Category Archives: Uncategorized

#PBCritiqueFest: A Fabulous Opportunity for Picture Book Creators

I don’t often post on Wednesdays, and regular readers know that I rarely post about my own writing journey. But I’m participating in a fabulous opportunity for picture book creators, and I just had to share!

An annual event, the Picture Book Critique Fest offers 36 lucky picture book creators a critique from one of 36 published authors, artists, and agents. It’s hosted by pbspotlight.com and the brainchild of Brian Gehrlein, whose first picture book, The Book of Rules, debuts in 2021. Per the website, the “purpose is to celebrate the critique and revision process and to help build our kidlit community.”

In my humble opinion, #PBCritiqueFest is a win-win for all involved, as pre-published, unagented folks, like myself, revise away at a manuscript, meet many generous folks in the picture book world, and maybe win a critique. This also gives more established creatives a chance to give back to the kidlit community, as well as the opportunity to have their books and names in front of a group of creators as passionate about picture books as they are.

Registration closes this Friday promptly at 9 AM CST, so don’t delay: polish up your picture book manuscript and apply today! Details here.

PPBF – Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Today, I’m so happy to feature a newly-published, debut picture book, that I know you’re going to love. It’s truly a Perfect Picture Book!

Title: Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Written By: Angela Burke Kunkel

Illustrated By: Paola Escobar

Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: library, books, community problem solving, Columbia, Latinx, biography

Opening:

In the city of Bogotá, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Josés.

Brief Synopsis: Based on the true story of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a trash collector in Bogotá, Columbia, who collected books along his route and opened the first library in his impoverished neighborhood.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the many resources, including facts about Columbia, a Digging word search, suggestions for similar books, and more in the Educator’s Tool Kit;
  • Learn more about José Alberto Gutiérrez and the library he created in the Author’s Note;
  • What do you wish for? What does Paradise mean to you? Describe with words or draw a picture of something that means Paradise to you.

Why I Like this Book:

In Bogotá, Columbia, a boy named José grew up without education but loving to read with his Mamá every night. As an adult, he collects discarded books along his garbage route to read and to share with children in his barrio, an impoverished neighborhood.

One of those children, also named José, eagerly awaits the arrival of Saturday, the day when he and other children are welcome to visit Señor José’s house. There, stacks and stacks of books await. Paradise!  

Filled with city scenes and fantastical scenes of the pair’s literary journeys, Digging for Words celebrates books and the imaginative journeys they inspire. It also shows the power of persistence and how one determined man is able to share his love of books with the children who crave them in his poor neighborhood.

Filled with colorful and detailed illustrations by Columbian native Escobar, I think Digging for Words will be read, and reread, by children who love to journey through books. Although technically a work of fiction, the many facts about José Alberto Gutiérrez and the library he created make this a wonderful choice for schools and libraries, too.

A Note about Craft:

Often this is my favorite section to write when I review picture books. Today it is especially so! In this debut, Kunkel follows and breaks so many rules – I think I could do an entire post about craft using Digging for Words (and I think she could do some podcasts and workshops about it, too).

For starters, this is a parallel story with two main characters, two Josés: the real adult and the fictional child. As with many biographies, scenes from Gutiérrez’ childhood are included. But another child, the fictional José, is featured, too.

The book begins in present tense, but there’s a flashback to Señor José’s childhood (authors who are admonished to avoid flashbacks take note of how well this works here). Kunkel also includes several richly-illustrated scenes in which the characters imagine worlds based on the books they read. These books, Anna Karenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and The Little Prince, are even highlighted in the back matter.

I think most importantly, at least for me, is the realization that the addition of fictional elements is the best way to tell Gutiérrez’ true story. Only by doing so are we able to see the effect of his work on the children who benefit from it.

Finally, Kunkel sprinkles Spanish words throughout the text, which even this non-Spanish speaker was able to understand because of the context and illustrations. A Spanish-language version also has been published.

Digging for Words is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

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!

PPBF – Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

I’ve had the good fortune to view sea turtles in their natural habitat while snorkeling. And while I’m not currently traveling to anywhere I can snorkel, I can satisfy my desire to learn more about them by reading informative picture books, like today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

Written By: Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated By: Meilo So

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-6 (and older)

Themes/Topics: sea turtles, environmental activism, moving

Opening:

I always need help finding my way, especially in a new place.

“Before long you’ll feel right at home, Viv.”

