Non-fiction

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

By Laura Veirs, Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Chronicle Books, 2018
Picture book, non-fiction
Ages 5-8, Grades K – 3
ISBN 10: 1452139962
Additional Format: e-book
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection

Libba celebrates the life and accomplishments of acclaimed African-American singer-songwriter and folk musician, Elizabeth Cotten, whose childhood curiosity and determination ignited a lifelong love of music and desire to create. Left-handed, she taught herself to play her older brother’s guitar by strumming the instrument upside down and backwards. She wrote one of the most famous American folk songs of her era, Freight Train, when she was just eleven years old and performed the song (and many other original songs) all across the globe. Growing up in the segregated South, she faced many obstacles in her life and overcame barriers and prejudices to pursue her craft. A believer in lifelong learning, Libba Cotten knew her life’s purpose was to play, and she won a Grammy when she was in her nineties!

This picture book biography is an infectious work of love and devotion by author and singer-songwriter Laura Veirs and artist-activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. A gentle, magical reminder to never give up, Libba will inspire and uplift early bloomers, late bloomers, and bloomers of every sort. – GA


Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

By Tanya Lee Stone in association with Girl Rising
Wendy Lamb Books, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
ISBN 978-0553511468
Additional formats: Kindle
Honors: A Junior Library Guild Selection

Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school. This staggering statistic was the catalyst for the 2013 documentary entitled Girl Rising, a film that profiled the stories of nine exceptional girls fighting to be educated. In the follow-up to this film, Tanya Lee Stone takes us deeper into this issue by exploring, in-depth, the barriers many girls face, illustrating the importance of investing in girls around the world and calling to action current and future activists alike.

In Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time, Stone captures the readers with full-color photographs and moving portraits of young girls in developing countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, and others. She provides a framework for understanding their lack of education, highlighting barriers such as modern-day slavery, child marriage, poverty, human trafficking, gender discrimination, and lack of access. What results is a vivid and heart-wrenching look at the challenges many young girls face.

But Stone does not leave us without hope. Each profile is not just a story of adversity; it is also a story of hope and perseverance. Each of these girls has prevailed over their circumstances and attended school. This is an important feat, not only for them and for their community, but also for the world. “Why? Because education girls literally changes how nations behave. Educating girls changes how governments function. It changes economies and jobs….It can change entire cultures.”

This inspiring book ends with a call-to-action. Readers from first-world cultures may not experience these barriers first hand, but there are ways they can still help. Stone highlights several examples including writing for your school or local newspaper, supporting Fair Trade, or using what you’re passionate about to raise money for a non-profit organization.  

Around the world, there may be many obstacles to educating girls, but there are also many people willing to fight for their rights to be educated. Girl Rising:  Changing the World One Girl at a Time shines a light on this issue and rallies readers to the cause. – JD


Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done


By Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
Harper Collins, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
ISBN 978-0062472472
Additional formats:  Kindle, Audiobook
Honors:  A New York Public Library Best Book of 2017 * A Junior Library Guild selection * A Children’s Book Council Best STEM Trade Book for Students K-12

Andrea “Andy” Gonazales and Sophie Houser are teen tech superstars and creators of the viral video game phenomenon, “Tampon Run.” In their book, Girl Code:  Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, the two tell the story of their rise to stardom, from their first time meeting at the Girls Who Code summer program to the development of a stigma-breaking video game to their quest into the venture-capital world of tech startups. Told in alternating voices, Girl Code is the comedic and inspiring story of two teen girls making it the male-dominated world of STEM.

Andy Gonazales is the daughter or Filipino immigrants. From early on, she feels the pressure to choose a career in technology. Sophie Houser is plagued with social anxiety and sees coding as a way to make an impact without having to speak in public. They meet in the summer program, Girls Who Code, and are paired together on a project challenging them to make a video game. In brainstorming a direction to take the project, the girls discover they are both interested in social justice and dispelling gender-biased stereotypes. Thus, Tampon Run is born.

Tampon Run receives immediate and far-reaching success, going viral overnight. Andy and Sophie are thrust into the spotlight, gaining a virtually all-access pass behind the scenes of the tech industry.  The two attend major tech-events, visit high-profile companies, and receive illustrious internship opportunities. Through these experiences, the authors give the reader insight into what it’s like to be a female in a traditionally male-dominated field as well the inside scoop on coding.

