Picture Books – How Kate Warne…; For the Right to Learn; Two Friends…

Van Steenwyk, Elizabeth. How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln. Chicago: Albert Whitman and Company, 2016. 978-0-8075-4117-3. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. 2-4.

This historical picture book highlights the career of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective. In 1856, Warne arrived in detective Allan Pinkerton’s office looking for a job. Although Pinkerton had never before considered hiring a woman, Warne convinced him that a female would be able to obtain information in ways men couldn’t. She spent her career attending society parties disguised as a wealthy socialite or sometimes as a fortune teller. Warne earned the trust of both men and women and then used the information she gained to help crack some of the nation’s biggest cases. Her most important assignment involved exposing a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln on the way to his inauguration. Disguised as a wealthy southern woman, Warne infiltrated a group called the Golden Circle and verified the details of the plot against Lincoln. Her information was used to develop a plan that allowed a disguised Lincoln to secretly switch trains under the cover of darkness and arrive in Washington DC unharmed.  THOUGHTS: This title provides a fascinating look at how one woman shattered gender stereotypes and bravely left her mark on a formerly male-dominated profession. The story is told with enough suspense and intrigue to hold readers’ attention, and it will be a welcome addition to women’s history month celebrations and to Civil War units.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County



Langston-George, Rebecca. For the Right to Learn. North Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2016.     978-1-4914-6071-9. 40 pp. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

In a small village in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai attended school.  Her father was a teacher and felt that all children, even girls, should have the right to learn.  This was not the case everywhere in Pakistan.  In many places in that country, only boys were educated.  As the Taliban rose in power, they also condemned girls being educated.  The Taliban threatened the school leaders, including Malala’s father, to stop allowing girls to come to school. Later, those who opposed the Taliban were bombed as warnings to others.  Malala secretly began to blog about her experiences with a reporter from the BBC.  Finally, a Taliban fighter boarded the school bus and shot Malala for her outspoken stance on education for all girls in Pakistan.  She recovered and gave a speech before the United Nations that propelled her to international fame.  She later won a Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous fight for the right to learn.  This vividly illustrated book is powerful and compelling.  The message that Malala shared is clear and precise.  The incident of the shooting is simply illustrated with a book and three small drops of blood on top of it.  While upsetting, students will be inspired by her persistence and perhaps encouraged to appreciate the gift of education that all children in America may take for granted.  THOUGHTS:  This book is a wonderful addition to a unit on children in the Middle East, human rights, or even an inspiration to students to find something that they are passionate about and act to make a change.

Picture Book Biography     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Robbins, Dean. Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. New York: Orchard Books, 2016. 978-0-545-39996-8. 32pp. $17.99. Gr. K-4.

On a snowy afternoon, Susan B. Anthony is setting her table for tea. Two cups, two saucers, two slices of cake. She welcomes her friend Frederick Douglass, and the two sip tea by the fireplace, talking about their ideas for equal rights. This book centers on the real-life friendship these two activists shared and highlights similarities in their campaigns for women’s rights and African American rights. Robbins uses parallel text, repeating the lines, “The right to live free. The right to vote. Some people had rights, while others had none. Why shouldn’t he have them too?” as he describes each crusader’s fight. A brief author’s note provides additional background information about both Anthony and Douglass, and a bibliography offers suggestions for further reading. Mixed media illustrations feature paint, collage, and colored pencil. Swirling cursive script highlighting ideas Anthony and Douglass championed is woven into many spreads, adding to the book’s vintage feel. Overall, this is an age-appropriate introduction to two civil rights contemporaries who respected each other’s ideas and admired each other’s resolve to fight for a better future.  THOUGHTS:  This is a valuable addition to social studies units about equal rights or women’s suffrage. It could also be used to supplement a Civil War unit on emancipation or in celebration of Black History Month.

Picture Book    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman who Challenged Big Business and Won!


McCully, Emily Arnold.  Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman who Challenged Big Business- and Won!  NY: Clarion Books, 2014.  978-0-547-29092-8. 279p.  $18.99.  Gr. 7-12.

In a departure from her work as a well-known author and illustrator of children’s books, Emily Arnold McCully has written a solid YA biography about investigative reporter Ida M. Tarbell.  This book cover’s Tarbell’s life from beginning to end and provides a great deal of insight on a woman who was ahead of her time.

