Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth (Michelle Duster)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth, written by Michelle Duster and illustrated by Laura Freeman, a powerful profile of an incredible activist and writer.

Born into slavery in 1862, Ida began her professional career at only sixteen, when she became a school teacher to support her five younger siblings. Shortly after, she began writing, often on social and political topics that (by the standards of the time) no woman of color had any business writing about. At 22, she sued a major railroad corporation for discrimination, and won (though the ruling was later overturned in appeals). Ida wrote about her experiences with the railroad, with segregated schools, and with the racism and sexism she experienced daily. When three of her friends were lynched by white rival business owners, Ida encouraged boycotts in her newsletters, something that put her life in danger. Yet Ida never stopped – she continued to fight for minority and women’s rights until her death in 1931, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire activists and community organizers to this day.

Stirring. Wells was certainly ahead of her time as a writer and activist, and this look at her life does a wonderful job of exploring both her immense body of work and the motivations and drive behind it. Duster, who offers a truly unique perspective as Wells’s great-granddaughter, tells her ancestor’s story with a great balance of informative facts and emotional pull; the sequence that covers the lynching murders of Wells’s friends in Memphis and the subsequent fallout is particularly affecting. Freeman’s illustrations are compelling, both visually and emotionally, and truly feel like snapshots of Well’s life and times. The length and subject matter are best for older elementary readers, but JJ was certainly captivated by the story and artwork. Overall, this is an impressive and stirring tale of a figure more than deserving of recognition, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice (Carole Boston Weatherford)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Laura Freeman, a picture book biography of the beloved US Congressman and equality advocate.

In 1962, at eleven years old, Elijah Cummings joined a protest march against a segregated city pool, sparking his lifelong passion for law and advocacy. One of seven children, Elijah grew up in inner-city Baltimore to deeply religious parents who instilled in him kindness, generosity, and the value of all human life. He had dreams of changing the world, even as he struggled in school and was told that he should not aspire to a law degree by doubting educators. Elijah had faith however, in God and in himself. And it was this faith – as well as hard work, education, dedication, and perseverance – that led Elijah all the way to the US Congress.

Stirring. Cummings was a much-loved political figure, and one who became a prominent symbol of civil rights and equality, especially in his later years. This biographical look at his background and childhood gives a readers a broad vision at the things that influenced his mission and career: his close relationship with his parents, his early experiences with the Civil Rights Movement, his academic struggles, his perceived limitations based on his race and background. Cummings eventually rises to political greatness, though he never lost his connections to his constituency, keeping his home in Baltimore open to neighbors and being a vocal participant of BLM protests. Weatherford does a good job of balancing Cummings’s childhood with his adult achievements with informative text and an even pace; Freeman’s illustrations are rich with color and character, even if the environments can occasionally feel sparse. The length is best for older elementary readers, but JJ did enjoy the majority of the story and the expressive artwork. Overall, this is a loving and well-deserved tribute to Cummings, and we really liked it. Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Top 5: Women’s History Month – Part 2

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Hello, friends! As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate incredible women and their contributions to science, the arts, government, society and humanity. In honor of this, we’re here to present our second annual Women’s History Month Top 5! We loved compiling part one of this list last year, so we’ve pulled together some amazing kidlit biographies of female luminaries that we’ve enjoyed in the year since.

To celebrate the start of March, here’s a few more of our favorite books for Women’s History Month:

1. A Lady Has The Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out For Women’s Rights (Kate Hannigan, illus. Alison Jay)

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Growing up in the late 1800’s, Belva Lockwood outright refused to be treated any differently than a boy. She pursued a degree in education, then went back to get her law degree when women were banned from studying law. When she became a lawyer, she dedicated herself to taking cases that no one else wanted: women, former slaves, Native Americans. She fought hard and long, eventually becoming the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first women to run for President.

“Along with a good overview of Belva – who she was, what she believed, and her many accomplishments – the story also integrates her powerful quotes in both the text and the illustrations. The art is meant to emulate oil paintings of the era, and do a fantastic job of bringing Belva and the time she lived in to life. […] This one is an absolute winner, and a great choice to show little ones that they should never let the world they live in dictate the person that they have the will to become.”

2. Shark Lady: The True Story Of How Eugenie Clark Became The Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist (Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns)

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When she was a child, there was no place Eugenie would rather be than the aquarium, watching and learning about her beloved sharks; while many people saw them as mindless eating machines, Eugenie saw fascinating and intelligent creatures. Eugenie dedicated her life to studying sharks and other marine life, fighting discrimination against her gender and public views of sharks the whole way. Eugenie refused to be scared – of the sharks or the people – and made breakthrough discoveries that have changed what we know about sharks to this day.