Written in funny and insightful conversational style, Girl Code is perfect for all the girls out there interested in STEM or just looking for some real-life inspiration from teens just like them. – JD


Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos


By Monica Brown, Illustrated by John Parra
NorthSouth Books, 2017
Picture book, non-fiction
Ages 4 – 8, Grades PreK – 2
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Honors: Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor * 2018 ALA Notable Children’s Book 2018  * New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2017

As a child, Frida counted among her closest companions two spider monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn! As friends, they inspired her and easily took on human characteristics in her paintings.

It is through this lens that author Monica Brown introduces us to the life of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of the most curious and talented 20th-century artists, who would inspire generations. Frida was the daughter of a German/Hungarian photographer and a Mexican mother who encouraged her to observe nature, enjoy animals, paint, and follow her dreams and imagination. Due to polio and a bus accident, she lived in physical discomfort most of her life, but art provided an escape.

Brown’s beautiful and bold biography works in perfect orchestration with the illustrations of John Parra. His understanding of Mexican heritage and love of Frida’s paintings and palette invite us to become part of her world and environment. We discover the personalities of each of her pets and how they contributed to her life and art.

Frida’s story is about how art can heal and is integral to daily life, and Brown’s interpretation of this famous artist’s story captures this essence with brilliance. Girls everywhere, artistically inclined or not, will be creatively inspired on every page. – PP


Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

by Dean Robbins, Illustrated Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Orchard Books, 2016
Picture book
Ages 4-8, PreK-3
ISBN: 9780545399968

Two Friends visits a fascinating corner of 19th Century American history, when slavery still gripped the nation and when women hadn’t yet won the right to vote. Even then (and still today!) Americans were fighting for equality for all, which is promised to us in the Declaration of Independence.

In the midst of freedom movements, people draw together to share ideas, to lift each other up, and to help each other keep trying to make change. So, it shouldn’t have been surprising for me to learn from this picture book that Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass found solace and support between them in Rochester, NY.

But, it was a delightful surprise to learn that by candlelight, over tea and cake, Anthony and Douglass imagined what change might look like and feel like and what it might take. They never doubted that enslaved people would become free or that women would vote.

Two Friends reminds me that at the heart of any kind of change we will find friendship and shared dreams.
-GA


Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina


by Misty Copeland
Touchstone, 2014
Young adult, memoir
Ages: 12 and older, Grades 6-12
ISBN: 978-1476737997
Honors: New York Times Bestseller

Sometimes you have to be willing to try something new to discover who you are meant to be.

Misty Copeland is compelling and heartwarming in this first-person telling of how she became the first African American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

Her unlikely path to making history began at thirteen, an age that made her a “late bloomer” in the world of serious dance. While most young ballerinas were concentrating on their pirouettes, she and her family were struggling with homelessness. Misty’s haven became the after-school program at her local Boys & Girls Club, and when she enrolled in a free ballet class on a whim, her life changed forever. Her love of dance helped her remain focused and firm through numerous family crises, personal struggles and periods of self-doubt. Though she dances beautifully and with much grace now, she openly shares how her life sometimes reflected the opposite, and how she used those circumstances to fuel her goals and dreams.

Though this book isn’t a cliffhanger, in the sense that readers already know how it will end, they still may find themselves gripped by Misty’s story and capable of learning some meaningful lessons that can serve them as well as they have served Misty.
-SHA


Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World


by Kelly Jensen
Algonquin Books for Young Readers, 2017
Young adult, nonfiction
Ages: 12-18, Grades 9-12
ISBN: 978-1616205867
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection

Here We Are is whip-smart anthology of what it means to be a feminist and why it’s important, from voices teens will (or should, because they’re awesome!) recognize. Amandla Sternberg, Mindy Kaling, Michaela and Mia DePrince, Wendy Davis, and Matt Nathanson join well-known YA authors like Malinda Lo, Sarah McCarry, Nova Ren Suma, and many more writers to talk about the ins-and-outs of equality.

Perhaps the biggest draw of Here We Are is its scrapbook, mixed-media format. There are essays and poems, conversations between writers, Instagram images, comics, interviews, and illustrations (over forty pieces total), which prevent a book about a serious topic from seeming preachy, academic, or condescending to its intended audience. Here We Are isn’t just for teenagers; it’s about being a teenager, and the writers never forget it.