Ida M. Tarbell was born in 1857 in the village of Hatch Hollow (Erie County), Pennsylvania.  Ida’s father had a number of different jobs, but his work as an independent oil producer/refiner seemed to have the most impact on her.  Ida attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, and majored in biology.  The research skills Ida learned at Allegheny helped her to become an able reporter.  After teaching and travelling for a period of time, she was hired by McClure magazine and wrote multi-part features on famous figures, including oil baron John D. Rockefeller.  Ida’s dislike of Standard Oil, Rockefeller, and Rockefeller’s business practices (which had adversely effected her father’s business) led her to write a very thorough and critical piece- and led her to be christened one of the first “Muckrakers”,  journalists whose sole purpose was “dig up dirt” on other people.

The most intriguing aspect of Tarbell’s personality was that she was difficult to classify.  Although she was very concerned with fair business practices, she supported Taylorism (the idea that a manufacturing job should be broken up into small repetitive steps), which was anathema to labor unions. She was also very opposed to women’s suffrage and believed that the most important thing a woman could do was be a mother and wife.  It seems that she did not apply these rules to herself; she circulated freely in the male world of reporting and never married.

Although this was a detailed account of Ida Tarbell’s life, it might have been a more appealing work if muckraking or women’s suffrage were given more coverage or put into a contemporary context.  This is a work that will be difficult for all but your most persistent readers to complete, although it will be very useful for student researchers.  Emily Arnold McCully’s discussion of the oil industry in Pennsylvania helps this book to be an essential element of any State library collection.

92 Biography        Susan Fox, Washington Jr. /Sr. High School

Women in Conservation…a new middle grades series


Women in Conservation (series). Chicago: Heinemann, 2015. 48 p. $32.65. Gr. 6 and up.

Doak, Robin S. Dian Fossey: Friend to Africa’s Gorillas. 978-1-4846-0468-7.

Doak, Robin S. Jane Goodall: Chimpanzee Protector. 978-1-4846-0469-4.

Fertig, Dennis. Sylvia Earle: Ocean Explorer. 978-1-4846-0470-0

Hile, Lori. Rachel Carson: Environmental Pioneer. 978-1-4846-0471-7.

This series offers appealing, colorful, up-to-date biographies of some of the key women in conservation. Rachel Carson, for example, covers the famous biologist’s childhood, education, and famous publications (most notably Silent Spring). Short chapters, frequent section headings, and lots of photographs and quote boxes make this series very accessible for researchers and browsers alike. “In Her Own Words” and “Did You Know?” sidebars, in addition to informative captions, provide context and interest to the pages. The last chapter on Carson’s legacy will help readers to see how relevant her work still is to today’s headlines. Rachel Carson would make a fun fiction/nonfiction pair with Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen!

508 Conservation; 92 Biography     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

Students at my school research Rachel Carson and Sylvia Earle, so I will definitely include these titles in my biography section. The other titles in the series would also be valuable purchases where Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall are assigned research topics.

Great Filmmakers

Great Filmmakers (series).  New York: Cavendish Square, 2015. 80 p. $25.00 ea. Gr. 7-12
   Clint Eastwood  978-1-62712-948-0
   James Cameron  978-1-62712-951-0
   Kathryn Bigelow  978-1-62712-939-8
   Peter Jackson  978-1-62712-942-8
   Sofia Coppola  978-1-62712-945-9
   Steven Spielberg  978-1-62712-936-7

Want a look behind the scenes of your favorite movies? Pick up one of these books about some of the greatest producers and directors of all time!  These colorful books include a biography of the filmmakers along with numerous tidbits about the movies they produced, such as how much money each movie made and how long the filming of the movie took.  Each chapter also portrays a 1-2 page “Director’s Cut” that delves into details about the filmmakers personal life or actresses/actors the filmmaker has worked with.  The final pages of the book include a filmography of all of the movies the filmmaker has acted in, written, directed, or produced, along with the years of movies, and a glossary of terms associated with filmmaking.  These books are great to pick up if you have a special adoration for the filmmaker, watch a great deal of movies, or are conducting researcher on one of the filmmakers.

791  Films, Biographies          Nicole Starner  Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS