Stonewall – Perfect Picture Book Friday for Pride Month

Title: Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution

Author: Rob Sanders

Illustrator: Jamey Christoph

 Publisher: Random House, 2019

Ages: 5-8

Themes: civil rights, lgbtqia+ history, New York, equal rights, Stonewall, 50 years anniversary of Stonewall

Opening:

Two stables houses, side by side.

For more than a hundred years, we witnessed history. Then came a night when we became part of history.

We were built in the 1840’s to board the horses of the affluent in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Inside our brick walls, horses whinnied and hammers clanged. Outside, passersby bustled as carriages rumbled on the cobblestone streets.

Synopsis:

A rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the gay civil rights movement–a movement that continues to this very day. In the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police in New York City. Though the inn had been raided before, that night would be different. It would be the night when empowered members of the LGBTQ+ community–in and around the Stonewall Inn–began to protest and demand their equal rights as citizens of the United States. 

copyright Jamey Christoph

Why I like this book:

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots this month, this is a beautiful lgbtqia+ nonfiction picture book for all ages on this important piece of civil rights’ history.

Written effectively and creatively from the  POV of the Stonewall Inn, it narrates its own story from its humble beginning as a horse stable to an iconic, historical monument that was the birthplace of the fight for civil rights for the lgbtqia+ community.

It is pitched at young readers and this iconic history is presented with appropriate language and content for its audience. The harsh treatment of the police towards gay and lesbian people and the New York mob owning the bar, as well as some of the brutality of the riots is described though not in detail. The book ends on an optimistic note about some of the equal rights that the lgbtqia+ community now has, for which the Stonewall rioters paved the way. Jamey Christoph’s illustrations are vibrant, colorful and passionate and pair well with this text.

When I moved to New York in 2012, one of the first sites I made a point of visiting was the Stonewall Inn, and I confess this picture book left me with some powerful emotions. It is an important addition to school library shelves.

Activities/resources:

The back matter mentions how trans women of color were instrumental in the Stonewall Uprising, and I can only imagine the decision to include this in the back matter rather than in the heart of the book required some intense discussion within the editorial team. I would have liked to see Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera mentioned, but I hope these choices enable a very wide audience for this important book. There is also: suggestions for further reading, a glossary, additional information about the Stonewall Inn, now designated a National Historic Landmark, and archival photographs, as well as a brief interview with one of the participants in the riots.

Pair this with another picture book Rob wrote –Pride: the Story of Harvey Milk and the rainbow Flag

here’s an interview with the author on Alison Goldberg’s blog.

On June 6th, the NYPD issued a statement apologizing for the raid that lead to the Stonewall Riots.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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16 Responses to Stonewall – Perfect Picture Book Friday for Pride Month

  1. This is an important part of history I know very little about. I’m going to see if my library has or can bring in a copy. Thanks for this enlightening review of what looks like a powerful and informative book.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Joanna. It sounds like a moving and important book (though I also question the choice of not including the role of trans women in heart of the book, but in the back matter instead — thanks for pointing that out).

    • Joanna says:

      I always wonder what goes on behind the scenes in these publishing decisions. It is very possible early drafts had her in??

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Fifty years. So long ago, and still so much to do. Thanks for featuring this book, Joanna. I just passed this rec along to Liam’s elementary school librarian. Unsurprisingly, all copies at the SFPL are in use. I’m in line, though, so I’ll get to read it soon, I hope!

  4. Joanna says:

    That’s great that the copies are all borrowed. It only came out in April but now is a special time to be sharing the book. Thank you for recommending it to add to that elementary school library.

  5. I didn’t know about the Stonewall Inn — what a marvelous story about standing up for one’s beliefs. Will definitely read this book! Love the artwork!

  6. Great book review, pairing, and activities. I wonder, with it written from the buildings POV, is it being shelved as fiction or nonfiction? Perhaps historical fiction? I really like the unusual POV and well as the importance of knowing and understanding our history. All of it.

    • Joanna says:

      Great question. If I were to put it in our library (and I am going to recommend it to our elementary librarian), I would put it in the nonfiction section.

  7. Thanks for sharing this book – and what great timing. It looks interesting, having the story told from POV of a building!

  8. What an inspiring book and unique pov. Love the illustrations too. Only the other day my hubby’s brother asked about New York (thinking of a trip there) I told him there is so much to see. You never quite get beneath the surface when only visiting such a city. Love to come back there again some day.

  9. Patricia Nozell says:

    I’m meeting Rob at Highlights next month. Both Stonewall & Harvey Milk are on my TBR list. I love that this is written from the Inn’s perspective. If buildings could talk, it would so enrich our understanding of important historical events.

  10. Joanna says:

    Lucky you. Have you read October Mourning by Leslea Newman? So powerful, a series of poems from many different POVs, including the fence, of the tragic death of Matthew Shepherd. I highly recommend it.

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