I WASN’T SO SURE.

Brief Synopsis: When Viv moves to a new community and school near the beach and the teacher assigns a class project to spur community action, Viv learns about the local sea turtles, the issues turtle hatchlings face, and how she, and her class, can help.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the fabulous back matter including a Letter to Young Activists, a note to Parents and Teachers, and information about Loggerheads and other Sea Turtles;
  • Find more ideas in the Teacher Guide;
  • “Swim” along on an online snorkeling trip in the Virgin Islands National Park to view marine life, including sea turtles;
  • What problems do people in your local community face? Even with many schools operating remotely and social distancing the norm right now, there may be ways you can help by organizing a food or holiday gift drive, coordinating a socially-distanced park cleanup, or sending cards and other encouraging messages to nursing or other group homes.

Why I Like this Book:

Follow the Moon Home is a multi-layered informational picture book with hooks to engage anyone. If you, like the narrator, Viv, have recently moved, read how she connected with her new classmates and community through the class project to help the sea turtles. If you love sea turtles and want to learn more about them, the book has plenty of facts and engaging watercolor illustrations to lure you in. If you’re interested in helping others or in environmentalism, read on and follow the steps Viv and her classmates took to spur community action. Interestingly, the problem the class tackles, the lights from beachfront homes that confused the turtles, is not one I’ve seen discussed much in picture books about protecting sea turtles.

Because Follow the Moon Home offers so much on so many levels, I think it would be a tremendous resource in classrooms, as well as a terrific family read (note that the actions taken are initiated by a class, but a family easily could identify a community problem to solve).

A Note about Craft:

Although primarily an informational picture book about sea turtles and environmental activism, Follow the Moon Home is also a story about Viv, who settles into a new home, school, and community by rallying her classmates and neighbors to help the sea turtle hatchlings. Using first person POV, the authors forge an immediate connection between the reader and Viv, as we empathize with her desire to find her way. This, in turn, helps the reader connect with the young sea turtles, who also struggle to find their way to the sea.

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!

PPBF – Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

I don’t know about you, but after months of staying at home, I’m ready for some travel – some virtual travel to a new place and time. And what better way to do that than by reading this new Perfect Picture Book biography set in Peru!

Title: Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Written By: Monica Brown

Illustrated By: Elisa Chavarri

Spanish Translation: Adriana Domínguez

Publisher/Date: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: Grades 1-6

Themes/Topics: biography, archaeology, indigenous culture, bilingual, persistence, curiosity, #OwnVoices

Opening:

This is the story of Julio C. Tello, one of the most important archaeologists in all the Americas. He was born in Peru on April 11, 1880, in the rugged highlands just outside the capital city of Lima, in the shadow of the Andes mountains.

Brief Synopsis: The bilingual biography of Julio C. Tello, the first indigenous archaeologist of South America, who persevered to prove the longevity of the country’s indigenous cultures, who celebrated his ancestors’ accomplishments, and who shared his findings with Peruvians and the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the comprehensive Teacher’s Guide;
  • Sharuko, which means “brave” in Julio’s native Quechuan language, explored and found bones and other artifacts from his ancestors. Explore your home or yard to find objects that belonged to your family and/or are culturally significant. Ask an older family member to explain more about them;
  • Check out these family history activities;
  • Learn about Peru, where Sharuko lived and worked.

Why I Like this Book:

With its focus on persistence, treasure hunting, and honoring the past, this picture book biography, about a man most of us never knew existed, and a country few, if any of us, have visited, left this reader eager to read on and learn about Sharuko, Peru, and the indigenous cultures that flourished there.

Targeting a slightly older reader than the typical picture book, Sharuko is a wonderful resource to encourage kids to explore their pasts, honor indigenous cultures, and be curious. I love how Brown shows Julio’s courage and persistence. We learn that he left his rural home as a child to study in Lima, the capital of Peru. Even with his aunt living there, how difficult this must have been!

As a young man, Julio worked many jobs, including carrying travelers’ luggage and working in a library. He studied medicine, and then he used that knowledge as a springboard to learn more about the artifacts he had seen in the mountains and caves of his youth. Perhaps as importantly, he shared that knowledge, so that the children of Peru could be proud of the civilizations that flourished there in the pre-Columbian era.

Filled with brightly-colored images of the artifacts Julio uncovered, studied, and shared with the world, this new bilingual picture book biography of the founder of modern Peruvian archaeology is a wonderful resource for home and school libraries.