The book’s feminism considers what it means to be a girl, but it isn’t limited to what it is to be a straight, white, middle class American girl. There are perspectives from all kinds of backgrounds, and readers would be hard-pressed to not find something to relate to here. From the damaging effects of trying to be the “cool girl,” to accepting your own (and other people’s) bodies, to the use of sexual assault as a weapon, each aspect of girlhood and feminism is turned over and presented to the reader in a refreshing and relevant way.
-AN


The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

bookCovers_Loving

by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Grades 1- 5
ISBN: 978-0-54-47853-3
Arthur Levine Books, 2015
Honors:
Society of Illustrators Original Art Show 2015 * NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award 2015 * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015 * Book Links 2015 Lasting Connection * A New York Public Library Notable Book for Reading and Sharing

Author-illustrator, husband-wife duo Selina Alko and Sean Qualls collaborate to present this celebratory portrait of a bi-racial family in The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Through intimate, simple language readers follow the courtship of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred “String Bean” Jeter, a woman of African American and Cherokee descent.

The two fall in love, but according to Virginia law in 1958 interracial marriage is illegal, so they exchange vows in D.C. Soon after the newlyweds return home, the police raid their bedroom in the night and arrest them both. “Tell the court I love my wife, and that it’s just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia,” Richard told his lawyers.

Their legal battle rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, after which Richard and Mildred returned to Central Point, having won the right for themselves and other interracial couples to marry. This book gives young readers the opportunity to reflect upon racial justice, self-identity, and ways in which historical narratives shift over time. A mixed medium of paint and collage contrasts bold, stark images of injustice against whimsical, uplifting panels that leave no doubt about it: love will prevail.


Ballet for Martha: The Making of Appalachian Spring

bookCovers_ballet

by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca
Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press 2010
Picture book, non-fiction, ages 7 and up
ISBN: 978-1-59643-338-0
Honors:
Robert Silbert Honor Award * NCTE Orbis Pictus Award * ALA Notable Books 2010 * Numerous best books lists for 2010
Additional formats: ebook and audio

This historical picture book is about how Appalachian Spring, one of the most famous dances of all times, came to be. It is a dance about the pioneer movement, and it was a collaboration between Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi. Martha had to persevere through audiences who didn’t necessarily understand the new language she was crafting in American dance. Martha Graham Dance was the first integrated dance company in the US. Appalachian spring, which earned Copland the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1944.


Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

bookCovers_melba

by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
Picture book, non-fiction
Aages 7 and up
ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8
Honors:
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor * Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA) * Listed on multiple “best books” lists

This is the story of how a little girl born in 1926 fights racism and sexism to become one of our country’s most accomplished musicians.

Melba Loretta Liston was a famed jazz trombone player and arranger who created gorgeous rhythms, harmonies, and melodies in songs for jazz greats like Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few.

The illustrations are delicious. I’d pair this with Acoustic Rooster by Kwame Alexander for a summer study on jazz.


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

bookCovers_voiceOfFreedom

by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2015
Picture book, non-fiction, poetry
Ages 9 and up, Grades 4-7
ISBN:
978-0-7636-6531-9
Honors:
Caldecott Honor illustration 2016 * Coretta Scott King New Talent award for Illustration 2016 * Silbert Informational Book Award 2016 * Marion Vannett Ridway Award Honor * NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts * Bank Street College Flora Steiglitz Straus Award * Amelia Bloomer List * CCBC Choices and multiple best books lists of 201

The first-person poetry of Carole Boston Weatherford and tactile collage of Ekua Holmes combine for a perfect-pitch picture book biography of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

Voice of Freedom transports readers to the Mississippi Delta of Hamer’s childhood and into the heart of Hamer’s own journey, a sometimes harsh journey at the mercy of discriminatory, oppressive policies and practices in America. Hammer quit school at sixth grade to pick cotton with her family. She was later sterilized by a doctor (without her knowledge or consent) while undergoing tumor surgery,  Hamer not only survived, she rose up to become a driving force in the fight for equality.

Often on Girls of Summer, we celebrate stories of those who have changed history as children. This book shows us a woman whose childhood and life unfolded to prepare and strengthen her voice to boom forth, at middle age, in a song of protest and triumph and remembering.


Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Separate is Never Equal

Separate is Never Equal

by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
Picture book, ages 5 – adult
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1054-4
Honors: Pura Belpré Honor book 2015 * Robert Seibert Honor Book, 2015 * Amèricas Book Award, 2015

When we think of Civil Rights in this country, it’s easy to overlook the role of Latinos in that struggle. Yet in 1944, when California schools were still segregated, Sylvia Mendez and her siblings were forced to enroll in a school for Mexicans. Despite the fact that they were natural American citizens, the Mendez children were required to attend a school that was farther from home and lacking in the same amenities as the school designated for white students.

Thus began the Mendez family fight to integrate schools for Latinos.

Separate Is Never Equal
by award-winning author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh is the perfect blend of picture book, history, and a strong-girl story. It’s about everyday people fighting injustice with conviction. Readers can follow the court proceedings and meet the essential people who joined the lawsuit. It’s a revealing look at the thinking of the time, such as the ideas that Mexicans had deficient language skills, poor social skills, head lice, impetigo, and other illnesses.

With distinctive art based on the Mixtec Codex, an excellent glossary, photographs, and list of resources, this is a rich picture book for all ages. I love this book for Girls of Summer in particular because strong girls do, in fact, help change history. ~MM


Viva Frida

Viva Frida

Viva Frida

by Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
Picture book, ages 4 – 8
ISBN: 978-1596436039
Additional formats: bilingual edition
Awards: Caldecott Honor 2015 * Pura Belpré Award 2015 for illustration

I can’t stop looking at the pictures in this lovely book that earned Yuyi Morales a Caldecott honor, the first for a Latino illustrator, this year.

It’s the story of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose life has been well covered. However, that has made absolutely no impact on this book’s originality and freshness. Each page is a beautifully photographed tableau of Kahlo’s life—in painting, in puppets, in collage. There are sophisticated references to her husband, Diego Rivera, and images that would find themselves into her art, which make it especially fun for adult readers, too. The details are charming—everything from those signature eyebrows down to the jewelry and embroidered skirts. Most impressive, though, is that the simple words capture how an artist discovers her voice and passion—two essentials for strong girls everywhere. Bravo! ~MM


The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement

tarpaper

By Teri Kanefield
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
Middle grade non-fiction, Ages 10-14
ISBN:1419707965/13:978-1419707964
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement introduces young readers to one of the earliest and youngest Civil Rights pioneers. In 1950, Barbara Johns attended Robert R. Moton High School, an all-black high school. In then-segregated Prince Edward County, Virginia, while white students enjoyed a new school, black students were forced to endure makeshift buildings with leaky roofs and poor heating.

“I’m sick and tired of it all,” Johns complained to her favorite teacher, Inez Davenport.

In return, Davenport challenged her student: “Why don’t you do something about it?”

In October, Johns began recruiting student leaders to join her in a non-violent protest. On the morning of April 23, 1951, they commandeered the PA system, convened a school-wide assembly, and asked teachers to leave. Johns took the podium and gave the speech of a lifetime, imploring the student-body to strike until the school board agreed to improvements. She issued instructions, walked out of the building, and all four hundred fifty students followed.

Ultimately, the NAACP filed a petition demanding that Prince Edward integrate the school system. Students returned to Moton, and their case went before the Supreme Court, where it joined with four others as Brown v. Board of Education.

The Girl from the Tar Paper School is the first biography in any genre of Barbara Rose Johns. I love the aspects of teen-aged Barbara that author Teri Kanefield chose to reveal. By focusing on her subject’s interior life, Kanefield shows us a young woman who drew strength and resolve from her faith, her family, and the natural world. Readers learn that the Johns family valued and instructed its younger members on the importance of speaking truth to power. Family study of African-American history was important to them, as was attending church and retreating to the woods to pray privately.

I think everyone should study this book not only in order to learn about the life of a confident young woman but to gain insight into Johns’ process of imagining, planning, and executing a courageous act and finding a clear voice. The Girl from the Tar Paper School is also a critical addition to our understanding of how children participate in and shape history. – Gigi


The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls

careofyou

By Valorie Lee Schaefer, illustrated Josee Masse, Cara Natterson MD, medical consultant
American Girl, 2012 Revised edition
Middle grade non-fiction, ages 8 and up
ISBN: 1609580834/ 978-1609580834

Last December, during one of our regular and highly ritualized Taco Nights, I asked my nine-year-old goddaughter, a loyal Girls of Summer reader since 2011, “Hey, Yumi, what book would you recommend for Girls of Summer next year?”

