Sunday, March 27, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? Women's History Month: Nonfiction Picture Books

It's Monday! What are you reading? is the original weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, but is now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date It's Monday! What are you reading? - from Picture Books to YA is a kidlit focused meme just like the original and is hosted weekly by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers .  The purpose is the same: to recap what you have read and/or reviewed and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. Twitter for #IMWAYR

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble 
by Doreen Rapport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Disney-Hyperion, 2016, 40 pages (Age 7+)

The struggle for women's right to vote is a long one, but it is also one that really shows the level courage and determination of those women who were willing to fight for that right.  Beginning with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her Declaration of Sentiments (a rewrite of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence), Rappaport takes the reader on the very well-written, well-researched and long journey towards women's equality.  Prominent trailblazers like Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony are showcased, but so are some lesser-known but equally important and admirable women like Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College (1837), female doctors Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, who opened their own clinic for women and children when no one else would hire them, and the brave women who participated in the Civil War.  She also includes the states that gave women the vote before it was a federal law (Amendment 19), something I didn't know about.  Faulkner's gouache and ink illustration's add so much more information that, thanks to his own impeccable research,  would have otherwise made this a text heavy picture book.  Back matter includes a list of important women, a timeline, research sources, websites, and Author's Note. 
The important subtext: Women, go out and exercise your hard earned right to vote.  

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor
by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
Simon & Schuster, 2016, 40 pages (Age 7+)

As a child, Marie Tharp loved maps, a love she no doubt learned from her map-making father in the 1930s.  But Marie wanted her own adventure.  It wasn't easy for her.  After graduating from college as a science major, and applying for jobs, she had to deal with gender discrimination because she was a woman.  But Marie found her adventure anyway: mapping the ocean's surface using sound waves. Ultimately, she created a map that proved the hypothesis that the earth's surface is moving due to changes under the sea, and giving rise to the concept of continental drift.  Raúl Colón's watercolor illustrations not only inform the reader about this remarkable woman's work, but they also reflect the changing time period from the 1920s to the 1950s.  Back matter includes more information about Marie Tharp, a Glossary, Bibliography, Internet Link and Things to Wonder About and Do.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessner
Holiday House, 2012, 32 pages (Age 7+)

As a young girl, Rachel Carson developed a love and appreciation of nature, so much so, that she studied to become a biologist in college.  Life wasn't always easy for Rachel, who found herself responsible for supporting her mother, her siblings and their children, all living in the same house.  But getting a job as a biologist wasn't easy for a woman and to make ends meet, Rachel took a job writing radio scripts about sea life for the Bureau of Fisheries.  One was so good, her boss suggested she publish it, that lead to a book in 1941, which sadly didn't do well because of the war.  She continued working as a biologist, writing two more books with moderate success.  But more and more, Rachel noticed that chemical spraying to kill insects were killing insects, birds, fish and other animals and made it her mission to inform people.   Rachel's last and most powerful book, Silent Spring,  was published in 1962, causing quite the uproar in the chemical industry, the government and concerned citizens.  Rachel passed away in 1964 after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Silent Spring was required reading when I was a teenager, and really made me see the world differently.  I always thought of Rachel Carson as one of those women I really looked up to for her independent spirit, and for having the strength of her convictions and never caving to big business.   Beingessner's tempera paint and ink illustrations carry the sense of the outdoors and the natural world that Rachel loved so much. 

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Schwartz & Wade, 2011, 48 pages (Age 5+)

Jane Goodall started watching animals in nature at the tender age of 5 - chickens, birds, cats, horses, whatever was a part of her world.  Reading about Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan instilled the desire to go to Africa and watch apes.  And that is just what Jane did, working and saving money to go to Kenya.  Once there, she was hired by Louis Leakey to watch and study the chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania.  At first, watching from a distance, then little by little, the chimps allowed her to get closer until finally one took a banana from her hand.  But while learning their behaviors was interesting, Jane began to realized that her beloved chimps were in danger of becoming extinct because of poaching and kidnapping.  Jane knew she had to leave Gombe, and try to get help for the chimps and the forests that were also being destroyed.  Since than, Jane has dedicated her life to speaking out for the endangered chimps.   This is a perfect picture book for introducing young readers to the importance of animal activism and conservation through Jane Goodall's inspiring work.  Winter's acrylic and pen illustration's capture the seriousness of Jane's work, as well as the playfulness of the chimps she befriended. 

