Posted in Uncategorized

Women to Know: Dovey Johnson Roundtree

We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe/Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, (Feb. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250229021

Ages 4-8

A young girl and her grandmother enjoy each other’s company in the time before dawn. Civil rights activist, attorney, veteran, and minister Dovey Johnson Roundtree collaborated with author Kate McCabe on this, a favorite childhood memory, before her death in 2018 at age 104. We Wait for the Sun is a moment in time between child and grandparent, engaging every sense through Ms. Roundtree’s, Ms. McCabe’s and enjoying each other’s company in the early hours before dawn. Every sense is engaged: readers will hear the swish of Dovey’s grandmother’s skirts; smell the damp earth and feel the dewy air; hear the perfect, pre-dawn silence with the sounds of nature as a backdrop, and taste the explosion of berries on their tongues and Dovey samples the berries she, her grandmother, and her grandmother’s friends pick them together. Raissa Figueroa’s artwork is lush, splendid, filled with joy in the present and anticipation of the dawn. Endpapers show juicy blackberries in the pre-dawn darkness, moving toward the sunlight, in four gorgeous panels. Comprehensive back matter includes a note from Katie McCabe on the importance of Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s relationship with her grandmother, biographies on both Dovey Johnson Roundtree and her grandmother, a timeline of her life, and a bibliography.

We Wait for the Sun has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel, like the ladies around her. Plus, a giveaway!

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel, by Lindsay Ward, (April 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-15420117947

Ages 4-8

In a nod to history, and a fitting way to send off Women’s History Month, Rosie: Stronger Than Steel salutes the American and English women who took care of business during World War II. Most of us know the iconic Rosie the Riveter, symbolic of the women who went to work in factories during the War, but not many of us in the States have heard of the British Women’s Land Army, tthat encouraged women to work in agriculture, keeping he Women’s Land Army was a British civilian organisation created during World War II so women could work in agriculture, so that Britain – an island nation that largely relied on imported food – could grow their own crops and be self-sufficient.

Rosie is an ode to the power of women working together. Created as a poem – part rhyme, part evocative verse – from the point of view of a tractor named Rosie, built in America by female factory workers – Rosies – and sent overseas to join the Women’s Land Army. She’s green, with a painted rose, and filled with a strong sense of purpose as she works with the women in Britain to plow fields, grow crops, and feed her new nation. She has a mantra that she clings to, repeated throughout the story: “I plow and I dig. / I dig and I plow. / No matter the job, / This is my vow. It spurs her on, as she plows in the shadow of fighter planes, through mud and muck. When the war ends, she mentors new farm machines, until the day she thinks it may all come to an end when she gets stuck in the mud… but wait! No one is going to abandon our Rosie! Like the Little Engine That Could, Rosie is truly stronger than steel, and roars back to life. A testament to women coming together to achieve great things, Rosie: Stronger Than Steel is an inspiring story about collaboration, cooperation, and determination. An author’s note tells the story of the American factory workers – our Rosie the Riveters – and the British Women’s Land Army. There’s an abbreviated  World War II timeline across the bottom of the author’s note spread.

Lindsay Ward’s colored pencil and cut paper artwork is colorful, bright, and filled with images of women (including Rosie!) working together, determined. Her art is so different here, from her colorful, cartoony artwork we see in her Dexter trilogy and Brobarians: here, we see realistic women and farmland, with a sweet-face, cartoony tractor; a blend that shows her versatility as an artist as well as an author. I really enjoyed Rosie: Stronger Than Steel and love this introduction to women’s history, for younger readers.

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family  in Peninsula, Ohio, where she often sees tractors from the 1930s and 1940s. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.

Twitter: @lindsaymward

 

Reviewers love Rosie!

★“More than the sum of its parts, this is a wildly successful and well-researched shaping of the picture-book form to true historical sheroes.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

★“This ‘little tractor that could’ sort of tale pays tribute to the iconic Rosie the Riveter persona from the US and the British Land Girls of the Women’s Land Army during WWII. Fans of Loren Long’s Otis, Virginia Lee Burton’s Katy, and like sturdy, dependable workhorses will welcome Rosie into the fold, but the historical perspective adds an unusual dimension to her story.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Vocabulary is rich, and the younger set will appreciate the intermittent rhymes. The style of Ward’s colored pencil and cut-paper illustrations reflect the period of the tale. ” —School Library Journal

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Rosie: Stronger than Steel, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

NatGeo Readers shine a spotlight on Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month – do you have your displays up? I feel like I’m a hundred years behind, but thankfully, my saving grace is that I merchandise as I go, so I’ll pull a few books out as I wander my room, make sure they’re face-out, and pique the kids’ interest as they wander the stacks. Teachers Pay Teachers has me covered again, thank goodness, as does Education.com. I’ve got printables galore thanks to these two sites; everything from trading cards to coloring sheets, for which I’m hugely grateful.

