Monthly Archives: February 2020

PPBF – The Little Island

I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book when I visited London last fall. It may not be available in the US yet, but I think it’s publishing here soon. Hopefully, US readers will be able to find it!

Title: The Little Island

Written By: Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Illustrated By: Robert Starling

Publisher/Date: Andersen Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: community, island, working together, barriers, bridges, fable

Opening:

There was once a farm where all the animals were friends. They worked hard and each was at liberty to live and work where they chose. Together they looked after the farm and each other.

Brief Synopsis: When a flock of geese on an island at the edge of a farm remove a bridge to keep other animals off of the island, they are happy at first, until they realize that perhaps life is better when they are together with the other animals.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite farm animal? How do you think that animal could help another one, like a goose?
  • Have you ever visited an island? What animals did you see there? How do you think each type of animal contributes to island life?
  • This story is a fable. What do you think the moral of this fable is? Think of other fables that include animals;
  • Check out the Teaching Notes for more insights.

Why I Like this Book:

When I think of kids at play, I often think about how they play at keeping some friends near and other kids further away. Who hasn’t seen the “Keep Out” signs on forts or play structures, or the dreaded “No XXXs Allowed”?

In similar fashion, the geese in The Little Island grew tired of sharing their island with the larger animals on the farm. But instead of building a wall or posting a sign, they destroyed the only route to the island for non-swimming farm animals: the bridge.

I think even young children will understand a discussion about this exclusionary action. I think they’ll also understand how this action hurts not just the other animals, those kept away from the island, but most especially the geese and ducks left alone there. And for adults or older children reading this story, my guess is that the impetus behind it, the exclusionary antics of certain politicians and governments building barriers and/or leaving multilateral organizations, will engender spirited comparisons.

Starling’s bright illustrations are engaging, and I especially loved the map on the endpapers.

A Note about Craft:

A straight-forward book about keeping others out may get to the point, but setting the situation on a farm with animal characters will, in my opinion, better engage young children and better show the ill consequences for both those excluded and those who exclude others.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – of Picture Books about African-American Migrations

In small numbers, while slavery held sway in the southern states, and in large numbers, in the early to mid-twentieth century, African Americans headed north. Today’s pairing explores these journeys:

Before She Was Harriet

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Publisher/Date: Holiday House Publishing, Inc./2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: biography, African-American history, women’s history, slavery, underground railroad

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse and illustrated by an award-winning artist.
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

Overground Railroad

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Publisher/Date: Holiday House/2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: African-American history, the Great Migration, moving, train journey

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ruth Ellen’s odyssey on the New York Bound Silver Meteor is the start of a new life up North that she can’t begin to imagine in this gorgeously illustrated picture book.

In poems, illustrated with collage art, a perceptive girl tells the story of her train journey from North Carolina to New York City as part of the Great Migration. Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view.

Overground Railroad offers a window into a child’s experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators behind Finding LangstonBefore She was HarrietBenny Goodman & Teddy Wilson, and Just a Lucky So and So.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they recount two eras of black migration from the south to northern states. In Before She Was Harriet, Cline-Ransome recounts the life of the most famous of the underground railroad conductors, Harriet Tubman. In Overground Railroad, Cline-Ransome recounts the fictional story of a young girl and her family who flee the poverty and segregation of the 20th century south to find a better life in the north. Reading these books together shows how these journeys were similar quests to find freedom, from the bondage of slavery and the bondage of the sharecropping system, poverty, and segregation.

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Todos Iguales/All Equal

I discovered today’s Perfect Picture Book in a listing of recent non-fiction picture books. The bilingual title and the cover image intrigued me, and I knew I had to share it with you.

Title: Todos Iguales/All Equal: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove, Y El Primer Caso Exitoso de Desegregación Escolar/A Ballad of Lemon Grove and the First Successful School Desegregation Case

Written & Illustrated By: Christy Hale

Publisher/Date: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: Mexican-Americans, California, bilingual, school desegregation, #NF

Opening:

Weekday mornings, while the sun was slowly ripening over Lemon Grove, California, twelve-year-old Roberto Álvarez raced out the door. He loved school and didn’t want to be late. He hurried along North Avenue and around the corner to Olive Street, where he joined his friends on their way across town.

