Tag Archives: biography

For library nerds and all the Goody Two-Shoes sorts out there…

balderdashHow have I lived this long without knowing the story of the “real” Little Goody Two-Shoes?  Apparently, she was a raggedy little girl who always bettered herself despite misfortunes.  And of course, she ended up with a rich husband who had a coach and six.  Holy cats!  Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

Calling someone a goody two-shoes was still quite a popular way to taunt nerdy girls in my youth, although it was directed less at the smarts of the girl in question and more at being a rule-follower of any kind.  All kinds of things stay hidden in the back of your brain for years, and I never thought to look into where that particular taunt came from.

Then, today, I was zipping through an awesome new picture book about John Newbery, and there she was!  John Newbery published some of the first books specifically written for children, including The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.  No one’s sure who wrote the book, but it was a hit, and Newbery went on to publish many other children’s books.  Some 150 years later, his name was the one attached to the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal — to recognize the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children each year.  And while this book, despite excellent illustrations and a fun story, might not seem like the first thing a kid would pick out, it’s got a lot of discussion starters and eye candy for slightly older kids, especially those who love learning about history and books.  And now I can think about that childhood teasing in a whole new way, too.  Nicely done.

 


 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sculptures and graffiti and murals, oh my!

keith-haringThere’s a Keith Haring piece in the sculpture garden up the road from me.  Red, yellow and blue dancing figures are intertwined and turning around each other.  People like to take pictures there – I’ve done it, too—mimicking the actions of the figures.  There’s something bright and joyful about it, even on very gloomy and gray days.

This book is a little like that, twisting and turning through Keith Haring’s life.  What was it like for him growing up?  How did he end up doing murals and making graffiti and becoming a successful artist?  Examples of his work are scattered throughout the illustrations, and it’s a bright and joyful journey.  Take a look.

Keith Haring: the boy who just kept drawing by Kay Haring and Robert Neubecker

Tagged , , , , , ,

Wild about nature

out of schoolThank you, Anna Comstock, for spending your whole life showing us the value of science education.  I didn’t know you did that.  My high school biology teacher must have been a fan, since I still remember his enthusiasm for taking science outside, even when we were stuck in a basement room without much natural light.  For our big project of the year – to collect and identify 50 examples of something – he approved everything from wildflowers to road kill (pictures only) to wheat samples, but it had to be something you found outdoors. That would have been right up Anna’s alley.

Some of my happiest memories are of being outside, seeing some beautiful part of the landscape, finding hidden flowers, taking a walk around the block and seeing what’s new and green, or going to a nearby lake to look at an eagle’s nest, stick my toes in the water, or look over the bridge to see what’s below.

So her life and her work is a wonderful chapter of history to share with kids before going on a nature walk.  “More about Anna” fills us in with additional details about her life and career, so this book is also a way to talk about changing roles in society, since she was clearly ahead of her time in keeping her profession after marriage and becoming a university professor.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story by Suzanne Slade & Jessica Lanan

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Legendary

the-legendary-miss-lena-horne-9781481468244_lgLena Horne may have become a star, but her life wasn’t without hardship.  She grew up between her grandmother, who hoped for a respectable life for her, and her parents, who used her talent to pay the bills.  Being African American meant that even when she was headlining for white bands, she sometimes had to go in through the back door and sleep in the bus.  Standing up and speaking out meant that she was blacklisted.  Her talent took her around the world, but the challenges just kept coming.  Being a trailbreaker is hard work.

It’s a wonderful story of a life, and the art which accompanies it makes the words even brighter.  Enjoy!

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford and Elizabeth Zunon

Tagged , , , , ,

Fancy party gowns and civil rights

fancy-party-gowns-the-story-of-fashion-designer-ann-cole-lowe-9781499802399_lgGlorious party dresses do not play a big part in our collective memory of the civil rights movement, but fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe’s life is illuminating because of that.  People live their daily lives, even now, and it’s possible to overlook injustice simply because you are too busy to stop and involve yourself.  People are there fighting injustice in big and small ways all the time, even while you are getting ready for a charity benefit.  (In all truth, I don’t think I’ve ever worn a fancy party gown to any charity to-do, but you probably know what I mean.)

Ann Cole Lowe grew up sewing with her mother, making fancy dresses for wealthy women.  When her mother died, Alabama’s governor’s wife was still waiting for a gown, so she finished the job and kept on, struggling to survive financially, often bumping up against racism.   Her elegant dresses made her well-known enough to create Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress, even though the butler didn’t want to let her come through the front door to deliver it.