Biographies are always good to have on hand, especially when those research projects come up. NatGeo Kids’s leveled Easy Reader series is a big help for collections geared toward younger readers.

Susan B. Anthony, by Kitson Jazynka, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426335082

Ages 5-7

The Level 1 Co-Readers also provide a nice bonding opportunity, with a “You Read/I Read” format that lets a grownup read a page with denser text, but with fact boxes and color photos and illustrations that allow for discussion. The “I Read” page has bigger, bolder text, simpler vocabulary, and repeated new vocabulary words that let a new reader try out words they’ve just read with their grownup.

Susan B. Anthony’s biography introduces readers to the feminist pioneer, with information about her upbringing, her background as a teacher, her friendships with Frederick Douglass and work with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she traveled, speaking about women’s suffrage. Five “Your Turn!” sections present discussion questions and invite readers to come up with their own viewpoints on causes they believe in, differences between school in Susan B. Anthony’s time versus the present, and how to hold an election (voting on artwork, they start the kids off gently!). Loaded with photos from primary sources and helpful, quick call-out fact boxes, this is a nice introduction to women’s history for readers becoming more comfortable with informative text. There’s a Susan B. Anthony coloring page available for free on Education.com, which will make a nice addition to a reading.

 

Harriet Tubman, by Barbara Kramer, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426337215

Ages 6-8

Level 2 readers are the next Easy Reader step, good for kids ready to work on greater informational text, with more vocabulary. There are fact boxes, “Words to Know” boxes that define new vocabulary words, and a timeline of the subject’s life; in this case, abolitionist, spy, and activist Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman’s biography begins with her childhood as a slave named Araminta; her escape via the Underground Railroad and continued work in leading slaves to freedom along the Railroad, her work as a Northern spy during the Civil War, and her postwar life and work with the African American elderly. Spaced between the denser text about Harriet Tubman’s life are spreads with chunked facts like, “In Her Time”, where readers can learn facts about life as a slave in 1820s America, “6 Cool Facts About Harriet Tubman”, and a quiz. Readers can discover Ms. Tubman’s own words with “In Her Own Words” quote boxes throughout the text. There are incredible photos of Harriet Tubman and primary sources (newspapers, Tubman’s hymnal), maps, and artwork.

Great for newly confident independent readers, perfect for a circle time or history readaloud, this Harriet Tubman biography is a brilliant, compact introduction for readers to an iconic figure in history. Education.com has a free, downloadable Harriet Tubman coloring sheet to have handy, too.

 

Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties, by Sue Macy, (Feb. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781426336768

Ages 8-12

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties! A hundred years ago, things were very, very different: we didn’t have Title IX protecting girls’ and women’s rights to compete in school sports, for starters, but women found ways to get it done. Breaking Through travels through the original Roaring Twenties, a decade where women, having just secured the right to vote, are ready to take on more. But women in athletics? Perish the thought! Each chapter takes on a different year in the 1920s and profiles the women who fought their way into the athletic arena and the critics who opposed them. There are reprints from news stories, black and white photos and full-color artwork, and historical events that place readers fully in the context of each year. While Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license, was making headlines in 1922, for instance, the National Women’s Party began their campaign for an Equal Rights Amendment (and we’re still waiting, folks); archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the Charleston was the dance rage. Each year profiles a Trailblazer whose dedication to the sport opened the door for generations to come. An epilogue looks at where women in sports are now, from Wilma Rudolph to Billie Jean King to Megan Rapinoe. A timeline, Defining Moments in Women’s Sports, looks at 15 major highs and lows of women’s athletics. Resources are available for further research. Breaking Through is a needed history of women’s athletics, perfect for middle graders.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History, Young Adult/New Adult

House of Dreams looks at a classic author’s life

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz Rosenberg/Illustrated by Julie Morstad, (June 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763660574

Recommended for readers 10+

This illustrated biography of Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, is a must-have for middle school and up biography readers. Her mother died when she was a toddler; her father left her in the care of her grandparents, and Maud grew up wanting more: passionate love and affection; education; a career as an author. She dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life, and married for security rather than love. Drawing on correspondence and her unpublished journals, Liz Rosenberg draws a picture of a woman who led an often difficult life and who struggled against her circumstances to create one of the most memorable literary characters of all time.

