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1. Women and restaurants in the 19th-century United States

Delmonico’s in New York opened in the 1830s and is often thought of as the first restaurant in the United States. A restaurant differs from other forms of dining out such as inns or taverns and while there have always been take-out establishments and food vendors in cities, a restaurant is a place to sit down to a meal.

The post Women and restaurants in the 19th-century United States appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Unbossed, unbought, and unheralded

March is Women’s History Month and as the United States gears up for the 2016 election, I propose we salute a pathbreaking woman candidate for president. No, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Shirley Chisholm, who became the first woman and the first African American to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for president. And yet far too often Shirley Chisholm is seen as just a footnote or a curiosity, rather than as a serious political contender who demonstrated that a candidate who was black or female or both belonged in the national spotlight.

The post Unbossed, unbought, and unheralded appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. It's Friday

Happy Friday!
It's been a very long and busy week for me (and I've been sick with bronchitis), but things keep moving on, and so will I.  Here's your news for Friday.

I'm blogging at ALSC today.  I hope you'll check out,  "You know you're a children's librarian when ...

Our annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people continues.  Today features artist Jill McElmurry and her new book, The Tree Lady, which I reviewed earlier.  Please check out all the wonderful author, artist and librarian posts at KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month!

And finally, it's STEM Friday, the weekly roundup of posts dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in children's literature.  

Have a great weekend.

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4. Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day

Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — but it is a holiday meant to recognize all aviators who have advanced the field through their efforts. While the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart come to mind as the premier pioneering pilots, there are many unsung aviators. The books below highlight the stories of some of the most famous early female aviators and are the perfect way to celebrate National Aviation Day!

Burleigh NightFlight 300x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayNight Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendell Minor (K-3)
This book tells the story of Amelia Earhart’s historic crossing of the Atlantic on May 20, 1932, which made her the first woman to complete a solo flight across that ocean. The flight was a dramatic one, including both mechanical difficulties and fierce weather and both the prose and the paintings of this book capture the tension of the flight and the elation when Earhart touches down in Ireland. The book also includes a brief biography of Earhart, a list of additional sources on the subject and a fascinating collection of quotations from Earhart’s speeches and publications.

Moss SkyHigh 300x272 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DaySky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Carl Angel (K-3)
Maggie Gee knew from a young age that she wanted to fly planes. It was a dream that stayed with her throughout her childhood and when World War II started, she leapt at the chance to serve her country by flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. Despite stiff competition for a limited number of spots amongst the WASPs, Maggie succeeded, becoming one of only two Chinese American pilots in the organization. This book traces her path from her childhood dreams to her work as a WASP. An author’s note at the end fills in more details about her life after World War II and includes pictures of Maggie and her family throughout the time covered in the book.

Cummins FlyingSolo300x294 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFlying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins with illustrations by Malene R. Laugesen (K-3)
While many know the story of Amelia Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic, fewer people know that Ruth Elder attempted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic years earlier in 1927. Though her attempt was cut short by a malfunction over the ocean, she nevertheless became famous, not only for her attempt but also for her later aviation exploits. This book tells her life story, focusing primarily on her attempt to fly across the Atlantic and her participation in a cross-country air race in 1929. Ruth’s story will excite fans of planes and flying and the illustrations will transport readers back to the 1920’s through their vivid details. The book also includes further sources of information about Ruth’s life as well as a final illustration that highlights a number of other important female aviators.

Borden FlyHigh 238x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger with illustrations by Teresa Flavin (4-6)
This book tells the story of Bessie Coleman, an African American woman who grew up in the south in the late 1800’s with a dream to get an education. When she moved to Chicago in 1915 for a chance at a better life, she discovered aviation and decided to head to France to pursue an opportunity to learn to fly. Once she had her license, Bessie returned to the U.S. where she flew in air shows and gave speeches encouraging others to follow her path. Though the book ends with the tragic tale of her death in a flying accident, the story is sure to inspire those interested in learning to fly.

Tanaka AmeliaEarhart 300x298 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayAmelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka with illustrations by David Craig (4-6)
Illustrated with a combination of paintings and photographs from Amelia Earhart’s life, this book is an impressive biography of a woman who is arguably the most famous female aviator in American history. Starting in her childhood and continuing until her disappearance in 1937, it offers a look into Amelia’s entire life, including aspects that are often glossed over in other books, such as her time as a nurse’s aide in Toronto and her work with two early commercial airlines. Both the pictures and the illustrations bring Amelia to life for readers and a list of source notes and other resources at the end of the book provide lots of options for further reading.

share save 171 16 Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day

The post Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day appeared first on The Horn Book.

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5. Monday Morning Miscellany v.8

I haven't been posting much lately, but it's not because I haven't been busy.  Here's what I've been doing:

I'm a Round 2 Judge for Nonfiction -Early & Middle Grades. The finalists are listed below. A winner will be announced on February 14, 2015.  Stay tuned and check out the finalists in all the other categories on the Cybils site.  I can't discuss the books, but you are free to comment on your favorites.

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat 
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart
Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey 
by Loree Griffin Burns
Millbrook Press
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press

I'm honored to be the 2015 Co-Chair of the ALA/ALSC Great Websites for Kids Committee.  If you've never taken advantage of this great resource, I urge you to check it out at http://gws.ala.org/.

