Learning to Lead: Another RedeemedReader Booklist!

In his Confessions, Augustine wrote this on the subject of “time”: “I understand well enough what time is, so long as no one asks me.”  In the same way, we recognize leadership but find it hard to define. “Leadership” takes different forms in different circumstances, and it has many components.  The best leaders are also good followers. Christians recognize that everyone in authority (the one consistent requirement for leadership) is also subject to a higher authority.  To complicate matters further, it’s as important to recognize whom not to follow (in spite of brilliant leadership qualities), as well as whom to follow.  

Fiction and nonfiction present outstanding examples of leadership, both good and bad.  Here’s a selection of books we’ve reviewed (and a few we haven’t), in four categories or qualities of leadership, arranged from picture books to adult reading:

Overcoming; Beating the Odds

  • Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  Picture-Book Biography about a little-known black artist who overcame war injuries and prejudice to make his mark.  Ages 4-8
  • Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson against the Odds by Robert Burleigh.   Picture Book focusing on Robinson’s skill and determination.
  • The Survivor Diaries series.  Chapter books for early primary grades: each desperate situation shows kids stepping up to perform acts of courage and determination they never suspected they had.  Ages 7-11
  • The Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink.  A Navy SEAL shows his wimpy nephew how to toughen up in body and heart.  Ages 8-10
  • Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say.  In this picture book for middle grades, a boy who was autistic and mute learns to create lovely art.  Ages 8-12shackleton
  • Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi. The true story of an epic exploration, in graphic novel format.  Ages 10-15
  • Lost in the Pacific, 1942 by Tod Olsen.  The true WWII story of a mission to the Philippines that left 8 men stranded in the ocean.  Ages 10-up.
  • Ugly by Robert Hoge.  A real-life Wonder: Born with a hideous face, a boy learns to to be content with who he is.   Ages 8-up.
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  The true story of a boy who employs grit, knowledge and determination to supply his village with electricity.  Ages 12-up.
  • Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key.  A 13-year-old boy takes responsibility for his neighbor and her little sister as they endure a ferocious hurricane.  Ages 12-15.
  • Auma’s Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo.  A bright girl in a Kenyan village escapes the cycle of poverty aggravated by the AIDS epidemic.  Ages 12-15.
  • If We Survive by Andrew Klavan.  A short-term mission trip to Central America turns deadly for four teens as revolutionaries capture and threaten them.  Ages 12-15
  • Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lumong Lopez.  The True story of a boy conscripted into war who survives to be adopted by an American family.  Ages 15-up.
  • March, volumes 1-3 by John Lewis.  Graphic-nonfiction treatment of Rep. Lewis’s role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  Ages 16-up.

Breaking New Ground: Explorers and Ground-breakers

Bucking the Trend and Fighting Back 

Taking Initiative

Bad “Leadership”: Some men women have charisma, charm, courage, determination, skills, and/or initiative–great leadership qualities, used in a bad cause.  Besides learning the characteristics of good leaders, we also should learn to recognize the bad ones.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kenny.  Greg Heffly, perpetual fifth-grade loser, is not leadership material but he’s so funny young readers might need to be reminded he’s not the best role model.
  • Always, Abigail by Nancy Cavanaugh.  Abigail is looking forward to sixth grade and joining the pom pom squad with her two besties.  How far will she follow them into meanness?  Ages 8-10
  • River Rats by Leslie Wyatt.  Kenny worships his big brother Jim, who draws admiration like honey draws flies.  But there comes a time to stand against the way big brother is going.  Ages 10-14
  • Posted by John David Anderson.  Four pals find one of their own being drawn into “the group” of verbal bullies: how can they rescue him? ages 12-15
  • Twerp by Marc Goldblatt.  Julian allows his gang to lead him into participating in an act of cruelty; now he has to redeem himself somehow.  ages 12-15
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin.  So much promise, not enough character.   This excellent biography shows exactly how a hero went bad.  Ages 12-up 


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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

1 Comment

  1. Jamie on March 27, 2018 at 5:56 am

    I always appreciate your booklists!

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