As the author notes, there are inconsistencies in what is known of Ms. Cole’s life, but that makes her all the more human.  The text is relatively simple but clear, and the art is beautiful.  Worth a look–even if you are still trying to leave behind your tea length powder blue prom dress with the puffy sleeves.  Pastels have never been good for me.  Still, I can appreciate the beauty of Ann Cole Lowe’s fashion and her life.

Fancy Party Gowns: the Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal and Laura Freeman

Tagged , , , ,

Pathfinders and Visionaries

There’s nothing like a nasty cold to get me reading nonfiction.  I don’t know why.  Is it a strange attempt to keep some kind of grasp on reality?  Does it remind me how lucky I am compared to historical figures?  Do I just like the pictures?  No idea.

For whatever reason it happens, though, it’s a gift.

My latest cold brought me these two:

  • Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden. Whether it’s Venture Smith’s memoir or Jackie Ormes and cartooning, there is much to learn here about both leaders and regular people.  There are a lot of pictures (yay!) and infographics, which help move the text along.  For kids learning about history and biography, this will be a great addition to the wide range of books highlighting forgotten historical figures which have come out in the last few years.
  • Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson. Ada Lovelace keeps popping up lately.  Even though I knew her story, this picture book adds a joyful and creative boost to the mix.  The artwork is expressive and fun, and it manages to represent math concepts and the emotional struggles of a woman trying to excel within a system that limited her.

For more books with similar themes, see these past posts:

https://liowabrary.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/women-in-science-and-math-a-few-favorites/ (Women in science and math)

https://liowabrary.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/3-more/ (Smartypants biographies)

https://liowabrary.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/5-on-getting-the-vote/ (5 on getting the vote)

Tagged , , , , , ,

Women in science and math – a few favorites

 

I happened to notice that Hidden Figures, a book about African-American women mathematicians, will be available in a youth edition soon.  (I’m on the list for it when it comes into the library already – woo hoo!)  That got me thinking about all the great books about women in science I’ve come across lately.  So, today I offer a short list of recent goodies:

 Finding Wonders:  Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins.  Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell had a few things in common – they loved science and they lived in times which didn’t accept women as scientists.  This novel in verse imagines their lives and research.  It’s very accessible and would be a new way to get younger readers thinking about the wonders they see in their own lives and the extent to which they’d be willing to fight for the right to investigate them.  What matters enough?  When do you stand up for yourself, even if it’s uncomfortable?  Do others still face these challenges now?  So much to think about…

I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer & Christopher Eliopoulos.  This one’s part of the “Ordinary People Change the World series, and it’s a keeper.  It’s a sort of picture book-graphic novel blend, and it really shows how the kid who hid in the hay to observe chickens became the woman who studied chimpanzees and taught us so much about animal relationships.  This one was so fun that I’ll be adding the others in the series to my TBR pile.

Ada Lovelace:  Poet of Science by Diane Stanley and Jessie Hartland.  I mentioned this one in an earlier post.  When I checked it out again to show to a friend, I reread it.  Still great!

Trailblazers:  33 Women in Science Who Changed the World by Rachel Swaby.  You’ll find Ada Lovelace, Maria Mitchell and Mary Anning in this one, along with thirty other amazing women – some well-known and others not so much.  Their biographies are short but very readable, and a nice way to find out about someone you might want to learn even more about!

Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz.  These books cover everyone from political leaders to athletes and singers, but some of the noted women are scientists, mathematicians, and environmental activists.  Like the Trailblazers, these biographies are quick bites, not in-depth, but they’re perfect for kids looking for report subjects (they can research them more through other sources) and adults who are looking for shorter pieces to read on a commute, while waiting at a doctor’s office, eating lunch or whatever.

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs & Sophia Foster-Dimino.  This one’s super sassy and full of unexpected fun.  Annie Smith Peck was both a suffragist and a mountaineer.  Brita Tott was a spy and forger. Jacqueline Felice De Almania was a physician.  Again, it’s all in quick bites, but when you think about women from what seems like long ago doing all these amazing things…. well, the future looks a little brighter.

So much to learn!  So much to uncover!  So much fun!

