Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Champions . . . Every Single One

You want to stand up and cheer.  It's as if everything you are taught to believe, everything you feel in your heart, is true.  Their accomplishments are an inspiration.  Their accomplishments changed and continue to alter conventional thought one woman at a time; bringing hope to other women then and now.

They dared to be different fueled by their knowledge and faith in themselves.  Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 23, 2018) written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet is a poetic and artistic tribute to young women of distinction.  As you read the final poem graced by distinguished artwork, you might, as I did, wonder about a dinner with all these women in attendance.  Can you imagine the conversations? 

Women and girls have been shaking things up for a long time, resisting those who would box them in.  Here are fourteen inspiring young rebels (one just six years old, another only thirteen) who broke down walls to pursue their interests, talents, and rights.

After the introduction a table of contents lists the women by name in chronological order with one of thirteen different female illustrators paired with them.  First a timeline features the women beginning in the early 1780s with Molly Williams and closing in 2014 with Malala Yousafzai.  Included are World War I, the 19th Amendment, World War II, the United States Supreme Court decision finding public school segregation unconstitutional, and Title IX. 

Molly Williams, a servant of a volunteer firefighter, took it upon herself to battle a blaze in New York City.  It's shocking how long it took for another female to win the right to join the fire department.  Stricken by poverty at the death of her father another young woman at the age of thirteen discovered the bones of an ichthyosaur.  This woman defied the title of a novel, even meeting the author, to set a record for traveling around the world.  

A woman was arrested for her scandalous swimwear but went on to win awards.  Another broke barriers in public libraries inviting Spanish-speaking patrons through her story times and celebrations of their customs.  Repeated physical tragedies did not deter this Mexican artist from achieving worldwide fame.

The Nearne sisters, Jacqueline and Eileen, entered by parachute and plane war-torn France occupied by the Germans to assist the resistance.  She was only twenty-seven but her book, Diet for a Small Planet, altered thinking and is as relevant today as it was in 1971.  Many readers will know about Ruby Bridges but will they know she never missed a day of school with the same teacher in a classroom for one.

How many astronauts have a medical degree?  How many of them were the first female African American astronaut?  Mae Jemison does and she was.  Her vision, made into a reality, is seen by millions of visitors each year.  At seventeen her invention won her a coveted prize.  Fighting back after an assassination attempt on her life, Malala Yousafzai, like the other thirteen women, knows one person, one woman, can alter history for the better.

There are poems with rhyming words on lines two and four.  Others form the shape of an element in the poem (concrete).  Another one is composed of alternating four and two lines, rhyming in a rhythm.  A special cadence is created with two lines rhyming, the next two rhyming and the fifth rhyming with the first two.  To showcase Pura Belpre, author Susan Hood describes her using the letters of the alphabet, top to bottom.  Carefully chosen, each poetic style is a reflection of the woman.  Susan Hood presents a small factual paragraph at the bottom of each page including the birth and death dates.  Six of the women are still alive.  Here is the first verse from the poem about Annette Kellerman, Champion Athlete and Inventor of the Modern Swimsuit.

Turning The Tide
There was once a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons---
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!

Each illustrator brings her remarkable and notable technique to this title.  On the opened dust jacket, the art of Oge Mora depicts a small child, Ruby Bridges, bravely entering school.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white, a delicate portion of one of the images for Pura Belpre by Sara Palacios is placed.  A songbird is carrying a flower in its beak, one of many on and floating above the pages of a book. (Those same flowers are part of a pattern on Pura Belpre's dress she wears during an animated story time.) The book case is a beautiful pattern consisting of tiny replicas of the full page pictures for each woman by these illustrators.  The opening and closing endpapers are a light shade of turquoise.

The illustration by Oge Mora seen on the dust jacket front is extended for the verso and title pages.  Shadra Strickland boldly portrays Molly Williams working along with the other firefighters in the dead of winter, including historical details.  Mary Anning is shown digging up bones in a color palette of blues, black, white, and tan by Hadley Hooper.  Fine lines are etching out the elements.  Nellie Bly stands on the bow of a ship, valise next to her.  Lisa Brown has placed the monkey she brought home from her travels on her extended arm.  There is an air of determination in Nellie's stature and on her face.

The soft and delicate texture and brush strokes of Emily Winfield Martin give readers the right atmosphere for Annette Kellerman, swimmer extraordinaire.   Frida Kahlo appears to be looking right at the reader as she stands tall, paint brush in hand with monkeys keeping her company.  Erin K. Robinson brings Frida Kahlo to life with her bold hues and textured art.

Sophie Blackall cleverly inserts the items carried by Jacqueline Nearne in a picture showing her floating toward a patchwork landscape in France.  Her hues are tans, browns and grays.  In her signature collage Melissa Sweet features Frances Moore Lappe driving a truck.  In the bed rests the planet covered in fruits, flowers and vegetables.  The innocence of a brilliant girl with a vision is embodied in the work of Isabel Roxas.  She shows Mae Jemison standing in front of a blackboard drawing her dreams.

By showing Maya Lin standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial, snow falling on the already snow-covered ground, we get a true feeling for the sensory experience she designed through the art of Julie Morstad.  A row of footprints line the length of the memorial to where she stands. (This is one of my many favorite illustrations.)  LeUyen Pham enhances the poem about Angela Zhang giving us a view of her youthful face, happy and holding a book.  Above her are representations of chemical structures along with a computer screen and keyboard as other elements.  For the final illustration Selina Alko uses shades of red to indicate warmth and boldness of her subject Malala Yousafzai.  Around Malala, centered on the page, are the faces of women from around the world.

For each of these fourteen women each artist includes, in addition to the main single page picture, smaller images on the facing page with the poem.  Many of them enhance the words of the poem.  Others serve to further highlight specifics about the women.

Your spirit will be lifted and your heart will be full after reading Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World written by Susan Hood with illustrations by 13 extraordinary women, Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet.  This blend of poetry and stunning artwork should be a part of every professional and personal collection.  It invites all readers to explore their lives further.  At the close of the book are an author's note, sources, books, websites and more and acknowledgements.  

To learn more about Susan Hood and each of the illustrator's and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt. At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., the book trailer is revealed.  The interview is a must read before you read this book and before you booktalk it.  Teacher librarian Matthew Winner invites Susan Hood to chat with him at All The Wonders, Episode 420.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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