Brief Synopsis: In Spanish and English, Todos Iguales/All Equal recounts the true story set in California in 1931 of the first successful school desegregation case in the United States.

Links to Resources:

  • Find additional background information, discussion questions, and more in the comprehensive Teachers Guide;
  • Have you ever felt like you weren’t being treated as an equal because of your age, gender, cultural background, citizenship status, abilities, race, heritage, or religion? How did this make you feel? What did you do about the situation?
  • Do you have a friend who faces discrimination? How do you think you can support this friend?

Why I Like this Book:

Todos Iguales/All Equal broadens our history of the fight to end school segregation by bringing to light a little-known desegregation case in California that preceded the famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision by over 20 years.

In Todos Iguales/All Equal, Hale introduces us to the main child witness, Roberto Álverez, at the outset, and shows readers how he loved school. But the school board of this agricultural district populated by many farm workers of Mexican descent decided that Roberto and the children from his part of town should not mix with the Anglo children, and they hastily built a school that was little more than a barn for the Mexican American children. In response, the Mexican American community came together, hired a lawyer, and took the school board to court. Although the decision was not decided on racial grounds, the resolve showed by the Mexican American community and the role of the children, in this case as a witness in the trial, foreshadows the actions of later communities in fighting school segregation.

Not only does Hale provide a wonderful introduction to the characters and issues involved in this landmark legal case, but she precedes the text with a ballad, a song about the events that will be described. I can envision a roving troubadour singing it throughout the land, lending a mythic quality to this epic fight.

Hale’s illustrations in gouache and relief printing inks, often full-page spreads, feature the fruits and colors of the region, and place readers firmly in this period.

Backmatter includes notes on the area and migration from Mexico to the region, the participants in the case, the aftermath, the history of Corridos, and sources.

Todos Iguales/All Equal is a wonderful addition to classroom and school libraries. By publishing it in Spanish and English, with the Spanish text preceding the English text, I think Lee & Low have increased its value for Spanish-speaking communities who are battling discrimination today.

A Note about Craft:

The story of a little-known state court decision can be quite dry and boring. So how does Hale gain readers’ interest? Before jumping into the story, Hale offers A Ballad of Lemon Grove, a song, complete with melody, that recounts the facts of the case and elevates it to legend status. My interest was immediately piqued! Next, Hale begins the text by introducing young Roberto, smiling as he walks to school, joined on the second spread by his fellow Mexican American students. The emphasis is placed immediately on what’s so important in the case: these children. Finally, she shows, in text and pictures, how the community rallied to sue the school board, pointing out instances when the children themselves played a part: helping to fundraise via rummage sales, boycotting the new school, and, in Roberto’s case, even testifying at the trial.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – of Traditional Comfort Foods

Looking for a fun family activity to chase away the winter chills? Try cooking together – as shown in today’s Perfect Pairing.

Freedom Soup

Author: Tami Charles

Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, cooking, tradition, Haiti

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.
Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcantara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.

Read my review.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Author: Kevin Noble Maillard

Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press/2019

Ages: 3-6

Themes: Native Americans, family tradition, cooking, community

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

I paired these books because they involve food traditions that tie communities together, be it soup, as in the Haitian Freedom Soup, or the Native American Fry Bread. And a special bonus: both picture books include recipes, perfect for wintry days!

 

 

 

PPBF – The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

Happy Valentine’s Day! Some folks associate this day with romantic love. Others fondly remember the treats and Valentine’s Day cards shared among classmates. I think of it as a day to celebrate love and acceptance in all of its manifestations, including that among family members and that among friends, new and old. In the spirit of the day, I’d like to share a new Perfect Picture Book that showcases the love among family members and the friendship that can blossom in a new land.

Title: The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

Written By: Aya Khalil

Illustrated By: Anait Semirdzhyan

Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers/February 2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: immigrants, family, treasured objects, feeling welcome, acceptance, cultural heritage, quilts, poetry

Opening:

“Kanzi, habibti, you’re going to be late to the first day of school,” Mama calls. “I’m coming, Mama.” Kanzi stuffs her notebook into her backpack and quickly but carefully folds her quilt—the special one Teita made in Egypt.