My girl had a title at the ready. “The Care & Keeping of You!” she shouted, as she loaded up my plate with tofu crumbles, jalapenos, and black olives.

Yumi is a good reader and a great thinker. As an athlete, a scholar, and a performer, she values keeping herself healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Naturally, I took her advice.
Not only do girls need information about health from multiple trusted sources, such as parents and teachers, they also deserve a way to learn and reinforce good information privately, if and when they so choose.

Owning a trusted book about the beauty and wonder of being female and being given the free time to explore such a book can ease a girl’s anxiety about the physical and emotional changes she’s experiencing and the changes to come. Books like this one introduce and normalize a positive lexicon of body-words and concepts to help girls to process the biological facts of how girls transform into women.

The Care & Keeping of You
offers a friendly and informative exploration of the female body with illustrations depicting girls of all shapes, sizes, races, and ethnicities. But it’s not only physical health that’s covered. The World Health Organization defines health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The authors of this book embrace the same kind of holistic approach to health information. Parents will appreciate that the content aims to build girls’ confidence and pride, as well to encourage girls to talk about their bodies with their parents. – Gigi


Sneaky Art

Sneaky Art
By Marthe Jocelyn
Middle grade, Ages 8 and up
Candlewick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5648-5

Every now and then, a book comes skipping by with jolly shouts of sunshine and fun, calling out for everyone to join in. Even those of us who can’t knit or crochet or quilt can make sneaky art. Marthe Jocelyn says so! And she shows us how. Sneaky art isn’t graffiti or vandalism or mean or permanent. Sneaky art IS temporary, playful art made by YOU and placed around town or your neighborhood or home in sneaky places to make people smile or laugh or do a double-take. The introduction explains the rules, gives you a tool kit, and explains the hows, whens, and wheres of getting sneaky. The rest of this spiral bound book includes DIY-instructions for sneaky art projects that are fun and easy, even for me.

My favorite projects include: Teeny Party, colorful garlands sneakily strung in medicine cabinets, refrigerators, or school lockers; Cup Dangler, an easy, tasty surprise made with soft candy and paperclips that can be left on the rims of mugs or cups; Sink Boats in a public fountain; Little Landmarks, tiny houses made with empty matchboxes and tucked into nooks and crannies, and Stick Pixies – just imagine making a stick fairy out of your baby pictures and sinking them in your mom’s birthday cake or Mother’s Day flower pot. Who knows what new projects you’ll come up with? Oh sneaky, sneaky, sneaky art! I’m so happy you arrived in time for summer! GA


Temple Grandin: How the Girl who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

Temple Grandin
By Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012
Middle grade non-fiction, Ages 9 and Up
ISBN 978-0547443157
additional formats: enhanced e-book, audio
NYPL 100 Titles for Reading & Sharing, 2012

Whether you realize it or not, your life has very likely been influenced by Temple Grandin. An advocate, designer, and activist, she’s dedicated her life to the humane treatment of livestock. As a child, Temple was diagnosed with autism. Sy Montgomery’s biography explores Temple’s world and her journey to understanding and embracing autism as a gift that helps her understand and connect with animals.

“I was one of those kids who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd,” Temple Grandin says of her childhood. Temple’s own voice, woven throughout much of this story, describes how she has been misunderstood, ostracized, criticized, and denied access. Because she is a female? Yes. Because she lives with autism? Yes. Because she challenges the status quo? You got that right. Because she refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer? Yep, that, too.

Temple always had someone in her corner. Her mother, her aunt, and select educators and business people who recognized Temple’s genius and worked to open doors and opportunities for her. These passionate advocates taught Temple the principles of self-advocacy, and she never looked back.

