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!

Top 5: Black History Month

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Hello, friends! As most of you know, tomorrow begins Black History Month, a time to focus on the importance of black Americans to our history, culture and identity as a nation. We’ll be taking time all this month to read and review books that celebrate black history, important figures, and black culture, and we encourage you to do the same! There are some truly amazing books out there that explore these topics, and we wanted to use this month’s Top 5 list to take a look at a few titles that you may not know about, or that focus on moments in black history that often get overlooked.

So to celebrate the start of February, here’s a few of our favorite books for Black History Month:

1. A Splash Of Red: The Life And Art Of Horace Pippin (Jen Bryant, illus. Melissa Sweet)

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Born with a passion and talent for art and a loving and supportive family, Horace Pippin overcomes poverty, war, and a debilitating injury to become a prolific and nationally recognized artist in his own time. This story of Pippin’s life explores his life, his inspiration, and his indomitable determination to create.

“Horace is a wonderful role model, and his story is told beautifully here. Especially lovely are the illustrations, which capture life, mood, and character gorgeously in a style that emulates Pippin’s paintings. […] A fantastic biography of a true artist […]”

2. I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes, illus. Bryan Collier)

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Using the text of the titular poem by Langston Hughes, Collier’s art tells the story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Following the porter as he uses his position to help other African Americans improve their stations as well, we are then transported to the present, where a young black boy on a subway train peers into what comes next: the future.

“This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires.”

3. The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. R. Gregory Christie)

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Told through the eyes of the son of founder Lewis Michaux, Sr., The Book Itch tells the story of the National Memorial African Bookstore, a hub of knowledge, culture, and civil rights activism from 1932 to 1974. Fighting racism and police harassment from his days peddling books from a cart, Lewis Sr. refuses to give up on his “book itch,” and his dream of sharing his passion for books, as well as the impact they can make on the world, with his community.

“[…T]his book is an absolute must-read. It focuses on civil rights, not only historically but as a basic human entitlement, the powers of literature, education, free thought, access to information, and the importance of community, all while telling the story of a remarkable man who believed that knowledge was the right and obligation of every man, woman and child, regardless of color, creed, or status.”

4. Harlem (Walter Dean Myers, illus. Christopher Myers)

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Told in free verse, the evocative words of Myers’s poem tells the story of Harlem, the home of a great history and greater hope, celebrating the neighborhood’s one-of-a-kind history of jazz, literature, activism and culture, and writing a love letter to a community built out of a desire for freedom; freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and the freedom to achieve.

“[…T]he gorgeous mixed-media art, which captures as much an emotion as a people and place, is colorful and exciting enough for any little one. Then, once the reader is familiar with the words and rhythm of the text, there is a passion and life to the poem that is impossible to deny, and becomes more affecting with each repeat reading. This is a book that captures the soul of a vibrant, and vital, place in American history, and it’s simply wonderful.”

5. When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop (Laban Carrick Hill, illus. Theodore Taylor III)

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An awesome tale of a revolutionary musical innovator and his contribution to the birth of hip hop, When The Beat Was Born tells the story of DJ Kool Herc (born Clive Campbell), a young Jamaican immigrant who brought together his love of the dancehall DJs of his youth with his unique style of mixing and rapping to help create a brand new genre of American music.

“Music history fans will love how the story of this seminal era of musical experimentation is told. For those unfamiliar with the origins of hip hop, this is an awesome primer for all ages that introduces the figures, styles and theory that brought hip hop to be. […] This is a great one, especially for young DJs and MCs looking to learn more about the roots of hip hop and the people who brought it to life.”

That’s our list! And there are many, MANY more stories of African American history and important figures out there – we encourage you to take this month to explore 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!

Top 5: Star Wars

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Hello, friends! Well, after taking a few months off of our Top 5 lists, I am happy to say that they are back! And we’re coming back with one that we’re very excited about: Star Wars! As you might know, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be in theaters on December 15th, so we thought we’d spend this month’s list taking a look at some of the best Star Wars picture books that we’ve reviewed.

