March 13 – It’s Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

National Woman’s History Month was established by the United States Congress in 1987 to recognize and celebrate the achievements of American women in the past and today. This year’s theme is “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women” which provides an opportunity to recognize the tireless efforts of women in all walks of life who fight against discrimination to be heard and to achieve their goals. There’s no better time than now to get involved to ensure that all women have equal rights and standing in all areas of their lives.

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World

Written by Susan Hood 

 

Illustrated by Shadra Strickland, Hadley Hooper, Lisa Brown, Emily Winfield Martin, Sara Palacios, Erin K. Robinson, Sophie Blackall, Melissa Sweet, Oge Mora, Isabel Roxas, Julie Morstad, LeUyen Pham, and Selina Alko

 

This superb collection of biographies in verse highlights not only well-known pioneers but some delightfully fresh names and a few who are influencing the arts, science, and cause of human rights today. Each of the women profiled show the qualities of  bravery, persistence, intelligence, and ability over a vast spectrum of fields. Their success led the way for today’s women and will inspire tomorrow’s.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Molly-Williams

Image copyright Shadra Strickland, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Organized on a timeline from the early 1780s to 2014, Shaking Things Up begins with Taking the Heat and Molly Williams, who was the first known female firefighter in America. When the flu knocked out all the members of the Oceanus Fire Department and a fire raged, Molly, the servant of James Aymar, a volunteer fireman, “… knew the drill; / she’d seen what must be done. / she hauled the pumper truck by hand, / adept as anyone.” For her work she was named Volunteer 11 and made part of the crew. It took about two-hundred years before another woman—Brenda Berkman—was added to the New York Fire Department.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Mary-Anning

Copyright Hadley Hooper, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Young paleontologists-in-the-making will be amazed by the story of Mary Anning, who, while searching the British coast for fossils to sell to support her family, uncovered the skeleton of an ichthyosaur in 1812. In Buried Treasure, children learn how she went on to discover “the first two complete plesiosaurs and a pterosaur, laying the foundation for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

Children who love spies, news reporting, and uncovering the truth will want to know about Nellie Bly, who as an investigative journalist took on disguises to infiltrate institutions and write about “corruption and cruelty.” She was also widely admired for her around-the-world trip that beat Jules Verne’s “80 days” by eight days. As told in Woman of the World: “Bly hopped a ship and told her tale / of all she saw on Earth. / She wrote of camels, temples, jewels / with gutsy wit and mirth.” Nellie was only twenty-five when she undertook her travels in “a record-breaking race. / No soul on Earth had ever sped / the globe at such a pace!”

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Image copyright Hadley Hooper, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

If it weren’t for Annette Kellerman, women may never have made such a splash in swimming. Kellerman was a champion swimmer who began the sport to strengthen her legs after having rickets. Turning the Tide reveals that when she took to the water “without pantaloons—her swimsuit was deemed obscene!” After she was arrested she calmly stated, “who can swim fifty laps / wearing corsets and caps? / Her statement could not be contested,” and she went on to create the modern one-piece swimsuit, changing swimming for women forever.

In The Storyteller, a full alphabet of attributes describes Pura Belpré, a children’s librarian and the New York Public Library’s first Latina librarian. By offering—and often writing—Spanish books and creating programs for the Spanish-speaking community, Belpré revolutionized her library and touched many lives. 

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Copyright Lisa Brown, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Children who reach for the stars will be transported by Lift-Off and the inspiration of Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut. When young Mae gazes into the dark night sky, the “glittering stars, swirling galaxies / fill her, thrill her.” It doesn’t matter if she is afraid of the dark and afraid of heights, Mae looks and goes where she wants, where she needs to to learn and understand. And when she’s ready? “Ignition. / All systems are go. / Three / Two / One / Blast off!”

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Image copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Break It Down reveals the way Angela Zhang attacks the questions she has about the way the world works, questions that lead her to answers and incredible achievements. From creating magic solutions with a Harry Potter potion kit at five years old to discovering answers to questions like why rainbows follow storms at seven years old to using a Stanford University lab at fifteen, Zhang has chipped away “at the ‘black boxes of life,’” including the “biggest black box of all– / a cure for cancer.” For Zhang science is “… both stone and chisel, / and I, your willing apprentice, / yearn to care away life’s mysteries / as a sculptor chisels marble / to find beauty inside.”

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Image copyright Selina Alko, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Also included are poems about artist Frida Kahlo, World War II secret agents Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, anti-hunger activist Frances Moore Lappé, civil rights pioneer Ruby Bridges, architect Maya Lin, and Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

An illustrated timeline precedes the text, and suggested resources for further study on each woman follows the text.

Susan Hood has created fourteen poems that are as unique as the woman they describe. Some rhyming and some free verse, the poems include facts, quotes, intriguing details and the rhythms, sounds, and dreams of these young women. A paragraph following each poem reveals more about the woman and her work. Readers will be awe-struck by the enticing stories that inform each lyrical biography and will long to learn more about the women and their lives.

The theme of individuality is carried through in the illustrations, which are each created by a different illustrator. Colorful, whimsical, and realistic, the illustrations let children see the faces of the women presented, surrounded by their work and set within their time period. Readers will want to linger over the images and discuss the details included. A quotation from each woman accompanies her illustration.

Shaking Things Up offers an inviting way to introduce children to these amazing women and is an excellent reminder that they too can dream of what could be and make it happen. A must for classroom and school libraries, the book would be an inspirational addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 10

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062699459

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books on her website.