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lift your light and make some noise

I feel like I’m spending a lot of time in the children’s biographies section lately.  It used to be a rather dry place, with series of books about historical figures whose stories were told as if there’d be a multiple choice test at the end of it.  But the last few years have brought a boatload of reading options for kids (and adults) who want to read about important people and little guys (and girls) who made a difference in the world.  More hit my stack this week.

Lift Your Light a Little Higher:  The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson and Bryan Collier.  Who knew that there were slave guides showing tourists around Mammoth Caves, now a national park, in the 1830s?  Not me.  It’s a weird and uncomfortable thing to think about – a tourist spot with slave-led tours?  Apparently Stephen Bishop was known to the Queen of England and was a science enthusiast.  He also discovered two new species and created the first extensive map of the caves, even though he was not supposed to learn to read and was sold along with the caves at least once.  What?  Call this one “eye-opening” in many ways. The art is wonderful, too, with a combination of photo-like illustration and collage.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe.  It’s a wild, bright messy life — the life of an artist like Jean-Michel Basquiat.  The illustrations are so loud and vibrant, with bits of collage and bits of graffiti, and Basquiat’s life story is equally bold.

Esquivel! Space Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood and Duncan Tonatiuh.  If Duncan Tonatiuh has illustrated it, I’ll read it.  Seriously.  Just sign me up for whatever he’s got in print.  I’ll read any text on the page with his illustrations, and as it turns out, that’s meant learning more about the Day of the Dead (Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras) and school discrimination (Separate is Never Equal) in addition to Esquivel. Tonatiuh explains in the author notes that his art, like Esquivel’s creative use of traditional music, is inspired by ancient Mexican art and the Mixtec codex.  And there’s an interesting story here, too.  Bonus!

Preaching to the Chickens: the story of the young John Lewis.  John Lewis is amazing, as I have noted in earlier posts on his graphic novels, the March series.  (You can read more about them here.)  This picture book is about his childhood, his love for his chickens, his growing sense of responsibility, and his powerful public speaking — even at a young age, even to chickens.

Funny thing.  (To me, at least.)  I’ve had to edit this post twice before even getting it up, because I keep finding new things to add, which tells me life is at least a little good.  Yes, a little bit.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For fans of pigs, swans, mice, and perhaps third grade

somewriter“I was pleased that so many of you felt the beauty and goodness of the world.  If we can feel that when we are young, then there is great hope for us when we grow older.”  E.B. White in a letter to a sixth grade class

There is much to love in Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White.   There are quotes, collages, snippets of letters, illustrations, and stories.  Whether you’re flipping through for the first time, or going back for the tenth, you’re guaranteed to have something new catch your eye – a drawing of a spider, a swan pulling a shoelace, a letter, some elegant cursive writing describing a lake in Maine.  What a life!  What a storyteller!

I can’t wait to share this book.  One of my teacher buddies, Mrs. P, reads Charlotte’s Web every year to her third grade class, and since I often come to visit during literature time in the afternoon, I’ve been there with her class more times than not as Wilbur is losing Charlotte.  Knowing that it took E.B. White seventeen takes to get through his audiobook reading of Last Day in Charlotte’s Web without crying will make this year’s reading even more powerful to me.  Every year, with every class, we listen, cheeks wet with tears, losing a dear friend in that moment.  Does it matter that the author might have felt the same way?  It does.  Yes, it does.

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Tagged , , , ,

March forward

march-book-three-cover-100dpi_lgThis book, this story, these images—it’s powerful stuff.  It’s not easy to read it–the racism and anger, the pain and loss—but it shouldn’t be easy to read, should it? Is this really a world long passed into history?  Have things changed so much?

Take a look at the life’s work of John Lewis from the 1960s, his involvement in SNCC, throughout the civil rights movement, and up until today.  Think about who we were as a country and how hard African American citizens had to work to be able to do what they had a constitutional right to do.  Ponder whether things have changed for the better for everyone.  Decide what you believe true patriotism is.

The surprise of this book is the underlying feeling of hope for the future and for the present.  I know there would be resistance from some quarters because of the book’s language, but the entire March series is perfect for teaching teenagers the history of the 1960s.  (It’s not as if most teenagers aren’t bombarded with profanity of all kinds every day already.)  It is raw and uncomfortable, but it is also a well-written, beautifully illustrated biography of our country as well as John Lewis.

One person really can change the world, it turns out.  What are we all waiting for?

March, Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Tagged , , , , , , , ,