Seated nearby, Eilon Shomron-Atar, a psychoanalyst, was straining to filter out the distractions of some dozen pint-size listeners gurgling and spinning like jacks all around him.
Bella, his 2-year-old, sat at his knee as Tehilah Eisenstadt, a childhood educator and activist, read to the group from “Emma and the Whale,” which touches on themes of empathy and wildlife preservation.
Such messages matter, Mr. Shomron-Atar said, but so do values like “food justice” or, as he explained, “learning about eating ethically, buying local, organic and pain-free and knowing where your dinner comes from.” They are concerns embraced by the authors of board books like “V Is for Vegan” and “Vegan Is Love.”
Those books and their reform-minded kin have descended like crickets on indie stores and megachains, their authors, by turns upbeat or admonitory, addressing themes of immigration, climate change, racial and ethnic diversity, feminism and gender identification, all gathered under the rubric of social justice.
To booksellers and publishers, such topics are especially timely. “Since the election, there has been a greater sense of urgency about these issues,” said Annie Hedrick, an owner of Book Culture. “Parents in our area are trying to find ways to take them up with their kids.”
Board books and picture books are proving a popular avenue. “Five or six years ago, ‘A Is for Activist’ would not have been published,” said Ken Geist, publisher and editorial director for picture books at Scholastic. “I don’t think the trend was mainstream at that point.”
Since its release in 2013 by Seven Stories Press, “A Is for Activist,” by Innosanto Nagara, has become a children’s best-seller, with 125,000 copies in print, according to the publisher. Arguably the book’s unexpected success has given rise to a flurry of such child-friendly primers — among them, “My Night in the Planetarium,” also by Mr. Nagara, which is in part about speaking out against oppression. These and similar offerings seek to captivate a generation still too young and unformed to have acquired a name.
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