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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Biography, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 778
1. Profiling schoolmasters in early modern England

In 2015 the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography introduced an annual research bursary scheme for scholars in the humanities. As the first year of the scheme comes to a close, we ask the second of the 2015-16 recipients—the early modern historian, Dr Emily Hansen—about her research project, and how it’s developed through her association with the Oxford DNB.

The post Profiling schoolmasters in early modern England appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. Rich Kienzle. 2016. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Would he or wouldn't he show up?

Premise/plot: The Grand Tour is a biography of George Jones that seeks to balance a focus on his life and on his music. The author takes on the role of music critic and biographer. In the prologue he explains his approach, "Jones's life and music are inseparable. The music often triumphed even during his worst personal moments. His evolution from twangy imitator to distinctive new voice, from influential vocalist to master of his craft, is as important as his personal failings. Exploring that musical side--how he found songs and recorded them; the perspectives of the public, those involved in creating his records, and Jones himself--is pivotal to understanding the story. I've attempted to take the long view, examining not only his life and the events that shaped him from start to present, but simultaneously exploring his immense musical legacy, all in a clear chronological context." (13)

My thoughts: I started listening to George Jones' music this summer. And what I loved, I really, really LOVED. So I was curious to pick this new biography up at the library. I picked it up as a new fan and not an expert, so perhaps keep that in mind. But I enjoyed this biography very much. I think I might have appreciated aspects of it even more if I was familiar with more of his albums, more of his songs.

The prologue of this one had me hooked. Here is how the author describes Jones' voice: "The voice was raw nerve put to music...Yet above all that was his consummate ability to explore pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and emotional desolation." (9)

It was an often absorbing read full of highs and lows. I would definitely recommend it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Financial networks and the South Sea Bubble

In 2015 the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography introduced an annual research bursary scheme for scholars in the humanities. As the first year of the scheme comes to a close, we ask the first of the 2015-16 recipients—the economic historian, Dr Helen Paul of Southampton University—about her research project, and how it’s developed through her association with the Oxford DNB.

The post Financial networks and the South Sea Bubble appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy

Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy. Richard Michelson. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lenny took a deep breath and looked out at the playhouse stage.

Premise/plot: Richard Michelson has written a picture book biography of Leonard Nimoy. The book opens in 1939 with a young Lenny preparing to sing "God Bless America" at a talent show. He was the son of Russian immigrants--Jewish, and raised so. In fact, his inspiration for the Vulcan hand gesture--live long and prosper--came from a priestly blessing.

Readers learn about his interest in photography and acting. Both would be life-long pursuits and interests.

The book closes with Leonard Nimoy taking on the role of Spock and making it truly his own. The last illustrated spread depicts the first use of the "live long and prosper" from the episode Amok Time.

The next two pages fill out the rest of his life. He was an actor and a director. He was a photographer who displayed his photographs for the public, and, in fact published them as works of art. He was also an author.

The end brings a smile to my face. Before he left home, his mother encouraged him to learn to play the accordion. Acting jobs may come and go, she warned. But musicians can find a way to work. The book ends, "But he never did learn to play the accordion."

My thoughts: I LOVED this one so much. I thought it was very charming and well written. I did indeed find it fascinating. The author's note was great. I love that this book was written by one of Leonard Nimoy's close friends. I loved the personal touch--knowing that Nimoy read and approved of the project.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. A biography of the legendary Native American Jim Thorpe (1888–1953), voted the Greatest Football Player and Greatest Athlete of the Half-Century by two AP polls, focusing on his early childhood and how school and sports shaped his future.

Featured title: Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path

Author: Joseph Bruchac

Illustrator: S.D. Nelson

Synopsis: The biographymain_large of the legendary Native American, Jim Thorpe (1888–1953), focusing on his early childhood and how school and sports shaped his future.

From the day he was born, Jim Thorpe’s parents knew he was special. As the light shone on the road to the family’s cabin, his mother gave Jim another name — Wa-tho-huck — “Bright Path.”

Jim’s athletic skills were evident early on, as he played outdoors and hunted with his father and twin brother. When the boys were sent to Indian boarding school, Jim struggled in academics but excelled in sports. Jim moved from school to school over the years, overcoming family tragedies, until his athletic genius was recognized by Coach Pop Warner at the Carlisle Indian School.

