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Posts Tagged ‘women’s history month’

images-25Western notions of femininity have traditionally been a bit frilly and swoony, with a generous ladle of helplessness thrown in for good measure.

The title of my blog today comes from Jane Austen, who famously said, “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us wants to be in calm waters all our lives.”

The women in today’s list, my final Women’s History Month post, were anything but preening, wispy li’l thangs. Intrepid, strong, courageous, daring, determined — those aren’t words for the Boys Only Club. Read their stories, beginning with:

the bravest woman in america cover imageThe Bravest Woman in America, by Marissa Moss, illustrations by Andrea U’Ren
published in 2011 by Tricycle Press

Ida Lewis grew up with the ocean for a backyard. Her father was lighthouse keeper on Lime Rock off of Newport, Rhode Island. Ida hankered to share in his work from the time she was a young girl, and her keen father was good enough to hand her the oars and tell her to row for all she was worth.

the bravest woman in america interior moss and u'ren

Years of blisters and aching muscles later, with her father too ill to help, Ida’s stamina, courage, and lessons in ocean rescue paid off as she manned the lighthouse and rowed out into tumultuous seas time and again, dragging shipwrecked sailors out of the icy water to safety. This epic story will rivet the attention of kids ages 5 and up. U’Ren’s arresting artwork echoes the valor of Lewis, who once said, “Anyone who thinks it is un-feminine to save lives has the brains of a donkey.” Amen, Ida!

nurse soldier spy cover imageNurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, by Marissa Moss, illustrations by John Hendrix
published in 2011 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Sarah Edmonds just might win the award for Most Audacious Female on the list today. At age 16, in order to escape an arranged marriage, Edmonds chopped off her hair, pulled on some trousers, and began living life as a man. Three years later we find her enlisting in the Union Army as private Frank Thompson.

nurse soldier spy illustration john hendrix

Frank/Sarah was a sharp-shooting, good-natured soldier, a nurse with nerves of steel, and an intrepid friend, dashing into hails of bullets to rescue his/her mates. And that’s just the beginning of it! I promise you do not want to miss the story of this patriotic, kindhearted, determined woman. John Hendrix’s engaging illustrations are packed with period detail and vivid characters. Don’t miss the author and illustrator notes where you will learn more about Edmonds and about how better to appreciate the art of picture books. Ages 5 and up.

Fearless Flyer cover imageFearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2016 by Calkins Creek

Ruth Law was an aviator who performed theatrical acrobatics in those early, flimsy-looking bi-planes, dipping and loop-de-looping and spiraling towards earth in death-defying dives. Yet her greatest accomplishment, requiring the most courage, endurance, strength, and nerve, was a flight from Chicago to New York City.

Fearless Flyer interior lang and colon

That may not sound like much to us today, but this account of her journey in which she broke the record for longest non-stop flight, brings us right into the cockpit with her, icicles dangling from her hair and all! to discover the painful hardships and narrow scrapes involved in her venture. Witness Law’s keen mechanical knowledge of her plane which paved the way to success, and her outstanding perseverance. All this in an inferior plane to what male pilots were flying, because they wouldn’t sell the newest model to her as a woman! Colón’s artwork is ravishing, as always, flooded with the golden, sunlit fields and turquoise skies Law surveyed as she flew. Ages 6 and up.

how kate warne saved president lincoln cover imageHow Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln, by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Valentina Belloni
published in 2016 by Albert Whitman and Company

In 1856, Kate Warne showed up at the famous Pinkerton’s Detective Agency offices, told them she was looking for a job, and convinced them that she, as a woman, would make the ideal addition to their force.

how kate warne saved president lincoln illustration valentina belloni

Warne was right — she could slip into female company and winkle out information like nobody’s business. And she played a key role in saving President-elect Lincoln’s life from murderous conspirators. This intriguing, upbeat story of the country’s first woman detective is just right for ages 5 and up. For older readers, hand them The Detective’s Assistant, a delightful piece of historical-fiction about Warne that I reviewed here.

the daring nellie bly cover imageThe Daring Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter, written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
published in 2003 by Alfred A. Knopf

