by Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
Picture book, ages 4 – 8
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
By Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012
Middle grade non-fiction, Ages 9 and Up
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
By Doreen Rappaport, Illustrations by Matt Tavares
Picture book, biography
Ages 6 and up, Grades K-4
Disney Hyperion, 2012
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
If there’s one thing a strong girl needs, it’s her voice. And no one of her era had a lovelier voice than Florence Mills, the legendary singer and stage actress of the early 1920s.
In Renée Watson’s picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, we meet Florence in Washington DC, where she was born to formerly enslaved parents. As she grows and plays in school, she discovers the power of her singing voice to take her from her modest Washington DC neighborhood all the way to the grand stages of Europe.
“If my voice can take me around the world, what else can it do?” she wonders.
Lots, as it turns out.
Florence Mills’ impact went beyond entertainment. She refused performances at whites-only establishments, and at her death, she was mourned not only for her talent and beauty but also for her convictions during the Harlem Renaissance.
Christian Robinson’s illustrations are simple and collage-like, infused with the bright colors and cityscapes that Renée Watson calls up in the text.
For me, the book works as history, as biography, and as a doorway into learning about music. But more than anything else, it works as a book about a strong girl who stands up for what she believes MM
Read more about Florence Mills.