Awards and Honors:

  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award Honor, National Council for Social Studies
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Teachers’ Choices, International Reading Association (IRA)
  • Best of the Best List, Chicago Public Library, Children & YA Services
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine

Check out this interview with author, Joseph Bruchac, about Native American literature.

Resources for teaching with Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path:

jim thorpe image blog

 

 

 

 

 

Discover other books like Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path with the Joseph Bruchac Collection!

Book Activities:

  1. Draw attention to the use of similes in the book. For example: Jim took to it all like a catfish takes to a creek. It made him (Jim) feel like a fox caught in an iron trap. Epidemics of influenza swept through like prairie fires. Have students try to write their own similes for other events or actions in the story.
  2. Ask students to explore the National Track & Field Hall of Fame (www.usatf.org ) or the Pro Football Hall of Fame (www.profootballhof.com ) and plan an imaginary trip there or enjoy a visual visit on the Web.

Have you used Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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6. Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge  by Monica Kulling illustrated by Bill Slavin Tundra Books, 2016 Grades K-6 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Nikola Tesla is the latest subject in Monica Kulling's Great Idea Series featuring innovators and inventors. The story of Nikola Tesla is sure to intrigue readers. The picture book biography begins with Tesla departing from a

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7. 5 Edinburgh attractions for booklovers [slideshow]

The Edinburgh Fringe is in full swing with over 3,000 arts events coming to the vibrant Scottish capital over the next few weeks. With the International Book Festival kicking off on the 13th, we’ve compiled our favourite bookish spots around the city for you to squeeze into your schedule.

The post 5 Edinburgh attractions for booklovers [slideshow] appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still  by Karlin Gray illustrated by Christine Davener Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 Grades K-5 As I watched the Olympics on television Sunday evening a familiar face was in the crowd for the women's gymnastics competition: Nadia Comaneci was in Rio to cheer on the 2016 gymnasts. A new picture book biography introduces young children to the Romanian gymnast and

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9. Let Your Voice Be Heard

Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger. Anita Silvey. 2016. HMH. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Pete Seeger became the most important folk singer of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But he might have chosen a very different path. Although his grandfather made a fortune from sugar refining in Mexico, Pete became an advocate for underpaid workers. Though he came from financial privilege, he identified with those who had to make a living. He fought for the oppressed and poor all his life.

Premise/plot: Let Your Voice Be Heard is a biography of Pete Seeger written for children. (I'd say eight to twelve, if I had to put a label on it.) The biography is great at putting Pete Seeger's life into context for better understanding. Perhaps the author wanting to keep this one short and accessible for her audience, did not fully cover his life and music. It is not an exhaustive book on the subject. But a good, basic introduction.

My thoughts: I definitely found this one to be fascinating. I knew next to nothing about Pete Seeger before picking this one up. (I'm certainly no expert in folk music. My only familiarity at all coming from the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary.) I thought it was very well-written.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton illustrated by Don Tate Charlesbridge, 2016 Grades K-5 Chris Barton and Don Tate collaborated on last year's successful picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. I'm pleased that the duo is back with the engaging picture book about engineer, Lonnie Johnson. Johnson was a creative and inventive child who

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11. Crossing Niagara

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares Candlewick, 2016 Grades K-5 In stunning watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations, Tavares conveys the incredible story of the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker who set his sights on crossing Niagara Falls in 1859. Crowds packed the area to see The Great Blondin walk across the falls. Gamblers

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12. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still. Karlin Gray. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. 2016. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: A picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci.

My thoughts:  First, I just want to say that I want--no, I NEED--more picture books about gymnastics. Or early readers. Or chapter books. Or, you know, novels. And while I'm at it, I'll put in a request for books about ice skating. A picture book about the 1996 U.S. Gymnastics team would be GREAT fun I think!

Second, I just have to say that I really enjoyed this picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci! It is a very age-appropriate biography I must say. It is set in Romania in the 1960s and 1970s. (But the focus is never on politics or hardships or possible reasons why she might have defected from her country.) Readers meet a young Nadia and her coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. She began doing gymnastics at the age of 6. Over half the book focuses on the 1976 Olympic Games. The book ends with her returning home after winning at the Olympics. She was 14 years old, I believe. I want to say that these days you have to be at least sixteen in order to compete at the Olympics. A timeline will catch adults up on her life story.