You can learn more about these illustrators on their websites:

Shadra Strickland | Hadley Hooper | Lisa Brown | Emily Winfield Martin | Sara Palacios | Erin K. Robinson | Sophie Blackall | Melissa Sweet | Oge Mora | Isabel Roxas | Julie Morstad | LeUyen Pham | Selina Alko

Check out the Shaking Things Up book trailer!

Women’s History Month Activity

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Amazing Women Coloring Pages

 

There are so many incredible women to learn about during this month. Today, enjoy these coloring pages of inspiring women.

Mary Anning | Mae Jemison | Freda Kahlo 

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You can find Shaking Things Up: 15 Young Women Who Changed the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 8 – International Literacy Day

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About the Holiday

In 1966 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) established International Literacy Day on this date to “actively mobilize the international community to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.” This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected education and educational resources around the world. In response, this year’s initiative focuses on “‘literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,’ and especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.” 2020 also ushers in a new five-year program: UNESCO Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy to develop policies and strategies to address the learning needs of disadvantaged groups, especially women and girls; to leverage digital technologies to expand access and improve outcomes; and to monitor and assess literacy programs. To learn more about today’s holiday and UNESCO’s global literacy programs, visit the United Nations International Literacy Day webpage.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard | Illustrated by Oge Mora

 

As a child slave on an Alabama plantation, Mary Walker knew the rules: Keep working and no learning to read or write. But when she stopped for a moment to rest while “picking cotton, toting water to Papa and the other slaves who chopped wood for the train tracks, or helping Mama clean the Big House,” she watched the birds and dreamed of being free. In bed at night, she would think “When I’m free, I’ll go where I want and rest when I want. And I’ll learn to read too.”

When Mary was fifteen, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. While many freed slaves moved north, Mary and her family, like others, chose to stay in the South. With the help of the Freedmen’s Bureau, they moved into a one-room cabin. To raise money, Mary worked long hours every day of the week without a break to eat, drink, or even use the outhouse. “At week’s end, she would offer Mama the one lonely quarter she had earned.” One day, Mary met an evangelist who gave her a Bible, telling her “Your civil rights are in these pages.”

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Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Mary didn’t know what that meant. “She only knew that top to bottom, front to back, that book was filled with words”—words she vowed to learn…someday. But first came marriage, sharecropping, and a son. When a friend wrote his birth date in the Bible, all Mary could do was make a mark beside the words.

When Mary’s first husband died, she married again and had two more sons. To bring them up, Mary spent the next forty years sharecropping and doing odd jobs to help support her family. Eventually, the family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mary was sixty-eight and too old to farm, but she still cooked, cleaned, and cared for other people’s children to make money. She also cooked and sold food to support her church. On Sunday’s she listened to the preacher while clutching “her family Bible—the Bible she still couldn’t read.”

“When Mary was well past ninety,” her sons read to her and her husband. As time passed, her younger sons died and then her husband. Her oldest son died at the age of ninety-four, leaving Mary alone and living in a retirement home. As she looked out the window at the signs and billboards, “she sighed. All this time, she thought, and they still look like squiggles.”

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Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When her retirement home offered a reading class, Mary joined in. At 114, “she was the oldest student in the class—and probably in the entire country.” For the next year and longer, she studied and wrote and memorized. She began recognizing sight words and putting them together into short sentences. All of Mary’s hard work came together, and at last at the age of 116, she could read! Mary’s story traveled across the country, and journalists came to interview her. A representative from the US Department of Education pronounced her “‘the world’s oldest student.’”

“Mary felt complete.” When she felt lonely, she read her Bible or the signs she could see from her window. In Chattanooga, Mary’s accomplishment was celebrated with annual birthday parties. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent her a letter when she turned 118 in 1969, and President Richard Nixon sent a card when she turned 121. Among all the gifts she received over those years, her favorite was a ride in small airplane that dipped and soared like the birds she had watched as a child. As she looked at the landscape below, “Mary decided that flying was a lot like reading: they both made a body feel as free as a bird.” Each year, to start her birthday celebration, Mary read to the people gathered and as she closed the book, she always said, “You’re never too old to learn.”

An Author’s Note that reveals more about Mary Walker’s life follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-studying

Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Rita Lorraine Hubbard’s moving portrait of Mary Walker and her resolve to learn to read even at an advanced age is inspirational for all. Hubbard’s straightforward storytelling focuses on Mary’s grueling work and the obstacles and responsibilities that delayed her education while also revealing her resilience, her generosity, and the strong bonds she shared with her family. Mary’s equating reading and education with freedom even as a child will resonate with today’s students and offers encouragement when lessons are difficult. With excellent pacing and a depth of details that will keep children riveted to this true story, Hubbard tells not only Mary’s history but that of many African-American families, making The Oldest Student a poignant book to share for reading, history, and social studies in classrooms as well as for home story times.

Oge Mora’s collage-style illustrations, incorporating strips of written text and musical scores, enrich Hubbard’s story with images of Mary working as a slave and later at various jobs always surrounded by words she cannot read. Later, as Mary gazes out of the window of her retirement home and passes fliers on the bulletin board there, the signs and papers are covered in squiggles, giving young readers an idea of how Mary sees the written world. After Mary learns to read, Mora replaces these with the actual signs, a clear example of the difference the ability to read makes. Mora’s early depictions of Mary, her head and back bowed by arduous, exhausting labor, are heartbreaking, making later images of her, head held high with pride and accomplishment, all the more emotional.

An uplifting and powerful lesson on perseverance and never giving up on a dream, The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-1524768287

Discover more about Rita Lorraine Hubbard and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Oge Mora, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Literacy Day Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite genre along with nineteen others in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review