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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

2014 Quaker Books for Quaker Kids

So I’m having lunch with a fellow from the entertainment industry the other day and by some quirk of conversation we begin discussing Quakerism.  I attending a Quaker liberal arts college called Earlham (“Fight! Fight! Inner light! Kill, Quakers, Kill!”) and he, I believe, was raised Quaker.  And since the focus of everything in my life is, eventually, children’s literature we started talking about those picture books that Quaker kids love.

Because they do, you know.  Befriend enough Quakers and they’ll start talking about the books that raised them.  I wasn’t raised Quaker myself but even in college I began to notice the books that came up time and time again when talking with them thar Quaker kids. Back in the day it was a lot of Brinton Turkle.  One of my friends went to the same meeting as Mr. Turkle, as it happens.  He was prolific in his day and will probably be best remembered for the Obadiah series he helped create.  There was Obadiah the Bold, Rachel and Obadiah, and mostly notably the Caldecott Honor book Thy Friend, Obadiah.  Sure they were an old timey look at Quakerism but due to the fact that they were also the ONLY picture books with a Quaker hero, they were roundly embraced by the community.

Beyond the Turkle, other books came up fairly often.  Byrd Baylor, for example.  The Other Way to Listen to some extent and also The Table Where Rich People Sit.

All this got me to thinking about those authors and books that are embraced by distinctive communities.  It would be, in many ways, an author or illustrator’s dream to be considered a standard amongst a strong and steady group like the Quakers.  So I looked at the site Quaker Books to try to get a sense of those books that would appeal to Quaker kids today.  Who are the new Turkle and Baylor?  It’s a tricky question.  Few names came up time and time again but the site itself makes some rather nice selections, as it happens.  I was very impressed by the books that cropped up under the topic of Earth Stewardship & SimplicityEquality & Community is also quite good.    The site also said that authors like Barbara Wright, Haven Kimmel, and Laurie Halse Anderson are Quaker, amongst others.

It’s also pretty up-to-date, a marvel in and of itself.  But the number of 2014 titles is relatively small.  Here then are some additional 2014 suggestions for anyone looking for terribly current books that reflect Quaker values.  I decided to stick with nonfiction, though I’m sure there are picture books and works of fiction that would fit in as well.  This is just for starters.

  • Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus; ill. Evan Turk – The book that actually inspired this post in the first place. I see very few books for kids that think to discuss anger management in a realistic manner.  Nonviolence is as difficult thing to promote in an everyday way for kids, but this book nails it.
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, ill. Christian Robinson – You might not think it a natural Quaker topic but with her interest in human rights worldwide there is much in Ms. Baker’s story to appeal here.

What else would you include?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Neither picture book, though illustrated, nor 2014, but my birthright Quaker friend’s favorite book was always Thee, Hannah. (Grades 2-4). And for football cheers I always preferred “Fight ’em, fight ’em, beat them senseless! Fight until you reach consensus!”

  2. Christine Bird says:

    You might consult your niece, who attends the New Garden Friends School. She also goes to meeting with her other grandmother.

  3. I knew Brinton Turkle in the sixties. For a while, I lived in a Quaker boarding house called The Pennington on East 15th St. in New York, where Brinton also lived. His friend, Ezra Jack Keats, used to come to dinner now and then. Many years ago, Brinton moved to Santa Fe. I just Googled him and found that he has since died. He was a gentle, funny man.

  4. Schuyler Hooke says:

    Thanks for this. I loved the Obediah books, and always wondered if Mr. Turkle was himself a Quaker. I certainly have spent a lot of time poring over his books. I am also tickled to learn that he and Ezra Jack Keats were friends. I love both of their contributions to the Danny Dunn series.

  5. I wonder if he was named for Howard Brinton, founder of Pendleton Hill?

  6. Galen Longstreth says:

    There is a Quaker grandfather in the wonderful book Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry. The main character, Brother, has a father in Iraq and a Quaker grandfather on the farm, and he’s loved by them both and it’s just beautiful.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I’m a big fan of Heart of a Shepherd. I was having a conversation with an illustrator the other day about books that could be deemed “Christian” but that aren’t published by traditional Christian publishers. Parry’s book was one of the ones I wanted to call up. Gently religious it fills a need but doesn’t whallop you over the head with meaning. Thanks for reminding me of it!

  7. At one point I could recite The Adventures of Obadiah verbatim. Sigh. I LOVED those books. So did my son, whose 10th grade history teacher told the class there were no more Quakers in America. There were three in that class alone.

  8. BIRD: I have both the “Obadiah” titles autographed by Brinton, a wondrous individual. On publication of THE FIDDLER OF HIGH LONESOME we had a pizza party for him in a NYC apartment where he carefully juggled mozzarella between conversations. FRAN: Yes, he did die year aqo in Santa Fe.

    • Lee, didn’t know Brinton could juggle. He was a man of many talents!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I swear to god, Lee, I am going to make it down to Florida and get every last single story out of you. One of these days, Lee, one of these days.

  9. I’d always said if I’d had a son, I would have named him Obadiah. In large part because of these books. Nickname Obi. How cute is that?!?

  10. Also, the Turkle books are not circulating at the NYPL! Anything you can do to change that?

  11. Thanks!

  12. Harriet M. Clem says:

    As his hometown (Alliance, OH) librarian, I watched Brinton give programs for many children. He had trained in theatre and was terrific with kids. He was named for his maternal grandfather, Daniel Brinton Cassaday. I’m sure his ghost still roams Santa Fe, NM, which he loved. And so did I. It is wonderful to hear your comments about Brinton AND about his books. Did you readers notice that he drew a picture of himself in The Sky Dog??

  13. A big thank you from QuakerBooks for mentioning us and linking to our site- We are always happy to hear about new books with Quakers prominent in them. We find they are amazingly difficult to discover….
    One we just heard of is Each Kindness by Jcqueline Woodson with beautiful illustrations based on Haddonfield Friends School by E B Lewis.
    The oddly named Beautiful Feet books have reissued two of the Obadiah books, and Penguin still publish the other.

  14. Always loved Thee, Hannah as a child. Wonder if that’s in any way responsible for *me* ending up at that small Quaker college. Hmmm.