The site is continually updated with new sites added and outdated sites deleted. Suggestions and comments are always welcome.  In December, we announced the seven newest sites to be added:

And last but not least,

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Each year, fellow librarian, Margo Tanenbaum and I, gather writers, illustrators, librarians and bloggers to highlight and celebrate and raise awareness of great books for young people that focus on women’s history.  This year's celebration kicks off in March. Please, stay in touch with us and support the inclusion of women's history in books for young readers! Follow our blog, KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month.

 You can also find us on:
 Below is a sneak preview of the authors and their books that will be featured this year.  

See? I told you I've been busy! Have a great week!  Let it start with a reminder from MLKDay.gov,
"Life's most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, oh yeah, it's Nonfiction Monday! Check it out.

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6. Women's History Month and other things

March is always a difficult time for me to be blogging here because I spend many hours working on KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month! I do hope you'll check it out.  We spend a lot of time curating and maintaining the site, and our contributors are phenomenal authors, artists, librarians and bloggers that share a passion for women's history and children's literature.  So, if my posts are sparse in March, you know the reason.

That being said, I have been busy in other areas.  Today, you can find me just goofing around - blogging on the ALSC Blog.  I write a monthly piece there and try to keep it fun! 

Oh, and big newsfor Wendy Mass fans - there's going to be another book in the Willow Falls series - more on that after I've read it!

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7. Women's History Month Book Review: Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud, by Tracey Fern (Margaret Ferguson Books, 2014)

Recommended for ages 7-12.

In this picture book for older readers. Tracey Fern tells the little-known story of Eleanor Prentiss, an extraordinary woman who not only navigated a clipper ship but also set a record for the fastest time from New York to San Francisco, navigating around Cape Horn in a record-breaking 89 days, 21 hours.

If you're an avid movie-goer like I am, you may have seen the two major films this year set at sea, Captain Phillips and All is Lost.  Such movies always make me think about the "olden days," when sailors navigated by the stars and a sextant.  Doesn't it seem incredible?  Even more incredible (but true) is the life of Eleanor Prentiss, born the daughter of a sea captain in 1814 and taught everything about ships, including navigation, by her father, perhaps because he had no sons.  Certainly this education was highly unusual for a 19th century girl. The sea was in Ellen's blood, and, not surprisingly, she married a sea captain, who took her along on his merchant ships as her navigator.

When Ellen's husband was given command of a new, super-fast clipper ship, Ellen seized the opportunity to get as quickly as possible from New York to the tip of South America to San Francisco and the Gold Rush.  Speed was of the essence for those looking for riches in the gold fields of California.  The book portrays the considerable dangers of the voyage, including a period when the ship was becalmed (no wind, no movement!) and also the perilous stormy waters of the Cape. Fern does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of the journey, and Ellen's triumph when she sets a world record for the fastest time for this 15,000 mile voyage.  The book is greatly enhanced by the beautiful water-color paintings of Caldecott-winning artist Emily Arnold McCully.  The seascapes, and particularly the scenes of storms, are particularly effective.  Back matter includes an author's note with further historical information, and suggestions for further reading, both books and websites, a glossary, and end pages which show a map of the Flying Cloud's 1851 Voyage.

Highly recommended for Women's History Month and for those looking for stories of strong, heroic women and girls!

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8. 8 марта 1979: Women’s Day in the Soviet Union

By Marjorie Senechal

“March 8 is Women’s Day, a legal holiday,” I wrote to my mother from Moscow. “This is one of the many cute cards that is on sale now, all with flowers somewhere on them. We hope March 8 finds you well and happy, and enjoying an early spring! Alas, here it is -30° C again.”

Soviet Women's Day card

Soviet-era Women’s Day card. Public Domain via Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

I spent the 1978-79 academic year working in Moscow in the Soviet Academy of Science’s Institute of Crystallography. I’d been corresponding with a scientist there for several years and when I heard about the exchange program between our nations’ respective Academies, I applied for it. Friends were horrified. The Cold War was raging, and Afghanistan rumbled in the background. But scientists understand each other, just like generals do. I flew to Moscow, family in tow, early in October. The first snow had fallen the night before; women in wool headscarves were sweeping the airport runways with birch brooms.

None of us spoke Russian well when we arrived; this was immersion. We lived on the fourteenth floor of an Academy-owned apartment building with no laundry facilities and an unreliable elevator. It was a cold winter even by Russian standards, plunging to -40° on the C and F scales (they cross there). On weekdays, my daughters and I trudged through the snow to the broad Leninsky Prospect. The five-story brick Institute sat on the near side, and the girls went to Soviet public schools on the far side, behind a large department store. The underpass was a thriving illegal free-market where pensioners sold hard-to-find items like phone books, mushrooms, and used toys. Nearing the schools, we ran the ever-watchful Grandmother Gauntlet. In this country of working mothers, bundled bescarved grandmothers shopped, cooked, herded their charges, and bossed everyone in sight: Put on your hat! Button up your children!

At the Institute, I was supposed to be escorted to my office every day, but after a few months the guards waved me on. I couldn’t stray in any case: the doors along the corridors were always closed. Was I politically untouchable?

But the office was a friendly place. I shared it with three crystallographers: Valentina, Marina, and the professor I’d come to work with. We exchanged language lessons and took tea breaks together. Colleagues stopped by, some to talk shop, some for a haircut (Marina ran a business on the side). Scientists understand each other. My work took new directions.

