February 26 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month is a celebration of the achievements of African Americans and the contributions they have made to the United States History. Appropriately for this election year, the theme for 2020 is “African Americans and the Vote,” which recognizes the struggle for both black men as well as women throughout American history. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1870 and gave black men the right to vote after the Civil War. It has also been one hundred years since women gained the right to vote. For more information about Black History Month, visit the ASALH website and africanamericanhistorymonth.gov.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Written by Chris Barton | Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

 

As a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan was known for her distinctive voice. “That voice. That big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It caused folks to sit right up, stand up straight, and take notice. What do you do with a voice like that?” Barbara recited poetry, gave speeches, and in 1952 won an oratory contest with a trip to Chicago as the prize. She was proud of herself and where her voice was leading her. But where would that be?

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Image copyright Ekua Holmes, 2018, text copyright Chris Barton, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

She considered becoming a preacher, a teacher, and a lawyer. When a black woman lawyer gave a speech at Barbara’s high school, Barbara thought she had found her calling. She attended college where she “learned how to find facts for herself, debate important issues, defend good ideas, and dismantle bad ones.” She graduated with a law degree, but practicing law became boring. She wrote more than she spoke, and the work was not demanding enough.

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Image copyright Ekua Holmes, 2018, text copyright Chris Barton, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

It was 1960, and Barbara decided to lend her voice to causes she believed in. She became involved in politics, and on one pivotal night, she filled in for a speaker who was absent. “The audience loved her. They trusted her. Most important they were inspired to do something—to get out and vote” and to persuade others to vote. Barbara decided to run for office. She lost her first two elections, but the third one she won.

Barbara Jordan was now a Texas state senator, representing the people she grew up with. She believed in making changes from within the political system through debating issues on the Senate floor. She also got to know her colleagues outside of work, and they got to know her. They listened to each other, and positive changes were the result. In 1972, Barbara ran for Congress and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington DC.

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Image copyright Ekua Holmes, 2018, text copyright Chris Barton, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In 1973, the Watergate scandal broke. “President Nixon, it seemed, had broken the law, and Congress had to decide what to do about it.” Once again, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Barbara used her voice to remind Congress and the American people that “the Constitution is the document governing all the laws in the United States and applies to all of its people.” Then “in her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident tone” she said, “‘My faith in the Constitution is whole…. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.’” Barbara said that the president must go. President Nixon resigned in 1974.

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Image copyright Ekua Holmes, 2018, text copyright Chris Barton, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Barbara became a star, shining “like a bright light in a dark place.” She became the voice for those battling discrimination, for those “who had less power…who possessed quieter strengths than her own…who did not want to be limited by their weaknesses.” People talked about Barbara becoming a Senator, a Supreme Court Justice, or possibly Vice President.

But Barbara, unknown even to herself, had been struggling with multiple sclerosis, and now her inner voice told her that the place she belonged was home. Back in Texas, she became a college professor, where she taught her students not only to “do something, but to do the right thing.” Her students are still working today, striving to make the world a better place and to inspire everyone to make their voices heard.

An Author’s Note, a detailed timeline of Barbara Jordan’s life, and other recommended resources follows the text.

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Image copyright Ekua Holmes, 2018, text copyright Chris Barton, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Chris Barton’s stirring biography of Barbara Jordan introduces children to a woman whose voice is just as relevant today as it was when she was a state senator, US representative, and professor. Barton clearly and lyrically depicts Jordan’s trajectory while showing readers what it takes to succeed: practice, perseverance, learning, and wisdom. For young readers Barton briefly but cogently outlines the core of the case against Richard Nixon then allows readers to hear, in her own words, Jordan’s rousing defense of the Constitution. His inclusion of Jordan’s seventeen years of teaching after her diagnosis of MS is a poignant reminder that her influence is still heard through her students and admirers, and Barton’s final exhortation to readers to speak out honors Barbara Jordan’s life and will impel both children and adults to follow her lead.

Ekua Holmes stunning mixed-media illustrations will set readers’ hearts soaring in this over-sized picture book that beautifully reflects Barbara Jordan’s influence in politics and beyond. Holmes’ collages, rendered in lush colors and textured with intricate patterns and images from nature, take children on Jordan’s journey from sun-drenched Texas to law school to Washington DC, giving them a glimpse of her childhood and her growing stature as a stateswoman. Today’s savvy readers will be interested in the examples of campaign materials and images of Jordan’s building relationships with diverse voters and her fellow senators and representatives. Several photographs of Jordan from her graduation, campaigns, and televised appearances during the Watergate hearings join Holmes’ realistic portraits and will inspire readers to learn more about this influential and unforgettable woman.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? is a stirring and empowering biography that belongs in every home, school, and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Beach Lane Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481465618

Discover more about Chris Barton and his books on his website.

To learn more about Ekua Holmes, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Black History Month Activity

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Barbara Jordan Inspirational Poster

 

If you have ideas about how to make the world better, print this poster of Barbara Jordan and write how you would like to use your voice on the back. This can be through speech, writing, art, community involvement, or any way that uses your talents.

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You can find What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 10 – Nobel Prize Day

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About the Holiday

When Alfred Nobel’s will was read after his death on December 10, 1896, his heirs were taken by surprise. Nobel had signed a new will the year before, leaving most of his wealth to create prizes recognizing those who had done their best to benefit mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry,  medicine, literature, and peace. Opposition to this will on the part of the family and those Nobel had chosen to award the prize delayed Nobel’s wishes until 1901. Today, the awards include a prize for economics and are announced in early October. The awards are presented on December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Jane Addams Day falls on the same date to commemorate her achievement in being the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Nobel Prize Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

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You can find The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review