Brief Synopsis: A young immigrant struggles to adapt to a new school in America, but finds comfort in , and a way to fit in, by showing her classmates the precious quilt her grandmother had made her.

Links to Resources:

  • Try making paper quilts;
  • Kanzi’s family moved from Egypt to the United States. Learn more about this North African country;
  • Does your family speak a language other than English at home? Share some words in that language with friends and classmates;
  • Do you have an object from a relative or friend that is special to you? Draw a picture of it or write a poem about it.

Why I Like this Book:

I believe that fitting in is so important when children start a new school, whether in a new neighborhood, town, or even country. And when language used or customs followed at home seem different from those of the other children, I think it’s even more difficult for the new child.

That’s the situation Kanzi finds herself in as The Arabic Quilt begins. Thankfully, Kanzi has some things that help console her when she’s feeling down: the soft quilt that her beloved grandmother made her and a love of poetry. When an astute teacher picks up on these things, she helps Kanzi, and Kanzi’s classmates, realize that having different customs and speaking a language other than English at home are positive circumstances that enrich us all.

Maybe this heart-warming story of love and acceptance resonates so much with me because my mother made afghans for each of my children or maybe it’s because we lived abroad during two periods when my children were young. But I think it also will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt different for whatever reason and with anyone who’s struggled to find a way to fit in, while keeping true to her or his family, religious beliefs, and/or cultural heritage.

Beautiful illustrations, including of the beloved quilt, and a glossary of Arabic words complete this heart-warming and timely new picture book.

A Note about Craft:

Per Tilbury House’s website, Khalil based The Arabic Quilt on events from her own childhood. Doing so renders this story more believable and enables the strong connection between a grandmother and granddaughter separated by oceans to shine through.

To console herself after a difficult day at school, Kanzi writes a poem about her beloved quilt. I love how she turns to writing when she’s feeling sad, and I especially love how this adds another layer to this immigration story: that by journaling or writing poetry, a child may feel better about whatever situation she or he encounters.

Visit Khalil’s website to learn more about this debut picture book author. See more of Semirdzhyan’s art on her website.

I read an electronic version of this picture book, downloaded via Edelweiss, a resource for book reviewers. This book is scheduled to publish next week.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Who Loves LOU? A Valentiny Story

Regular readers know I love contests. What a super way to write to a prompt, stretch writing muscles, and meet other writers.

And among the contests, the Valentiny contest certainly is one of the most beloved. Who doesn’t love a Valentine, especially a tiny one?

As a reminder, in the words of our awesome contest organizer, Susanna Hill:

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels curious!  Your someone can feel curious themselves or make someone else feel curious.  The curiosity may be about a person, place, thing, quality, idea, event, or about whether something will happen or something is true or real, or anything else under the sun you can think up!  Think beyond the obvious!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone curious (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day 🙂  You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)  If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enter more than one entry – just remember you’ll be competing against yourself 🙂  No illustration notes please!

My entry, below, clocking in at 213 words (Get it? I’m posting this on 2.13), is inspired by our beloved rescue dog, Sadie, whose Gotcha Day we celebrate in June. Although most of the story is pure fiction, I did once make one of the items mentioned (for my husband, not one of our pups). Can you guess which one?

Once you’ve read my entry, please enjoy the other entries and support the other writers (we all need a little love) by heading over to Susanna’s blog and checking them out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Sadie

 

Who Loves LOU?

 

Lou scratched and sniffed. “Something’s up. But what?”

Lou sprinted up Lotus Lane in time to help Cindy cross the street. Woof!!

“Thanks, Lou! I’ve got…um.. something to do after school. Bye!”

Lou wondered, “Is that what’s up?”

She raced to check on Mrs. T’s kittens. But they were asleep, glittery paws shimmering. “Something’s up! But what?” Woof!

She loped up Market Street and barked at Butcher’s door. “Maybe the burger-lers are back.” Woof!