So strap in, we’re ready to make the jump to lightspeed with The Baby Bookworm’s Top 5 Star Wars Books:

1. Star Wars: ABC-3PO, Galactic Basic Edition (Calliope Glass & Caitlin Kennedy)

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Delightfully geeky, this ABC book presented by C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations, is filled with a plethora of classic and fan-favorite Star Wars characters. Every letter of the alphabet is given the Star Wars character treatment (A is for Ackbar, P is for Poe Dameron, Y is for Yoda, etc.) and accompanied by a hilariously tongue-in-cheek poem that will entertain fans young and old. Katie Cook’s renditions of the characters and set-pieces are an adorable treat. A great book for fans of all ages!

2. Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope (Jack & Holman Wang)

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A perfect Star Wars primer for the brand-new youngling in your life. The Wangs use impressively handcrafted needle-felted wool figures in miniature sets to recreate some of the most timeless visuals from A New Hope, paired with simple, kid-friendly vocabulary words: “Princess” accompanies the iconic shot of Leia recording her message on R2-D2, “Captain” as Han Solo faces off against Greedo, “Heroes” as the team lines up across the stairs at the medal ceremony. With companion books for The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, these are a fun and unique way to introduce the tiniest padawan to the galaxy far, far away.

3. Star Wars: BB-8 On The Run (Drew Daywalt)

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A wonderfully nuanced story that follows everyone’s favorite orange-and-white astromech. Taking place within the timeline of The Force Awakens, the story follows BB-8 as he is separated from his friend Poe and searching for a way off Jakku and back to the Resistance. Remembering that Poe had taught him that kindness will always come back to the one who shows it, he faces several opportunities in which he must decide to help others or pursue his own objectives. Matt Myers’s beautiful desert scenery provides a gorgeous backdrop for beloved Star Wars characters and creatures. It’s a story with a fantastic message about doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult, and perfect for young fans of BB-8.

4. Star Wars: I Am A Princess (Courtney Carbone)

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One of our favorite books from the past year, and a frequent bedtime story at The Baby Bookworm household! Gorgeously illustrated and unapologetically feminist, this Little Golden Book defines a princess as clever, kind, brave and resourceful. Instead of waiting around to be rescued, Leia’s princesses are encouraged to take charge and lead others, being ambassadors of peace and the heroes of their own story. Heather Martinez’s colorful Star Wars scenes are captivating and exciting, and the message is one that every little reader can learn from: never underestimate the power of a princess.

5. 5-Minute Star Wars Stories (Disney-Lucasfilm)

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A wonderful compendium that has something for every young padawan. We’ve had a chance to read the entire collection since our initial review, and we are really pleased with the quality of this storybook, which features eleven stories in total, drawn from the Star Wars cinematic films I-VII. While the stories are pretty sanitized for content and/or spoiler reasons, they maintain massive entertainment value through energetic visuals and a brisk five-minute per story pace. It’s a great way to introduce the ways of the Force to the uninitiated, or to share some favorite stories of the Star Wars universe with young fans.

That’s our list! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about Star Wars you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and may the Force be with you!

When’s My Birthday? (Julie Fogliano)


Hello, friends! Our book today is When’s My Birthday?, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a fun and festive book about birthdays that asks the important questions.

When is my birthday? Where is my birthday? Is it in spring? In winter? I know there will be cake, and presents, and you can wear fancy clothes and costumes, and we’ll play games and have balloons. I’ll ask for a pony, or maybe a chicken, or maybe a bouncy ball. Oh! There will need to be candles on the cake! And chocolate! And how many days until my birthday, again?

This one was a lot of fun, and felt wonderfully fresh compared to other books about birthdays. Told in free verse, the text is simple, engaging, and fun to read, and celebrates all the best things about birthdays: food, fun, presents and friends. Robinson’s signature paper-and-paint art is as endlessly charming as always, the length is great, and JJ and I had a lot of fun with it. A delightfully contemporary book that can enjoyed year-round, but especially you-know-when. Baby Bookworm approved!

