Sunday, January 24, 2016

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Selina Aiko and Sean Qualls

There was a time when all women and all African Americans had two things in common - neither group had rights and both groups had someone working hard to get them the rights they deserved according to the US Constitution.

In this meeting of suffragette Susan B. Anthony and former slave, abolitionist, and newspaper editor Frederick Douglass at her home in Rochester, NY,  author Dean Robbins imagines what the two pioneers in the fight for equal rights might have talked about when they sat down for afternoon tea one cold snowy winter's day.  The two were already friends with much in common - both defying society's expectations of them - she wears bloomers, he wears the clothes of a gentleman - and both just wanting the right to be free, and the right to vote.  As Robbins points out, some people agreed with their ideas, but some people didn't.

As the afternoon wears on, the two friends talk and the reader begins to understand what the lives of women and African Americans was like in the 19th century, as well as how and why Anthony and Douglass were trying to change things.  Both fighters had taught themselves how to give speeches, and throughout the book, there are steams of their own words from those speeches surrounding them.

At the end of the afternoon, the two friends promised to help each other "so one day all people could have rights."

"Let's Have Tea"statue in Susan B Anthony Square Park
Rochester NY
Robbins' text is simply, but to the point.  It shouldn't be forgotten that what went on that afternoon is imagined by him, but I am guessing it is pretty close to reality, given how passionate Anthony and Douglass were about their equal rights campaigns.

The emotional folk-art style illustrations are done with paint, colored pencils and collage in a palette of bright blues, reds and yellows.

Two Friends is a wonderful read aloud for young kids just beginning to learn American history.  Be sure to read the Author's Note to learn more about these two fighters for equal rights, and the Bibliography for sources to learn more about these true American heroes.

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass would pair nicely with Nikki Grimes's picture book Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, in which she imagines a meeting of these two women for afternoon tea and conversation about their lives.  And yes, Frederick Douglass does come up in their talks.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+, but I think it is more appropriate for readers age 6+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Orchard Books, Scholastic

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