It’s not always an easy read. Reading about Maud’s struggle against greedy publishers and her own gold-digging son can be rage-inducing, as is her fight to continue her education against the grandfather who refused to help her. Her callous uncle left Maud and her widowed grandmother to live in horrible conditions, waiting for his own mother to die so he could inherit her home, left to him by his father. But we also read about Maud’s devotion to her Prince Edward Island home, her lifelong love of writing, and her success at being able to sustain an income by writing.

L.M. Montgomery was a complex, conflicted woman and her struggles with mental health and financial independence make her more real, more three-dimensional, to readers who will understand and be inspired.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Votes for Women! Suffrage was a fight every inch of the way.

Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot, by Winifred Conkling, (Feb. 2018, Algonquin Young Readers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781616207342

Recommended for readers 12+

Winifred Conkling is emerging as a definitive chronicler of women’s history. Passenger on the Pearl told the story of Emily Edmondson, who escaped slavery and dedicated her life to education young African-American women; Radioactive! gave long-overdue props to Irène Curie & Lise Meitner, whose work on radioactivity was often overlooked in a male-dominated field; now, Votes for Women gives us a comprehensive history of the fight for American suffrage, long before women finally won the right to vote in 1920. For readers who may only be familiar with Susan B. Anthony, this volume is indispensable, introducing readers to Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Susan B. Anthony’s counterpart and founder of the suffrage movement, and Alice Paul, who took her cue from the more action-oriented British suffrage movement, and went to jail for the cause, where she and fellow protestors suffered deplorable conditions and were force-fed. We meet Victoria Woodhull, the first female Presidential candidate, and revisit Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Most importantly, we learn about the beginnings of intersectional feminism; when abolitionists and suffragists found common ground – and then diverged under political fire.

This is a comprehensive book, complete with photos, primary sources, and writing that never turns away from the more difficult moments in the battle for the vote: from racism to violence, it’s all here. It’s a good book for your nonfiction collections and women’s history collections for middle school and high school, with extensive primary source references, a timeline of American women’s suffrage, a bibliography, notes, and an index. Booktalk this with the graphic novel, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. and Bryan Talbot, which features a fictional character from the British movement, and is a great hook to get teens interested. A Mighty Girl has a strong list of additional reading, filtered by age, on suffrage.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Isabella is a Girl in Charge as she channels historic women

isabella_covIsabella: Girl in Charge, by Jennifer Fosberry/Illustrated by Mike Litwin, (Oct. 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492641735

Recommended for ages 4-8

Isabella, the little purple-haired girl with the big imagination, is back in her fourth adventure: this time, she’s going all the way to the nation’s capital! Isabella wakes her parents up bright and early; they’ve got a big day ahead of them and Isabella doesn’t want to miss a second. As she and her family get ready to head out, Isabella imagines she’s different females politicians, first in their fields, from the first mayor to the first Supreme Court Justice. Isabella and her family have an important day to be part of: history is being made!

A good idea in theory, younger readers may need some prompting when first hearing the story; these names will largely be unfamiliar to them. Anyone reading the story out loud should mention beforehand that the women Isabella names are the first women in politics and what office they held. Kids will be better able to pick up subtle in-jokes in the text, too; for instance: When Isabella claims to be “Susanna, mayor of this here town,” her mother responds, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” If the children understand that Susanna Salter was the first female mayor, and she was mayor in Kansas, it’ll be more fun for them. Isabella’s adorable stuffed friend is with her, dressed in period clothing, in each spread – see if your readers can spot him (or her, if they like)!

isabella_1

Mike Litwin’s art, done with blueline pencil and Adobe Photoshop, is fun and emphasis on key words like names and identifying characteristics adds some punch. Brief biographies, quotes, and a timeline of women in politics, along with a list of books and websites for further reference, round out Isabella’s latest adventure.

isabella_2

The book is a good start for introducing younger readers to women in politics, and how long we’ve been around! It’s more of a companion volume to a lesson rather than a standalone. I haven’t seen an educator’s guide or activity kit yet, but there are some great resources about women and politics online, including printouts at Time for Kids. Most of the available information is branded for Women’s History Month, but we’re at a historic crossroads in history – celebrate women in politics NOW!