“Nothing for you, Lou,” Butcher said.

Stomach growling, Lou knew, “Something’s definitely up. But what?”

Lou headed back to the Fire House. “My bed! Gone! That’s what’s up! But why?” Woof!

“You won’t be needing that old thing,” Chief said. “Now out! We’ve got important work to do.”

“Now I understand,” Lou howled. “It’s me they don’t want!”

Lou slunk towards the train station, passing shop windows filled with shimmery red hearts. “No hearts for me. And no fur-ever home.”

Tears trickled down Lou’s muzzle. She cowered by the tracks. But then…

she sniffed and scratched. “Something’s up. Now what?”

Lou sped back towards Town Hall. A fluffy dog bed, a heart-shaped meatloaf, and her friends awaited below a glittery banner:

Happy Valentine’s Day & Gotcha Day

We Love You, LOU

 

Woof! That’s what’s up! They LOVE me! Woof!

 

Perfect Pairing – Fights Racial Discrimination & Segregation

When we think about the fight against racial discrimination and segregation, most of us think about mid-twentieth century fights to gain access to schools, public transportation, lunch counters, and the vote. But this fight began long before that era and was fought on many fronts by people of all ages, as two new picture books show.

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story

Authors: Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan

Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2020

Ages: 6-9

Themes: segregation, African-American history, amusement parks, carousel, courage, Civil Rights

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful Civil Rights statement

A Ride to Remember tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizbeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights

Author: Beth Anderson

Illustrator: E.B. Lewis

Publisher/date: Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane/2020

Ages: 7-10

Themes: segregation, courage, New York City, New York State history, African-American history, streetcars, Civil Rights

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In 1854, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race–even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court–where future president Chester Arthur represented her–and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie’s case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating nonfiction book.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

I paired these books because they provide a broader history of the long-fought battle to end racial discrimination and segregation. In A Ride to Remember, readers learn about the efforts to integrate an amusement park in Baltimore, MD in 1963, and the role a young child and her courageous parents played in that effort. In Lizzie Demands a Seat, readers meet Lizzie, a courageous, young, free African-American woman, who went to court to secure her right to ride any streetcar in New York City in the mid-19th century, before the abolition of slavery in the South. These accounts show that discrimination and segregation weren’t just southern practices, nor were they confined to institutions like schools and publicly-owned transport. Rather, they existed across the US at various times of our history, and affected people’s lives in more ways than many of us realize.

 

PPBF – Overground Railroad

I was fortunate enough to meet today’s Perfect Picture Book author at a Highlights Foundation course last summer. I had read many of her picture books and her middle grade debut, Finding Langston, so when I saw this new picture book, I knew that I had to feature it here.

Title: Overground Railroad

Written By: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated By: James Ransome

Publisher/Date: Holiday House/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: African-American history, the Great Migration, moving, train journey

Opening:

Some walked./ Some drove./ But we took the train north./ Me and Mama and Daddy got to the station/ crack of dawn early before anyone/ could see us leave./ Daddy holding tight/ to me with one hand/ three tickets to New York in the other.

Brief Synopsis:

A young African-American girl recounts her family’s 1939 journey from a sharecropping shack in North Carolina to New York City.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you ever moved to a new city or town? How did you feel about moving? What did you miss most from your prior home? What did you like best about your new neighborhood?
  • Learn about the migration of African-Americans from the rural south to northern cities in the US from World War I through 1960 in what has been termed the Great Migration;
  • How is the journey described in Overground Railroad the same as, or different from, the journeys of refugees, migrants, and those seeking to travel north from Central America to the United States today?

Why I Like this Book:

In free verse poetry, Cline-Ransome relates the story of one family’s journey from a sharecropping shack in rural North Carolina to The Promised Land, New York City. Narrated by young Ruth Ellen, readers experience the train ride north from her perspective. We see Ruth Ellen saying tearful goodbyes to extended family, passing time playing cards and reading, noting the change in scenery, and especially seeing the “whites only” sign removed as the train chugged from the segregated south to the relative freedom of the north.

