Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Top Five Books on Discrimination

Click on the title for each book to see book cover and more details.

Title:  A Girl Named Dan
Author:  Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrator:  Renée Graef
Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press
ISBN:  978-1-58536-351-3
Year: 2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 3.5

Concepts:  human resources, discrimination, institutions

  Dandi, an athletic and competitive girl growing up during the early 1960s in Hamilton, Missouri, is a talented baseball player and a devoted fan.  She knows all the baseball jargon and wants nothing more than to play ball with the boys during recess and after school.  But at a time when the U.S. legal structure and social norms still did not give girls and women equal opportunities in sports, Dandi has little recourse when the boys decide they don’t want her to join them in the ball field.

Determined to stay in the game, Dandi uses her other strong skill in writing to enter an essay contest held by the Kansas City A’s to recruit batboys. In an attempt to bypass the “for boys only” requirement, she signs her submission with her nickname Dan. Dandi’s experience teachers her that it takes more than a simple trick to be a winner and feel like a winner in any competition.

Although A Girl Named Dan focuses on baseball, parents and teachers can use this interesting book to teach children a powerful set of lessons about discrimination and how legal reforms have helped to change discriminatory practices.  In this case, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits unequal treatment by sex in all education-related activities that receive federal financial assistance. The book provides a valuable opportunity to talk with children about the barriers that girls used to face within and outside of school, and the extent to which those barriers have changed.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero
Author:  Gina Capaldi
Illustrator:  Gina Capaldi
Publisher:  Carolrhoda Books
ISBN:  978-0-8225-7644-0
Year:  2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.1

Concepts:  human resources, land rights, scarcity, jobs, economics of education, discrimination

Review:  Gina Capaldi makes a substantial contribution with this book by raising children’s awareness of Dr. Carlos Montezuma’s long-term advocacy work for the rights of Native Americans in the United States.  Born in 1866 into a Yavapai family and tribe and named Wassaja, which means “beckoning,” he was captured as a five-year old boy during a brutal attack. When Wassaja’s captors tried to sell him as a slave, they came across Mr. Carlo Gentile, an Italian photographer who had immigrated to America in search of new work and adventure.  Although Mr. Gentile paid the captors silver money, he had no intention of treating the frightened boy as a slave and instead adopted him as his son. 

Much of the book relates their experiences traveling across America and their subsequent settling down in Chicago. Wassaja, by then renamed Carlos Montezuma, excelled in school and was accepted into the University of Illinois at the age of fourteen.  Three years later this talented young man gained admission into the Chicago Medical College. Scholarships helped with some of the costs, but Carlos also took on jobs sweeping floors and washing windows to pay for room and board.  After medical school, Dr. Montezuma undertook humanitarian work as an advocate for Native Americans in the United States.  He not only worked as a practicing doctor, but he also lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of Native Americans for land rights, better living conditions, more educational opportunities, and U.S. citizenship.

It was not until 1924, one year after Dr. Montezuma passed away, that Native Americans became legal citizens of the United States.  These inspiring and remarkable events in Dr. Montezuma’s life are told through the book’s narrative (which is based largely on a five-page letter that Dr. Montezuma wrote), sidebar facts underneath original photographs taken by Mr. Carlo Gentile, and a detailed afterword about Dr. Montezuma’s advocacy efforts. The book is also a treasure chest of economics lessons about investing in human resources, the economics of education, jobs, work, discrimination, and land rights.  Children will walk away with important lessons about how a small Yavapai boy became a reservation doctor who courageously fought to strengthen the civil rights and improve the economic opportunities of Native Americans.

Review by:
  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children.

How to Get This Book

Title:  The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby
Author:  Crystal Hubbard
Illustrator:  Robert McGuire
Publisher:  Lee & Low Books
ISBN:  978-1-58430-274-2
Year:  2008

BookTalk Interview with the Author:

Concepts:  jobs, discrimination, human resources

  Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield already showed signs of his special bond with horses as a young child growing up on a Kentucky farm in a large sharecropping family.  He may have been the smallest child, but he knew how to dream big, and he enjoyed nothing more than hopping up on the workhorses and letting his imagination carry him away as a great jockey. At the age of 16 while working as a stable hand and exercise rider, Wink attracted notice from a horse trainer who asked him to race one of his horses in Illinois. Unfortunately Wink’s first race resulted in a collision involving multiple horses and jockeys, and he was suspended from racing for a year.

Wink returned to the race circuit to earn a long string of victories and four consecutive opportunities to race in the prestigious Kentucky Derby.  He earned third place in the Kentucky Derby his first year, then won first place two times (in 1901 and 1902), and the fourth year he placed a heart-wrenching second. Wink went on to race in Europe for the remainder of his career, largely because racial discrimination and the closure of numerous racetracks in the United States led to the virtual disappearance of jobs for black jockeys.  With all his racing victories, Wink left a legacy as one of history’s greatest jockeys and the last African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.

The thrilling text and dramatic oil paintings make it exceedingly difficult to put this book down before reaching the very last page.  Carefully intertwined in the tales of Wink’s triumphs and defeats are important lessons about discrimination and job opportunities that had a profound impact on his career progression.  The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby makes a valuable contribution to children’s literature by bringing to life the story of an African American hero whose rightful place in sports history has only recently gained recognition and appreciation. 

Review by:
  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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Title: The Orange Shoes
Author: Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrator: Doris Ettlinger
Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press
ISBN:  978-1-58536-277-6
Year: 2007
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.9

Concepts: discrimination, scarcity, auctions, poverty, wants and needs

Review:   Delly Porter walks to school in her bare feet and makes do with a stubby pencil and recycled envelopes as art supplies because her family struggles to make ends meet. She even gets ridiculed at school for her disadvantaged background.  Yet Delly’s steadfast optimism and her unusual artistic abilities serve her well at school, and her supportive parents do their best to nurture Delly and her four younger siblings despite their limited means. The teacher’s announcement of an upcoming fundraiser, a Shoebox Social, provides an opportunity for Delly to ask her parents for a new pair of shoes she so desperately wants and needs.  Although her classmates’ cruel and jealous actions lead them to damage the new shoes, Delly uses her artistic talents to move past the injustice and become the big winner at the fundraiser.

The Orange Shoes takes no shortcuts in conveying to young readers the difficulty of living in poverty and the importance of dignity in meeting life’s challenges.  The striking illustrations and the text’s powerful examples both do an excellent job in communicating the manifestations of poverty in Delly’s life.  The book also serves as a useful vehicle for teaching young readers about wants and needs, and about auctions as an effective means of raising money.  One cannot help but cheer for Delly Porter as she faces life’s hardships square in the eye with a dash of humility and grace.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Author: Yin
Illustrator: Chris Soentpiet
Publisher: Philomel Books
ISBN: 0-399-23227-3
Year: 2001
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.8

Concepts: human resources, discrimination, capital resources, transportation, economic history, scarcity

Summary: A young boy hears the story of his great-great-great-grandfather and his brother who came to the United States to make a better life for themselves helping to build the transcontinental railroad.

Source of Summary: Publisher

How to Get This Book