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

MG – Finish the Fight!

Chambers, Veronica and The Staff of the New York Times. Finish the Fight! Versify, 2020. 978-0-358-40830-7. 144 p. $18.99. Grades 3-8. 

Finish the Fight! is not your momma’s suffrage book! Preceding the introduction, eight playing card style portraits feature commonly known suffragists such as Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton neatly arranged into a two page spread. The page turn reveals a single sentence: “We wanted to tell more of the story” surrounded by numerous, overlapping diverse suffragette playing cards featuring previously unsung heroines and disrupting  the notion of suffrage as a stagnant piece of history. The playing cards speak volumes with bright colors, confident poses, and knowing smiles emphasizing each woman as a force to be reckoned with in her own right. Over 117 years of the Women’s Rights movement are covered beginning with the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, beyond ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, and through the Equal Rights Voting Act of 1965. Brief chapters filled with accessible text for an elementary to middle grade audience introduce young readers to marginalized aspects of the suffrage movement. Readers will learn about the influence of Native American women including leaders of Haudenosaunee, Omaha, and Dakota-Sioux cultures. Another chapter explains how Juno Frankie Pierce encouraged 2,500 Black women to register for the vote allowing suffragists the numbers they needed to secure ratification of the 19th Amendment in Tennessee. One chapter is dedicated to the nearly disastrous effects of bias within the movement while another focuses specifically on queer leaders and their fight for equality. Primary source documents including posters, photographs, historical documents, and memorabilia are digitally enhanced and positioned throughout the pages with captions. Everything about this book is visually stunning. Portraiture credit is given to eleven artists whose unique styles pay homage to each highlighted woman in preface to her chapter, stunningly capturing her style, time period, and personality. Jovita Idar,  Mexican American journalist/activist and League of Mexican woman founder, is surrounded with southwestern flora and the scales of justice. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, a sixteen year old Chinese immigrant known for leading one of the biggest suffrage parades in New York history is depicted wearing a sash seated atop a white horse against a backdrop reminiscent of mid-Manhattan’s “Chinatown” neighborhood. Women with a chapter featuring her contribution to the fight include: Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Mary Church Terrell, Angelina Weld Grimke, Mary Burrill, Ida Wells-Burnett, Susette La Flesche Tibbles, and Zitkala-Sa. Dozens of others are mentioned throughout the text. The trading cards appear again in the backmatter along with succinct biographies of each featured lady.

THOUGHTS: This book is a celebration of the unsung heroines of the suffrage movement, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Finish the Fight! is quite possibly the most comprehensive, approachable, inclusive look at the radical fight to secure votes for women. Women’s history is inextricably tangled up with equality and human rights on all fronts. Rarely are the stories of those who worked in parallel to obtain rights for BIPOC and LGBTQ folx woven into history books for children. This book is a much needed addition to any elementary or middle grade library collection. Primary source material mixed with modern art and plain text opens the door to use this book in a myriad of ways for research, history, and social studies lessons.

324.6 Voting Rights          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne. Simon and Schuster, 2020. 978-1-481-46289-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

The life of Ethel L. Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press”, is depicted in this picture biography. Born in Chicago in 1911, Ethel loved listening to her grandparents’ stories of the cotton fields in Kentucky and her parents’ own sharecropping tales. Ethel developed a love of writing and after high school fought against racism in her community. After World War II, she left for Japan and collected stories from black American soldiers on the base, noting the unfair treatment they received from the Army. Soon Ethel’s stories from Japan were sent to American newspapers. On her return, Payne took a job as a features editor with the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper.  Her stories progressed from local events to covering the Democratic National Convention. Eventually, Ethel moved to Washington DC and became one of three African American reporters with a White House pass. For the rest of her life, she wrote stories that focused on civil rights and the issues facing African Americans.  There is an author’s note that gives more details on Ethel L. Payne’s life. John Parra has used acrylic paint to create illustrations that feature other well-known African Americans. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings to search for the small objects found throughout the text, including the clocks that move forward in time by the end of the story.