I also tried to work with a professor from Moscow State University. He was admired in the west and I had listed him as a contact on my application. But this was one scientist I never understood. He arrived late for our appointments at the Institute without excuses or apologies. I was, I soon surmised, to write papers for him, not with him. I held my tongue, as I thought befits a guest, until the February afternoon he showed up two weeks late. Suddenly the spirit of the grandmothers possessed me. “How dare you!” I yelled in Russian. “Get out of here and don’t come back!” “Take some Valium” Valentina whispered; wherever had she found it? But she was as proud as she was worried. The next morning I was untouchable no more: doors opened wide and people greeted me cheerily, “Hi! How’s it going?”

International Women’s Day, with roots in suffrage, labor, and the Russian Revolution, became a national holiday in Russia in 1918, and is still one today. In 1979, the cute postcards and flowers looked more like Mother’s Day cards, but men still gave gifts to the women they worked with. On 7 March I was fêted, along with the Institute’s female scientists, lab technicians, librarians, office staff, and custodians. I still have the large copper medal, unprofessionally engraved in the Institute lab. “8 марта” — 8 March — it says on one side, the lab initials and the year on the other. The once-pink ribbon loops through a hole at the top. Maybe they gave medals to all of us, or maybe I earned it for throwing the professor out of the Institute.

Women's Day medal, courtesy of the author.

Women’s Day medal, courtesy of  Marjorie Senechal.

I’ve returned to Russia many times; I’ve witnessed the changes. Science is changing too; my host, the Academy of Sciences founded by Peter the Great in 1724, may not reach its 300th birthday. But my friends are coping somehow, and I still feel at home there. A few years ago I flew to Moscow in the dead of winter for Russia’s gala nanotechnology kickoff. A young woman met me at the now-ultra-modern airport. She wore smart boots, jeans, and a parka to die for. “Put your hat on!” she barked in English as she led me to the van. “Zip up your jacket!

Marjorie Senechal is the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College, and Co-Editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer. She is author of I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science.

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The post 8 марта 1979: Women’s Day in the Soviet Union appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Women's History Month Book Review: Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holliday and the Dog Who Loved Her, by Amy Novesky (Harcourt Children's Books, 2013)

Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Amy Novesky's most recent picture book, Mister and Lady Day, an ode to jazz great Billie Holiday and her pet dogs, just arrived at my library in time for Women's History Month.

This is Amy's fourth book on prominent female figures in cultural history; she has also penned Me, Frida (on artist Frida Khalo), Georgia in Hawaii (on artist Georgia O'Keefe), Imogen (on photographer Imogen Cunningham).  She is currently working on a picture book on sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

Billie Holiday's tragic life. which included working as a prostitute, living in a workhouse with her mother, drug addiction, a prison sentence, and more, might not seem like a natural fit for a picture book for young children, and indeed, this side of Holiday's life does not appear in Novesky's book.  Novesky focused instead on Holiday's love for her many dogs, and in particular for her boxer named Mister.  Love for a dog, of course, is a theme that children identify easily with, as do many adults (OK, I'm a sucker for a good dog story).

We first meet Billie Holiday as a young girl, dreaming of being a star, singing on a borrowed gramophone.  Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, whose charming illustrations are done with gouache and charcoal with collage elements, depicts Billie in a beautiful setting on a fancy chair, dressed up with a bow in her hair (perhaps a bit fanciful given the realities of her childhood!).  The next spread shows her already a star, the great Lady Day. (Illustrated 2-page spreads from the book can be seen on Novesky's website).   Novesky introduces a note of melancholy in the text from the beginning, by explaining that even stars need someone to listen to them, and that's the role Lady Day's dogs played.  We meet her small dogs, chihuahuas Pepe and Chiquita, her big dogs (a Great Dane named Gypsy, and finally her favorite dog of all, Mister, who we see in a fabulous illustration, walking with Billie on a leash wearing matching mink coats.  Instead of a sidewalk, they are walking on a piano keyboard, with the buildings of New York in the background.  Mister had the life of a star himself; he was so pampered he got to eat steak while she was performing in glamorous clubs, and he waited for her while she performed, even serving to keep eager fans at bay.

Novesky tells young readers that "Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come."  In an afterword, she explains that Billie Holiday was in fact in jail during that time for drug possession.  When she returned, Mister was there to welcome her, and even accompanied her to a grand concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.  The story ends on a hopeful note, with Billie singing her heart out, and Mister listening in the wings.

An author's note gives some more background on Holiday's life, appropriately omitting some of the uglier facts, and provides additional sources and a web resource.

There's no CD with the book, but readers could easily find CD's of Holiday's unique singing style at the library or on YouTube, which would enrich the story.

This is a moving yet charming book about a difficult subject, and could be integrated into units on Black History Month, Women's History Month, or jazz.

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10. Women's History Month Book Review: Clara and Davie: the True Story of Young Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross, by Patricia Polacco (Scholastic, 2014)

Recommended for ages 6-12.

Patricia Polacco is one of our great contemporary picture book authors, and specializes in picture books with serious content such as racism, disabilities, and even cancer, making them appropriate for older elementary school readers.  In her newest book, which fits in perfectly for Women's History Month, she explores the girlhood of one of the most famous female figures of the 19th century, Clara Barton.

Clara was the fifth child to be born into the Barton family in Massachusetts, and with her mother in ill health, she was virtually raised by her siblings, particularly her older brother Davie, whom she adored.  Joyous illustrations in Polacco's signature style show Davie showing Clara how to ride on a horse while she flings her arms in the air in delight.  She helped Davie with his chores on the farm, and had an immediate affinity for nature and particularly with animals.  But she had a speech impediment that made her shy and afraid of people; because no one understood this sort of problem in that day, her older sister punished her for not speaking correctly.  School was a nightmare for her, and finally her parents agreed she could be taught at home.  Even as a young girl, Clara had healing hands and neighbors let her treat their farm animals.  When Clara's beloved brother Davie breaks both legs in an accident, she becomes his nurse and with her coaxing, urges him back to health, giving him the courage to try to walk again.