One thing I did appreciate was the source notes provided at the end of the book. So often picture book biographies fail to show their research.

This one is easy to recommend.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. How well do you know your quotes from Down Under?

"What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before." Mark Twain put his finger on one of the minor problems for a relatively new nation: making an impact in the world of famous quotations. All the good lines seem to have already been used somewhere else, by somebody else.

The post How well do you know your quotes from Down Under? appeared first on OUPblog.

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14. The Tree Lady — Perfect Picture Book Friday

I had another book scheduled for today, but as I am staying with one of my writing buddies and she introduced me to a delightful biography of a tree-loving woman here in San Diego, I couldn’t pass up the chance … Continue reading

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15. A Girl Called Vincent

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay  by Krystyna Poray Goddu Chicago Review Press, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-61373-172-7 Grades 5 and up April is Poetry Month, so it's fitting that A Girl Called Vincent was released earlier this month. The biography provides middle grade and teen readers with an in-depth look at the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was known to her friends

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16. Who was Bill Philips?

Austerity, uncertainty, instability … all problems we associate with Europe today as it cycles from pre-GFC exuberance to today’s austerity. But to put things in perspective, these are minor problems compared what our grandparents endured after World War Two. In Britain many people did not have enough to eat, the government had secret plans for national catastrophe, the Cold War was raging, the colonies erupting, and Sterling was in crisis. In those days there were few policy economists, and macroeconomics was caught in a battle between non-interventionist classical economics and the Keynesian revolution of demand management.

The post Who was Bill Philips? appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. FROM THE BACKLIST: The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth Written by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes Little, Brown and Company. 1994 ISBN: 0316515264 I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth.

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18. Cover Reveal: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter (Lee & Low, 2016). From the promotional copy:

A horse that can read, write, spell, and do math? Ridiculous! 

That's what people thought in the late 1800's - until they met Beautiful Jim Key.

Born a weak and wobbly colt in 1889, Jim was cared for by William "Doc" Key, a formerly enslaved man and self-taught veterinarian who believed in treating animals with kindness, patience, and his own homemade remedies. 

Under Doc's watchful eyes, Jim grew to be a healthy young stallion with a surprising talent - a knack for learning! For seven years, Doc and Jin worked together, perfecting Jim's skills. Then it was time for them to go on the road, traveling throughout the United States and impressing audiences with Jim's amazing performances. In the process, they broke racial barriers, and raised awareness for the humane treatment of animals.

Here's a true story of an extraordinary horse and the remarkable man who nurtured the horse's natural abilities. Together they asked the world to step right up and embrace their message of kindness toward animals.

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19. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton – PPBF, Diversity Day, 2016

  Celebrating Black History Month! Title: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses HortonPoet: Author and illustrator: Don Tate Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2015 Themes: slavery, illiteracy, poetry, African American, perseverance, Genre: biography Ages: 6-9 Opening: GEORGE LOVED WORDS. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved. He and his family lived … Continue reading

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20. FROM THE BACKLIST - Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown

Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History Written and illustrated by Don Brown Roaring Brook Press. 2015 ISBN: 9781596439986 Grades 5 - 12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library. Aaron and Alexander could have been friends. They were alike in many ways. But the ways in which they were different made them the worst of enemies. Brown’s

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21. Let the people speak: history with voices

For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.

The post Let the people speak: history with voices appeared first on OUPblog.

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22. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency by Linda Crotta Brennan

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932 and served until his untimely death in 1945.   When he came into office, the country was in the throes of the worst depression the world had suffered to date; at his death the country was just coming to the end of World War II.  So much happened during Roosevelt's presidency and Linda Crotta Brennan has chronicled it all in this slim, but informative book.  

Brennan begins with some background information including a brief account of Roosevelt's childhood and education, his famous family (President Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin's future wife Eleanor were distance relatives) and his early rise into the political scene.  But in 1921, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio and though most people thought that his career in politics was over, Roosevelt was determined to continue on his planned course in politics.

In 1929, the stock market crash sent the country into a depression, with people hungry and out of work everywhere.  President Hubert Hoover did little to help the country get on it feet again, and in 1932, Roosevelt was elected president, taking over the reigns from Hoover.