Nellie Bly shouldered her way into the world of journalism when women were normally assigned the tea-party beat. Nellie wanted to cover serious news. Beginning by investigating the real lives of working women, she went on to expose corruption in the Mexican government, then took perhaps her most risky assignment, going undercover in an insane asylum, a world filled with horrific abuse.

the daring nellie bly interior bonnie christensen

It was Bly’s venture to beat Phineas Fogg’s around-the-world travel record that made her much more than a household name — she was “the best known and most widely talked of young woman on earth” after her triumph. Bly made use of her journalistic opportunities to draw attention to critical social issues. This handsomely-illustrated account is a bit on the long-ish side; try it for kids ages 7 or 8 and up.

skit scat raggedy cat cover imageSkit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald, by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press

Ella Fitzgerald did not battle ocean storms, enemy soldiers, murderous villains, or frustrating shipping delays. Her struggles were with poverty,  the early death of her mother, a father whose ill-treatment drove her from home, an abusive orphanage, and a desperate longing for love.

skit scat raggedy cat interior orgill and qualls

Fitzgerald had to be tough. This isn’t the kind of toughness we wish for anyone to need, but it’s the kind of toughness required of too many young women. Fitzgerald worked the crowds, overcame the embarrassment of her raggedy appearance, pressed on despite fear and nervousness, and rose to stardom. Share her tail of grit and glamour, illustrated in Sean Quall’s striking, cool-urban artwork, with ages 7 or 8 and up.

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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 cover imageWangari 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.

wangari maathai interior prevot and fronty

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 cover imageMiss 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.

miss mary reporting interior macy and payne

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 Appetit cover imageBon 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.

Jessie Hartland’s illustration-saturated, hand-lettered pages reflect Child’s ebullience marvelously.

bon appetit interior jessie hartland

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 cover imageOf 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!

of numbers and stars cover image

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 cover imageMother 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.

mother teresa interior by Demi

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 cover imageWho 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.

who says women can't be doctors interior stone and priceman

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.

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So many women are told their dreams “simply can’t be done.” Today, meet a drummer, a mathematician, a primatologist and others, who persisted and realized their dreams.

Plus a tribute to mothers: In our heart of hearts, we often feel overwhelmed at this epic task — nurturing healthy human beings for our world. Women’s History Month would not be complete without celebrating motherhood.

drum dream girl cover imageDrum Dream Girl:How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hot pepper oranges and Caribbean blues saturate the pages of this poetic celebration of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the first female drummer in Cuba. As a young girl, the varied drums’ beats tantalized her, but it was taboo for women to play them.

drum dream girl illustration rafael lopez

Winner of the 2016 Pura Belpré Illustration Award, the gorgeous artwork in this book explodes with color and Cuban culture, while the text dances along lithely. Superb introduction to Millo, who became a world-famous drummer, and another example of the odd restrictions women have had to overcome with the help of a key insider. Ages 3 and up.

ada byron lovelace and the thinking machine cover imageAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
published in 2015 by Creston Books

Ada, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, was a brilliant mathematician. From childhood she was mesmerized by numbers and the inventions made possible by their calculations. Ada was a child of privilege, yet had to overcome family dysfunction, a crippling illness, and her society’s conviction that math was no place for a woman.

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Wallmark’s introduction is intriguing and accessible, and Chu’s handsome artwork immerses us in Ada’s world. Read about the woman who wrote the first computer program with ages 5 and up.

paiute princess cover imagePaiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca, written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray
published in 2012 by Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux

Sarah Winnemucca was not a princess. And her name was not really Sarah. Yet by assuming an identity the White world invented, she was able to wield her strengths for the good of her Paiute people.

