Review of The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America

The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America
by Kathleen Krull; illus. by Alexandra Bye
Primary, Intermediate    Atheneum    48 pp.
2/20    978-1-4814-9151-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-9152-5    $10.99

President Roosevelt usually gets credit for the New Deal programs that helped pull America out of the Great Depression, but as Krull’s latest picture-book biography (The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), rev. 5/13) makes clear, the real credit is due to “the first woman ever to join a presidential cabinet,” FDR’s Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. A shy and quiet child, Perkins was always thinking about the injustices she saw growing up. Inspired by advice from her grandmother ("when someone opens a door to you go forward"), Perkins would spend her life speaking up for the most vulnerable as a pioneering social worker, suffragist, and author. She helped improve conditions in NYC’s low-income neighborhoods and workplaces, and her activism led to a career in the “all-male world of politics.” As Secretary of Labor, Perkins proposed “nothing less than a restructuring of American society” with the New Deal and the Social Security Act of 1935. This inspiring biography of a woman who paved the way for so many future leaders (as the cleverly designed endpapers make clear) is long overdue. Krull’s straightforward yet passionate narrative is packed with information, succinctly pinpointing key biographical moments and explaining complex history. Direct quotes from Perkins in stylized hand-lettered script accompany Bye’s child-friendly digital illustrations, which are as dynamic and colorful as their remarkable subject. An author’s note and sources are appended.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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