Elected to four terms in office, Brennan explains how Roosevelt led the country out of the depression with a variety of social programs for putting people back to work.  Not all of these programs were welcomed by Congress and he was forced to issue Executive Orders a total of 3,522 times.  Before the depression was completely over, however, the world was at war, and Roosevelt once again had to come up with some clever ways to help Britain, while keeping the United States out of the conflict.

But on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war.  Roosevelt's time in office was often met with dissension in Congress and with the people, but his presidency was really marred by Executive Order 3066, forcing Japanese American to be removed to internment camps.

The book ends with Roosevelt's sudden death and the swearing in of Harry Truman as the next president and his first few months in office.  

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency is chock full of information about our 32nd President, some of it already known, some of it a behind the scenes look at his life.  There are abundant archival photographs and insets that offer additional information, including on one polio, a disease many kids may not even know about anymore.  It is a very well researched work, ideal for upper level middle graders and high school kids studying American History.  The language and explanations are straightforward and easy to understand, including some complex concepts.

The back matter includes a timeline, source notes, a Glossary, and Selected Bibliography along with Further Information.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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23. Not Without My Daughter

Not Without My Daughter. Betty Mahmoody. 1987. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

I first read Betty Mahmoody's Not Without My Daughter in high school back in the nineties. Up until that point, I'm not sure I'd read any nonfiction "for fun," in other words of my own choice and NOT for a school assignment. And to be honest, most of the nonfiction I'd read before was biographies of dead people I had little interest in to begin with. This book was a quick, compelling, action-and-adventure packed book about a mother and her daughter--and both were still alive. I remember it being a "wow" book for me.

Twenty years later--give or take a few years--I decided to reread this one. I saw My name is Mahtob at the library and it brought this one to mind again. The books are quite different. This one focuses more on Betty's marriage to Moody and Betty's determination to get them both out of Iran no matter what. It was written just a year or possibly two years after their escape. And as they were still very much in hiding at the time it was published, it doesn't give you much of a sense of what happened after they escaped through Turkey.

To catch everyone up in case you're not familiar with Not Without My Daughter or My Name is Mahtob:

In the late 1970s, Betty married an Iranian man nicknamed Moody. At first their marriage was working out well enough. He was a mostly non-practicing Muslim who was becoming more and more Americanized with each passing week. He treated her well--lavishing her with gifts, proud to show her off to anyone and everyone. After the birth of their daughter, Mahtob, things began to change. Not her fault, mind you, but because of the situation in Iran. Now that Iran was at war, now that his country was violent and in turmoil, he felt it was HIS country again. He listened to Iranian radio and read Iranian newspapers all the time. He became more and more unhappy in America, blaming America for all of the problems in Iran. That coupled with job woes meant horrible stress and strain on their marriage. Also the family "hosted" at various times several of his family visiting from Iran, and a visit could last months or even a year...

It was after a visit from one of his "nephews" in 1984 that he determined that the family would go to Iran for a two week vacation. He insisted that they had to go. Fighting against her natural instincts, she agreed that the family could go--for two weeks. At the time she agreed, she was already thinking of divorce. But she was worried about Mahtob, not, what divorce might do to her emotionally, but, what it might mean for her physically. Her father could take her out of the country to Iran--without her permission, essentially kidnap his own daughter--and stay indefinitely without breaking any laws. There was no legal protection in place.

The first few chapters of the book focus on the initial two-week vacation, but, as Betty feared, Moody's vacation was really much more permanent. He told her they were never going back to America, she'd never see her family--her parents, her two sons by a previous marriage, etc.--again. She was to learn to be a proper Iranian wife, the sooner the better. In the meantime, she was essentially held hostage. Not allowed out of the house, not allowed to use the telephone, not allowed to write letters. By this point, Moody's temperament had shifted from unhappy and mean to violent and abusive. The book is at times graphic in detailing the physical abuse of both mother and daughter. I think what hurt worse than the abuse she received at the hands of her husband was watching him abuse Mahtob. That and knowing that his family KNEW of the abuse--heard it, saw it--and did nothing. Moody was out of control and unpredictable.

