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!

Top 5: LGBTQ Books

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Merry Christmas Eve, friends! As our gift to you, we hope you that like this week’s top five, full of LGBTQ children’s books! One of the most important ways that we can help people in the LGBTQ community to feel safe and welcome is by educating children early about the issues that can affect them. Gay, trans and/or queer children deserve to grow up knowing that there are other people like them out there, and straight/CIS children deserve to understand that people in those communities are just like them. So without further ado, here are our Top 5 LGBTQ books of 2016:

1. And Tango Makes Three (Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell)

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This classic true story of a same-sex penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo is a great way of introducing the topic of same-sex couples to children who may have questions about them, and showing that real families are always built around love. Roy, Silo, and Tango’s tale will melt your heart while informing about penguins and their habits, and showing that non-traditional families are just as loving and caring as traditional ones.

2. Red: A Crayon’s Story (Michael Hall)

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A fantastic book about being true to the person inside yourself, no matter your exterior. The tale of the “red” crayon finding happiness by being who it is meant to be, rather than who it is expected to be, is almost universally identifiable, and wonderfully applicable to children who may be struggling with confusion about gender or orientation. Combined with simple, bright illustrations, this makes for a fabulous lesson in being oneself despite the expectations or preconceptions of others.

3. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Christine Baldacchino)

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A beautifully imaginative tale of a little boy and his favorite dress that sends a powerful message about the effects of bullying, as well as the power of acceptance and self-confidence. Morris is not portrayed as gay or trans (though these identities are not excluded either), but simply a boy who loves the dress that reminds him of tigers and his mother’s hair, and his story will leave you touched and feeling hopeful. A lovely book for boys and girls that shows that clothing has no gender, and what’s most important is to wear what makes us comfortable.

4. I Am Jazz (Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings)

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Another true story, this book has quickly become a seminal classic about trans issues. Co-written by an actual transgender youth, is offers an authentic and straightforward look at what it’s like to be born into and grow up with a body the wrong gender. Jazz’s courage to be who she is despite the challenges she faces offers hope to other transgender youth that accepting their identities and/or transitioning can help them be happier and healthier, while showing non-LGBTQ children that trans people are just that: people.

5. Worm Loves Worm (J.J. Austrian)

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One of our favorite books from this year! The sweet, adorably illustrated story of two worms in love will absolutely melt your heart. It’s a perfectly simple story for a perfectly simple lesson: that love is love, no matter what gender or orientation the lovebirds are. Cheerful, warm, and wonderfully fun to read, this book is a perfect addition to any baby bookworm’s bookshelf (in fact, don’t tell JJ, but Santa may be leaving a copy under her tree tonight)!

There we are! Those are our Top 5 LGBTQ books from 2016. Tell us what you think? Did you enjoy any of these books? Were there any that we missed? And be sure to come back next week (New Year’s Eve!) for another Top 5 list. Until then, have a very Merry Christmas!

 

I Am Jazz (Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings)


Banned Books Week Day 7: Hello, everyone! Tonight, we wrap up Banned Books Week with I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, the true story of a very special girl and her journey to being her true self.

Jazz is a little girl who loves pink, mermaids, and playing with her friends. Jazz is different though; she was born with a girl brain, but a boy body. For much of her childhood, her family and friends would dress her as and call her a boy. Jazz didn’t like it, because pretending to be a boy felt like lying. One day, her parents took her to a doctor and found out that Jazz was transgender. Her parents told her that they didn’t care if she was a girl or boy; they loved her no matter what. So Jazz began to live as the girl she is inside, and while some people are confused or tease her, she’s much happier being who she truly is.

I Am Jazz was released last year, and immediately shot to the #3 position of the most banned and challenged books in the US. It was removed from schools due to complaints of “promoting homosexuality, discussing sexual education, offending religious viewpoints, being unsuitable for age group, and being inaccurate.”

This reception is tragic, because it is such a wonderful book. It’s written from the viewpoint of an actual transgender youth, giving it an authenticity that other books on the subject lack. Having a resource for children that can help them answer questions about themselves or others who are struggling with their gender identity is essential, and this book provides that.

In addition, I Am Jazz is a sweet story that is fun to read and beautifully illustrated. The length might be pushing it for some baby bookworms, but JJ sat through it happily, so I would definitely recommend giving this important book a read. Baby Bookworm approved!