One of the joys of writing these posts for Women’s History Month is seeing, in this condensed moment of time, the array of callings women have embraced through time and around the world. I hope you enjoy discovering the women in today’s post, starting in Kenya with…
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Franck Prévot, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty first published, 2012 in France; first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Charlesbridge
Wangari Maathai’s calling was to help heal her land, Kenya, from the rapid deforestation and resulting soil depletion, water contamination, loss of wildlife, and agricultural impoverishment. For this, she needed to be a stalwart person, unflinching in the face of huge odds, discrimination, and hostility.
Maathai was immensely successful, adding work for women’s rights and a more democratic government to her pursuits, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her work using environmental restoration to rebuild communities.
This engaging biography is gorgeously illustrated with ravishing color and includes a timeline, photographs, and websites for further investigation. Ages 6 and up.
Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber, Sue Macy, illustrated by C.F. Payne published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Mary Garber’s calling was to tell stories about athletes to the public, and particularly to give equal attention to stories of black athletes at a time when segregated sporting events meant they were largely ignored. She endured criticism, slights, and countless hurdles as she broke into a field previously reserved for men, yet after 50 years of sportswriting, she was voted into the sportswriters’ hall of fame.
I loved learning about Mary and her unflagging interest in the sporting world. I especially loved hearing how her own unappreciated status gave her empathy and awareness of other under-represented people, and of how she brought them into the spotlight. It’s lovely to see someone turn her hurts into good rather than bitterness. Magnificently warm, human illustrations flood these pages with period atmosphere. A delight for ages 7 and up.
Bon Appétit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child, written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland published in 2012 by Schwartz & Wade
Julia Child’s calling was to make delicious food for the delight of others and to teach them to cook it as well. Her bubbly enthusiasm, irrepressible can-do attitude, boundless optimism made the world fall in love with her.
Sheer delight from the end-papers right on through, from Julia’s birth in 1912 to her death in 2004. Plus — a recipe for crêpes so you can dabble in a little French cooking yourself! A joyous offering for ages 6 and up.
Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia, by D. Anne Love, illustrated by Pam Paparone published in 2006 by Holiday House
Hypatia’s calling was to scholarship in mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. Though she lived in 4th century Egypt — an era and location in which few women ever learned even to read or write — Hypatia had a father who believed in educating girls equally to boys. Hallelujah!
Revel in the wondrous span of ideas and pursuits opened to Hypatia, until she took her seat as a robed scholar, lecturing “a constant stream of students” from Egypt and regions beyond. I love this extraordinary person and I love her open-minded, open-hearted father. Beautifully illustrated in child-friendly acrylic paintings, this is ancient history that’s accessible to children ages 4 and up.
Mother Teresa, written and illustrated by Demi published in 2005 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu’s calling was to care for the poorest of the poor, treat the dying with dignity, tend to those who felt unwanted, all in the name of service to God. As Mother Teresa, she worked tirelessly her whole life to translate her faith into acts of charity.
Demi’s biography incorporates a number of Mother Teresa’s prayers and direct quotes as she traces her life from childhood in Macedonia and Croatia, to an abbey in Ireland, and then a long life in Calcutta. Demi’s intricate illustrations are splendid as always. Included is a chronicle of Mother Teresa’s journey toward canonization. An inspirational read for ages 8 to adult.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman published in 2013 by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company
Elizabeth Blackwell’s calling was to become a doctor at a time when only men were allowed in that profession, and to use her medical skills to treat many female patients who preferred the care of a woman.
Most children today cannot fathom the non-existence of women in medicine. Think of the skilled, compassionate, cutting-edge, and female, pediatric oncologists, psychiatrists, family physicians, who take such tremendous care of us.
Of course, this has not always been the case. When Elizabeth Blackwell decided to become a doctor, most people found the idea either ridiculous, impossible, or scandalous. Thank goodness she, like Hypatia, had a father who valued an equal education for his daughters, and that she also had the guts, intelligence, and perseverance to become the first woman doctor in America. This biography has all the verve of Blackwell herself, illustrated in Priceman’s fabulously-energetic line and color. A brilliant read for ages 5 and up.