A Note about Craft:

I noted above that Sharuko is targeted to a slightly older age range than the typical picture book. So why do I think Julio’s story is best told with words and images? Given the wealth of objects that Julio uncovered and its setting in a country with which most North American and European readers may be unfamiliar, I found the illustrations to be an invaluable part of this story. Especially for those of indigenous descent, seeing these artifacts must be a real treasure. And for those of us who don’t share that heritage, how wonderful to see and experience these pre-Columbian cultures in these pages.

Note that Brown does not gloss over the killings and destruction by the invading Spaniards, so this book is best read with an adult. Note though, too, that Brown also informs readers that “[a]lthough the Spanish tried to destroy Peru’s Indigenous language, culture, and customs, they were kept alive and passed on from generation to generation by families such as Sharuko’s.”

Brown is the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, and Chavarri was born in Peru, so this truly is an #OwnVoices work. Among other works, Chavarri illustrated Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris, which I reviewed in 2017.

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!

PPBF – Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children

For today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’m happy to share a biography of a man whose name you may not recognize, but whose photographs live on and show how one person’s actions can improve the lives of many.

Title: Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children

Written By: Alexis O’Neill

Illustrated By: Gary Kelley

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

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: social justice, immigrants, photojournalism, biography, New York City, tenements, STEAM

Opening:

Twelve-year-old Jacob hated Rag Hall. The rest of Ribe, Denmark, was filled with trim homes, sweet grass meadows, and fresh wind blowing from the sea.

But Rag Hall was a rat-infested, ramshackle dwelling.

As soon as he earned extra money, Jacob donated it to the poor in Rag Hall to help tidy things up.

Brief Synopsis: Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant and newspaper reporter in late 19th century New York City, used flash photography to shine a light on the poor conditions in tenements crowded with new immigrants.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the amazing back matter including a timeline, glossary, and much more;
  • Take or find a photograph of your home and compare it to one of Riis’s photographs of the tenements. What’s the same? What’s different? Where would you rather live?
  • Take a photograph of a darkened space without using flash and then with the flash working. How do these photographs differ? Which one more effectively shows the scene?
  • Try these photography activities for kids.

Why I Like this Book:

I first learned about Jacob Riis when I was a university student many, many years ago. His photos of New York City tenements, and the immigrant families who inhabited them, have haunted me ever since.

As readers learn in Jacob Riis’s Camera, though, Riis was a reporter first, and he only began taking photographs when he discovered that words alone were not enough to show people, including policy makers, the awful living conditions in the tenements. Through persistence, Riis mastered the new art of flash photography to shine a light on the filth and overcrowding that impoverished families endured, and he helped change conditions for the better.

As debates about fake news and immigration swirl around us, and as inequality has become more visible during this pandemic, I think the story of Jacob Riis and his desire to clean up the tenements, his persistence to find a way to do that using new technology to combine photographs with words, and his work with Teddy Roosevelt to effect reforms are important to share with children. Whether at home or in a classroom setting, this picture book biography is a wonderful resource to spur conversations about these topics, especially with the rich back matter.

Kelley’s etched ink and pastel illustrations really made me feel like I was there with Jacob in the tenements. In many ways they reminded me of Riis’s photos, a few of which are reproduced in the back matter.

A Note about Craft:

With longer text than the typical picture book, Jacob Riis’s Camera is targeted to a slightly older age group. Given the difficult subject matter, this is understandable.

Given Riis’s status as a founder of photojournalism, the illustrations in this picture book are particularly important. Kelley’s muted palate and renderings of Riis’ photos drew me back to the late 19th century and vividly highlight the conditions Riis was trying to alleviate.

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!

PPBF – Acknowledges Juneteenth and World Refugee Day 2020

I perused my bookshelves to choose a Perfect Picture Book for today, which was no small feat, as our local library hasn’t reopened yet and even upon reopening, it’s unclear if interlibrary loans will be possible. But even if I had a pile of books at hand, it’s clear that any book I’d choose to review today would need to be special.

To honor the significance of Juneteenth and support and further the movement to fight systemic racism taking place in my local community, our country, and in many parts of the world, while not forgetting to mark World Refugee Day, and the ongoing, and even worsening, plight of the many refugees in the world – I frankly couldn’t choose just one picture book. I add to that the importance of ensuring that our children acquire the passion and tools to advocate for justice, to empathize with others, and to promote peace.

