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: Women’s History Month

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Hello, everyone! It’s the end of the month, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, so we thought we’d spend this Top 5 taking a look at some of our favorite kidlit biographies of notable women. Some challenged stereotypes to serve their nation, some fought for the rights of women and children, and some made their mark with art and dance, but all of them were brave, dedicated and hardworking women who made an impact on the world. Celebrating these real-life female icons and role models sends the important message to our little girls and our little boys that women are strong, women are important, and women can do anything.

So, without further ado, here are our Top 5 Women’s History Month biographies:

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

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Told through the eyes of two young cotton mill workers, On Our Way To Oyster Bay relates the tale of elderly activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones’ protest march to Oyster Bay, NY, to raise awareness for worker’s and children’s rights. As a biography, it really only covers a slice of Mother Jones’ work, but captures the essence of who she was as a leader and organizer, and her passion for and dedication to the people she was representing. The young protagonists give little readers characters they can relate to, and the book does a fantastic job of showing a glimpse of what life was like for children, and child workers, in the 1900’s in a way that is striking, but not so graphic as to be frightening. The art by Felicita Sala is colorful, lively, and draws you into the world of Mother Jones and her fellow protesters. The story leaves the reader with the lesson that you must fight for your beliefs, even in the face of disappointment or difficulty, and that. be you man or woman, young or old, your voice matters.

2. Me, Frida (Amy Novesky)

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This award-winning picture book biography of Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo covers the time period in which Frida had moved to San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. Channeling her homesickness, isolation, and physical and mental health struggles into ecstatically beautiful art, Frida finds herself and her beauty within her talent, expressing herself in ways that no woman in art had before. While the story relies a bit too much on a romanticized version of Kahlo’s marriage (which, in reality, was an absolute mess), the key message is one of self-acceptance, perseverance, and belief in oneself. And in a book about art, David Diaz’s gorgeous Kahlo-inspired illustrations fill every page with life and energy to bursting, and the story of Frida’s unapologetic desire to be herself in person and in her art sends to the message to young readers that we are far more beautiful and powerful as we are, not as the world tries to make us.

3. Doing Her Bit: A Story About The Woman’s Land Army Of America (Erin Hagar)

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While technically not a biography, Doing Her Bit is based on the true story of the Woman’s Land Army, a collective of brave women from all walks of life who volunteered to become farmhands and take up the workload left by men who had shipped out to fight in WWII. Centered around the experiences of a young woman named Helen, it follows the story of a group of these women undergoing backbreaking training to learn how to do farm labor, only to have their efforts refused by farmers who doubt their abilities and value as workers. When the hard-nosed female director of the camp negotiates a chance for the women to prove their mettle, the farmers find that bravery and skill know no gender. Highlighting a lesser-known chapter in women’s history, the story does a great job of making the characters and story accessible, and the art by Jen Hill gives the women personality and life. The overall effect is a story that leaves baby bookworms with the lesson that women are strong, brave, kind, and never ever less than their male counterparts.

4. For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story (Rebecca Langston-George)

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While the infamous assassination attempt on women’s and children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai’s life is covered in this kidlit biography (subtly, yet poignantly), the tale of the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize does not focus too much on that event. Instead, the story centers around Malala’s childhood in Pakistan, she and her father’s dedication to education as an inalienable right to every man, woman and child, and the fearless risks Malala took as a young teenager to speak out against the subjection and censorship of her people by the Taliban. The art by Janna Bock is sweeping and emotional, and seems to leap off the page to draw the reader into Malala’s life and world. This is a beautiful and powerful true story of a remarkable young woman, and it is sure to leave any young reader in awe of the power of education and their own voice.

5. Firebird (Misty Copeland)

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Misty Copeland set out to create a unique ballet book for young dancers who looked like her, and she absolutely succeeds. Forgoing the prim, pale pastels of other ballerina tales, Firebird tells the story of Copeland’s rise to the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater through her encouragement of a young dancer who is struggling with confidence. Copeland cuts through the idea that the young girl’s goals of being a renowned dancer like her are not achievable, saying that she once stood in the girl’s shoes, and that hard work, dedication, and belief in herself is what led her to greatness, showing that with these qualities, any young dancer (of any color) can shine bright like the Firebird, and inspire the next generation of dreamers to come. With ecstatically vibrant art by Christopher Myers that dances across every page and stylistically lyrical text, this is a ballerina book that breaks the mold.

There it is! A Top 5 that celebrates the women who make their mark on history. Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley and I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, two phenomenal kidlit biographies about fearless women. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’ve featured them before, but you should absolutely check them out, because they are wonderful. What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a picture book biography of an awesome woman you’d like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much for reading, and Happy Women’s History month!