This lengthy, fascinating account by award-winning author and illustrator Deborah Kogan Ray introduced me to an amazing person I had never heard of, who worked tirelessly for justice for the Paiute.

paiute princess illustration deborah kogan ray

She was a controversial figure, accepted fully by neither white culture nor her own people. I think that is often the case for peacemakers caught in the middle, searching for the best compromise this world offers. A beautiful, thought-provoking read for ages 8 and up.

irena's jars of secrets cover imageIrena’s Jars of Secrets, by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
published in 2011 by Lee & Low Books

Irena was a young Polish Catholic woman when World War II broke out and with horror she witnessed the beginnings of the Holocaust. As a social worker, she gained access to the Warsaw ghettos, smuggling in aid for two years until it became clear that Treblinka was in store for all who remained.

irena's jars of secrets illustration ron mazellan

Read the story of how this intrepid woman risked her life to smuggle 2500 children out to safety, and find out what role was played by two glass jars hidden under an apple tree. A riveting account with rich, atmospheric paintings, for ages 5 or 6 and up. Obviously, extermination camps are a part of this narrative, so use your judgement as to the appropriateness for young children.

florence nightingale cover imageFlorence Nightingale, written and illustrated by Demi
published in 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

Demi’s characteristically elegant treatment of her subjects turns here to Florence Nightingale, another child of privilege who used her life to benefit the poor and broken in the world.

florence nightingale interior by demi

Demi traces her life from her birth in Florence, Italy, (I never knew that is how she got her name!) through her calling as a young woman into nursing — an objectionable life for a proper lady, careful study of the care of patients, and blossoming as a leader and innovator in nursing care. It’s a brilliant account, never bogging down yet covering a vast amount of information, accompanied by intricate, appealing illustrations. An inspiration for ages 5 and up.

me...jane cove imageMe…Jane, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
published in 2011 by Little, Brown and Company

This tender story tells of Jane Goodall’s childhood love of the great outdoors and all the wondrous natural world around her. The entire, sparkling account spins out just a few thoughts, like candy floss, magically endearing us to this dear girl, until with one turn of the last page, she is all grown up, living out her dream in Africa.

me...jane illustration patrick mcdonnell

Charming and engaging for children ages 2 and up, the story is followed by a bio written for ages 8 and up, and a wonderful, the watcher cover imagepersonal message from Jane about the opportunity for each of us to make a difference in our world. If you want to learn more about her, follow this up with another excellent account focusing more on her long work in Tanzania:

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, also published in 2011 by Schwartz & Wade and ideal for ages 3 and up.

lullaby for a black mother cover imageLullaby (for a Black Mother), by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2013 by Harcourt Children’s Books

Langston’s dark-cherry sweet lullaby, a mother singing to her little dark baby, her little earth-thing, her little love-one, is marvelously illustrated in Sean Quall’s rhythmic, contemporary styling. Twilight purples and midnight blues infuse  the pages, anchored in strong shapes, textures, and inky blacks.

lullaby for a black mother illustration sean qualls

A note about Langston Hughes informs us about his sweet connection with words during a childhood of fractured relationships. Qualls conjectures about the comfort Hughes believed a mother’s lullaby could bring to a lonely boy. Read this with children ages 2 and up, and invent your own lullaby to speak your love.

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So many misconceptions about the frailty of women’s judgement, stamina, intellect have been invalidated over the years. What fallacies do you still encounter? Here are five more biographies to help set the record straight:

elizabeth started all the trouble cover imageElizabeth Started All the Trouble, by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion

In 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton began her life-long fight for women’s rights. Organizing, writing, speaking, convening, she championed the cause, then passed the torch along to others, who inspired still others.

elizabeth started all the trouble interior rappaport and faulkner

One of the most scandalous, divisive, hard-earned rights Stanton and her colleagues campaigned for was the right for women to vote!  Ludicrous as it seems to us now, this was once an outrageous notion.

elizabeth started all the trouble illustration matt faulkner

Doreen Rappaport traces a lively narrative of suffragists and trailblazers in this fantastic new book. Matt Faulkner’s riveting compositions are packed with strong personalities. Highly recommended for ages 6 and up.

look up cover imageLook Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2013, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Henrietta Leavitt thirsted for understanding about the stars in an era when astronomy was a field reserved almost exclusively for men. Her opportunities for using the best equipment were limited by her gender. Instead, she was assigned tedious work as a virtual human computer.