This is a touching introduction to a famous woman from history from a unique perspective--her love for her brother.  Children will be able to easily identify with Clara's inhibitions, her love for nature, and animals, and her desire to help her brother heal.  An author's note tells more about Barton's career as a teacher, nurse, and founder of the American Red Cross.  In an intriguing author's note, we learn that Patricia Polacco herself is distantly related to Clara Barton, on her mother's side of the family, and they own a vase which is reputed to once have belonged to Clara Barton herself.

See Mary Ann Scheuer and Louise Capizzio's post on Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month for more great suggestions on how to pair this book with other resources on Clara Barton.

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11. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Sister Anne’s Hands

By Marybeth Lorbiecki; illustrated by Wendy Bopp


March is Women’s History Month and March 8th through 14th is the first ever National Catholic Sisters Week that is intended to celebrate the generations of sisters who have taught in schools, served in nursing homes, orphanages and hospitals throughout the United States. Generally they were the glue that, in many ways, held the institution of the Catholic Church together seamlessly. And they did this all with a quiet determination and dedication with little recognition other than the conviction that their lives and the thousands they touched, were a testament to the faith they believed in. Sadly their numbers are dwindling as young people choose other avenues of service.

All of this put me in mind of a wonderful picture book I remember called, “Sister Anne’s Hands” by Marybeth Lorbiecki with illustrations by Wendy Bopp.

Sister Anne is an African-American sister teaching in a parochial school in the 60’s. Her teaching and storytelling methods are inventive and interesting as Wendy Bopp’s illustrations portray Sister Anne’s students held in rapt attention when she speaks. Just imagine how hard that was to pull off with 50 something children in an average class at that time!  The picture book’s story is told through the eyes of young Anna, a student in Sister Anne’s class who is confused when she overhears her parents say, “I don’t know how a woman of her color is going to survive.”

Sister Anne confronts the concrete meaning of that overheard phrase when a paper airplane sails through the air in her classroom with the following words written on it:


Roses are red.

Violets are blue.

Don’t let Sister Anne

Get any black on you.


The racial slur from a young unformed mind, obviously influenced by others, has Sister Anne react with a calm demeanor as she says she “needs quiet time to think about this.”

And Sister Anne opts to react to the racial discrimination in her young charges by informing them of her own experiences and heritage that causes some parents to withdraw their children from the class. But the children who remain are the fortunate ones. They are the recipients of the wisdom and talented teaching of a wonderful young woman who has an innate love for the young minds that come into her sphere for one special year. Young Anna in Sister Anne’s Hands and it seems, the author herself are both lucky enough to have come under the influence of a dedicated sister whose persona is only symbolic of the thousands like her. Wendy Bopp’s beautiful art work coupled with Ms. Lorbiecki’s view on a very contemporary issue of the 60’s is beautifully executed. 

And in that same vein, this book put me in mind of a sister I once met that recently passed away. She became the teacher of a young African-American student named Clarence Thomas; the very same Clarence Thomas that went on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Her dedication to the teaching of young African American students at a time in our country’s history when it was, to say the least, frowned upon, was both heartfelt and heroic. This sister, and others of her order put the education of ALL children first. Her core belief, put into action, was that every student deserved to have an equal chance at reaching his or her goals and her entire life was in the service of that belief.

So to ALL the Sister Annes of this world, and especially to the sister that I just mentioned, “Thank you! For the world will not see your like again.” And by the way, I had a Sister Anne-like teacher too!

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12. Illustration Inspiration: Diane Goode

DIANE GOODE has illustrated 55 beloved and critically acclaimed picture books, including the New York Times best seller, FOUNDING MOTHERS and the Caldecott Honor Book, WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS.

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13. 10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up ten of our books that feature some amazing women of color! From a baseball player to an American politician, these women have helped pave the way for many others.

1. Wangari Maathai, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace - the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize

seeds of change

2. Marcenia Lyle, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young  Girl’s Baseball Dream - the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team

catching the moon

3. Anna May Wong, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story - the first Chinese American movie star

shining star

4. Florence Mills, Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage - an international dancing and singing superstar during the Harlem Renaissance

baby flo

5. Augusta Savage, In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savagea sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance who carved out her own special place in art history

in her hands

6. Pura Belpré, The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos - New York City’s first Latina librarian

storyteller's candle

7. Patsy Mink, How We Are Smart - an American politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii

how we are smart

8. Hiromi Suzuki, Hiromi’s Hands - one of a handful of women in the male-dominated world of sushi chefs

hiromi's hands

9. Rosa Parks, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth - Mrs. Parks changed the course of history when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement

dear mrs. parks

10. Zora Neale Hurston, Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree - renowned African American writer

zora hurston and the chinaberry tree

Filed under: Book Lists, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Anna May Wong, augusta savage, diversity, florence mills, hiromi suzuki, Marcenia Lyle, patsy mink, Pura Belpré, Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, women, women's history, women's history month, zora neale hurston

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14. Grosset & Dunlap’s “Who Was?” Series | Women’s History Book Giveaway

Enter to win a Who Was? book from Grosset & Dunlap's leading biography series. Giveaway begins March 21, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 20, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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15. Black History Month Book Review: A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet, by Kathryn Lasky (Candlewick, 2012)

Recommended for ages 7-12.

