Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker (Patricia Hruby Powell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker, written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, a powerful biography of the passionate civil rights icon.

Growing up in segregation-era North Carolina, Ella Josephine Baker was raised by the words and stories of her grandparents. Her preacher grandfather spoke of freedom, cooperation, and community, imploring his congregation to consider: “What do you hope to accomplish?”. Her grandmother spoke of life under slavery, and her defiance of marrying for love rather than at the command of her slave master – who also happened to be her father. Drawing inspiration from the pride and community of her home, Ella established her own personal creed, “Lift as you climb.” With this tenet firmly in mind, Ella set out on a life’s mission to improve the lives and rights of her fellow African Americans, through her work with the NAACP, the SCLC, the Freedom Riders, and in the living rooms and churches of anyone who gathered, listening to her words and her simple query – what do you hope to accomplish?

Moving. The life story of a somewhat lesser-known figure of the civil rights movement is beautifully related through rich, expressive yet educational text and beautiful African American folk art-inspired illustrations. While not inappropriate for the intended age-range, the text is refreshingly frank about the black experience during the Civil Rights movement, describing the fire-bombing of buses, police brutality, and even the sexism against women within the movement itself. The repetition of key phrases and concepts tell a story of perseverance and leadership, one that will inspire any reader, young or old. The length is best for slighter old bookworms, but JJ was fascinated by the steady rhythm of the text and the beautiful artwork. A fantastic biography of a oft-unsung hero, and we loved it; Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead (Evan Turk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead by Evan Turk.

As a young girl, Marietta longed to learn the art of glass-blowing, her father’s trade and one considered exclusive to men. Yet despite her brothers’ teasing, her father was supportive and patient, and Marietta bravely faced the hot and exhausting work of learning how to craft the beautiful glass. Visiting a wealthy patron with her father, she views a rare piece of Roman millefiori glass, a technique lost centuries earlier. Years later, she is reflecting on her childhood experiences with her father and the art he shared with her, and she attempts to recreate the intricate glass she once saw, inventing the rosetta bead, which would go on to become a valuable global trade of the Renaissance era.

Fascinating. I had never heard of Marietta or the history of the rosetta bead before, and felt incredibly enlightened to hear about such an incredibly influential female artist. Particularly appreciated is the focus on Marietta’s courage in learning glasswork, not only because it was not considered a suitable trade for women at the time, but because of the physical fortitude and skill it took to master. The artwork – inspired by the subject’s time and the glasswork she created – is warm and its subjects compelling, though the soft focus of the glassworks make it difficult to appreciate the details that made them so famous. Also, the length is best for patient bookworms; JJ started getting the wiggles near the end. Yet this is a fascinating story to be sure, especially for lovers of art and women’s history; Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip (Sarah Glenn Marsh)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip, written by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

From when Alice Ramsey was a little girl, she loved to go fast. Graduating from horses to the relatively-new invention of automobiles in her adulthood, she surprised many by becoming a skilled driver and racer, eventually being approached by an auto manufacturer. They had an offer: drive across the United States in one of their cars, to show that they were so easy to operate, “even a lady could do it”. Alice agreed, bringing three friends along for the nearly-4000 mile journey. Using mostly-unpaved roads and pathways in a vehicle lacking all modern convenience, the four girls rattled from New York to San Francisco over the course of two months, learning how to solve problems, whether storms, and rely on each other to keep the little car going.

Interesting! Alice’s story is certainly one I wasn’t aware of and, despite it’s mildly sexist impetus, was a pretty exciting tale of female fortitude, ingenuity, and friendship. Each spread gives an account of challenges the four ladies faced along the way, from broken or overheated parts, flooded rivers, bedbug-ridden hotels, and escaped criminals, making the reader feel like they are right beside the women on their exciting journey. Alice herself is portrayed as level-headed and no-nonsense, and she makes for a strong central figure. The folk-art style illustrations capture the scenic drive from city to mountains to redwoods forests beautifully, though the human characters occasionally sport unusual features or facial expressions. The length would be best for elementary-aged bookworms, but JJ enjoyed the ride. A warm and enjoyable girl-power tale, 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.)

The Roots Of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop (Carole Boston Weatherford)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Roots Of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison, a lush and beautiful ode to the art form.

It started with poetry, folktales, spirituals, and rhymes. Then came funk, providing the basslines and rhythm, then the Jamaican MCs and dub. Finally, it was all pulled together in the Bronx by DJ Kool Herc – and hip-hop was born. It spread across the country, then across the world, giving rise to street fashion, culture, dance, and – most critically – the music and verse. Now it is a worldwide nation of the faithful, those who feel the beat, hear the words, and are moved – ya heard?

Phenomenal. Using a flowing rhyme interspersed with onomatopoeic syncopated rhythms and drop-dead gorgeous urban-inspired art, this book takes both fans and newcomers through both the history and musical elements of hip-hop. Not only the music itself is explored; B-boy and B-girl dancing, street art, and other cultural elements both influential and influenced by the genre are showcased. Kid-unfriendly elements are skipped over (the East Coast/West Cost feud, the censorship wars, etc.), and the focus is primarily on East Coast and male rappers, though two spreads gloriously celebrate the original holy trinity of female rap: Salt n’ Peppa, TLC, and Queen Latifah. A wealth of backmatter and a foreword by Swizz Beatz are the cherry on top. The length was great, and JJ especially loved trying out the beats. Stylish, beautiful, informative, and fun – a must for music lovers of all ages. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Imogene’s Last Stand (Candace Fleming & Nancy Carpenter)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming & Nancy Carpenter, a delightful tale of a courageous little girl with a passion for US history.

Imogene has loved history from her first words – literally (they were, “Four score and seven years ago”). At school, she gives a show-and-tell lecture series on important women in history. But now, her mission is to breathe new life into the Liddleville Historical Society, a crumbling house full of all her town’s history. She and her father work tirelessly to restore every inch, but when they are finished, no one comes to visit. The next day, a sign is placed in the front yard: the house is to be torn down to build a shoelace factory. Imogene is not about to watch history be demolished without a fight, and sets to work – but how can one girl save the history of an entire town?

We LOVED this. Smart, confident and brave female protagonist? Check. Imogene is the type of character we live for, a historical figure-quoting, independent and ingenious firebrand who fights for what she believes is important, not only for herself but for everyone’s benefit. A meaningful story about knowing, understanding, and learning from our past? Check. In fact, the solution to the conflict is found in history, showing how our past can often inform our present problems. There’s even some adorable father-daughter moments between Imogene and her dad, and a wonderful, subtle girl-power-in-politics moment at the end. The pen-and-ink illustrations are perfect for giving both whimsy and gravitas to Imogene’s tale in equal measure, and the length is perfect. Backmatter even gives context for Imogene’s quotes. An awesome read for any young student of history, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!