The rest of the book covers essentially the almost two years they spent trapped in Iran. She had to learn the language, had to learn the city, had to learn the culture, customs, laws, and religion. Her goal was to conform enough on the outside so that her inner rebellion could go undetected as long as possible.

Her family did learn soon after the two weeks was up that the two were trapped in Iran, that Moody would not allow them to leave, that they were being held against their will. Her family did everything they could--on their side--to help their daughter. And through the American interest office of the Swiss embassy, I believe, they did manage to stay in contact some. But no one could think of a legal way for both mother and daughter to leave the country. Betty could divorce him at any time and leave. But leaving Mahtob behind meant leaving her behind forever. A mother give up on her child?! Never.

Is the book Christian? No and yes. It is not published by a Christian publisher, and, there are words in this one that no Christian publisher would ever allow. But Betty was nominally at least a Christian when she married Moody--a variety of Methodist, I believe. For better or worse, she believed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, and that whether one called him "Allah" or "God" didn't matter much at the end of the day. Mother and daughter prayed together daily in secret--in the bathroom--pleading with God to let them escape Iran and return to America. At times, Betty expressed a great longing to have a Bible--a New Testament--to read. And several times she referred to Jesus as the Son of God. But at the same time, Betty blurred the lines a bit, in matters of doctrine. She began praying to Allah, praying the five daily prayers facing Mecca, began visiting Islamic holy sites and making wishes and vows. If God couldn't help her, maybe Allah would. She writes that Moody couldn't begin to suspect her sincerity in her prayers. So there are little things that might add up to make elements of this one questionable in terms of "is the book Christian?" That being said, I think Christians--especially adult believers--should be able to read the book with discerning, compassionate eyes. Yes, Betty was "unequally yoked;" she did not marry a Christian believer. But having Mahtob was undoubtedly a blessing, and, God did indeed work out all things for good through the circumstances. After Betty escaped, she became a champion for this cause, a spokesperson, a fighter. Never forgetting what it felt like to be trapped, to be separated from her family, her country, she would FIGHT to help reunite other families in similar situations around the world, she would fight to change laws as well, or, to put laws into place. So her experiences, as horrible as they were, have benefited others.

Is the book anti-Muslim? I wouldn't say that it was exactly the Islamic faith she was opposing as much as it was her own controlling, possessive, abusive husband who appeared to have mental health issues. It hurt her to see other women--whether foreign-born or not--in marriages where men were abusive and manipulative. What she wanted to see, perhaps, was a culture where men respected women, and women respected men--both being equal. She didn't like being told that that is just how men are: all men beat their wives. Some are more open about it in front of others, but, this was just something that made men, men. This felt wrong to her, it didn't sit right. Not all men are like that, and women should not have to live in fear of losing their lives. Some of the issues addressed in the book--physical abuse--could have happened anywhere in the world. Her being in a foreign country where she couldn't easily speak the language and where everyone else was a different religion didn't HELP her escape his abuse once it started. But, his being Iranian, his being Muslim, wasn't the root cause of his being abusive either.

That being said, I don't think it would pass the current political correctness test. It was published in 1987. For example, she focuses in on how un-American living conditions were: how unclean the houses were, how bathrooms were a hole in the ground, how "most people" just bathed once or twice a year, how babies didn't wear diapers, how bugs and worms and other vermin were in the food and not even picked out before cooking, how women blew their noses on their chadors. Little things that add up to create the idea that she found living conditions in Iran to be absolutely beneath her and primitive, for lack of a better word. She doesn't go out of her way to be kind and generous about the culture exactly. For what it is, one person's perspective on Iran during the years 1984-1986, I don't think it is hugely unfair or overly offensive. In the movie, I thought it was exaggerated even more. The character openly saying again and again, HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE WITH SUCH PRIMITIVE PEOPLE?! In the book, it is never that outspoken.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Author Interview: Heather Lang on Fearless Flyer & Writing Strong Women

Visit Heather Lang's official author site & @Hblang
By Helen Kampion
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Congratulations on your new picture book biography Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine (Calkins Creek, 2016) and the starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal! 

I was captivated by your account of Ruth Law’s record-breaking flight from Chicago to New York City one hundred years ago, and Raúl Colón’s illustrations are magnificent.

You are creating a wonderful collection of books about strong women from our past. How do you choose the women you write about?