Candlewick has recently reissued in beautiful full-color paperback editions several biographies of famous African-American women by Kathryn Lasky.  Earlier this month I reviewed Vision of Beauty:  The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker.  In A Voice of Her Own, Lasky shares the story of an equally extraordinary woman, Phillis Wheatley, known as the first black woman poet in America.

Lasky begins her book as a young girl is kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in America in 1761.  Through the girl's eyes, Lasky describes the harrowing journey from the west coast of Africa.  A powerful illustration, painted in acrylics, shows a terrified young girl huddled in the hold of the ship.  Upon arrival, she is purchased at a Boston slave market by the Wheatley family and given the name Phillis.  When we next meet Phillis, we learn that she has become no ordinary slave.  Mrs. Wheatley, realizing quickly how bright her new young slave was, decided to teach her to read and write, a sort of social experiment to see if an African could learn and understand the Bible.  While this sort of instruction was not illegal as it was in the South, it was nevertheless never done.

Phillis proved to be such an able student that she progressed beyond English to Latin and Greek, geography and mathematics--this at a time when few white women were offered this sort of education, and only the elite among white men.  Phillis was especially attracted to poetry, and had her first poem published when she was only fourteen years old.  Phillis became a celebrity in Boston, and was trotted out by her mistress to all the finest houses in town as a sort of curiosity.

Phillis Wheatley. Poems on Various Subjects. London, 1783

Ironically, Boston printers refused to publish a compilation of Wheatley's poems, refusing to believe that a Negro slave could have written them, even after a panel of distinguished Bostonians, including John Hancock, interviewed her and vouched for her.  Instead, the Wheatleys sent Phillis on a trip over the ocean to London, where she met a British publisher willing to publish her volume, and was received in the finest homes.  Returning to America when she learned her mistress was ill, she continued to write, even as Boston rebelled against the British.  After being published in London, her book sold well in Boston, and Phillis' fame grew.  She was even invited to meet General Washington after writing a poem in his honor.

In an epilogue, Lasky relates briefly the last years of Wheatley's life; after receiving papers freeing her from slavery from the Wheatleys, she married and had three children, all of whom died in infancy.  Her final poem, "Liberty and Peace," celebrated the end of the war, and she died in poverty at the age of thirty-one.

Back matter includes an index and a list of selected sources, as well as notes from the author and illustrator.  The text includes a few brief quotations from Wheatley's poems.

At a brief 38 pages, with beautiful and abundant color illustrations, this very accessible biography is one step up from a picture book, and could be read aloud in class or by parents as well as read independently by students in about third grade and up.  While the author provides plenty of information for a biographical report, the subject matter is fascinating and suitable for general reading as well as school assignments.  Phillis Wheatley's remarkable rise from an illiterate slave to a literary figure celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic is an inspiration to share with children, particularly during Black History Month or Women's History Month.

3 Comments on Black History Month Book Review: A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet, by Kathryn Lasky (Candlewick, 2012), last added: 2/26/2013
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16. Bad Girls - a good review

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Guay
Yolen, Jane and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. 2013. Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and other Female Villains. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Just in time for Women's History Month, the mother-daughter duo of Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple has released a fun compendium of "bad" women in history.  From  Delilah, the stealthy hairstylist of the Bible (circa 110BC), to gangsters' gal, Virginia Hill (1916-1966), Yolen and Stemple highlight history's most rebellious, racy, raucous, reprehensible, and sometimes resourceful women.

The choice of subjects, twenty-six in all, isn't the only thing that makes Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and other Female Villains a unique addition to the collection of books on women in history. Illustrations are provided by Rebecca Guay. In addition to a comic portrait of each notorious woman,

Illustration copyright © 2013
 by Rebecca Guay
included after each chapter is a graphic novel-style panel featuring Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple.  Each panel is set in a new location (these ladies took their "research" to the ends of the earth - shopping, eating and sightseeing, in Egypt, London, Massachusetts, wherever this gallery of rogues led them!), where Yolen and Stemple debate history's treatment of each woman.  Clever and humorous, these panels remind readers that societal and personal circumstances often dictate behaviors.  With the exception of the truly bad, Elizabeth Báthory, Yolen makes a case for each woman.  No, they may not have all been innocent, but given their particular circumstances, some of these women may have been given a bad historical rap. Stemple provides the counterpoint - bad is bad, regardless of circumstance.  Readers will be left to decide for themselves, but regardless of conclusion, they will understand that the role of women throughout history has not been an easy one.

Despite the subject matter, Yolen and Stemple maintain a light-hearted tone in and Bad Girls, as evidenced by the chapter titles:  "Lizzie Borden (1860-1927): One Whacky Woman," "Anne Boleyn (1500-1536): She Lost Her Head for Love."

Resources are included, offering interested older readers a jump start on where to find further information. There is more than just fun to be had with Bad Girls; download these resources from the publisher's site:
Be sure to read the conversation between Heidi and Jane that appeared on KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month! 

It's Nonfiction Monday.  Today's roundup host is Supratentorial.

4 Comments on Bad Girls - a good review, last added: 3/4/2013
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17. Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Hyperion Book CH, 2012, 352 pp, ISBN: 1423152190

Imagine yourself a prisoner of war. Your plane was shot down in Nazi occupied France. All of your clothes have been taken away. An iron rod has been tied to your back. You are tortured on a daily basis. How long would it take you to break?

And when you started talking, what story would you tell?