Jennifer Fosberry and Sourcebooks both offer links to Educator Guides for other books in the Isabella series and the companion book, My Name is Not Alexander. Illustrator Mike Litwin has samples of his artwork and animation on his site.

Posted in Uncategorized

Women’s History Month: Ten Days a Madwoman

nellie blyTen Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly, by Deborah Noyes (Feb. 2016, Viking Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9780803740174

Recommended for ages 12+

In 1887, a 23 year-old woman decided to show her newspaper editor that she had the chops to write more captivating stories than the latest hat and dress styles of the season. Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran, who went by the pen name Nellie Bly, managed to convince a battery of bystanders, doctors, and nurses that she needed to be admitted to Blackwell’s Island, home of an infamous insane asylum, so that she could write an exposé. Sure enough, she was admitted and spent 10 horrific days in the asylum, where she later wrote about the mistreatment she received and witnessed other patients endure. Her career, so she thought, was made.

Ten Days a Madwoman is a biography on Cochran and her investigative journalism. The Blackwell’s Island piece inspired other women to pursue “stunt journalism”, where they would take on often outrageous stunts like boxing the famed Gentleman Jim Corbett, rescuing a child from a burning building, or jumping in front of a trolley car. Bly worked hard at her journalism and championing women and children in particular, but struggled throughout her career with the idea of women being taken seriously as journalists. When she decided to travel around the world in 80 Days, hoping to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days character, Phileas Fogg, a rival newspaper sent their female reporter on the same trip, setting up a race between the two.  (Bly beat her rival and Fogg: she completed her trip in 72 days.)

Noyes explores Bly’s professional and personal life, focusing on her desire to care for her family and attain financial security in addition to gaining professional respect. Pictures and reprinted documents, with additional profiles of people, places, and events influencing or influenced by Bly, round out this must-read biography on a woman whose career may be overlooked in this age of Twitter and 24-hour news, when hard-hitting journalism tends to take a back seat to pop culture.

Ten Days a Madwoman has already received a starred School Library Journal review and includes a rich bibliography, source notes, and index. An important addition to any collection, and a great Women’s History Month spotlight.

Deborah Noyes is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. Her author webpage offers more information about her books and links to her social media. Check out an excerpt here!

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized, Women's History

Radioactive! The story of two women scientists and how they changed the world.

radioactiveRadioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World, by Winifred Conkling (Jan. 2016, Algonquin Young Readers), $17.95, ISBN: 9781616204150

Recommended for ages 12+

Most of us know who Marie Curie was: the scientist who pioneered the study of radioactivity. But how many know that her daughter, Irène, was an accomplished scientist in her own right, whose studies on radioactivity, physics, and the transmutation of elements earned her a Nobel prize, shared with her husband? Have you heard of Lise Meitner, the physicist whose work in physics – often published in conjunction with her friend and research partner, Otto Hahn – led to the discovery of nuclear fission? She was passed over for a Nobel for several reasons, not the least of which involved her being straight-up robbed by a partner who took credit for much of her work during the World War II years, when she was exiled in Sweden.

Radioactive! tells the stories of these two very important women and their historical research. We learn Irène’s story from the beginning, as the daughter of celebrated scientist, Marie Curie. She worked by her mother’s side, operating an x-ray machine on World War I battlefields, eventually going on to further her mother’s work in radioactivity along with her chemist husband, Pierre Joliot. We learn about Lise Meitner, whose work put her in competition with Curie many times, but experienced more sexism and prejudice than Curie ever did. When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, her Jewish heritage created problems at her research position, where former colleagues turned against her and demanded she resign; she was eventually forced her to flee Austria for Sweden or end up in a concentration camp. Although she continued to consult with Hahn on their nuclear fission research, he took credit for her work and took home the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944.

I’ve been looking for biographies on women in science for my tweens and teens, and this certainly fits the bill. There are photographs throughout the book, and Ms. Conkling provides strong backgrounds on both Curie and Mietner, making them live again, making the reader care about them, and explaining physics, fission, and radioactive science in terms that we can all wrap our heads around. A valuable addition to libraries and classrooms, and a great book for anyone who wants to inspire the next generation of scientists – female OR male.

Winifred Conkling is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers, including Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery and the middle-grade novel Sylvia and Aki, winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Award and the Tomás Rivera Award. Her author website provides teacher guides for her books. There is no guide up for Radioactive yet, but I’m sure there will be one closer to the book’s publication date.