The facts of Temple’s life, as well as the anecdotes that illustrate how she came to know herself, are fascinating. Through stories, photographs, and Temple’s actual livestock-system designs, readers begin to understand how Temple’s brain works. Temple’s brain is most fascinating! We learn how the qualities in Temple that caused some to misjudge her are the very qualities Temple credits for her success, creativity, and innovative thinking. The biography is chock-full of concrete and well-lived words of advice from Temple that will inspire kids, such as: “Individuals who have been labeled with disabilities or even just quirky or nerdy kids often have uneven skills” and “By finding friends who like the same activities that you like, you can avoid the bullies.”

I learned of Temple Grandin’s breakthrough thinking and innovative designs in livestock management in 2006 with the publication of her book, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. Her work has influenced nearly every cattle farmer in America, including my family. Sy Montgomery brings a rich, engaging, and important biography of one of the most influential American women to young readers. GA


Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen's Big World
By Doreen Rappaport, Illustrations by Matt Tavares
Picture book, biography
Ages 6 and up, Grades K-4
Disney Hyperion, 2012
ISBN: 078-0-7868-0890-8
ALA Notable Book for Middle Readers *Charlotte Zolotow Award *CCBC Choices Award *Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award *Oppenheim SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Products) Award *ABC Best Books for Children *Entertainment Weekly Great New Historical Books For Kids

Most everyone is familiar with Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Maybe you’ve read about Helen in school or seen the play The Miracle Worker. Here, Doreen Rappaport’s story and Matt Tavares’ illustrations ignite to give us an electrifying account of Helen Keller’s life story. In her trademark style, Rappaport intersperses Helen’s own words with the unfolding story, and the result is an intimate, moving conversation between biographer and subject. For example, Rappaport tells us, “Once Helen learned to write, she would not stop.” Then, three journal entries by Helen reveal how over the course of just eighteen months, Helen mastered the written word to express her impressions of the world. About astronomers, Helen writes, “When we are sleeping quietly in our beds, they are watching the beautiful sky through the telescope. The stars are called the earth’s brothers and sisters.” Every panel painted by Tavares calls us into Helen’s world, a complex, interior world that evolves from fury and confusion into discovery and ecstasy. We feel the water’s splash and the horse’s whicker in our very own palm. Let the laughter and the tears flow as you read this picture book. I’m so grateful to the author, illustrator, and Helen for reminding me that we all share this big world. And now, we’ll remember to share Helen’s passion and curiosity, too. GA


I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War

I'll Pass for Your Comrade
By Anita Silvey
Middle grade, non-fiction
Ages 10 and up, Grades 5-8
Clarion Books, 2008
ISBN: 978-0618574919

Our newest addition to the Girls of Summer project is our Annual Guest Star. See the Sunflower Seastar icon in the book cover above?!

Each year, we’ll pick an amazing guest whose work on behalf of girls and/or reading has made a significant impact on us as authors and on the world of books. Our Guest Stars will offer us a bonus book pick for strong girls and will write a post about a topic of their choosing.

So, who did we pick as our very first Guest Seastar? We went to the top, of course. And that’s where we found the one and only Anita Silvey.

In a career that has spanned more than 40 years, she has served as editor of The Horn Book Review and as the publisher of children’s books at Houghton Mifflin. Known as “The Book Expert,” Anita Silvey is the force behind the Children’s Book a Day Almanac, a daily recommendation of excellent fiction for young readers, and is the author of nine books, including 100 Best Books for Children and 500 Great Books for Teen. She is also the editor of Children’s Books and Their Creators, an overview of 20th Century children’s books and of Help Wanted, a collection of selected short stories for young adults. Most recently, Anita has published The Children’s Book a Day Almanac; Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot; and The Plant Hunters.

Anita Silvey has dedicated her life to writing, selecting, and promoting the very best in books for young people. As our inaugural Guest Star, she joins us to talk about her first book for young readers – and a perfect selection for Girls of Summer. Published in 2008 by Clarion books, I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War offers readers a glimpse of strong girls who braved everything to take up arms to defend their beliefs. MM

To learn more about Anita Silvey, visit www.anitasilvey.com


Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts

By Tanya Lee Stone
Non-fiction/Middle grade
Candlewick Press, 2009
ISBN: 0763636118/9780763636111
Awards/Recognitions: *ALA Notable Children’s Books *ALA Best Books for Young Adults *Amelia Bloomer Project Selection *Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards – Honor Book *Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books *IRA Teacher’s Choice Award *Flora Stieglitz Straus AwardJane Addams Children’s Book Award *Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People *Sibert Medal *Smithsonian Notable Books for Children

Not that long ago, women in America weren’t allowed to rent cars, borrow money from a bank on their own, or play professional sports. In Almost Astronauts, Tanya Lee Stone tells the story of thirteen women who shared a dream of flying and becoming American astronauts. Known as the Mercury 13, these pioneers were dumped by their fiancés, served divorce papers, fired from their jobs, and objectified by the media as Astronettes because they were participating in the Women in Space Program.