It took me two attempts to read Code Name Verity. Not because I couldn't get into the first time - quite the opposite in fact. My first attempt was the audiobook, read by the immensely talented Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell (although I didn't quite make it to Gaskell's portion). Christie was the voice of "Verity" and her gorgeous Scottish brogue made the book for me. I can still hear her spitting out "mein Hauptsturmführer von Linden," and goodness knows I would have completely muddled up that pronunciation had I been reading all on my own. Christie did an absolutely brilliant job of nailing down each nuance and innuendo of Verity's story, all through the power of her voice.

Now, when I started reading/listening to Code Name Verity, I didn't know a single thing about the story except that it was generating a ton of positive buzz in the book world. **Possible spoiler alert: When Verity's section abruptly ended and Maddie's began, I was so upset that I immediately ejected the CD and took it straight back to the library. Why was Elizabeth Wein taking Verity away??? Bring her back!!!

Well, about a week later, I was burning up to know how the book ended. So I checked out the print version from the library - hence, my second attempt. And I actually just started fresh from the very beginning. Seriously, this story does not get old. And I picked up on so many more things on the second read-through! So, I would consider the second attempt a big success. When I got to Maddie's story again, I was ready. And then Maddie had to go and blow my mind. Verity wasn't gone by a long shot, and her story just took a very dramatic twist when it picked up with her best friend. Elizabeth Wein, I take back what I said before. You are a genius.

If you love a mystery, if you appreciate historical fiction, if you get into a girl power story, if you are simply a human being who loves to read... do not pass up Code Name Verity

BOB Prediction:
Code Name Verity is going straight to the Big Kahuna Round. I will be pretty shocked if it doesn't win the whole thing.

Quotable Quotes:
"I have told the truth." - Verity
(If you've read it, doesn't this line still just give you the chills??)

6 Comments on Code Name Verity, last added: 3/4/2013
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18. Women's History Month Review: Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children, by Jan Pinborough (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013)

Recommended for ages 6-12.

Release date:  March 5, 2013

In her debut book for children, author Jan Pinborough offers a charming picture book biography of Anne Carroll Moore, an individual not well known among the general public but whose advocacy of library services for children are worthy of being celebrated in this handsome new volume released just in time for Women's History Month.

The book begins almost like a fairy tale:  "Once in a big house in Limerick, Maine, there lived a little girl named Annie Carroll Moore.  She had large gray eyes, seven older brothers, and ideas of her own."  We soon learn that Annie is a bit of a rebel, not content to do what a girl was supposed to do in those days.  She loved books, but in those days children weren't allowed in the library.  When she grew up, she went to New York City on her own to enroll in library school, and soon went to work in a library where they had something brand new--a room just for children, where Annie even read aloud to them.  An advocate for children, she later became head of the children's rooms at the New York Public Library's many branches.  At this time, children weren't allowed to take books home, since the librarians thought the children wouldn't bring them back.

Pinborough portrays Anne Carroll Moore's feisty personality with a constant refrain in the book:   "Miss Moore thought otherwise."  When a grand new central library was built in the city of New York, Miss Moore was responsible for creating and designing the special place for children, complete with child-sized furniture.  She brought authors, musicians and storytellers to entertain the children, and entertained them herself with her special doll Nicholas Knickerbocker and stories of his life.  Even when she retired, she continued educating librarians across the country on how to create wonderful libraries for children.

Back matter includes more details about Miss Moore, the "trailblazing librarian," and a list of sources.

The lively artwork by Debby Atwell, executed with brightly colored acrylics in a folk-art influenced style, is a wonderful match for Pinborough's breezy writing style.   Every children's librarian will want to have a copy of Pinborough's tribute to this remarkable woman on his or her shelf.  She was a true hero for librarians and children everywhere!  Check out the special website devoted to the book, an interview with the illustrator, Debby Atwell, at Kidsbiographers Blog, and watch for a special post by Jan Pinborough on Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month on March 7!

5 Comments on Women's History Month Review: Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children, by Jan Pinborough (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013), last added: 3/5/2013
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19. Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012, 148 pp, ISBN: 0547443153

Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950, not even a decade after the term "autism" had been coined for the very first time. As the spectrum disorder was still so new, very few people had any understanding of what that diagnosis meant - including Temple's own father, who called her "retarded" and wanted to send her away to a mental institution.

But that didn't slow Temple down for a second. Through the support and encouragement of her mother, and some truly stellar teachers, Temple went on to become an inventor, an activist, a college professor, and a source of real life inspiration for thousands around the world.

Book lovers, I hope you're still with me, because you've got to hear this... Sy Montgomery's book was at the bottom of my BOB list. I already knew a fair amount of Temple's story because my 6th graders had studied her when we were still in Baltimore. And after just finishing Titanic, I was itching for a novel to immerse myself in. But for some reason this title just kept rising to the top of my library bag. So I picked it up. And polished it off in less than 24 hours. Y'all, this book is excellent.

Temple Grandin's life is nothing short of remarkable. She didn't even speak until years later than her peers. As a child, she spent hours twirling in circles. Just the sound of a fan could cause her physical pain. But guess what? As of today, Temple has gone on to be a wildly successful adult, known around the world for her inventions that advance the humane treatment of animals. She is literally the only person ever to be honored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. Just think about that for a second. 

I read a lot of Temple's story in the car, and stopped at least every five minutes to feed my husband another fact about her incredible life. This is the kind of real life read that is just too good to keep to yourself - it needs to be shared.