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Katherine Tegan Books, 2009, 32 pages (Age 5+)

Coretta Scott grew up in the segregated south, walking barefoot 5 miles to school in the dark in order to get there on time, left in the dusk of the white-only school bus.  When she grew up and met Martin Luther King, Jr. Coretta knew that here was partner who would work to overturn the Jim Crow laws. Coretta's story is told in emotionally lyrical poetic text, and accompanied by the intensely moving and equally lyrical oil paintings that Kadir Nelson.  Young readers will appreciate Coretta Scott as a woman in her own right, seeing her not just as the wife of a great man. 

Sonia Sotomayor by Barbara Kramer
National Geographic Children's Books, 2016, 48 pages (Age 6+)

Sonia Sotomayor has the distinction of being the first Hispanic Supreme Court judge and the third woman named to the country's highest court.  Sonia grew up in the Bronx, in NYC and worked hard in school.  She was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, a year later her father passed away and her mother had to support the family,  Sonia knew she wanted to be a judge by age ten, and worked hard in school, never afraid to ask for help when she needed it.  It paid off - Sonia graduated from Princeton and Yale and went on to fight crime in the NYC District Attorney's office.  Sonia accomplished a lot of firsts in her life so far, and kids will really see just how much a courageous, determined woman can accomplish as they read her inspiring biography.

Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans
by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Patricia Castelao
Scholastic, 2015, 96 Pages (Age 7+)

From Pocahontas (@1595 - 1617) to Misty Copeland (1982 - present), young readers will discover fifty inspiring American women who made a difference in the world with their achievements in such a wide variety of ways.  This is the kind of book that can be used as a resource, or staring point for a larger project about a particular women or about who was who in a particular field, such as writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, artists, and humanitarians, to name a few of the areas included.   My only disappointment was not seeing the name Billie Jean King among these esteemed women, since she did do much for women's tennis in the early 1970s and has continued   

That's what I've been reading?  What have you been reading?


  1. I rather wanted to take the 50 women book apart and use it for a bulletin board, but couldn't bring myself to do it! These are great choice So!

  2. Nice looking bunch of books. I've read and enjoyed The Watcher but haven't seen any of the others. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  3. Great roundup, Alex! I really enjoyed Puzzle Under the Sea. I just checked out Elizabeth from the library, looking forward to that one!

  4. I'm moving from 22 years in middle school to teaching third grade (!) in August, so I'm working on building a WHOLE NEW classroom library with an emphasis on quality nonfiction. I added a BUNCH of these titles to my wish list. Thank you for the great titles!

  5. Hi there, Alex. What a great resource you created here. Most of the titles are familiar to me (will be featuring the Rachel Carson book too in a few weeks - and featured The Watcher just a few weeks back) - but there are others that I haven't read yet. The Marie Tharp book in particular caught my eye - unfortunately we still don't have it in our library.

  6. Hi Alex, I’m reading a fascinating book called Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole about life-altering afflictions suffered by patients at the Neurology Unit of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Before that I read The Shepherd’s Life a tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. Both are well worth reading.
    I loved your choices and will be looking for a copy of Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World. I have to be really honest and say I’ve never heard of Rachel Carson, and so I’m interested to find out more.

  7. What a fabulous collection. I've ordered Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World and Solving, Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor and The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps. Thanks so much for the heads up.

  8. Great collection! Actually read The Watcher this week with my third graders as part of our Africa unit. They really enjoyed seeing how Jane's childhood interests led to a real career that led to real activism. Love biographies!


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