life of a woman whose kindness, determination and selflessness have gone down in history: Florence Nightingale. Her story is told through the eyes of her young ward in Florence and the Mischievous Kitten. Set in the summer of 1888, runaway kitten Scamp is discovered by young protestor Beth, who soon learns that Scamp belongs to none other than Florence Nightingale. Once Beth and Florence meet, the three of them (Scamp too!) quickly embark on a turbulent tale of friendship. An enchanting, fictional read to get you acquainted with one of history’s gentle heroes. 

And for older readers...

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2004)

A more advanced read for those looking for a step up into YA. That being said, maybe ‘inspiring’ isn’t an impactful enough word for Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses. There is much to be learned in this classic tale of star-crossed lovers. Sephy – a cross – and Callum – a nought – are trapped in a world where noughts and crosses are segregated and fated to be bitter enemies. Despite love being out of the question, neither can help but fight for equality and the right to love one another.

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