March is Women’s History Month, and these four picture-book biographies of remarkable women who broke down boundaries and changed the world should find an audience of primary-aged girls and boys.
Michelle Markel brings the plight of early-twentieth-century female garment workers to life in Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. Persecuted in the Ukraine, Clara Lemlich’s Jewish family immigrated to New York City where she found work in a shirtwaist factory. The dangerous and unfair working conditions set Clara off on her lifelong path as a union activist. Melissa Sweet’s illustrations, many presented on fabric scraps or torn paper with machine stitching, accentuate the text. An author’s note and source notes follow the story. (5–8 years, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
In Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children, Jan Pinborough gives us a simple narrative of influential librarian Moore’s early love of books on through to her career at the New York Public Library, where she created the innovative Central Children’s Room for the library’s new main building in 1911. The tone here is optimistic, underscored by Debby Atwell’s sun-dappled acrylic paintings of the triumphant new Children’s Room. “More about Miss Moore” and a list of sources are appended. (5–8 years, Houghton)
Tanya Lee Stone’s Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell chronicles the doctor who opened the first hospital for women, run by women, because no one else would hire her. Stone addresses readers in the second person to involve them in her narrative, while Marjorie Priceman’s colorful gouache illustrations lend a perfect framework of energy to the text, drawing upon its provocative and often humorous tone. A two-page author’s note delivers additional information and context for readers to understand the basics of Blackwell’s achievement. (5–8 years, Ottaviano/Holt)
In Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller, Doreen Rappaport covers the whole span of Helen Keller’s life from birth through her many years with teacher Annie Sullivan and after. The focus is on Helen, but readers get an acute awareness of Annie’s sacrifices for her. Matt Tavares’s ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations are, per the title, big and bold and often in intense close-up. A timeline helps put important dates in perspective. (5–8 years, Disney-Hyperion)
From the March 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.