In honor of March, which is Women’s History Month, I have to decided mostly focus on books about famous women, women who are still remembered to this day for what they have contributed to society, here in the United States and throughout the world. (Yes, that was the kind of long sentence my professor would have cringed at.) Here are five picture books I swiped from the Kiddie section of my library. I had to endure a lot of awkward looks from kids playing games on the computers so…you’re welcome.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (2015) by Carole Boston Weatherford / Illustrated by Ekua Holmes: I love reading books that prove that the Civil Rights Movement was more than just King, Parks, and X. I didn’t know anything about Hamer before reading this book. I literally welled up reading her story. Hamer, born into a family of sharecroppers, overcame tremendous odds in order to become such a courageous voice in the Civil Rights Struggle. There were moments that made me so angry. What I found fascinating were the conflicts between the mostly black Freedom Democratic Party and Lyndon B. Johnson, and how he went through lengths to stifle their voices. Hamer was a true hero because she refused to work within “the system.” Weatherford’s words are strong and engaging, but simple, and very easy to understand. Ekua Holmes received a Caldecott Honor for her gorgeous paper collage illustrations. I highly recommend this one.
Margaret Chase Smith: A Woman for President (2008) by Lynn Plourde / Illustrated by David McPhail: Count this as another a famous woman I knew nothing about. Despite not having a college education, Margaret Chase Smith worked her way up and became the first woman to be a candidate for a major political party (Republican). During her political career, she supported space travel, spoke out against McCarthyism, and held an all time voting record in the Senate until 1981. She was truly a politician that tried to reach out across the aisle and represent both sides (a novel idea in the new millennium). I think this book is pretty great introduction for young people. There’s a timeline at the bottom of each page that details significant social and cultural events in history which I found pretty unnecessary. And the writing was sometimes a bit cloying. But, overall, an interesting read about a woman who made a few cracks on the glass ceiling.
America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle (2000) by David A. Adler / Illustrated by Terry Widener: This story details the life of Gertrude Ederle who, in 1926 at the age of twenty, became the first woman to swim across the English channel. She also won three medals, including one gold, at the 1924 Olympics. It’s an extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman. The book was published in 2000, so there’s no mention of Ederle’s death in 2003. Overall, this is a fine informative, and necessary book that proves that women are not the “weaker sex.”The illustrations are colorful and detailed, but I’m not sure if I’ll remember them in a day or so. It’s one of those non-fiction books that does its job, but in the end, I don’t feel much after reading it. Of course, though, Ederle is an underrated figure that deserves to be remembered.
Anne Frank (2005) by Josephine Poole / Illustrated by Angela Barrett: We all know the story of Anne Frank. We’ve all read her diary. I’ve probably seen about five or six television movie adaptations of her story (the 2001 ABC miniseries being my favorite). The stories from Anne Frank and other European Jews like her are as fascinating as they are heartbreaking. Every time I watch a new movie or a read a book about Anne Frank, I always hope that the Franks are able to survive in the end…but the truth is, that wasn’t the case. It’s a shameful reality that the human race will have to deal with for the rest of our existence…Anyway, this book is a really great introduction to the actual diary. Poole really does an excellent job of discussing how the Holocaust happened and how Hitler was able to have so much influence over the Germans. It’s fascinating…and I can’t help but think Hitler’s rise in power is similar to a certain 2016 Presidential candidate. Let’s hope we don’t have a “Holocaust” here in the United States. Anyway, the prose is great. The illustrations are gorgeous. They really reflect the dark mood during that time. I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone, because the illustrations really add to the story.
Tell Me What to Dream About (2015) by Giselle Potter: So, this one isn’t about famous, historical women. It’s about two sisters who try to make up dreams to help them fall asleep. I think this is wonderful book because it celebrates sisterhood, and it also celebrates imagination. And, I think in a way, this book also encourages young girls to dream, no matter how silly or far reaching the dreams may be. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and inventive. This is a nice gem of a book to give to young sisters. The book certainly resonated with me.