THOUGHTS: This text is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections. Readers will learn about the life of this famous African American woman and her important contribution to the civil rights movement.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
070.92 Journalism and Publishing

Picture Books – They Saw a Cat; Fly Guy; Wet Cement; Elizabeth Started All…

Wenzel, Brendan. They All Saw a Cat. New York: Chronicle Books, 2016. 978-1-45215-013-0. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and paws…” and every being that sees the cat has a very different picture of that creature. To a child, the cat looks friendly and fluffy. To a fish, the cat looks enormous and blurry, the result of being separated by a glass bowl. To a bird, the cat is a small brown object with a red stripe (collar) as seen from a great distance above. Every animal has a different perspective so the cat becomes many different things. This book is a 2017 Caldecott Honor Medal award winner, and it is easy to see why  Each illustration displays a new style and helps readers experience a new perspective and feeling about how we all see the world differently. A note at the book’s end explains, “The illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook.” THOUGHTS: Brendan Wenzel created a lovely book with lots of discussion possibilities and illustrations that will spark imaginations.

Picture book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary School

 

Arnold. Tedd. Fly Guy Presents the White House. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-91737-7. 32pp. $3.99. Gr. K-2.

In this nonfiction book, Buzz and his pet, Fly Guy, make a trip to Washington DC to visit the White House. On their tour, they learn a lot about the people who live and work in this famous building. From the President, First Lady, and their family, to the Secret Service agents, advisors, speech writers, chefs, butlers, maids, and gardeners, it’s a full house! The writing style and facts presented in this title are perfect for the youngest readers. Pronunciation guides are provided when new vocabulary words are introduced, and Tedd Arnold’s trademark squiggly illustrations are supplemented by captioned photographs of the White House’s many rooms, former Presidents, and pets that have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  THOUGHTS:  My students love Fly Guy books (both the fiction and nonfiction titles), and this has been a huge hit in my library’s browsing basket. It’s also a great tie-in to units about government, American history, or discussions about our nation’s capital. The mix of cartoon-style illustrations and real photographs adds interest and makes readers feel like they are accompanying Buzz and Fly Guy on their White House tour.

Nonfiction        Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Raczka, Bob. Wet Cement. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-236-1. $17.99. 48 pp. Gr. K-3.

In the introduction to this collection of 21 poems, Raczka describes how he likes to think of poems as word paintings, and he believes the poet’s job is to use words to paint pictures inside the reader’s head. In his concrete poems, also known as shape poems, he arranges the words in the shape of the poem’s subject, adding an additional layer of meaning. In this collection, he also goes one step further, arranging the individual letters in the poem’s titles to paint an image with a single word. His subjects include airplanes, clocks, the Big Dipper, dominoes, fireflies, and icicles, so readers are sure to find something they can relate to. The poems are printed on uncluttered white or black backgrounds, so the arrangement of the letters and words takes center stage.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a strong addition to elementary poetry collections. While students will enjoy pouring over the poems’ unique shapes, the poems also lend themselves to teaching other skills such as metaphor, homophones, rhyme, and onomatopoeia.

Poetry     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Rappaport, Doreen. Elizabeth Started All the Trouble. New York: Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 978-0-7868-5142-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 1-4.

Beginning with the signing of the Constitution (during which Abigail Adams encouraged her husband to “remember the ladies”), this title chronicles the progression of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the U.S. through the years.  It highlights significant figures and events, including the Seneca Falls convention, the abolition of slavery, the role of women during the Civil War, the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C., the imprisonment of suffragists, and the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment.  The book is organized chronologically and details events in language that is accessible even to young readers.  The illustrations give faces to reformers mentioned in the text and add context to the writing.  Brief biographies of key figures, important dates, and additional resources are provided at the end of the book.  Overall, a solid addition to any elementary history and/or biography collection. THOUGHTS: It is worth noting that the author has received several starred reviews, honors, and awards for past biographical works, including Martin’s Big Words, Abe’s Honest Words, and To Dare Mighty Things.  Like those works, this title also celebrates a noble, heroic life.  It does not, however, focus solely on Elizabeth Cady Stanton (as the title would indicate).  Rather, other female social reformers (such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Adams, Lucretia Mott, and Lucy Stone) are also mentioned.  This overview of the women’s movement would pair well with Tanya Lee Stone’s Elizabeth Leads the Way.  While Stone’s title provides a better biographical sketch of Elizabeth, Rappaport’s work gives a more extensive overview of this tumultuous chapter in women’s history.  An inspiring read for young girls who desire to leave their mark on the world.

Picture Book      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School