“[…T]he perfect way to introduce Eugenie and her love of marine biology to younger ones. The text is written in a […] story-like narrative, which allows little readers to follow her childhood and early career. The illustrations are wonderful, full of color, joy, determination, and just a hint of fantasy that inspires readers to see the world through Eugenie’s eyes. […] JJ loved all the sharks and fishes, and I loved the message: girls can be and do whatever they dream of… they simply have to dive in.”

3. Ella, Queen Of Jazz (Helen Hancocks)

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In the 1950’s, there was no better blues and jazz singer than Ella Fitzgerald, but there was terrible prejudice in the way of Ella achieving all her dreams as a singer. At the fanciest joint in town, Ella was turned away at the door, and she was heartbroken. But Ella was about to receive a very surprising call, thanks to one of the most famous women in Hollywood, so that her incredible voice could be heard any stage she graced it with.

“[…A] wonderful story of women helping women, and Hancocks does a fabulous job of telling it. She wisely keeps the focus on Ella until the very end, noting that it was her talent and perseverance had earned her the opportunity, and Monroe’s intervention was simply to force the hand of the racist club policies. Then, she celebrates the real-life friendship between the two, showing little readers that the key to overcoming our differences is by bonding over our similarities. It’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package of simple yet engaging text and colorful period-inspired art.”

4. Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 (Michelle Markel, illus. Melissa Sweet)

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To look at Clara Lemlich when she arrived in New York City, she wouldn’t have looked like much: five feet tall, only seventeen years old, and barely able to speak English. Clara went to work in a garment factory sweatshop, encountering deplorable working conditions and cruel and corrupt bosses. Unwilling to be treated unfairly, Clara encouraged her fellow workers to form a union and strike, eventually organizing a walkout of 20,000 workers and inspiring similar strikes across the country.

“[…T]old clearly and powerfully, yet briefly enough for little bookworms to make it through in one sitting. And it’s a great story: the tale of a brave young woman with an emphasis on education, courage, justice, and the power of both united people and women in general. The illustrations were lovely, and peppered with some truly clever mixed-media elements that made it stand out. JJ and I both really enjoyed this look at a real-life feminist hero[…]”

5. Hidden Figures: The True Story Of Four Black Women And The Space Race (Margot Lee Shetterly & Winifred Conkling, illus. Laura Freeman)

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Based on Shetterly’s book of the same name, Hidden Figures examines the contributions of four remarkable women of color to the space and aeronautics industry from WWII to the height of the space race. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Johnson were all good at math… VERY good. However, all four live in a time in which women, especially black women, are held back by racist and sexist laws and conventions. But these women knew that they had valuable gifts, so they fought, studied, and persisted to have their work recognized for the indispensable contribution it was.

“The women of Hidden Figures are remarkable, both in their natural intellect and the fortitude they showed in fighting for advancement and recognition, and this book does a good job of editing their stories down for young readers […] The illustrations are fabulous, staying grounded in reality yet adding just a touch of artistic flair to drive vital points home. […] A knockout that celebrates science, women, and people of color […]”

 

That’s our list! We’d also like to note the fabulous She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger – the only reason it wasn’t included on this list is because we’ve featured it on another. There are also plenty more wonderful stories of real-life girl power, and we encourage our readers to use this month to discover them! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!

Hidden Figures: The True Story Of Four Black Women And The Space Race (Margot Lee Shetterly & Winifred Conkling)

Hello, friends! Our book tonight is the wonderful Hidden Figures: The True Story Of Four Black Women And The Space Race, written by Margot Lee Shetterly and Winifred Conkling and illustrated by Laura Freeman.

Based on Shetterly’s book of the same name, Hidden Figures examines the contributions of four remarkable women of color to the space and aeronautics industry from WWII to the height of the space race. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Johnson were all good at math… VERY good. And math is what the government needs to build planes, then rockets, then craft capable of safely carrying and returning men to space. However, all four live in a time in which women, especially black women, are held back by racist and sexist laws and conventions. But these women knew that they had valuable gifts, so they fought, studied, and persisted to have their work recognized for the indispensable contribution it was. They and many other computers used their brilliance to further the space program and helped NASA touch the stars.

Anyone who’s familiar with the original book or the movie it was based on knows what a fantastic story this is. The women of Hidden Figures are remarkable, both in their natural intellect and the fortitude they showed in fighting for advancement and recognition, and this book does a good job of editing their stories down for young readers. Focusing on both their scientific and civil rights contributions, as well as giving an idea of the limitations black women faced at that time, it manages to tell a concise yet compelling story spread out over nearly 30 years. The illustrations are fabulous, staying grounded in reality yet adding just a touch of artistic flair to drive vital points home. The length is best for slightly older readers, though JJ made it through fine. A knockout that celebrates science, women, and people of color and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!