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The contest Save the Picture Book has ended. Telling people about funny, informative, beautiful, or generally awesome picture books continues. I also share middle grade books, book apps, and educational apps that my kids and I like.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picture Book Biographies of Powerful Women

May is Save the Girl Power! month...starting with some inspiring biographies about women in music, science, politics, and...the circus! These books are great for both boys and girls. When one teacher announced to her class that they would be saving the girl power this month, the girls cheered and the boys groaned. But I think the boys will like the biographies and some of the other books. My boys did. I'll let you know for sure when I post the kid reviews!

Here are a few short reviews:

Often underdog stories are about sports. Against all odds, talent and hardwork prevail. That happens in music, too. The moment the downtrodden Mary Lou shows the neighborhood what she's about will bring tears to your eyes. This story about jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams is by my friend Ann Ingalls and her sister Maryann. It's illustrated by Giselle Potter.

At school visits, I often talk about current projects. Right now, it's books about pro wrestlers. I show a slide of my favorite wrestler growing up, Andre the Giant, who was an actual giant. That leads me to mention Stand Straight, Ella Kate. Ella Kate Ewing was a giant from my home state (and author Kate Klise's) of Missouri. I tell kids she got teased but got the last laugh by joining the circus. That may sound funny, but in the 1800s, how many women got to tour the world, meet the president, and build an expensive custom home? See? Last laugh. The book is illustrated by Kate's sister, Sarah Klise, making this the second book mentioned here by a sister team!

People in Asia during the Middle Ages must have known that larvae became moths and butterflies. They'd already been raising silkworms for thousands of years. But where Maria Merian lived, people had no idea where "summer birds" came from. She made this incredible discovery as a girl and grew up to be a scientist, a rare career for a girl in the Middle Ages! It's by Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis.

Theodore Roosevelt said this about his daughter: "I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." Boys and girls alike will love this book about a girl with a big personality. She captured the hearts of most, but was too wild for some. In the end, she became a trusted political advisor to her father, proving that it's best to embrace your children for who they are. (Not everybody can be a church mouse, ya know?) It's by Barbara Kerley, a master of biographies. The book is beautifully and humorously illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, a veteran illustrator but a newcomer to the picture book world. Hoping to see more from him!

What are your favorite biographies about powerful women?


  1. Fun list! I haven't seen the first two before, so I will definitely have to look for them. My all-time favorites are WILMA UNLIMITED by Kathleen Krull and WHEN MARIAN SANG by Pam Munoz Ryan. I also love PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA: THE STORY OF WANGARI MAATHAI by Claire Nivola. And of course, a couple of my works-in-progress. ;)

  2. Thanks, Laurie! I just reserved these from the library. I read Mama Miti but not Planting the Trees of Kenya--will be interested to see the authors'/illustrators' different approaches. I'm excited to see your girl power books, too!

  3. I loved STAND STRAIGHT, ELLA KATE (maybe because I'm 6 feet 5!). Thanks for another great list of picture books!