Elem. – The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History

Boxer, Elisa. The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-11049-6. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

This picture book biography tells the lesser known story of an important contributor to women’s suffrage. Since 1848, women had been lobbying for voting rights and finally in 1918, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The final step in the process was state ratification and by 1920, it all came down to one last state-Tennessee. State lawmakers there were under pressure to reject the amendment, and one woman decided to do something about it. Febb Burn was a college educated woman from Tennessee, who loved to read and study lawmaking.  She knew the vote was close, so she wrote a letter to her son Harry, who was a state lawmaker. She asked him to support the amendment and not to “keep them in doubt.” Although Harry Burn had voted no in the first round, he surprised everyone by breaking the tie with his Aye vote, thus “freeing seventeen million women from political slavery.” By using her own voice, Febb Burn helped women gain the right to vote so their voices could be heard. The back matter contains details about the letter and a timeline of the suffrage movement. The author discusses the similarities between the anti-slavery movement and women’s fight for equality. Mildenberger has created charming illustrations with a folk art quality and includes a photograph of Febb in one of them.

THOUGHTS: Since 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this story is especially relevant. This book could be used in social studies or civics units to spark discussions about the Constitution and civil rights and would be a good read aloud during Women’s History Month. A worthwhile purchase.

324.623 Voting Rights          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Suffrage, Voting and Electoral Process
921 Biography

Elem. – Greta Thunberg (Little People, Big Dreams)

Vegara, Maria Isabel Sanchez. Greta Thunberg. Illustrated by Anke Weckmann. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2020. 978-0-711-25645-3. $15.99. Grades 3-6.

Like many environmentally conscious families, Greta Thunberg’s family took care of Earth as best they could. But when Greta learned even more about climate change in a class video, she can’t forget about the destruction and develops selective mutism. Doctors also diagnosed her with Asperger’s syndrome. While to some these diagnoses may have been seen as a curse, they allowed Greta to focus on matters of importance to her like climate change. Greta started at home by convincing her family to make small changes, but she felt that she could do more. By taking a stand publicly with her “School Strike for Climate,” other children learned more about climate change from Greta, and the world soon recognized the name Greta Thunberg.

THOUGHTS: This picture book biography should be included in all elementary (and maybe middle school) collections. Children will be inspired to learn more about those featured throughout the Little People, Big Dreams series.

Biography          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Picture Book

MG – Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Stewart, Alexandra. Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60159-2. 64 p. $21.99. Grades 4-8.

A book about the first two men in history to reach the top of Mount Everest, this illustrated biography presents the lives of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from birth to their famous expedition and beyond. It relays stories of failed attempts that came before theirs and details their triumphant climb from start to finish. In addition, it gives credit to other important figures who made the climb a success, such as inventors who developed equipment to protect the climbers and those who went ahead to set out food rations (to name a few). Detailed illustrations and an accessible layout that includes many brief captions and small blocks of text make this an engaging read for young learners.

THOUGHTS: Overall, I found this book captivating and very informative. I did, however, feel it was missing a few elements. First of all, it seemed to cover Edmund Hillary’s life more thoroughly than it did Tenzing Norgay’s life, especially following their successful climb. Secondly, I was a little surprised that there were no additional resources, such as a bibliography or further reading section, added to the end of the book. I feel that the book does a nice job of piquing the reader’s interest, but it fails to provide the reader with any direction if he/she wants to learn more about the men or their expedition. Still, this engaging title definitely deserves consideration for any collection serving young readers.

796.522 Mountain Climbing          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues

Henderson, Leah. Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues. Capstone Editions, 2020. $18.95. Unpaged. Grades 3-6.