I love to read and write about lesser-known women, who dream big, pick themselves up when they fall, and stay persistent.

These women might face poverty, racial or gender discrimination, disability, or other hardships. They’re not afraid of failure. They inspire me to step outside my own comfort zone and be brave.

What drew you to this story about Ruth Law?

Sometimes I’m drawn to writing about topics I fear. With fear, there’s always fascination—like when you don’t want to watch a scary movie, but you can’t help yourself.

I’m a nervous flyer, so I’ve always been intrigued by those who dared to fly the flimsy biplanes made in the early 1900s. Ruth Law opened doors for women aviators like Amelia Earhart to enter this male-dominated field.

I loved how Ruth immersed herself fully in flying, even mastering the mechanics of her plane. She could tell what was wrong with her motor by the sound of it!

Her passion and personality came through in her words—she had a lovely voice. I wove her words into the text, so Ruth helps tell her own story.

It’s clear a lot of research went into Fearless Flyer. Can you talk a little about your process? 

Every book I write is a treasure hunt. I never know where a clue might take me. My initial research involved reading a lot of newspaper articles, and in one of those articles Ruth mentioned she kept a scrapbook. I tracked it down at the National Air and Space Museum archives.

Heather researching Ruth Law's scrapbook
Her enormous scrapbook was stuffed with newspaper articles, mementos, photos, and her own handwriting. It was a goldmine.

While I was there I visited the early flight exhibit at the museum, educated myself about her biplane, and learned about the evolution of flight. A lot of questions popped up about her plane and how she operated it, so I found a retired Navy Commander who pilots and builds these old-style biplanes. He had incredible insights.

I also consulted with the folks at the Glen H. Curtiss Museum and the National Air and Space Museum.

I am always amazed how generous people are with their time and how eager they are to help.

What is one of your favorite things about writing for children?

Other than being able to wear sweat pants or pajamas all day, I’d have to say one of my favorite things about my job is the community. I can’t imagine a more supportive group of people than writers, teachers, and librarians. We all have the same primary goal—to have a positive impact on children, giving them books they can relate to and books that open them up to new people and places and dreams.

From Heather's The Original Cowgirl, illustrated by Suzanne Beaky (Whitman)

I’m in two critique groups. We share the highs of clever endings, successful revisions, and accepted submissions. We share the struggles of faulty plots, poor reviews, and rejection. I rely on them tremendously for support.

What are you working on now?

with Alice Coachman
I’m launching a blog focusing on Girls With Grit and having a blast creating the content.

It will include real-life stories, psychology and science, classroom activities, interviews with authors, and of course children’s books with strong female characters.

I’m also adding supplemental materials to my website so readers can get to know even more about Ruth Law and her flying machine.

What do you have coming out next?

I’m really excited about my next picture book biography, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, illustrated by Jordi Solano (Albert Whitman, 2016), about an amazing shark scientist AKA “The Shark Lady.”

Sadly, Genie (as she liked to be called) died last year at the age of 92. I had the thrill of interviewing her in person in 2014, and hearing about her remarkable adventures. Genie also reviewed the manuscript for me.

I look forward to sharing this amazing woman with kids everywhere.

Cynsational Notes

Helen's muses
Helen Kampion is a graduate of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for young readers, including middle-grade novels and picture book biographies.

Her picture book manuscripts have been recognized by The Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult & Children’s Writing sponsored by Hunger Mountain ("Paddy Cats," Special Mention, 2015) and by the National Association of Elementary School Principals ("Francesca’s Funky Footwear," Finalist, 2013).

When she’s not at her desk busy writing you can find her helping fellow authors with marketing events, volunteering at the New England SCBWI conference, or teaching creative writing workshops for children. Helen also serves on the on the Board of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. Find her on Twitter @helenkampion.

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25. Ira’s Shakespeare Dream – Perfect Picture Book Friday & Diversity Day

Title: Ira’s Shakespeare Dream Written by: Glenda Armand illustrated by: Floyd Cooper Published by: Lee & Low, May 2015 Themes: African Americans, biography, Ira Aldridge, Shakespeare, acting, diversity, abolition of slavery in the USA Ages: 7-11+ Genre: Picture Book Biography Opening: IRA COULD NOT KEEP STILL as he waited in the balcony of … Continue reading

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