Friday, March 13, 2015

Women Wake-Up the World! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

During the month of March we celebrate Women’s History.  One way to help young children discover women who have helped to change the world by making it better, is by sharing wonderful books about the lives of these women.  This is only a sample of many outstanding books written about women who are not satisfied with the way things are.  Don’t hesitate to include women who have inspired you as you talk together with your child.  Happy reading!!

Phillis’s Big Test by Catherine Clinton 
Illustrated by Sean Qualls 
Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 
Interest Level: Grades 1-3    
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.) 
Set during the infancy of the United States, Phillis Wheatley’s biography is an example of a woman who learned early the power of words to change her life as a slave from Africa.  Her poetry was the first published by an African American. 
            But before her book was sold, she was required to prove she had actually written the poems by submitting to an examination by eighteen educated and powerful men from Massachusetts.  This Boston slave girl’s experiences were shaped by the kindness of her owners, and the education they provided, as well as Phillis’s own eagerness to learn.  Later, freed by these same owners, she wrote patriotic poems, and at his invitation, visited George Washington.
            Author and historian Catherine Clinton once again demonstrates the importance of a well-told story to capture the interest of young readers.  Her literary skill echoes that of her subject, and is accompanied by mixed media illustrations from artist Sean Qualls, featuring the blues and reds of the colonial era.  An Epilogue concludes the book.

My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz by Monica Brown 
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Cooper Square, $15.95 
Interest Level: Grades 2-3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

            This lively picture book biography of Cuban-born salsa queen, Celia Cruz, is written in the voice of the singer herself. It begins with the Latina legend’s childhood in Havana. Her contribution to the busy family household was singing lullabies to put the youngest children to sleep.
            While her father wanted her to become a school teacher, one of Celia’s favorite teachers told her, “Go out into the world and sing . . . . your voice is a gift . . . . and must ring sweet in the ears of our people!” Despite the racial prejudice she experienced, she sang in many competitions.  When the revolution began, she left Cuba as a refugee.  But she found a home in New York City, and later Miami, as a US citizen. 
            Brown’s rhythmic text (in English and Spanish) is paired with Lopez’s bold acrylic paintings in brilliant tropical colors.  The “magic symbolism” for which his art is recognized breathes with motion.  This expressive book introduces young readers to the life of a woman whose music broke boundaries and continues to inspire.
            A brief note about her life and death, flowed by a photo of this famous musician concludes the book.

Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport 
Illustrated by Gary Kelley
Disney-Hyperion Books, $16.99 
Interest Level: Grades 2-3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

            Beloved by her father, and made fun of by her mother, Eleanor Roosevelt became quiet.  When both of her parents died before she turned ten years old, she and her brother went to live with their grandmother, aunts and uncles in a large “dreary house.”  She was a good student both at home and at boarding school. She developed the habit of thinking.  She also learned about children and men and women whose lives were hard.
            When Franklin and Eleanor married, life with his mother, Sara, became difficult for Eleanor.  Sara even told Eleanor how to raise her children. 
            When Franklin was elected to the New York State Senate, Eleanor learned about government. When Franklin became ill with polio, Eleanor found ways to help him make his dream of public service a reality.  She cared for their five children, she taught in a girls’ school, she made speeches, talked on the radio, and wrote magazine articles. She helped Franklin get elected as governor of New York, and later as President.
Even after Franklin’s death, Eleanor found ways to help.  This picture book biography of the legendary First Lady includes quotes (in large print) from Eleanor’s writings to highlight important moments in her life.  The text is brief but poetically describes what happens to Eleanor’s and how she acts in response. The luminous illustrations in sepia tones reflect a sober era and illuminate how Eleanor’s life is changing.
Combined, the words and art offer young readers a window into the world of a well-loved world leader who believed one must speak for what you believe.
An Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, a list of Important Dates, and a listing of Selected Research Sources are included at the end.

More Biographies of Women: 
I Could Do That: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda Arms White
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.99 
\Interest Level: Grades 2-3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer 
by Robert Burleigh 
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Simon & Schuster, $16.99 
Interest Level: Grades 2-3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers 
Illustrated by Julie Maren.
Penguin, $17.00 (hardcover) $6.99 (paperback) 
Interest Level: Grades 2-3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

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