“‘I was a ballplayer. This is what I was and this is the way I want to be known, a ballplayer,’ Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.” Mamie Johnson grew up playing baseball with her uncle Leo, who was close to her age, starting at the age of 6 on the family’s farm in South Carolina. She moved several times over the years, but love for the game remained a constant in Mamie’s life as she earned spots on several boys’ and mens’ teams over the years. After graduating high school, Mamie attempted to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, but was denied a try-out because she was black. Instead, Mamie went to play professional ball for the Negro Leagues Indianapolis Clowns team and spent three seasons traveling through Canada and the US (including the heavily segregated South) playing baseball. In 1955 she retired to return to her husband and young child, but her love for the game continued. Author Leah Henderson’s Afterword tells readers that Mamie was honored by Presidents Clinton and Obama and helped clear the plate for other female baseball players.

THOUGHTS: Leah Henderson captures Mamie’s spunk and spirit well in this beautiful picture book biography.

796.357 Baseball          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson

Berne, Jennifer. On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-14297-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 3-5.

This picture book about the famous poet focuses on how Dickinson’s poetry expressed her vision of the world. Emily began writing poetry as a young girl. Her poetry showed her love of nature and the joy she experienced from reading books and from her friendships. As Emily grew older, she became more contemplative and began to question her faith. After a time, she became reclusive and searched for answers by looking within herself and by writing verses. After her death, Emily’s sister found hundreds of her poems tucked away in boxes, trunks and closets, which were then shared with the world. In the back matter, the author advises young readers how to appreciate poetry and how to begin writing their own. Berne also discusses how readers of Dickinson’s poetry find something new to discover with continued readings. The illustrator explains in her note that her drawings were based on historical images, like the picture of the house where Emily was born. Stadtlander uses gouache and watercolor to create folk art style drawings that showcase the natural world. The book is sprinkled throughout with drawings of flowers, trees, rivers and especially butterflies. The factual text is accompanied by an excerpt of Dickinson’s poetry, which is handwritten and which also appears on the endpapers.

THOUGHTS: This book is a more serious look at the thoughts and emotions of Emily Dickinson. Some of the discussion is rather deep, like her view on sadness and her later solitary life. Yolen’s Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings is a less serious recounting of the poet’s life and more accessible to younger readers. Save this one for thoughtful and sensitive readers.

921, 92 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
811 Poetry

Elem. – Nonsense! : The Curious Story of Edward Gorey

Mortensen, Lori. Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-03368-4. Unpaged. $17.99. K-3.

Edward Gorey was an unconventional, eccentric author and illustrator who was known for his dark, bizarre work. This illustrated biography details his life from his childhood through his young adulthood (he served in the army and later attended Harvard) and his subsequent career. The lyrical prose is complemented by sketchy illustrations that are reminiscent of Gorey’s own work. An intriguing and well-written account of Gorey’s life, this book provides an excellent introduction to the subject while simultaneously inspiring readers to learn more about him.

THOUGHTS: If I’m being honest, I had no idea who Edward Gorey was before I read this biography. However, after reading this narrative, I am somewhat fascinated! The book ends with an author’s note about Edward Gorey, stating that his style lives on through works like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. This title would be perfect to pair with one of those works, or even with one of Gorey’s own works. It would be a stellar addition to classroom libraries and/or elementary nonfiction collections.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Bryant, Jen, and Frank Morrison. Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-4197-4108-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

“Whenever Elgin played, people stopped what they were doing and watched.” Elgin Baylor had that kind of effect on the game of basketball, but that was not all. As he grew and played, he also learned and watched what was happening in the world around him. He saw civil rights leaders bravely and peacefully standing up (or sitting down) for change. When Elgin finally made the NBA, he was still facing many forms of discrimination, and now it was his turn to act. “Sometimes you have to sit down to stand up.” The lessons from this poetic biographical picture book by the stellar Jen Bryant are sure to land with young sports fans; meanwhile, the stretched artistic oil paintings portray a man that seemed larger than life in an ever changing time. Just watch and see the impact this book could have on your young readers!

