Tag Archives: helping others

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.

 

Perfect Pairing – Heads to the Hen House

I think we all know the story of the little red hen. But have you seen these two recent twists on the traditional tale?

 

Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole 

Author: Susan Wood

Illustrator: Laura González

Publisher/Date: Sterling Books/2019

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: fractured folktale, hard work, self-reliance, persistence, Spanish words

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This tasty take on the classic Little Red Hen story has a deliciously spicy twist! 
Yum, guacamole! That’s what Little Red Hen craves, and she could use some help gathering and mashing the ingredients. So she asks her friends, including an armadillo, snake, and iguana, to lend a hand. Everyone just says “no.” But after Little Red Hen works hard to make the scrumptious fresh guac, all the animals want a taste. In a fun departure from the original tale, Little Red Hen cooks up a comeuppance for the slackers that they’ll never forget!

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

The Little Green Hen

Author & Illustrator: Alison Murray

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019 (originally published by the Watts Publishing Group, Great Britain/2018)

Ages: 2-5

Themes: environment, helping others, fractured folktale

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A fun-filled retelling of The Little Red Hen with important messages about caring for our environment and working together!

Read a review at New York Journal of Books.

I paired these books because they are timely and ingenious takes on a traditional tale. Set in Mexico, Holy Squawkamole! tells the tale of the red hen (gallinita roja) who needs help making guacamole. As in the original tale, her friends won’t help until she teaches them a lesson. In The Little Green Hen, the hen tends her apple tree home and establishes an orchard with the help of a dog, sparrow and squirrel. But other animals refuse to help, until disaster strikes, and they learn the lesson of caring for the environment. I love how both authors updated the original tale by setting it in a new locale, Mexico and an apple tree, and adding timely twists, the addition of Spanish terms and a Mexican food in Holy Squawkamole! and an environmental theme in Little Green Hen.