The Mercury 13 volunteered to take the same tests that NASA required of male astronauts in order to prove women were capable of flying into space. Their results were superior – scientific evidence that women are as fit or fitter than men for space travel. It was near the apex of the Cold War, and Russia had put the world on notice that it intended to send women into space. Yet, in 1961 Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson still gave a shocking response to a request that he back a space program for women, a response that effectively kept women and people of color out of NASA for years.

So, quick: what was the first year a woman commanded a space shuttle? What was her name?

1998. Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collins.

Thirty-eight years after Vice-President Johnson shut down the women’s space program before it could officially get started, Lieutenant Colonel Collins thanked the Mercury 13 for not giving up, for proving women were capable of being astronauts, and for insisting that women had the right to do so.

Almost Astronauts is fast-paced, urgent, and invigorating 20th Century history. It’s personal and political too, but it’s not secret history. Not any longer. As a mother, a writer, and a history-buff, I’m grateful to Tanya Lee Stone for telling the story of the Mercury 13 and for letting us get know these women who put it all on the line for all the women and men who would come next.

So. What will you say the next time you hear: A girl doesn’t have a chance? GA

Listen to an excerpt from Almost Astronauts audiobook!

Read the author’s tribute to the Mercury 13 Women.


Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers

Body Drama

By Nancy Amanda Redd
Non-fiction/Young adult
Penguin Group, 2007
ISBN: 1592403263/978-1592403264

With Body Drama, former Miss Virginia and a Miss America swimsuit winner, Nancy Redd, wrote the book she wished she had had in high school and college. What better season to embrace of self-love and body-confidence than summertime?

Part reference book, part girlfriend, Body Drama aims to reassure young women about their bodies, encourage them to appreciate their natural strength and beauty, and remind them that there are no stupid questions. Nancy Redd leaves no question unasked or unanswered. The book is presented in five sections: Skin, Boobs, Down There, Hair Mouth Nails, and Shape. Each section follows the same friendly, accessible format:

  • Body Drama
  • What’s Going On?
  • How Do I Deal
  • What if They Notice, and
  • How to.

The body dramas covered range from the timeless – My face is a zit factory – to the contemporary – My piercing isn’t healing well – to the confessional – It’s a forest down there – and everything in between.

There’s almost nothing better than having a girlfriend who you can trust with any fear, who you can ask any question. You know, the one who keeps a hug for you in her back pocket? If a book could be that girlfriend, Body Drama would be her – someone to laugh with over all the nicknames you can think of for your boobs or your period and one bold enough to even teach you nicknames for your vulva (p. 118). My favorite? Grassy Knoll.

Body Drama makes a perfect gift for a young woman headed off to college or for any woman who could use a friend to remind her as this book does, “No Body is Perfect. Every Body is Beautiful. Every Body is Different. Different is Beautiful.” GA


Just Being Audrey

Just Being Audrey

By Margaret Cardillo and Illustrated by Julia Denos
Picture book, non-fiction
Balzer +Bray, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-185283-1

Who hasn’t wanted to be Audrey Hepburn at one time or another, if for no other reason than to rock those fabulous pencil pants and bangs? Now, even the youngest readers can meet the legend.

Just Being Audrey captures the resilient and humble spirit of this beloved Hollywood icon, a woman known as much for her kindness and professionalism as she was for her films. Cardillo offers us a refreshing departure from brat star updates that we can get on TV any time.

I’m especially fond of Julia Denos’ illustrations here. They capture that unforgettable face and Hepburn’s distinctive fashion style. (Check out the spread of Hepburn in her most famous film costumes.) Don’t be surprised if your dress-up chest gets some new additions as a result.

Failed dancer, World War II survivor, Broadway star, Hollywood legend, UNICEF ambassador, loving child advocate – Audrey Hepburn was all of them. How’s that for a strong girl? MM