MG – History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote

Messner, Kate. History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote. Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-593-12035-4. 215 p. $13.99. Grades 5-8.

Messner delivers another hit with this second History Smashers book! This History Smasher book showcases the history of women’s voting rights with a combination of storytelling, comics, sidebars, and photographs from the time period. Messner delicately tackles the inequity that women faced with voting, but also addresses the difficulties of defining “women’s voting rights” – is it a right for all or just educated white women? Messner captures the struggle that spanned decades and highlights the various accomplishments of the women who played pivotal roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Besides the story of these valiant women’s struggles, Messner also clearly explains procedures for adding amendments as well as calculating the number of votes needed to pass at each government and state level. This novel provides a look at the lesser known battles that were fought to truly make “all men are created equal” to include women!

THOUGHTS: I truly enjoyed reading this nonfiction book and look forward to more in the series! History Smashers is written in a kid friendly manner and provides an easy to understand look into historical events. The format is enjoyable and perfect for middle grade students. A great novel to teach history and make learning about the past exciting!

324.6 Voting Rights          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box

Dionne, Evette. Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box. Viking, 2020. 9780451481542. 176 p. $19.99. Grades 5 and up. 

Evette Dionne’s Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box is a historical account of the struggle for the right to vote. Covering the lesser-learned about but powerful figures in history, the book provides a comprehensive look at the path it took to get where we are today. Activists Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Alice Paul (among many others) played key roles in the fight to vote but are frequently left out from the history books. Their arduous battle to earn the right to vote was fraught with struggles and setbacks from still on-going voter suppression to lynchings and voter intimidation. While suffragettes succeeded and the nineteenth amendment was ultimately ratified, voting rights are still jeopardized by unfair practices making this an extremely timely and relevant look at the way our country has and continues to function.

THOUGHTS: A succinct yet complete account, Lifting As We Climb highlights many lesser known figures in the fight for voting equality making this a key piece for any collection. 

323.34 Women’s History          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

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

MG – Saving Savannah

Bolden, Tonya. Saving Savannah. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-681-19804-0. $17.99. Grades 6-8.

A prolific writer of nonfiction, Tonya Bolden (Maritcha, Cause: Reconstruction America 1863-1877, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II to name a few) integrates her skill for facts into an interesting, less explored, narrative in Saving Savannah. Set in post-World War I Washington, D.C., the book focuses on Savannah Riddle, a fourteen-year-old Black girl whose family is part of the elite Black society. The story opens frivolously at a gala opulent with fashion and food and gradually builds to important period events and issues. This eye-opening ascent mirrors Savannah’s maturation from a popular, pampered schoolgirl to a woke young woman of substance. At a pivotal time, Savannah is searching for a more meaningful life connected to the world outside her social strata. She learns about Nannie Helen Burroughs’s School for Girls, a training school; and while volunteering there meets Lloyd, a young Black immigrant with socialist leanings. Lloyd introduces Savannah to the poverty and inequality suffered by some in her own city. She eventually gains the support and respect of her parents after the revelation of a family secret. Throughout Bolden’s book, her intense research is evident. Many of the locales and persons Savannah encounters are real or have a counterpart in reality. Saving Savannah shows the Black perspective during a tumultuous time that underscores discrimination in politics and society and culminates in the brutal riots of the Red Summer of 1919. Besides being a valuable history lesson about a period that resonates with the present, the main character’s transformation from a position of comfort to one of an invested citizen of the world and member of her race is a desire many of us hold today.

THOUGHTS: Like Harlem, Walter Dean Myers’s period piece, Saving Savannah allows students to experience the sights and people of a different time through the eyes of a likeable character. In a sizable appendix, the author supplies background with some photos on the significant movements and personages of the early 20th century Washington, D. C. Bolden touches on multiple issues: Woodrow Wilson’s color lines; the returning Black World War I veterans; the New Negro Movement spearheaded by Dr. Carter Woodson, Hubert Henry Harrison, and Marcus Garvey; the controversy around the Anthony Bill and women’s suffrage; colorism; and even cosmetics. Ideal companion piece for grade 8 American History classes. Teachers may want to use this book to approach discussions on racism and compare the historical perspective with current incidents.

Historical Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD of Philadelphia

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