Although Overground Railroad is a work of fiction, Cline-Ransome ties Ruth Ellen’s story to that of others making the same journey by, for instance, noting the crowded “colored” car and how many more joined the journey at each stop. She also ties it back to the journeys that slaves made along the Underground Railroad by placing the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, a gift from her teacher, in her hand and having her remark on the Chesapeake and the Delaware River, important waterways for slaves seeking freedom.

I think Overground Railroad will be an important addition to schools, libraries, and homes, especially with the Author’s Note, in which Cline-Ransome places the migration in context, and notes that this story was “inspired by just one of the many stories of people who were running from and running to at the same time…” I also think the story will appeal to younger children, who can focus merely on Ruth Ellen’s journey, and older children, who can use this picture book as a springboard to learn more about the Great Migration.

For me, who, as regular readers know, usually focuses on international migration, I think Overground Railroad will be a useful tool to compare and contrast the myriad human migrations occurring today to this period in our American history when millions of blacks fled the poverty and violence of the sharecropping system and segregation, seeking a better life for themselves and their families in the North.

Using graphite, paste pencils, watercolors, and collage, Ransome created stunning full-spread illustrations. I especially liked the scene showing so many people scrambling to board the train, and two spreads showing first, young Frederick Douglass alone in a dark forest lit by the North Star, and a few spreads later, young Ruth Ellen arriving in New York City, with a “sky/bright as a hundred North Stars.”

A Note about Craft:

As always, a journey related from the first-person point-of-view resonates with me and brings an immediacy to the story.

As Cline-Ransome admits in the Author’s Note, she hadn’t heard the term “overground railroad” to describe the Great Migration until recently. To help explain this little-known term, she has created a fictional narrator, an Every Child, so to say, through whom readers can experience this life-altering journey. But in addition to this focus, Cline-Ransome has added details which tie this journey to that of millions more and also to the Underground Railroad that preceded it.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – Explores a History-Making Photographer

This coming Sunday, a new exhibition opens at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City: Dorothea Lange, Words & Pictures. To help get ready, I found two picture books about this special photographer and the iconic photograph that became the face of the Great Depression.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Sarah Green

Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman & Company/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: photography, Great Depression, persistence, social activism, overcoming adversity, biography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Before she raised her lens to take her most iconic photo, Dorothea Lange took photos of the downtrodden from bankers in once-fine suits waiting in breadlines, to former slaves, to the homeless sleeping on sidewalks. A case of polio had left her with a limp and sympathetic to those less fortunate. Traveling across the United States, documenting with her camera and her fieldbook those most affected by the stock market crash, she found the face of the Great Depression. In this picture book biography, Carole Boston Weatherford with her lyrical prose captures the spirit of the influential photographer.

Read a review at Gathering Books.

 

Ruby’s Hope: A Story of How the Famous “Migrant Mother” Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression

Author: Monica Kulling

Illustrator: Sarah Dvojack

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Ages: 6-10

Themes: Great Depression, migrant, Dust Bowl, photography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era “Migrant Mother” photograph is an icon of American history. Behind this renowned portrait is the story of a family struggling against all odds to survive.

Dust storms and dismal farming conditions force young Ruby’s family to leave their home in Oklahoma and travel to California to find work. As they move from camp to camp, Ruby sometimes finds it hard to hold on to hope. But on one fateful day, Dorothea Lange arrives with her camera and takes six photographs of the young family. When one of the photographs appears in the newspaper, it opens the country’s eyes to the reality of the migrant workers’ plight and inspires an outpouring of much needed support.

Bleak yet beautiful illustrations depict this fictionalized story of a key piece of history, about hope in the face of hardship and the family that became a symbol of the Great Depression.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

I paired these books because they explore Dorothea Lange’s life and the creation of this iconic photograph, as a biography, in the case of Dorothea Lange, and in a fictional account, Ruby’s Hope, that posits how Lange may have met the Migrant Mother and photographed her. Read together, I think these picture books provide a fuller picture of this famous photographer and her most famous photograph. And for those who write picture books, reading these side by side as mentor texts is a fascinating way to explore how best to tell a person’s story.