look up illustration raul colon

But that did not stop her from painstakingly studying on her own, leading to a monumental discovery. Read the story of the woman who was said to have “the best mind at the Harvard Observatory.” Another beautiful collaboration by Burleigh and Colón. Ages 5 and up.

dolores huerta cover imageDolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Casilla
published in 2012 by Marshall Cavendish Children

Teacher, listener, friend. Organizer, defender, peacemaker. Dolores Huerta filled many roles in her work, campaigning on behalf of migrant workers in California.

dolores huerta illustration robert casilla

Raise your awareness of the unjust treatment of farm laborers and your gratitude for the calloused hands that put food on your table with this warm account of Huerta’s groundbreaking work. Ages 4 and up.

sacagawea cover imageSacagawea, by Liselotte Erdrich, artwork by Julie Buffalohead
published in 2003 by Carolrhoda Books

Kidnapped at age 12 and transported far from home. Adapting to a new language and culture. Married off, age 16, to a Frenchman. Volunteered by that husband for a strenuous, treacherous journey to be undertaken while she carried, birthed, and nursed her first-born.

sacagawea erdrich and buffalohead

Sacagawea is the subject of many biographies but I love this one for its humanizing rather than mythologizing of her and the handsome, dignified paintings by Ponca artist Julie Buffalohead. Ages 4 and up.

here come the girl scouts cover imageHere Come the Girl Scouts: The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure, by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
published in 2012 by Scholastic Press

Daisy was an adventurous soul from the time she was a small girl. As a young woman, she ditched dinner parties to go fishing and favored elephant riding to etiquette lessons.

Unknown

At the age of 51, she launched the Girl Scout movement, championing a life of service, physical activity, conservation, respect, and full engagement in a juicy life for girls. Her story is fascinating, illustrated in a bold, jaunty style, peppered with Girl Scout maxims. A joyful treat for ages 5 and up.

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March is Women’s History Month. I’m hoping to share some weekly lists on this subject all month long…we’ll see how time allows.

There are gobs of biographies already in the Orange Marmalade archives, so if you’re looking for ideas to celebrate the intelligence, creativity, passion, insight, kindness, skill, fortitude of women throughout history — check out the Subject Index.

liberty's voice cover imageLiberty’s Voice: The Story of Emma Lazarus, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
published in 2011 by Dutton Children’s Books

I’ll open with the story of the poet who penned the lines engraved on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired,your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Given the xenophobic rhetoric being flung around our country today, it’s the perfect time to be reminded that this voice of altruism and refuge is what it looks like to be a great nation.

liberty's voice interior silverman and schuett

Read about Emma’s well-to-do upbringing in New York and her life-changing encounter with a flood of Jewish victims of violence in Russia seeking sanctuary in the U.S. Kaleidoscopic color infuses these pages making it a most appealing book to share with children ages 5 and up.

solving the puzzle under the sea cover imageSolving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From early childhood, Marie Tharp loved maps. Certainly trotting about the country with her mapmaker father had something to do with that. 

Tharp had to overcome gender stereotypes in order to pursue her love of science, then went on to pioneer the way in mapping the bottom of the world’s seas.

solving the puzzle under the sea interior burleigh and colon

Such an intriguing pursuit! Her story is presented beautifully here by a talented, award-winning team. Ages 6 and up.

a passion for elephants cover imageA Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss, by Toni Buzzeo, ill. by Holly Berry
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers

One of the highlights of my life involved watching elephants from the open veranda of a lodge in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. What a glory, elephants!

a passion for elephants interior buzzeo and berry

Cynthia Moss has spent a lifetime observing, learning about, and protecting these enormous creatures. Her story is vividly told and energetically illustrated here in this top-notch account. I really enjoyed this; a delightful choice for ages 4 and up.

shining star cover imageShining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Lin Wang
published in 2009 by Lee & Low Books

Anna May Wong grew up at the turn of the century, the daughter of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. From the get go she was fascinated by drama, enamored with film stars, dreaming of starring in the movies herself.

shining star illustration lin wang

Anna achieved her dream, but was humiliated by the industry’s treatment of Chinese-Americans. After years of taking roles tainted by negative stereotypes of Asians, Wong made a decision to buck the racist system. Read her thought-provoking story, a great follow-up to the discussions surrounding the Academy Awards. It’s long-ish — try it with ages 7 and up.

sonia sotomayor cover imageWomen Who Broke the Rules: Sonia Sotomayor, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
published in 2015 by Bloomsbury

Here’s another in the same series as Dolley Madison, which I reviewed for President’s Day. 

