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Sunday, June 19, 2016

6 Picture Book Biographies of Extraordinary Women

Daredevil
The Daring Life of Betty Skelton
by Megan McCarthy

Beautifully rendered story of Betty Skelton's life, this picture book captures her spirit and her personality with humor and authenticity.

Betty was a daredevil all right. The part that affected the kids most was when she was invited to train with the male astronauts for Mercury 7, went through the training with flying colors, only to be rejected at the crucial time simply because she was a woman and NASA wasn't ready to send a woman into space at that time.

Illustrations are slightly on the funny side and yet very adorable and relevant.



Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea
by Robert Burleigh
illustrated by Raúl Colón

One of 20th century's most important scientists, Marie Tharp was the key person involved in mapping the seafloors around the world. Her hard work validated the theory of Continental Drift which was a tenuous proposition at that time, but the only reasonable explanation for the observations.

Being the daughter of a mapmaker, it was no surprise that Marie knew what to do from her younger days. Even though she initially faced many obstacles as she was just a woman and women couldn't possibly be smart scientists in those days, her perseverance and confidence gained her respect among her peers at Lamont Geological Labs where she started her project of mapping the sea floor.

Illustrations by Raul Colon (of DRAW) complement the text well.


Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman
Olympic High-Jump Champion
by heather Lang
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Alice Coachman was born to run and jump. Thus begins this story of a remarkable athlete who took her talents to new heights via sheer hard work and determination. Talent like hers cannot be suppressed, it is bound to be discovered sooner or later. But being black in those testing times was not helping her at all.

Going to London from her segregated Southern state, for the Olympic Games, Alice was awed that she could sit anywhere on the bus despite being black. That little nugget in the book influenced both the kids at home deeply. That, and the fact that the King George VI shook her hands when awarding her gold medal at the Olympics was something huge for Alice, something she could not expect the white people in her own community to do willingly.


Dorothea's Eyes
by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Gérard DuBois

Afflicted with polio at age six, Dorothea Lange never recovered from the limp; she felt different and lonely. But, she saw things like no one else did - with her eyes and her heart.

Being enterprising and tenacious, she asks to work with any photographer who would taken her on as apprentice. She learns all that she can pick up. Eventually, recognizing her talent, one photographer gives her an old camera.

In an age when photography was not taken very seriously, and women were not taken seriously, Dorothea was a natural at both, very seriously. Many of Dorothea's photographs are held in National Archives and can be accessed at archives.gov.


Stone Girl Bone Girl
A Story of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis
by Laurence Anholt
illustrated by Sheila Moxley

By now, most budding paleontologists have heard about Mary Anning, the girl who couldn't help finding fossils everywhere she looked, the girl who found the first Ichthyosaurus fossil that reconciled a huge gap that scientists had in understanding prehistoric creatures until then.

Being poor, and not knowing the value of her finds, Mary probably gave away most of her valuable treasures just to put food on the table. The book talks about the little speckled dog that showed up at Mary's one day and stayed with her for all her discovereis up until Ichthyosaur, and then magically disappeared. She later found Plesiosaurs and Pterosaurs in her small, unassuming town of Lyme Regis in Dorset.

The illustrations are bright, colorful, and gorgeous!


Bon Appétit!
The Delicious Life of Julia Child
by Jessie Hartland

A children's picture book about Julia Child? This I must read, I told myself when I saw it in our library.

All about Julia's life and her life's work -- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the book shows Julia's indomitable spirit and her methodical approach to perfecting each recipe so others can follow it blindly and end up with something out of this world.

Never one to sit idly, Julia was always passionate about cooking, and even got her own TV Show with live demonstrations in a day and age when such things were not easily open to women hosts.

My only nagging issue with the book is its layout and font - it is cluttered and crowded and hard to read in proper sequence. Plus the fonts are cursive which the younger child is not adept at reading - yet.


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When I was Eight,
Not My Girl
by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
art by Gabrielle Grimard


While not a biography but more a memoir of sorts, these two books gave a peek into a life of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, that is very different from anything the kids had expected to read in a picture book.

Olemaun, an Inuit girl, knows a lot of things including how to keep the sled dogs quiet when hunting for caribou; how to bring get her team of dogs to obey; how to relish muktuk (whale blubber) and pipsi (dried fish).

But, she did not know how to read English, like the outsiders. And wanted to learn. So, she was sent to study with the nuns at the outsiders school.

The school changes her in ways she never imagined. She has forgotten her own language, lost the taste for her own native foods, and can't seem to know all the things that are important for her survival in the harsh lands.

When I was Eight is about Margaret going away to the outsider school; Not My Girl talks about her return from school and trying to get rehabilitated and learn the ways of her people so she can continue the traditional way of life and preserve her cultural heritage.

The illustrations are brilliant!


[image source: multcolib.org]

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