March 8 – International Women’s Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1911 and celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, International Women’s Day was recognized by the United Nations in 1975. In 1996, honoring the holiday under a united theme was established and this tradition has been followed ever since. During the 100th anniversary of International Woman’s Day in 2011, President Barak Obama proclaimed March to be National Women’s Month. Both International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month recognize the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout history and today. This year’s theme is Balance for Better and raises awareness of the need for gender equity across the spectrum of education, business, government, media coverage, rights, wealth, and more. The outreach and influence of International Women’s Day continues throughout the year. To learn more and get involved, visit the International Women’s Day website.

Abrams Books for Young Readers sent me a copy of Born to Ride to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Born to Ride: A Story about Bicycle Face

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

 

Open the cover of this remarkable picture book to a two-page illustration and you might notice something unusual—for our time. What is it? Read on and see…

As Louisa Belinda Bellflower gazed out her window at a man riding a bicycle in Rochester, New York, in 1896, she wished that she could ride one too. But girls and women weren’t allowed to ride bicycles, just as they weren’t allowed to vote or wear pants. Louisa’s brother, Joe, had a brand-new bike, and “riding it looked like a whole lot of fun.”

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Image copyright Kelsey Garrity-Riley, 2019, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young People.

One day, Louisa took off her frilly skirt and put on her brother’s pants and asked him to teach her how to ride. There were, however, a couple of concerns. One was what would their mother say? Another was the horrible medical condition, bicycle face. Everyone knew about it, and Doctor Brown was strict on this matter. He said, “‘girls aren’t strong enough to balance, that your eyes will bulge, and your jaw will close up from the strain of trying—maybe FOREVER.’”

Louisa considered this fate, but Joe didn’t have any of these symptoms. Even though she was a little nervous, she tried it anyway. Louisa fell again and again, but when Joe asked her if she wanted to quit, she continued. She began peddling again and soon had the knack for it. “With some alarm, she felt her eyes bulge, and her mouth widen—into a gigantic, joyous smile.”

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Image copyright Kelsey Garrity-Riley, 2019, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young People.

She rode back and forth down the path and when she got home, her mother said, “‘those pants look quite practical, Louisa Belinda,’” And Louisa turned a somersault just to show her she was right. Then Louisa’s mother asked Joe if Father’s bike was in good shape. Joe said it was, and their mother set about converting her skirt into a pair of pants. When they were finished, Louisa and her mother wheeled the bikes out side-by-side and took off. “‘Mother,’” Louisa said, “‘what will your bicycle face be, I wonder!’”

You only need to turn the page to see. Louisa’s mother is smiling and that original two-page spread has been transformed with lots of women and girls riding the roads that lead to the Votes for Women rally in the town green.

An extensive Author’s Note follows the text and explains the origin of “bicycle face” and other such imagined bicycle-related maladies as well as the opposition to women’s riding bicycles. Also included is a discussion on the women’s suffrage movement.

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Image copyright Kelsey Garrity-Riley, 2019, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young People.

Both children and adult readers will be astounded at Larissa Theule’s eye-opening story that reveals just one of the many obstacles women have had to overcome in their quest for equal rights. Theule’s story, told through the eyes of a girl with pluck and self-confidence, is well targeted to her young audience with an engaging undercurrent of humor at the nonsensical reasoning behind the ban on women’s bicycle riding and even the constricting clothing of the time for girls and boys. As Louisa falls again and again while learning to ride, Theule infuses her story with the idea that perseverance wins out—a concept she not only applies to learning a new skill, but to the parallel story of women’s suffrage that runs throughout the illustrations.

Kelsey Garrity-Riley’s charming illustrations evoke the late 1800s, giving kids a view of history with Victorian-style houses; skirts, bloomers, and pinafores for girls and short-pant suits for boys; and an old-fashioned sewing machine. Adding depth and context to the story, Garrity-Riley follows Louisa and Joe’s mother as she paints “Votes for Women” and “Ballots for Both” signs and later hosts a women’s suffrage tea attended by white and dark-skinned women, a woman in a wheelchair, and one progressive man. Garrity-Riley cleverly combines images of Louisa’s indomitable spirit with these depictions of protest to reinforce the theme and lesson of the story.

To  jumpstart discussions about equal rights for all, Born to Ride: A Story about Bicycle Face is a unique and fascinating addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419734120

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kelsey Garrity-Riley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Women’s Day Activity

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Ride with Me! Maze

 

Two girls want to ride bikes together. Can you help them find each other in this printable maze?

Ride with Me! Puzzle | Ride with Me! Puzzle Solution

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You can find Born to Ride: A Story about Bicycle Face at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 17 – It’s National Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

National Women’s History Month is all about celebrating women who broke barriers with their intelligence, creativity, courage, persistence, and unwavering confidence in their abilities. In every discipline, women brought new perspectives, experiences, and talents to make an impact and undeniable, unforgettable contributions that made the world better. Today’s book highlights a true original whose success is no mystery

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by April Chu

 

As Kate read the newspaper advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency for the third time, she knew that this was the job for her. It said: “Wanted: Detective. Must be observant, determined, fearless, and willing to travel.” But in 1856 no one would hire a single woman, so Kate decided to present herself as a widow.