Krull writes snappy biographies, moving us right along without bogging down, yet including vivid anecdotes that make these women human and approachable. Dominguez contributes friendly, warm illustrations that keep the pages welcoming.

sonia sotomayor illustration angela dominguez

Sotomayor had so many hurdles in life — an alcoholic father, juvenile diabetes, an impoverished life in the projects. But her nickname as a toddler was Little Pepper — so that tells you something! She needed all that spunk and drive to become the first Latino member of the Supreme Court. This is a 46-page bio for ages 8 and up.

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February is long gone, but does this mean we don’t read black history titles? No, it does not.

March is Women’s History Month. And what do you know — there’s a sweet overlapping of these emphases…

… in these three exceptional new books you won’t want to miss.

my name is truth cover imageMy Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, by Ann Warren Turner, illustrated by James Ransome
published in 2015 by Harper ~ Harper Collins Publishers

Sojourner Truth was a large, imposing figure with “a heart of gold and a tongue of flame.” This new biography beautifully captures in word and image her suffering, determination, warmth, and strength.

She began life as Isabella, one member of a large enslaved family in New York State, witness to her parents’ heartbreak as their many children were sold off “like horses.”

Isabella herself was also sold from one master to another, loaded down like an ox and viciously beaten, until one day she ran for freedom. Her new life was that of a preacher, and to mark that newness, she took a new name: “Sojourner because I travel far and long” and Truth because of her work proclaiming God’s truth wherever she went. 

my name is truth illustration james ransome

The lyrical narrative of this account radiates vigor and dignity, while James Ransome’s handsome watercolors portray a sturdy, resolute, warm cast of characters.  A lengthy Author’s Note provides quite a bit more information. Beautiful pairing of text and artwork for ages 4 or 5 and up.

chasing freedom cover imageChasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts, by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michele Wood
published in 2015 by Orchard Books ~ Scholastic

Nikki Grimes often gives us poetry, but here she uses her vivid imagination and power with words to create a conversation between two women who were contemporaries and who did indeed meet up at various times — Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.

It’s a fascinating piece of historical fiction, set in 1904 at a convention for women’s suffrage in Rochester, New York. Sipping on tea in Susan’s parlor, these two phenomenal persons talk chasing freedom illustration michele woodtogether about their callings, rigorous efforts, hardships, sorrows, and dreams. 

Accompanying their narratives are stately paintings in acrylics and oils. Careworn, somber faces dominate these pages, as well as motifs from American patchwork quilts.

Mini-biographies of fellow activists of the era, and additional notes giving historical background to many elements mentioned by the women, are included, as well as an Author’s Note describing how Grimes composed this material.

This work has a serious tone, and is of great value for anyone ages 6 to adult. It is a longish text which would need to be read in episodes to those at the younger end of the spectrum.

28 days cover image28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book)

Geared for the 28 days of February’s annual Black History Month celebrations, this is a phenomenally artistic, compelling, and energetic collection.

Each bold entry features one important figure or moment from black history. The book is organized in chronological order. First up is Crispus Attucks who was killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, and last is Barack Obama. One extra leap-year day is dedicated to you, the reader. Here are men and women, athletes, politicians, soldiers, an astronaut, pilot, explorer, doctor, singer, and some schoolchildren. 

The entries feature brief summary captions, many forms of poetry, excerpts from historic documents, acrostics, eulogies, and brief biographical sketches. It’s a joyous, creative variety that makes the pages sparkle.

28 days moments in black history smith and evans interior image

Shane Evans’ brilliant collage work booms with glorious strength, dramatic color, and surging energy. Stunning work. They could create posters out of every one of these pages. 

Super resource to dip into again and again, for ages 5 to adult.

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