So, dear readers, instead of just one Perfect Picture Book today, I want to share a few picture books that I’ve read and reviewed in the past year, and that, I believe, are resources for some, but by no means all, of the momentous issues facing our children today. Please share some of the picture books that speak to you on these issues in the comments.

Dare

 

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation

 The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Wherever I Go

Yusra Swims

 

Check out the other great picture books featured at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list, to which this post also will be linked.

 

Perfect Pairing – Of Ideals that Matter

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this past week I’ve experienced feelings of profound disbelief, sorrow, outrage, anger, and so much more. As I perused my bookshelf looking for books that may empower others to action and/or bring healing, these two stood out.

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Magdalena Mora

Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/2020

Ages: 5-8

Themes: voting rights, activism, people of color, rhyming, non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Learn all about the history of voting rights in the United States—from our nation’s founding to the present day.

A right isn’t right
till it’s granted to all…

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

Peace and Me: Inspired by the Lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Author & Illustrator: Ali Winter

Illustrator: Mickaël El Fathi

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages: 7-11

Themes: peace, peace builders, non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from publisher’s website):

What does peace mean to you? This illustrated collection of inspirational ideas about peace is based on the lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai. A must for anyone interested in exploring this essential issue of our times, this child-friendly exploration of what peace means to you and me is a book for every bookshelf.

Amnesty International endorses this book because it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they highlight differing aspects of the issues facing us today and how they have been dealt with by those with the courage to fight racism, injustice, and inequality.

Looking for similar reads? See, People of Peace, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights.

PPBF – Wherever I Go

I’m always so happy when I’m able to feature a new picture book by a debut author, especially when I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that author and discussing the book before it was published (or even under contract for publication). I know you’ll agree that my selection today truly is a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Wherever I Go

Written By: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrated By: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Opening:

I AM QUEEN ABIA of the Shimelba Camp. Of all my friends, I have been here the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. That’s what Papa says.

“Too long,” he adds.

I think it’s the perfect amount of time to become a queen.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl recounts her experiences as queen of a refugee camp, sharing the skills she’s acquired that will help her settle in a new country and home.

Links to Resources:

  • Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome in your school or community (for Refugee Week 2020, 15-21 June, the listed activities can be done at home);
  • Are you a queen or king? Make a crown from a paper plate, or make a real or paper daisy crown;
  • Queen Abia balances a large pail of water on her head. Try placing a book or a container of water on your head (you might want to do this outside!), and then try walking while balancing it there. How does doing this make you feel?
  • Queen Abia helps her mother to prepare fufu, a traditional African food. Try making fufu;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience in the Note from the Author and in the books for young readers listed.

Why I Like this Book:

In Wherever I Go, the imaginative, young Abia introduces readers to her life in a refugee camp. We learn how she marches with friends, pumps and carries water to her mother, helps prepare meals, watches her young cousin, drums while waiting for food distributions, howls at hyenas, and sleeps on a prickly mat. She even wears a crown because she is Queen Abia, who has remained in the camp longer than any of her friends. And when she and her family leave the camp to resettle in a new country and home, she will bring the stories of her reign and the many skills she has learned, because she’ll still be a queen.

In young Abia, Wagley Copp has created a narrator who is imaginative, brave, and resilient. Neither Wagley Copp nor Abia sugarcoat life in the camp. But Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like Abia, are survivors who will thrive and enrich any community where they settle. For they are not victims but authors of their own destinies, who will still be queens or kings wherever they go.

Mohammed’s acrylic paintings transported me to Africa where much of this story takes place. Paired with Wagley Copp’s lyrical text, this debut picture book that tackles the difficult subjects of life in a refugee camp and resettlement afterwards is a must have for schools, libraries, and the homes of everyone who cares about those displaced by war or anhy other reason.

A Note about Craft:

As with many of the picture books about the refugee experience, Wagley Copp uses first-person point-of-view to bring immediacy to the story, to enable readers to experience life in the refugee camp from Abia’s perspective. I think this helps build reader empathy and greater understanding of the refugee experience.

In the Note from the Author, Wagley Copp explains that she never has been a refugee. She has, however, visited a refugee camp and met resettled refugees in her role as a documentary filmmaker. This first-hand knowledge helps bring authenticity to the story, as does the inclusion of small details, like the number of years, months, and days the family has been in the camp and the type of tree branches that form Abia’s crown.

