No! My First Book of Protest

Ages: 0 - 4Publisher: Downtown BookworksAuthor: Julie MerbergIllustrator: Molly Egan


Parents are sometimes concerned about introducing the word “no!” to their children because it can become a trigger for tantrums, but this book gives the word “no!” a whole new, and important, meaning.

The first double-page spread doesn’t ease into protests or an explanation of the importance of saying no. It starts off with: “Black people were enslaved before the civil War. FREDERICK DOUGLASS ran for freedom, then he spoke out for more! He said No, No! All people must be free! And when he talked his talk, Lincoln had to agree.”

Rosa Parks, Alice Paul, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gloria Steinem, Judith Heumann, Malala, Greta Thunberg are all here. Two back pages give a brief and helpful background description of each protester. The overall message: “Great people made big changes when they said No, No! Someday you can protest too (when you’ve had time to grow.) For now, instead of arguing when you don’t get your way, just eat your peas or take a nap or say Ok, Ok!”

Until reading that line about peas, this book doesn’t seem to make sense because it’s a board book, which means it’s targeted at toddlers, but the content is geared toward older children who will understand its significance. Or is it? As the back cover says: “This is the perfect primer for the youngest citizens of the world.” Maybe we do need to teach children to say no at a much earlier age. “No!” to climate change decisions that hurt the planet. “No!” to human rights


Ann Oldenburg ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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