Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 (Michelle Markel)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, a picture book biography of Clara Lemlich, one of the organizers of a massive protest of garment workers at the turn of the century.

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. When her father could not find work, Clara went to work in a garment factory sweatshop to help provide for her family. She found the conditions to be deplorable, and the managers and bosses to be cruel and corrupt. Unwilling to be treated unfairly, Clara encouraged her fellow workers to form a union and strike, facing intimidation, arrest, and even violence in her pursuit of a safe and fair working environment. Eventually, this brave young immigrant would help organize a walkout of 20,000 workers, inspiring similar strikes across the country and forcing employers to create fair working conditions for their employees.

This one was fabulous! Oftentimes with picture book biographies, the length is either too much for one sitting or not long enough to tell a cohesive or satisfying story. But this one was told 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, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (Doreen Cronin)

Hello, everybody! Our book today is Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, a funny yet relevant barnyard tale of civil disobedience.

Farmer Brown has never seen such a thing, and never heard it either: cows that type. The cows have gotten their hooves on an old typewriter, and suddenly Farmer Brown is finding notes on the door of the barn, demanding better living conditions in exchange for their milk (the barn gets cold at night, and they’d like some heated blankets). When he refuses, the cows go on strike, with their fellow chilly barn-dwellers the chickens joining them in solidarity. Duck, being a neutral third party, agrees to act as intermediary as Farmer Btown and his livestock negotiate terms. At last, they come to an agreement… but now another animal has been inspired to make demands of their own!

What a fun book! On the surface, the story is straightforward silliness, pitting the newly vocal cows against the flabbergasted farmer with deadpan language and a repeating chorus of “Click, clack, moo.” Beyond that, however, it is a surprisingly accurate representation of how worker’s strikes operate, and how unfairly-treated parties can fight for their rights. The illustrations are very cute, full of barnyard animals for little readers to identify and subtle humor that fits the story’s feel. The length is perfect, and JJ had a lot of fun with this one. It’s easy to see why this one has become a modern classic, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A. (Diana Cohn)

¡Hola amigos, y feliz cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, we wanted to read a book that recognizes a group of brave Latin-Americans, as well as their language, with the wonderful ¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A., written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, the story of the 2000 L.A. janitor’s union strike through the eyes of one Mexican-American family.

Carlos, or Carlitos as his mother calls him, is tucked in every night with her warm words: “Sleep with the angels.” Then his Mamá takes a bus downtown and spends all night cleaning the office buildings. As hard as she works, she still must work two more jobs to make ends meet, and she cannot afford Carlos’s abuelita’s medication. So one night, she sits Carlos down and explains that she and the other janitors in her union are going on strike, demanding fair compensation for all the hard work they do. Carlos supports his mother’s choice, and wishes he could help her. Finding that his classmates also have family members on strike, he knows exactly what to do. Following his mother’s example, he organizes, makes signs, and takes the lead to support the striking workers in their fight for fair pay.

This was a wonderfully moving story about a strike that changed that lives of many disenfranchised workers. Through the events of the strike, Cohn also tells a story of family, community, and the fundamental right to equal pay for equal work. The illustrations are gorgeous, blending the colors and styles of traditional South American art with a modern tale. The length might be stretching it for the littlest readers, but JJ sat through it happily and loved the art. Best of all, the text is presented in both English and Spanish, so readers of all ages and levels of fluency in each can enjoy the story AND connect the two languages to each other. This book is positively fantastic, and we highly recommend it. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights (Monica Kulling)

Hello, friends! Today, we read On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Felicita Sala, a biographical picture book about Mary Harris Jones, a children’s and workers’ rights activist at the turn of the century (JJ and I were fortunate enough to win this book in a giveaway by GoodReads!). 

Aidan and Gussie are both child workers at the cotton mill, and they decide to join their fellow strikers to improve work conditions. They are excited, because famed activist Mother Jones is coming to join their campaign, but they are surprised to find that Mother Jones is a little old lady! However, as she organizes a protest march from Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, they soon find that Mother Jones is a passionate force for the rights of others.

This was a very interesting book! There were a lot of elements here that worked very well: as a biography, it gave the reader a good sense of Mother Jones and what she was like, both her kindness towards the children she was fighting for and the ferver of her belief in her cause. It’s also a great look at what life was like in th 1900’s, especially for children (the description of child labor is striking enough to make an impact on young readers, yet not so graphic as to be frightening). Lastly, it imparts a message of fighting for one’s beliefs, even in the face of difficulty or opposition. The illustrations are colorful and lively, and bring the time period and characters to life.

One point: this one is definitely too long for baby bookworms of JJ’s age, as she barely made it through without losing interest. However, this is a fantastic book that would be great for older readers, and I’m happy that it’s part of our library so that JJ can enjoy it again as she gets older! Baby Bookworm approved!