Kate had been raised by her father, a printer. Books had always been her companions, and she knew how to make up a story—even the story of her life. “So Kate Carter became Kate Warne…exactly the kind of person you’d want to hire as a detective.” As soon as she walked through the door, Allan Pinkerton began writing down his impressions of Kate. He thought she was a client seeking help. From her manner and appearance, he knew he would take her case—whatever it was.

But when Kate told him she was applying for a job, he told her he “had no need for a washerwoman or cook.” Kate told him she was there to apply for the detective position. Pinkerton had reservations. The dangerous work was “not at all the sort of thing a woman could do,” he said. But Kate disagreed. She told him that she would be able to go into places his male detectives could not and could be the confidant of women witnesses. Pinkerton told her he would think it over.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

The next day Kate was at the office as soon as it opened. “Today, you’ve made some history,” Pinkerton told her, “You’re now the first woman detective in the country.” He handed her a file marked The Adams Express Case. As she read the case, Kate felt a thrill of excitement. “The Adams Express Company transported money and valuables for businesses all over the South, by rail, steamboat, and stagecoach.” Valuables were well protected by locks that couldn’t be picked.

But $40,000 had disappeared. One suspect stood out from the rest—Nathan Maroney, the manager of the Montgomery office where the packages had come from. He had been the last person to lock up the carrying pouch before the messenger, Mr. Chase, transported it to Atlanta, where it was found to be empty. Maroney was arrested, but there was little hard evidence—only a slit in the pouch that had not been there before Maroney was accused.

Kate considered the problem then remembered the sleight of hand tricks huskers used to fool people. She figured out how Maroney had stolen the money, but they needed more evidence and a confession. While a male agent pretended to be a fellow thief named “John White” in the same jail cell as Maroney, Kate befriended Maroney’s wife, Belle, pretending to be Madame Imbert. While Belle didn’t confess to the theft, she did ask her new friend for advice on where to hide valuables. Kate told her she hid her valuables in the basement or buried them in the garden.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

When Belle left town to visit her husband in jail, Kate took the opportunity to do some snooping at her house. Just as Kate found a freshly dug mound behind crates and barrels in the basement, she heard Belle returning home. She hurriedly put everything back in place and rushed upstairs. Belle was suspicious of the dust on Kate’s dress, and Kate knew she and the other agents had to act fast. She alerted another agent who crawled through the basement window while Belle slept. He tidied up the basement, and the next morning when Belle checked her hiding place, everything was in order. She could still trust her friend she thought.

The Pinkerton Agency plan was going like clockwork. Inside the jail cell, Maroney put his faith—and his money—in the detective’s hands. Maroney wrote to Belle, telling her that John White was going to help them. He instructed her to give John White all the money he had stolen. White was going to plant some of it on Mr. Chase, use some of it to bribe a judge to find Maroney not guilty at trial, and keep the rest for Maroney to collect later. At first, Belle didn’t trust John White, but one sentence from her friend “Madame Imbert” eased her mind and she went along with her husband’s plan.

As the ingenious plan was hatched and carried out, Kate made sure that all the money was secure. The money made its way to the Pinkerton agent “Mr. White” with Belle and Maroney none the wiser. As Maroney’s trial proceeded, and he heard Mr. White called as the first witness, Maroney suddenly changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “The reputation of the Pinkerton agency was made. So was Kate Warne’s.”

Kate became one of the agency’s most valuable detectives. She was even put in charge of a women’s division and hired many more women who became “some of Pinkerton’s strongest agents.” But Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, would always be considered the best.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

An Author’s Note explaining more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the first woman detective follow the text.

Children who love mysteries will be enthralled with this true tale of the first woman detective in America and her explosive first assignment. Marissa Moss’s suspenseful, compelling storytelling and excellent pacing reveal the facts of the case, Kate’s insightful reasoning, and the clever ruses the agents used in outsmarting and capturing the thief. Moss infuses the story with the feeling of the time period and a sense of pride in this little-known piece of women’s history.

April Chu’s detailed period drawings take kids to the mid-1800s to follow Kate Warne as she solves her first case. Depictions of Kate’s father’s printing press, the dirt roads traversed by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, the Adams Express locked pouches and secure rail car will excite history and mystery buffs. The full cast of characters are clearly portrayed, allowing young readers to become detectives themselves as they see the action through Kate’s eyes. The dramatic finale to the case will have children on the edge of their seats whether they are hearing the story aloud or reading it themselves.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective is a thrilling picture book introduction to both biographies and mysteries for children. It offers a unique look at the contributions of strong women in history and is an excellent selection for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 13

Creston Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939547330

Visit with Marissa Moss on her website to discover more about her, her books, and loads of fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by April Chu on her website!

National Women’s History Month Activity

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Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review