Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Consider Their Presence

It is election year 2020.  Announcements of candidates running for office, candidate websites, rallies and advertisements and debates are filling the social media feeds and radio and television airwaves of concerned citizens.  How many people are delving deeper into those candidates, examining the roles taken by their spouses? Perhaps, they should.

In the best kind of relationship, their partners are their best friends and closest confidants.  Their influence is immeasurable.  In Leave It to Abigail!: The Revolutionary Life Of Abigail Adams (Little, Brown And Company, February 4, 2020) written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley, we follow a life from birth to old age of a woman who always fought back against the odds.  She was a woman of remarkable character, never afraid to speak her mind and pursue her passions.

IN A CLAPBOARD HOUSE in the colony of Massachusetts, a baby girl's weak cries drowned in the cold November wind.

The child was not expected to live, but she did.  The child, as a girl, was not given any formal education, but she did learn to read and write and perform mathematics.  The child did not conform to expectations but traveled down a childhood path of her own choosing.

As she grew into a young woman, she realized the benefit of learning all sorts of domestic skills.  She was a prolific writer of letters and loved a young country lawyer named John Adams.  Her marriage to John increased her duties as a wife and mother, managing a household and supplying support in the form of advice to her lawyer husband's work.

While living in Boston, near John's office, Abigail saw the revolution rising.  When he left to attend the Continental Congress in Pennsylvania, Abigail moved back to their farm with their four children.  She did the work of two, managing and performing tasks on the farm while offering assistance to those displaced by the revolution.  Abigail's letters flew across the miles to John, family and friends.  In one of those letters to John she strongly recommended he

Remember the Ladies.

When John left for France, Abigail managed all their affairs, and took care of the three children still with her.  (Their eldest son went with John.) She maintained all their political connections.  Finally traveling to France by ship, she shined there (and in England) alongside John, doing the undoable.  Several years later Abigail still voiced her opinions as the wife of the first Vice-President and wife of the second President of the United States of America.

Reporters nicknamed her "Mrs. President."

Her legacy, unique in every way, hopefully inspired other women to speak their minds and pursue their passions.  Twelve are named who have spoken their minds and pursued their passions.

In her biographical writing author Barb Rosenstock portrays her people as distinct individuals, presenting to readers those qualities which make them appealing on a personal level.  She finds those details which serve to encourage readers today and tomorrow.  The personalities of the people she writes about come alive.  They're in our presence through her words.

In this book she uses the phrase Leave It To Abigail several times to provide examples in support of Abigail's special qualities. These three examples are an introduction to more thorough discussions of all the accomplishments of Abigail.  Here is a passage.


She dug potatoes and hired farmhands to mend fences and harvest hay.
She preserved food and taught all four children.
She fed the militia and housed refugees fleeing Boston as the war for independence spread.

Across Massachusetts Bay, the British cannons roared.  Abigail turned worries into words. . . .

When you open the dust jacket you can see in the two separate images, on the front and back, the intricate cross-stitch embroidery completed by illustrator Elizabeth BaddeleyThe flurry of letters on the front continues on the other side of the spine, on the left.  The lines between the letters, indicating movement and the use of ink, is an exemplary design element.  The look on Abigail's face fits her personality perfectly.  The quill dripping ink is a wonderful touch.

To the left, on the back, Abigail is seated and writing by candlelight as one of her sons watches.  An overlay on the left of this illustration is done on cross-stitch fabric.  The intricate embroidery work is exquisite.

On the matching opening and closing endpapers, with needle and thread, Elizabeth Baddeley has sewn a series of fifteen panels depicting a horse, John Adams, the four children, spools of thread and a needle, a spinning wheel, a pot and tea cup, Abigail Adams (the words and person) with a letter, envelope and ink well with quill, an Americana design, a historical flag with four stars, two on either side, a ship, two other flags (one is British), the White House and four women with the words:  Remember the Ladies.  With a page turn there are more panels, fourteen, generating a double-page picture for the title page.  In the center, in a circle, on the right, is an image of Abigail's home at her birth.

In an illustrator's note we are told Elizabeth Baddeley works with pen, ink, watercolor, and colored pencil.  Her visuals in this book are, in size, one and a half pages with a column for text on embroidery canvas, a group of smaller images on a single page, full-page pictures, and double-page illustrations to show a passage of time and for emphasis.  The facial expressions and body postures of the people are spirited to the extent you expect them to begin coming to life.  Attention to detail and touches of humor are prevalent throughout the title.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page image.  In the foreground on the right half of the picture is Abigail holding one of their laughing children on her hip.  In her other hand she is holding an article or a letter with the quill held in her mouth.  Her brows and eyes suggest deep concentration.  In the light from a window, to the left, and in the background is John Adams.  He is seated at a desk, reading an article or a letter with a quill held in his right hand. The period clothing and interior of the home are fascinating.

When readers are completed with Leave It to Abigail!: The Revolutionary Life of Abigail Adams written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley, they will be inspired by her resolve and dedication to her family.  This is one of those people who lived and changed the world for the better.  At the close of the book is an author's note, an illustrator's note, and a list of selected sources.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Barb Rosenstock and Elizabeth Baddeley and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Barb Rosenstock offers other resources at her website for this title.  Barb Rosenstock has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  Elizabeth Baddeley has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. You might enjoy this Q & A with both the author and illustrator at Leslie Lindsay's website.

To view the other selections by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, take a few moments to visit educator Alyson Beecher's website, Kid Lit Frenzy.


  1. Oooohhh, on hold for this book! I love Barb's work and I can't wait to read this one.

  2. I love hearing about Barb Rosenstock's approach in writing about Abigail Adams, Margie. And then, the amazing embroidery/illustrations of Elizabeth Baddeley. Sounds like another super book that connects to this election year. Thanks!

  3. I've noticed so many new and reprinted books about voting. More so than any other year.