THOUGHTS: Elgin Baylor may not be a household name for young fans, but if they stop and discuss it, they will see how the work of LeBron James, Jackie Robinson, and others are intertwined with his leadership and talent. The timeline at the end offers its own intertwined path between civil rights events and Elgin’s career. A very worthy addition to picture book biographies.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret

Keating, Jess. Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret. Tundra Books, 2020. 978-0-735-26508-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

From the time she was a young girl, Marie loved being outdoors. From feeling waves splash on her toes to discovering boulders, trees, and bird calls, she was fascinated by the world around her. But, girls were not supposed to have outdoor jobs involving rocks, mountains, and sunshine, and they weren’t supposed to dream of becoming explorers or scientists. When men enlisted during World War I, women like Marie had their chance to study science. Marie learned as much as she could about earth science and geology, and she secured a job in a New York laboratory. When men returned from War, they were sent on ocean research trips, but Marie had to stay behind. As her male colleagues sent back box after box of measurements, Marie used the data to create a map of the ocean floor. She’d found a way to be an explorer, even if she had to stay in her small office. After weeks of plotting data, Marie discovered a giant rift valley on the bottom of the ocean floor: a long crack with mountains on both sides. Her colleagues made her redo the map, and even then, no one believed her work was accurate. Jacques Cousteau sent cameras to the bottom of the ocean to prove her wrong, but instead, the cameras captured the evidence revealing Marie was actually correct. Today, she’s credited with mapping the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge, and her maps have been displayed at the Library of Congress. Katie Hickey’s watercolor and pencil illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily blues, yellows, and greens, gorgeously capture the spirit and perseverance of this unsung scientist. Two pages of Author’s Notes and Questions and Answers provide further insights about Marie Tharp and her legacy.

THOUGHTS: Share this story of female resilience and determination as part of STEM units or during elementary morning meetings. Also a great choice to recommend to girls who are interested in outdoor pursuits such as rock collecting, bird watching, and exploring.

526 Mathematical Geography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG – World’s Greatest Soccer Players (Series NF)

World’s Greatest Soccer Players. SportsZone, 2020. $20.95. $167.60 for 8. 32 p. Grades 3-8. 

Kortemeier, Todd. Harry Kane. 978-1-532-19062-9.
Decker, Michael. Chicharito. 978-1-532-19061-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Christian Pulisic. 978-1-532-19067-4.
Nicks, Erin. Cristiano Ronaldo. 978-1-532-19068-1.
Nicks, Erin. Lionel Messi. 978-1-532-19063-6.
Decker, Michael. Luka Modric. 978-1-532-19064-3.
Nicks, Erin. Neymar. 978-1-532-19065-0.
Decker, Michael. Paul Pogba. 978-1-532-19066-7.

This reviewer read Harry Kane in the World’s Greatest Soccer Players series.  This series highlights some of the greatest current players in the world’s most popular game.  Each book in the series tells the story of each player from their childhood through their professional career.  Includes many colorful photos, side bars with even more player information, a glossary, and an index.  Reinforced Library Bound covers.

THOUGHTS: Great addition for a library looking to update their sports biography section with current athletes.

796.33 Soccer          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

MG – Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists

Freeman, Martha. Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 122 p. 978-1-5344-2153-0. $19.99. Grades 3-8.

Born Curious is a biography of 20 female scientists in one kid-friendly collection. A diverse collection of disciplines and scientists are covered. Each biography starts with childhood influences and follows the scientist throughout her career. A colorful, full page portrait is included for each scientist as well as a “round up” box at the end of each bio that includes her greatest achievement, a quote, and a fascinating fact. Includes an Afterword that sums up 13 traits of the scientists featured, a glossary, an index, and a thorough source list for each scientist.

THOUGHTS: This collection features scientists that are not household names presented in a friendly and accessible format. Could be read for those interested in science as a non-fiction read and can also be used for research.

509.2 Science Biographies                  Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy
Collective Biographies