And I will be the very first to admit that nonfiction can be a hard sell - especially to students! But the book designer, Cara Llewellyn, did a phenomenal job of creating a book that sells itself. Every single page features bright colors, contemporary fonts, and eye-catching illustrations and photographs. Temple Grandin is as much of a pleasure to look at as it is to actually read. 

If you appreciate nonfiction and/or biographies, you're going to love this one. But even if you're a die-hard fiction fan, I would still whole-heartedly recommend that you give Temple Grandin a shot. 

BOB Prediction:
I'm one of Augustus and Hazel's biggest fans so it pains me a little to say this... but I can see Temple giving them a run for their money in the first round. There are few things more powerful than a story that is inspiring, engaging, and TRUE.

Quotable Quotes:
"That's right. I want you to count the moos." - Temple Grandin

"I must conquer my fears and not let them block my way." - Temple Grandin

1 Comments on Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, last added: 3/7/2013
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20. “Board” of Women? Our roundup of Women’s History Month books

In honor of Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day, which is today!), we’ve pinned a roundup of our titles that feature some pretty amazing women on Pinterest. Check out our board and be inspired to make your mark in history!

WHM Pinterest

Filed under: Holidays Tagged: Book Lists, dreams and aspirations, overcoming obstacles, women, women's history, women's history month

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21. Women in Professional Baseball: “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”

Since it’s Women’s History Month and baseball season is right around the corner (!), we asked our favorite sports expert, author Crystal Hubbard, whether she thought women should be allowed to play professional baseball. Here’s what she had to say:

Toni StonePitcher Jackie Mitchell signed a contract to play for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a Southern Association minor league team, in 1931. This deal differed from most because Mitchell wasn’t like the other boys. She wasn’t a boy at all. She was a woman, one of the very few to play professional baseball on all-male teams. Although Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an April 2, 1931 exhibition game against the New York Yankees soon after signing with the Lookouts, baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis canceled Mitchell’s contract, claiming that baseball was too strenuous for women. Commissioner Ford Frick, on June 21, 1952, officially banned women from professional baseball.

Marcenia “Toni Stone” Lyle, Ila Borders, and most recently, Eri Yoshida of Japan, are among the very few truly accomplished female baseball players who found spots on the rosters of professional male teams. In 1993, Carey Schueler—the daughter of then White Sox general manager Ron Schueler—was drafted by the White Sox, becoming at 18 years old the first woman ever drafted by a Major League team.While banning women from almost any other field would lead to a lawsuit, the No Girls Allowed code of Major League Baseball remains.

Schueler, a left-handed pitcher, never took the field for a game.

While banning women from almost any other field would lead to a lawsuit, the No Girls Allowed code of Major League Baseball remains. Is it because women are too delicate for the physical challenges of MLB, or because they don’t have the physical ability or talent? Some women, perhaps. But not all, as evidenced by Mitchell, Lyle, Borders, Yoshida, and a fresh generation of skilled female Little Leaguers.

The same physical limitations used to justify banning women from professional baseball can also be applied to most male players—they aren’t strong enough, they aren’t fast enough, they aren’t good enough. Some female athletes are strong enough. And fast enough and good enough. Yet they still don’t have the same opportunities their male contemporaries enjoy. Male athletes who play baseball well have the chance to earn scholarships to college and perhaps even play professionally. Female athletes deserve the same.

Marcenia Toni Stone Lyle

No capable athlete should be banned from the Major Leagues because of her gender. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. It’s long past time we redefined that saying.

Crystal Hubbard is a sports buff and full-time writer. Her books include Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream, Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe, and The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby.

Filed under: guest blogger, Holidays Tagged: baseball, biography, Marcenia Lyle, Sports, toni stone, women's history, women's history month

3 Comments on Women in Professional Baseball: “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, last added: 4/15/2013
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22. Why send a woman to Washington when you can get a man?

By Richard A. Baker

In a 1948 election contest to fill a US Senate seat, the wife of one of the candidates took a dim view of her husband’s opponent, Representative Margaret Chase Smith. Why, she wondered publicly, would the voters of Maine want to send “a woman to Washington when you can get a man?”

Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith. From the US Senate Historical Office. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Well, indeed, the voters of one of Maine’s three congressional districts had already taken a chance on a woman, electing Margaret Smith on five occasions since the death in 1940 of her husband, Representative Clyde Smith, whose dutiful secretary she had once been. During her more than eight years in the House, Mrs. Smith—who never missed an opportunity to associate herself with the 1939 film classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—initially built a record as an independent outsider, mirroring the Hollywood image of Jimmy Stewart’s “Senator Jefferson Smith.”

In 1948 the women of Maine, who constituted nearly two-thirds of that state’s registered voters, appreciated Smith’s efforts during World War II to bring equal status to women in the armed services. Some among them were particularly offended by her opponents’ questioning of women’s ability to hold public office.

With the campaign slogan, “Don’t trade a record for a promise,” Smith overwhelmingly won both the June Republican primary and the general election–at that time held in September. In that latter election, she benefitted from the cluelessness of her opponent, a dermatologist who argued that in a sick world, what the nation most needed were more physicians in government.

The first woman elected to both houses of Congress and the first woman to reach the Senate without previously having been appointed to an unexpired term, Mrs. Smith was the most nationally prominent Republican in her Senate freshmen class. Among her classmates were high-profile Democrats Lyndon Johnson of Texas and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.

It was customary for new senators of her day to remain quietly in the shadows. Not Senator Smith! In office less than a year-and-a-half, she delivered a blistering 15-minute floor speech against the anti-Communist demagoguery of Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. McCarthy responded predictably with a sneering reference to Smith and the co-signers of her “Declaration of Conscience” as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.”

