Wild Horse Annie: Friend Of The Mustangs (Tracey Fern)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wild Horse Annie: Friend Of The Mustangs, written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Steven Salerno.

From childhood, Velma Bronn Johnston’s first love was horses. Her father was a horseman in Nevada who captured wild mustangs and tamed them for sale; he taught Velma to ride and encouraged her passion. When she contracted polio, spending months in a full-body cast and left with a bent spine, facial disfigurement, and full-body chronic pain, horses were her relief and reason to keep going. After marrying and founding a riding school for children, Velma takes notice of the rapidly dwindling numbers and inhumane treatment of the wild mustangs, and devotes her time to having legislation passed to protect them. Beginning with letter-writing campaigns and town hall speeches – and fighting against verbal abuse and death threats – Velma earns the nickname “Wild Horse Annie”, meant to be disparaging until she adopts it with pride. Utilizing a nationwide “pencil brigade” of children to write letters and raise funds in the mustangs’ defense, Johnston’s efforts lead to federal legislation protecting them from harm.

I had never heard of Wild Horse Annie, and I’m so glad that I have now. Her story speaks to every child who marvels at horses, her love for them inspiring her through difficult times. Annie’s sunny yet steely personality shines through each page, and the reader gets a real sense of what’s at stake for both the horses and Annie if they fail (there is a passage that unflinchingly notes that she was threatened with being “hanged from a tree” among other things; subtle streaks of blood are shown on horses that have been abused). I also appreciated how the story focuses on Annie’s thousands of partners: the children who took up the fight for the mustangs and were the tipping point for many politicians on the matter. The illustrations are also lovely, capturing the unique color palette of the American West and Annie’s fierce, unwavering energy. The length makes this better for slightly older bookworms, but we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor (Laurie Wallmark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu, a look at the talented and brilliant icon.

While most of the world may know Hedy Lamarr as a beauty and Hollywood starlet, many never knew that she was a brilliant and prolific inventor. She never sold any of her inventions, finding satisfaction in solving problems and improving products using her ingenuity and intelligence. That is until she – with assistance from a friend named George Anthiel – came up with a torpedo guidance system that they felt could help the U.S. win the war against the Nazis. And to this day, Lamarr’s technology is used in cellphones, computers, and Bluetooth devices all over the world.

Lamarr’s story is a fascinating one, and this book does an incredible job of introducing both the woman and her work to a young audience. Deftly moving from biography to technical explanations, to montages of invention and inspiration, the story does a fantastic job of showing Lamarr as a well-rounded talent as well as fiercely loyal and dedicated immigrant American – her passion for performance, science, and public service are all treated with equal importance, and show that women can have a multitude of interests and talents. And the walkthroughs of her most notable invention – spread spectrum frequency hopping – are inspired, breaking down complex technology in a way that readers of all ages can understand. Wu’s illustrations are lovely, capturing Lamarr’s sparkling eyes and creative drive in each expression. The length is better for slightly older bookworms, but we both really enjoyed it. A phenomenal look at an often-overlooked feminist icon in STEM, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Mary Wears What She Wants (Keith Negley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley, a picture book reimagining of the childhood of trailblazer Mary Edwards Walker.

Long ago, it was illegal for girls to wear pants. Women and girls could only wear dresses, which were cumbersome, uncomfortable, and restrictive. Little Mary thinks this is unfair, so she makes a decision: she will wear pants instead of her bulky dress. At first, her new wardrobe is liberating – she plays and cartwheels with joy. That is until the local townspeople see her… then the ugliness begins. Adults and children alike heckle Mary, pelt her with fruit, and tell her to stop wearing “boys’ clothes”. Hurt, Mary confers with her father, who explains that people are often afraid of change. Mary asks if she should wear a dress again, but her father encourages her to make her own decision. After some thought, Mary opts to continue wearing the clothes that make her happy – not “boys’ clothes”, but HER clothes.

Wonderful. While the story itself is more inspired by Walker than literal account, it simplifies a message that speaks to both the past, present, and future of gendered clothing. Especially nice is the inclusion of Mary’s father as a male advocate, and the show of solidarity by her female classmates at the end. Equally appreciated is the short but extremely informative backmatter biography of Walker, who was one of the first female surgeons in the United States and remains the only woman to have ever won a Congressional Medal of Honor. The cartoonish drawings and simple color palette are nicely balanced, creating a lot of emotion while keeping the heavier aspects light. The length is fine, JJ liked it, and it was a delight start to finish – Baby Bookworm approved.

She Persisted Around The World: 13 Women Who Changed History (Chelsea Clinton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is She Persisted Around The World: 13 Women Who Changed History, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, a brief and inspiring look at some international female role models.

Second in the pair’s series, Around The World expands on the theme of inspiring female leaders and trailblazers, this time reaching beyond the United States to spotlight figures both familiar and lesser-known. Young readers are introduced to ladies like suffragist Kate Sheppard, whose efforts drove New Zealand to establish equal voting rights, or Leymah Gbowee, who united Muslim and Christian women in peaceful protests to end civil war in Liberia. Scientists such as Madame Curie and Caroline Herschel, activists such as Malala Yousafzai and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and trailblazers like Aisha Rateb and Mary Verghese – there is no shortage of women to inspire little ones (especially girls), to stand up, be heard, and persist.

Lovely. Continuing the tone that the pair established in the previous book, each woman’s story is distilled down, condensed in a way that allows readers to get a brief sense of each woman’s aims, obstacles, and accomplishments before moving onto the next. The choice of the women included is nicely varied, representing different cultures, backgrounds, and abilities, and each one is illustrated in a loving, dreamy style that casts her as the fierce, intelligent, and ultimately triumphant heroine of her story. I do wish that a little more context had been provided, such as backmatter or even the time period in which each woman lived, but the overall message is clear and timeless: girls can accomplish great things, even while fighting harder to be heard. The length is fine for slightly older bookworms, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!