Ruby’s Wish (Shirin Yim Bridges)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Ruby’s Wish, written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, the true story of a girl and her thirst for education.

In a big house in China, a long time ago, there lived an enormous family. The patriarch had taken many wives and had many children, who married and had their own children. One of those grandchildren was Ruby, a little girl so called because she loved red, the Chinese color of celebration, and wore it every day. Ruby’s grandfather hired a teacher for the many grandchildren, and while it was unusual for the time, he allowed both the boys and the girls to attend lessons. Ruby loved school, and worked hard every day to master her subjects (harder even than the boys, because she had to spend her free time learning cooking and homemaking as well). One day, Ruby writes a poem for school, one that expresses her sadness at being born a girl. Her grandfather is concerned: why does Ruby think that the boys of the home are treated better? Will Ruby have the courage to speak her mind, and tell her grandfather of the opportunities she longs for?

This was a fantastic story, made all the more moving because it’s true. Ruby is a wonderful role model for little ones: she tells her grandfather of the special treatment the boys get, and expresses a desire to attend university. Moved by her passion, her grandfather secures her entrance to a school, both he and Ruby bucking the gender limitations of the time. It’s a triumphant ending, and teaches an important lesson: both men and women must fight for gender equality. The illustrations are beautiful, and along with the text offer a glimpse into the fascinating history of a culture. The length is good, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A moving tribute to a courageous young woman ahead of her time, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight For Desegregation (Duncan Tonatiuh)

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight For Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, the true story of the Mendez family’s fight to desegregate California public schools.

When Sylvia’s father uses his life savings to move his family to a new town, he is thrilled with the promise of his children getting a good education. But when Sylvia’s aunt takes them to enroll, she and her brothers are turned away and told they must attend the “Mexican school.” Despite being US citizens and speaking perfect English, Sylvia and her brothers are forced to attend a substandard school with disinterested teachers, flies, even an electric fence. Sylvia’s parents decide to fight this injustice: her father hires a lawyer and tours to raise support, and her mother works day and night to keep the farm running in his absence. After three years of fighting in the courts, the Mendez family wins their case, and the governor of California signs a law saying that all public schools must be open to ALL children. Sylvia is sometimes taunted at her new school, but she learns to hold her head high regardless: her family fought for justice, and they won.

This book was absolutely incredible. I loved that it did not shy away from the racist mindsets that school officials used to justify marginalizing these families. The story recounts testimony of a school superintendent who cites a lack of intelligence, work ethic, and even hygiene as reasons that Latino children should be barred from attending white schools. It’s an honest example of the extreme systemic prejudice that these families faced at the time, and still face today. This is ultimately a story of triumph, of one family’s fight and sacrifice to provide a better future for not only their children, but all children. The Mexican folk art-inspired illustrations are a wonderful addition, as is the educational appendix. The length may be pushing it for most baby bookworms, but this is a must-read when kids are ready. Absolutely phenomenal, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Miss Paul And The President: The Creative Campaign For Women’s Right To Vote (Dean Robbins)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Miss Paul And The President: The Creative Campaign For Women’s Right To Vote, written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Nancy Zhang, a biography that tells the abbreviated story of Alice Paul, noted suffragist and women’s rights activist, and her unconventional methods for raising support for women’s right to vote.

The day that President Woodrow Wilson arrives in Washington DC to take office, he is expecting huge crowds to greet him. However, as he exits his train, he is shocked to find no one! Instead, spectators have been drawn, either to cheer or boo, Alice Paul’s parade for women’s suffrage – intentionally scheduled for the very same day and time. A passionate suffragist from a young age, Paul is not above a bit of mischief-making and boldness to make herself heard. She organizes letter-writing campaigns, protests, and even a meeting with the president, who dismisses her by saying he has “more important issues.” But Alice Paul refuses to quit or be silenced, and eventually, President Wilson finds that he can no longer turn a deaf ear to the cries for suffrage.

We had a mostly positive impression of this one. Alice is depicted as a passionate, convicted and wiley political force for women’s rights, and she and her story are a great example for young readers. The illustrations are gorgeous, full of life, color, and personality. The length is fine, and JJ really enjoyed it. However, I was disappointed that more focus was not given to Margaret Wilson, President Wilson’s daughter. When the President refuses to read the many letters he receives from Paul’s campaigns, Margaret reads them instead. When Paul is arrested for protesting, it’s Margaret Wilson to stand up to Woodrow and proclaim “Votes for Women.” While Wilson makes the final play for suffrage, it’s Margaret who spurs him there. Perhaps this one should have been titled Miss Paul And The President’s Daughter instead. Still, a lovely book about a wonderful female role model, and definitely Baby Bookworm approved!