Margaret Smith’s power in the Senate grew out of her independence—no party leader could take her vote for granted; her diligence—she made every roll-call vote for nearly twenty years until hip surgery broke that remarkable streak; her boundless energy; and her eventual seniority on the chamber’s influential committees on Appropriations and Armed Services. She dismissed efforts to brand her as a pioneering feminist. “I was treated fairly in the Senate not because of equal rights but because of seniority.”

From her Armed Services Committee perch, Smith adopted a hawkish approach to US military policy, supporting the war in Vietnam and criticizing the United States for not keeping ahead of the Soviet Union in stockpiling nuclear weapons. That stance provoked Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to denounce her as “the devil in disguise of a woman.”

“Maggie” (a commonly used reference that she disliked) Smith’s path-breaking Senate career ended in 1972 with her defeat by Democrat William Hathaway. His campaign played on her apparent physical frailty, noting that she used a motor scooter to shuttle between her Senate office building suite and the Capitol (she would live for another 23 years), and charges of her remoteness from her constituents. Her retirement left the Senate an all-male bastion for the next five years.

Twenty years after Smith’s departure, the 1992 Senate elections witnessed a major national backlash against the traditionally male Senate. The result was the so-called Year of the Woman. This came in no small degree because of the shabby treatment the men of the Senate Judiciary Committee accorded to Anita Hill, who testified at its hearings in opposition to the US Supreme Court appointment of Clarence Thomas. As a result of that pivotal election, by mid-1993 seven women sat in the Senate. Today, that number stands at 20, including 16 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Currently, in California, New Hampshire, and Washington State, both senators are women, a status held by Smith’s Maine from 1997 until 2013.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of Margaret Chase Smith’s 1948 Senate election is that these 20 women are no longer viewed with the condescending curiosity that greeted the Mrs. Smith who went to Washington 65 years ago. Today, they are not primarily “women” senators; they are just senators.

The Margaret Chase Library in her hometown of Skowhegan, Maine, now serves as a robust research facility for those who wish learn more about her life, her times, and a US Senate largely unrecognizable to her modern successors.

Richard A. Baker, Historian Emeritus of the US Senate, is coauthor of The American Senate: An Insider’s History.

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23. Women's History all year long!

The 4th annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people begins today at

The blog is maintained by me and fellow librarian blogger, Margo Tanenbaum
 of The Fourth Musketeer, and is a collaborative resource 
of inspiration and information  created by authors, artists, librarians and book bloggers.

This year, we have a new look, and if you prefer, you can find links to the blog's posts on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!

Please check the blog often during Women's History Month!  You won't be disappointed.

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24. Women's History Month Book Review: Florence Nightingale, by Demi (Henry Holt, 2014)

Women's History Month began on Saturday, March 1.  You can learn more about outstanding children's books on women's history by following the 4th annual group blog which I co-organize with fellow blogger/librarian Lisa Taylor, Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, Once again we will feature posts from distinguished authors, illustrators, librarians and bloggers, and we invite you to participate in the conversation.  This year's contributors will include authors Tonya Bolden, Sandra Neil Wallace and Gretchen Woelfie, librarian Penny Peck, and many others.  In addition to the blog, you can also access our content on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  While new content is published only in March, the blog is available all year long as a resource for librarians, parents, and educators.  Please join us in our 4th annual celebration!  

Here at the Fourth Musketeer I will also be highlighting books about women in history this month.  Today I will be reviewing Demi's newest book on Florence Nightingale.  Demi has published over 150 books during her long career, many of them large format biographical picture books aimed at elementary school-aged students.  In addition to their informative text, Demi's biographies showcase her unique artistic style, which features a strong Asian influence, traditional materials, intricate patterns, and vibrant, glowing colors.
When I was a girl in the 1960's and '70's, Florence Nightingale would have been one of the only women from history you would have been likely to find a book on in the children's biography section of your local library, although I would be reasonably certain that I could not have found a biography as beautifully illustrated as this new one.  On the end pages and title page, we see Florence as the iconic Lady of the Lamp.  The book unfolds in a traditional linear narrative, beginning with Florence's birth and girlhood.  She was born into a very wealthy British family, where she had all the advantages of an upper class upbringing.  But her interest in nursing and helping others began at a young age; Demi shows us Florence as a little girl playing hospital with her dolls.  Her interest in nursing intensified on a family trip to the Continent when in addition to seeing the tourist sights, she visited hospitals and charities.  Her parents were opposed to her becoming a nurse, but eventually relented when they saw her commitment.  

Demi's text and artwork show Florence's career progressing from working at a hospital for indigent women to her groundbreaking work nursing soldiers in the Crimean War, where she arranged for patients to get healthy food and water and stressed the need for cleanliness.  We see Florence wandering the wards at night with her lantern, earning her nickname, The Lady with the Lamp.  

Florence worked herself to exhaustion and suffered ill health later in her life.  Nonetheless, she continued to work for the poor and downtrodden in society, and inspired the founding of the International Red Cross.  

Demi's book not only provides an outline of Florence Nightingale's remarkable life but also considers her legacy as an extraordinary woman in history.  Back matter includes a timeline and suggestions for further reading.

This slim but powerful volume is a must for school and public libraries. 

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25. Someone Is Observing Women's History Month

I wish I had pulled things together so I could have planned a series of posts for Women's History Month. Fortunately, someone else was more on top of things. A group blog entitled Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month will be posting on new books about women during the month of March.

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