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Speak Up by [Miranda Paul, Ebony Glenn]

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Speak Up Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 629 ratings

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From the Publisher

A conversation with Miranda Paul and Ebony Glenn about SPEAK UP

speak up miranda paul ebony glenn

We talked to the author and illustrator about the inspiration for their new book, their favorite scenes, and more.

speak up

What’s your favorite scene or moment in the book?

Ebony Glenn: My favorite scene is when the new student finds a place to sit with the other children during lunch time. This particular scene is based on a memory I had when I was the ‘new kid’ at a new elementary school many years ago, and how grateful I was when some of my classmates invited me to sit with them for lunch.

Can you talk about what your characters looked like in their initial sketch and then in the final book?

EG: It was a lot of fun to imagine each character’s back story while I was creating them for the book, but many of the them did not change too much from the initial sketches. Other than adding some details to illustrate their unique personalities and individuality, most have remained the same from the very beginning.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

EG: I hope readers will know that anyone can speak up. No matter how quiet or loud their voice is, or how young or old they are, everyone is capable of making a difference.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2—A thoughtfully inclusive cast of children encounter various situations throughout their school day that present opportunities for them to help themselves and others. Highlighted examples of advocacy include familiar scenes like showing kindness in the lunchroom and expressing thanks to a teacher, while others address issues such as clarifying the correct pronunciation of your name and being mindful of the environment. The illustrations provide helpful context for younger children. A spread encouraging examination of outdated rules smartly ties in portraits of social justice icons who stood up against oppression, reinforcing how one voice can make a difference. The rhyming text and colorful, cartoon-like illustrations combine for a positive, uplifting message of empowerment. The children are represented in a spectrum of skin tones and an array of intentional choices: One character wears a hijab, while another is shown with hearing aids. Helpful back matter includes an author's note, brief biographies of real kids who spoke up, examples of when to speak up, and nonverbal ways to participate in change. VERDICT A calm and creative look at everyday activism, recommended for all library collections.—Sophie Kenney, Aurora P.L., IL --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

About the Author

Miranda Paul is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children, including Right Now!, illustrated by Bea Jackson, Speak Up, illustrated by Ebony Glenn, and Little Libraries, Big Heroes, illustrated by John Parra. She is a founding member of the organization We Need Diverse Books, and lives with her family in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Twitter: @Miranda_Paul

Ebony Glenn is the illustrator of several picture books, including Mommy’s Khimar by Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow, which was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR. She lives and makes art on the quiet outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. Instagram: @artsyebby Twitter: @artsyebby
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07SZBG69Y
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Clarion Books; Illustrated edition (July 7, 2020)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 7, 2020
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 10273 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Not enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 40 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 629 ratings

About the author

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Miranda Paul is the award-winning children's author of One Plastic Bag, Water is Water, Whose Hands Are These? and Nine Months, a 2019 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor for Nonfiction. Miranda presents often at schools and libraries. One of her bravest moments involved reciting poetry inside a crocodile pit.

Miranda's recent releases include I Am Farmer; Little Libraries, Big Heroes; Peace/Paz; and Speak Up—an NEA book Pick. Visit for more.

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
629 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2021
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2.0 out of 5 stars Needs More “Show” and Less “Tell”
By Nicole on February 16, 2021
This was delivered with our book box for ages 3-5 for my son. I only read it to my son once, and will sadly be throwing it away, because I don’t even feel comfortable giving it away. It gets two stars rather than one only because it’s clear that the author had good intentions and just didn’t have the skill to implement her goals effectively. Frankly I am surprised it got published. The author’s note at the end certainly underlines the very good intentions behind this book, and while admirable, the actual book itself is awkward at its best and misleading at its worst.

While the intention is good, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. It is preachy and much too didactic. The jacket description says “Join a lively group of kids on a busy school day as they discover that there are so many different ways to speak up and make their voices heard!” This makes it sound like there’s a cast of named characters interacting with each other in a story, like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, or Sesame Street. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get.

Instead of showing through stories the “simple, everyday actions [that] can help others make the world a better place,” like the jacket promises, it’s just a series of commands in verse, issued to the reader.

There are lots of great books for children that better teach the principles mentioned in this book, like the Berenstain Bears series, Marc Brown’s Arthur books, and more. This book (it can’t rightly be called a story) doesn’t offer anything on par with these wonderful children’s books. It’s a shame, because author Miranda Paul’s admirable aim of creating more diverse books could be better served by storytelling and bringing readers into the story, rather than listing a series of instructions for how to act.

As a parent, it’s uncomfortable reading this to my young son and having to explain what the author was trying to say, because it was said so poorly or in a confusing way. Some of the words chosen for the sake of rhyme could be misleading, and confusing paired with the illustrations.

For example, “when a rule just isn’t fair/ or has gotten much too old,” implies that just because a rule is old it should be changed, which is false- being old isn’t a problem, being unfair or ineffective is.

A second problematic example is “When the group is taking one path/but you know it’s not the way/Speak up/Change directions/Leaders don’t always obey.” The illustration shows a group of kids goofing off in a library and then one of the girls starts reading a story to them. I appreciate the intention but I don’t appreciate the word choice. I am trying to teach my son the value of obedience and he’s not developmentally ready to understand the nuances of choosing appropriate times to “disobey.” Considering this book was selected by book box editors specifically for children ages 3-5, it’s even more problematic. Concepts like this are best shown through a character’s words and actions, rather than told in a pithy forced rhyme that leaves too much open to misinterpretation.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a fun illustrated book to teach your child how to “speak up,” this book isn’t it. Thankfully my husband and I have kept a lot of wonderful books from our own childhood, and while these old books might show outdated outfits on the characters or obsolete technologies, my son can still learn these important principles, such as how Sister Bear stands up to Queenie in _The In Crowd_ (a favorite of his).

I fully support the goal of creating more diverse books that tackle big or potentially scary topics like the ones mentioned in this book. Hopefully in her future endeavors Miranda Paul learns to use story to get her points across rather than preachy, pithy rhymes. Kids learn best from stories!
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