Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!

by Joy Ellison (Author) Teshika Silver (Illustrator)

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

"Someday girls like us will be able to wear whatever we want. People will call us by the names we choose. They'll respect that we are women. The cops will leave us alone and no one will go hungry."

Sylvia and Marsha are closer than sisters. They are kind and brave and not afraid to speak their truth, even when it makes other people angry.

This illustrated book introduces children to the story of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the two transgender women of colour who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. It introduces children to issues surrounding gender identity and diversity, accompanied by a reading guide and teaching materials to further the conversation.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5--Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) and Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) played an important role in the fight for LGBTQ rights. Johnson, a Black trans woman and self-identified drag queen, befriended Rivera, a Puerto Rican American trans woman, on Halloween in 1963. Eventually, they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group that helped homeless trans girls and provided them with a sense of community and safety. The pair worked to gain support in the larger gay rights movement. The text incorporates these facts into the narrative, but the central account of the Stonewall uprising is a simplified version of events. In additional biographical and historical information at the end of the book, Ellison and Silver acknowledge there are many accounts of the Stonewall Rebellion. Colorful illustrations of glamorous trans women strolling New York City streets reinforce an upbeat portrait of street life. A glossary and several pages of suggestions for adults, including discussion questions, resources, and student activities, are included. For a more complete history of the subject, try Rob Sanders's Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. Other recent picture book portrayals of transgender children include Erica Silverman's Jack (Not Jackie) and Kyle Lukoff's When Aidan Became a Brother. VERDICT This volume could serve as a discussion starter to introduce children to activists who fought for transgender rights.--Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution is a beautiful story of friendship, bravery, and the courage to stand up to be yourself and do what is right! As an LGBTQ+ parent with two small kiddos, this book gave me the opportunity to start family conversations about LGBTQ+ history, the Stonewall Riots, and the importance of black, trans women in our movement in a friendly, and age-appropriate way. Not only was this book educational and informative, but it was a pleasure to read over and over again!—Tatiana Quiroga, Director of Family Equity & Diversity, Family Equality
Joy Ellison

Joy Michael Ellison is a queer and non-binary trans writer, whose creative writing has appeared in publications including Columbus Alive, Lunch Ticket, the Baltimore Review, Story Club Magazine. They are a PhD candidate in Women's and Gender Studies at Ohio State University, where they are researching transgender history.

Teshika Silver is a queer, Black illustrator and designer. She is also teaching artist and facilitator and strives to create cultural work that uplifts, heals and promotes the resilience of marginalised people. She lives in Chicago with her dog, Penny.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
November 20, 2020

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!