Top 5: Books About Dads

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Hello, friends! As June comes to a close, we’re here with our latest Top 5 List! Since many of you enjoyed last month’s Top 5 Books About Moms, and we celebrated Father’s Day in June, we decided to follow up with a list of our favorite books about dads and the special relationship they share with their little ones.

So without further ado, here are The Baby Bookworm’s Top 5 Books About Dads:

1. My Dad Thinks He’s Funny (Katrina Germein)

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Dad jokes: love them or hate them, dads always seem to have a natural ability to make them. Be it puns that make us groan, goofy behavior that makes us blush, or the embarrassment of dads being daaaaads, we’ve all experienced the unique attempts at comedy that only fathers can provide. This is a great send-up of dad jokes, told from the point of view of an exasperated little boy and chock full of eye-rolling dad jokes. Tom Jellett’s collage-style illustrations create a unique world that is enjoyable and supports the humor well. It’s a sweet story with a moral that so many of us (especially those who have been through our teenage years) can relate to: while our dads can be terribly mortifying, we love them anyway. And yes, sometimes they can even make us laugh.

2. Daddy’s First Day (Mike Wohnoutka)

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A hilariously sweet role-reversal story that made us (especially JJ’s daddy) grin. The first day of school can be a rite of passage that’s tough on everyone; especially, it seems, Oliver’s dad. After a summer of playing, reading, and spending time together, it’s time for Oliver’s first day of school, and he’s feeling pretty nervous. Oh no, Oliver’s not feeling nervous – but his dad is! Watching Oliver’s dad procrastinate dropping his son off at school, even projecting his feelings of trepidation onto his Oliver, is as humorous as it feels true; what parent doesn’t feel a bit unprepared to send their baby off to school for the first time? The art has a simple, earnest style that fits the guileless nature of the story. Overall, it’s a funny yet heartfelt tale of a devoted dad learning to let his little one grow, no matter how scary that might be.

3. Stella Brings The Family (Miriam B. Schiffer)

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June is also Pride Month, so we definitely wanted to include this fantastic story that combines LGBTQ families and celebrating the many roles that dads can have in their children’s lives. When Stella’s class is putting together a Mother’s Day party, she isn’t sure who to invite: while she has two daddies whom she adores, she doesn’t actually have a mother. Speaking to her teacher and classmates, she realizes that her fathers and extended family give her all the love and support that she needs, so she decides to invite all of them. While appearing feather-light on the surface, this is a story with great depth that shows that children in loving non-traditional families are in no way “missing out” in the places that their families differ from the nuclear model. Adorably sweet illustrations by Holly Clifton-Brown and a well-paced story create a fantastic celebration of families and the many shapes and forms they come in, and how having two fathers who love you is a point of pride.

4. My Dad Used To Be So Cool by Keith Negley

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This one is as much for the parents as it is for the kids, and we loved it. A little boy is pretty sure his dad used to be cool: he has tattoos, he used to ride a motorcycle, he even used to be in a band. But now he’s mostly just a normal, loving, chore-doing and only occasionally mortifying dad. The boy ponders what could have made his father change his lifestyle (the implied joke being, of course, that becoming a father did). Baby Bookworms like JJ will love the boldly-colored mod art style, and the former rockstars and rebels among us will definitely have a chuckle as the book reminds them of their pre-parenting wild days. There’s a sweet conclusion, too: while the glory days of rebellion may get left behind, being a loving daddy to a little one is classicly, timelessly cool.

5. Daddy Cuddle (Kate Mayes)

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Sweet, simple, and full of charm. A little bunny is the first to wake in his house, and rushes to wake his father and start the day. But no matter what activities the bunny tries to rouse his dozing father with, nothing seems to tempt the sleeping parent to wakefulness. At last, after the little bunny gives a frustrated shout, Daddy wakes up and, chuckling, pulls his little one into bed for early morning snuggles – the best activity to start a sleepy day with. Darling watercolor art by Sara Acton and simple two-word dialogue make this a great story for even the youngest baby bookworms. A heartfelt ode to both the boundless early-morning energy of little ones and the quiet, cuddly moments between father and child.

So, what do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about mothers you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and happy reading!