Visit Wagley Copp’s website to learn more about this debut author and read an interview with her on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

The author provided a digital copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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!

PPBF – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

During this unprecedented time of stress and worry, a gentle reminder of the power of compassion may be just what we need. Thankfully, there’s a new picture book releasing next week written by and about a world expert in that practice.

Title: The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Written By: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Illustrated By: Bao Luu

Publisher/Date: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House/March 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: compassion, peace, Tibet, autobiography, Buddhism

Opening:

I was born in Taktser, in the Amdo province of northeastern Tibet. It was a place of tall mountains, clear streams, blue skies, and many animals—mastiffs, sheep, horses, yaks, scorpions, chickens, and cows.

Our home was in the shadow of the Ami-chiri, The Mountain That Pierces the Sky.

Brief Synopsis: Written by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, The Seed of Compassion recounts early memories with his mother who planted the seed of compassion within him and includes ideas for children to help nurture compassion and improve the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and read some fun facts about him. There’s also a timeline of his life in back matter, as well as a note to readers at the front of this book;
  • Discover Tibet;
  • Learn about Buddhism and try some activities that help you become more aware of the natural sights and sounds that surround you;
  • How can you nurture the seed of compassion and inclusivity in your school, at the playground, or in your family?
  • Listen to a sample reading of The Seed of Compassion (found near the bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In straightforward language, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares scenes from his rural childhood during which his mother showed him by example the importance of kindness towards others. I love the analogy to planting a seed that will grow, something that I think kids will relate to and understand.

I also appreciate that His Holiness addresses children directly and with respect in the latter part of the book, recognizing that they have within themselves the seed which can grow into compassion, for their peers and the world. As an example, he rhetorically asks children whether they would rather approach a smiling group or a scowling group on the playground. Of course, they would rather approach the smiling, welcoming group. The leap to becoming one who shares a smile is obvious. From there, His Holiness states, “When you approach someone with true warmheartedness, they can feel it. Doing so only brings more joy to you and them.”

And with practice, like with a sport or musical instrument, His Holiness assures children that compassion will grow.

Golden tones run through this picture book, tying His Holiness’ early life to his later ministry. I think caregivers and teachers will appreciate the diversity of children presented, including in a final scene showing His Holiness part of a circle of multicultural children.

A Note about Craft:

I’ve already mentioned a few of the tools that His Holiness utilizes to share his message, the seed and growing analogy and addressing children directly. These techniques, I believe, encourage children to believe that they have the power within themselves to practice compassion. Perhaps as importantly, His Holiness also reminds these children that if they slip and fail to act compassionately, tomorrow is another opportunity to “try again.”

A relatively new imprint of Penguin Random House, “Kokila (pronounced KO-ki-la) brings together an inclusive community of authors and illustrators, publishing professionals, and readers to examine and celebrate stories that reflect the richness of our world.”

I reviewed an electronic review copy of this book, downloaded from Edelweiss+.

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 Talented Female Voices

As our celebration of Women’s History Month continues, I’m pairing two new picture book biographies that feature cultural icons from the mid to late twentieth century.

Making their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Author: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrator: Alleanna Harris

Publisher/Date: Little Bee Books/2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: friendship, following dreams, helping others, social justice, biography, cultural icons, singing

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike–full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town–one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

A Voice Named Aretha

Author: Katheryn Russell-Brown

Illustrator: Laura Freeman

Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: biography, cultural icon, singer, African-American history, respect

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From acclaimed author and illustrator pairing comes a beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and how she fought for respect throughout her life.

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along.

Raised in a house full of talking and singing, Aretha learned the values that would carry her through life–from her church choir in Detroit to stages across the world. When she moved to New York City to start her career, it took years of hard work before she had a hit song. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about “Respect” and refused to perform before segregated audiences. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha always remembered who she was and where she came from.

In this stirring biography of a true artistic and social icon, award-winning creators Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman show young readers how Aretha’s talent, intelligence, and perseverance made her a star who will shine on for generations to come.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both recount the stories of women who were entertainment icons. While A Voice Named Aretha is almost a cradle-to-grave biography of this singing legend, Making Their Voices Heard is a dual biography focused on the friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read together, I think these new biographies shed light on the struggles these female performers had to overcome to succeed.