Rosie: Stronger Than Steel (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosie: Stronger Than Steel by Lindsay Ward, a fantastic tale of one eager little tractor and the women and men she helped when they needed it most.

There’s a war going on, and people have donated their scrap metal to build machines to help the effort. Some of those scraps are melted down and used to build Rosie, a bright green tractor built under FDR’s Lend-Lease Act. The all-female riveters, welders, and machinists who built Rosie inspire her to a sense of purpose, and she emerges the factory with a rose painted on her hood and an oath to work as hard as she can. Shipped to England to assist the Women’s Land Army: a collective of women who left their homes to, like the factory workers, take up the necessary work left behind by the men. Rosie helps them plow, haul, harvest, anything she can do. Together, she and her new friends keep the farms running, not only until the war is over but long beyond.

Phenomenal. This historical, girl-power tractor story is filled with a stunning sense of history, community, and humanity. From the jump, Rosie introduces the reader to the incredibly strong women of WWII, and all the ways they helped the war effort when they could not fight. Rosie’s story of steadfast loyalty and tenacity also showcases human women building, fixing, digging, felling trees, and more. And the ending, in which Rosie’s decades of tireless service are rewarded and recognized, brought a tear to the eye. Ward’s illustrations are friendly yet dynamic, and give Rosie herself an impossible amount of charm. Backmatter provides context for Rosie’s world and more in-depth information on women’s war efforts. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both fell in love with strong, faithful Rosie by the end. A lovely tale to end Women’s History Month, and a reminder to us all that in tough times, our willingness to help others is our greatest strength. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Skyward: The Story Of Female Pilots in WWII (Sally Deng)

Hello, friends! We’re wrapping up Women’s History Month tonight with a moving tale of unsung heroes, Skyward: The Story Of Female Pilots in WWII by Sally Deng.

Billed as “creative nonfiction”, this large-format illustrated chapter book introduces us to three fictional young women: Hazel, a shy American girl of Chinese heritage; Marlene, an English spitfire; and Lilya, a passionate child of Russian farmers. All three are exposed to aviation at a young age, and all three become determined to be pilots, despite the rampant sexism of the day. When WWII breaks out, the three girls attempt to use their hard-earned skills to assist the Allied efforts, but are turned away with laughter and sneers… that is until they each find organizations in desperate need of pilots of any gender. Hazel and Marlene are selected for civilian volunteer groups (WASPs and ATA respectively), and Lilya becomes part of the famed “Night Witches” 588th Bomber Regiment. All three face unique challenges in the line of duty, as well as sadly similar ones (constant harassment and condescension, substandard supplies and conditions, and the ever-present threat of danger that permeates wartime). When the war ends, they are cast aside without a second thought; yet today, we remember and celebrate their sacrifices and courage, in service of not only their countries and the Allies, but of all the future female aviatrixes that followed.

Powerful. It’s astounding how often female servicemembers’ accomplishments are swept under the rug (as we pointed out earlier this month, only ONE woman has ever won the Medal of Honor), so seeing this loving, heartfelt look at the lives of the aviatrixes of WWII is a joy. Deng creates rich, compelling characters to act as the reader’s guides, and illustrates each page with a beautiful sense of detail and scope, breathing life and emotion into each artwork (particularly lovely is a full-page spread of Marlene’s astonished face during her first flight, accompanied by a single line of dialogue: “‘Oh,’ she gasped”). This is a chapter book, and better suited for slightly older bookworms if read in a single sitting, but absolutely a must-read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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!