I am always on the lookout for something new to strike J’s fancy. Since starting this blog, I also look for books that I think are cool. I found these books from a variety of sources and was thrilled when our local library had them. I know that J liked one of these books, but we have been in the midst of packing, moving and unpacking, so she didn’t read any of them with me. But if you are looking for a good picture book that also introduces your child to the world of biographies, these are great. What I find extra special about these books is that they focus on strong women who changed the world that we live in. They are about women who made a difference and remind us that we all need to stand up and make a difference too.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough, might be one of my favorite books of the year. This book tells the story of how Anne Carroll Moore created libraries for children. What is truly amazing about the book is how it continually shows how things were done in the late 1800s when Anne Moore was growing up and in the early 1900s, but when Miss Moore was faced with people telling her that girls “didn’t” or “shouldn’t” do something, the common refrain was “Miss Moore thought otherwise.”
It is hard for children today to comprehend that we live in a world where girls are not expected to just stay home and take care of the children. They can be stay-at-home moms, and my children see me and many others happily doing that, but a woman can choose to be almost anything she wants depending on the sacrifices that she is willing to make (just like a man). However, we are all well aware that this wasn’t always the case. As the book says, “In the 1870s many people thought a girl should stay inside and do quiet things such as sewing and embroidery.” But Anne Moore wanted to be like her 7 brothers out having fun and she wanted an education like them too.
It is also hard for children, and adults for that matter, to comprehend a time when children were not welcome in libraries. When librarians didn’t want kids to touch books for fear that they would hurt them (a la The Library Dragon). It was not until 1896 that the first library room designed for children was even created, and Miss Moore was given free rein to implement her ideas about how it should be run, including a pledge for kids wanting to take out books, story times, and the removal of “silence” signs. Miss Anne Moore was a major force behind publishing companies seeing the sense in publishing more books aimed at children and to make sure that they were quality books.
This book is full of wonderful history about Miss Moore and about the public library system.
In the same feminist vein, I would also recommend Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?, by Tanya Lee Stone. It starts out with the same point that Miss Moore Thought Otherwise was saying – “I’ll bet you’ve met plenty of doctors in your life. And I’ll bet lots of them were women. Well, you might find this hard to believe, but there once was a time when girls weren’t allowed to become doctors.” This book tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first woman doctor in America.
In a very straight-forward manner, the book gives a great sense of who Elizabeth Blackwell was and how she wound up becoming a doctor. She was a girl who was spunky, strong, smart and who never walked away from a challenge. She was a curious girl who wanted to know more about the world around her She also never imagined being a doctor until a friend who was very ill put the idea in her head. Of course she was laughed at and rejected, but one school finally admitted her. “Elizabeth proved she was as smart as any boy.”
The book does breeze over the fact that even after she graduated she struggled immensely as people were still not ready to accept a female doctor. The information is there in the author’s note and is a good place to start a conversation with your child about what people can and cannot do. It is also a great lesson about how strong women from many years ago got us to where we are today. We need to be strong and smart in our own ways for future generations.
Brave Girl is the story of young Clara Lemlich who helps organize a strike of shirtwaist makers in 1909. I’m not sure how much we enjoyed this book given J’s age and interests, but it still deserves a place on this list.
When Lemlich’s family immigrates to the United States from the Ukraine at the turn of the century, Lemlich must go to work in the garment industry to help her family. There she is confronted by the exceptionally harsh rules of the time – 5 minutes late and you’re docked a half a day’s pay, prick your finger and bleed a drop on the cloth and you can be fired, not to mention the actual working conditions in cramped rooms without enough air where they are often locked in. Lemlich helped organize many strikes, including a massive general walkout where 20,000 employees refused to work.
I liked the concept of this book, but am not sure exactly what age group it was intended for. I think this makes more sense for 8-10 year olds, which is unfortunate, because there are a lot of great things to be learned from the story. This is one that we will have to check out again when J gets older or perhaps if she starts to study this period of history.