Dangerous Jane: The Life and Times of Jane Addams, Crusader for Peace (Suzanne Slade)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dangerous Jane: The Life and Times of Jane Addams, Crusader for Peace, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Alice Ratterree.

As a child, Jane had her fair share of sadness and pain; after losing her mother at age 2, she contracted spinal tuberculosis at age 4, leaving her with a twisted spine. Isolated from other children, she sought solace in books and her father’s love, and it was on a business trip with him that she first noted the dire conditions of the poor communities near her home. Resolving to dedicate her adulthood to helping those in need, Jane travelled the world, studying the conditions of those in poverty and the systems created to assist them. Returning home to Chicago, she and Ellen Starr founded Hull House, a settlement house that assisted the poor with education, childcare, and work. From there, Jane would turn her efforts to international peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts – efforts that led her to be seen as a controversial figure, winning a Nobel Peace Prize AND being declared the “most dangerous woman in America” by the FBI. Yet all that mattered to Jane was helping others, and she served the people of the world the rest of her life, advocating human rights and world peace.

An intriguing figure like Addams deserves attention from young readers, and this picture biography makes a great start. Covering Addams’s life in broad strokes, readers are given solid insight into her motivations and a portion of her activism, as well as the impact it had on her life. However, it’s what the biography doesn’t talk about that disappoints; Addams’ work in early feminism and woman’s suffrage is not mentioned, nor is the fact that she was a queer woman (her first partner, Starr, is referred to in the backmatter as her “college friend”). The artwork is detailed, and the illustrator distinguishes Addams from the sepias with a signature green. The length is best for older elementary and middle-grade readers; while JJ enjoyed the art, the story began to drag for her. Overall, this is a nice spotlight of a worthy subject – I only wish it had been a little more bright. Otherwise, Baby Bookworm approved.

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

The Music In George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody In Blue (Suzanne Slade)

Hello, friends! Sorry we missed our review yesterday, but we’re back today with The Music In George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody In Blue, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Stacy Innerst, a magnificent look at the composer’s inspiration for the celebrated concerto.

Even as a boy, George Gershwin heard and felt music all around him, even when there was none playing. He could hear it in the sounds of his city, the boisterous and insistent sounds of vehicles, buildings and people. George loved music, and strove to listen to it, learn it, and create it at every opportunity. He listened closely to many styles and artists, drawing inspiration from anywhere to compose his songs. In 1924, a concert was being put on to legitimize jazz, a genre that was popular but considered trivial at the time, and George was invited to compose a piece. Wanting to create something truly remarkable, George drew inspiration from everything he loved: classical music, jazz, ragtime, blues, and even the sounds of the city he’d loved and lived in all his life. He put the music in his head down on paper, and what he created was one of the most beloved pieces of music in history: Rhapsody In Blue.

Who doesn’t love Rhapsody In Blue? The instrumental piece is considered one of the greatest American compositions of all time, and this was a fascinating look at how it came to be. The story is great, exploring Gershwin’s love of music, his vast sources of inspiration, and the composition of the concerto itself, including some details that even I found interesting. The art compliments the story perfectly, using a palette of blues, blacks and white to create the world of Gershwin’s city and his art, and featuring hand-written text that feels as free and flowing as the music it describes. The length was good for bookworms JJ’s age, and we both really enjoyed it. This one is a must for music lovers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!