Thursday, April 13, 2017


Here is the next category of book reviews for books I read during ReFoReMo2017. This time the subject is Biographies. 

Author Amy Novesky seamlessly weaves words in her telling of the "Woven Life" of Louise Bourgeois.

Louise came from a family of people who restored tapestries. Louise learned the craft, but she is best known for her sculptures which were created from wood, steel and rubber.

An Author's Note is included with additional information about Louise.

Narrative text tells the story of Helen Keller's life. But, author Doreen Rappaport weaves in quotes from Helen herself that help illustrate and illuminate the storyline.

Both an Author's Note and an Illustrator's Note are included at the end of the book, along with a list of Important Dates relevant to Helen's life, and a list of Selected Research Sources. The end papers at the back of the book show the alphabet in sign language.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her whole life protesting in one form or another. It started when she was just a young girl and her mother objected to the idea that girls should just get married and have families. Ruth's mother took her to the library where Ruth discovered a wealth of books about women, women who had done things other than just getting married and having families. That inspired Ruth to do something different with her life.

She went to college at a time when most women didn't. She met her future husband at college, and they decided when they graduated they would both go to law school. And, they did. They got married, and they had a family, but Ruth didn't just stay home and take care of the babies.

Ruth stood up for things she believed in - equality for everyone. President Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993, and she became the first Jewish woman on that court.

The author includes three pages at the end of the book with additional information about Ruth and her life.

JUST BEING AUBREY by Margaret Cardillo

Author Margaret Cardillo gives youngsters a picture-book style glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved actresses, Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey wanted to be a ballerina, but that was just not to be. Still, she loved to practice dancing.

During WWII, her family had to go into hiding in Holland. When the war ended, Audrey and her mother went to London. That's where she decided to try acting. After playing a few small parts, she caught the attention of Collette, a famous French writer, who was looking for an actress to play the lead role in Gigi.

Audrey moved to New York to play the part on Broadway, and the rest is history. America fell in love with this beautiful, talented and very kind actress. In her later years, she became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.

Cardillo includes a section at the back of the book called "Author's Notes" and illustrator Julia Denos has one called "Illustrator's Notes" which give the reader more insight into how and why the book was written and illustrated.

Author Robert Burleigh tells the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman astronomer.

Henrietta loved the stars and wanted to study them. She was one of only a handful of women in her astronomy class in college. When she graduated, she got a job at an observatory.

She wanted to study the stars through the huge telescope then, but instead was relegated to a small, stuffy room where she and the other female employees spent countless hours studying photographs of the stars. Their job was to take measurements and to record their findings.

It was mind-numbing work, but Henrietta persisted. After months of studying photos and recording measurements, she noticed a pattern. Her work allowed astronomers to learn more about the universe, dispelling the notion that the Milky Way Galaxy was the only one out there.

The author includes three pages at the end of the book that provide extra information about stars, about Henrietta, and about the science of astronomy.

Lizzie Murphy grew up at a time when girls were supposed to act like young ladies and do girl stuff. Problem was, Lizzie liked baseball. A lot.  Her brother Henry played for a little league team. Lizzie wasn't allowed on the team, but Henry practiced his moves with her. Lizzie learned how to throw, catch and hit a ball as good as, if not better than, any boy in the neighborhood.

She wanted to be on the team. At first, the boys wouldn't let her, but they let her be the "bat girl". Then, one day, the team showed up to play but no one had a ball with them - except Lizzie. Lizzie made them a deal: they could use her ball if she was allowed to play. They gave in, completely expecting her to be a lousy player, but she showed them she knew a thing or two about the game.

Lizzie made a name for herself in baseball. She went on to be the first woman to play in a major league exhibition game and the first person to play on the both National and American leagues' all-star teams.

Emily Arnold McCully does a great job of telling Lizzie's story. McCully does this with lively text and wonderful illustrations that she did herself. She also includes an Author's Note at the end of the book with additional information about Lizzie.

Author Duncan Tonatiuh tells the true story of one family's fight to end segregation. The story takes place in Westminster, CA. The city has a very nice school where Mr. Mendez takes her children to enroll. But, because of their name and their appearance, they are forced to go to the school for Mexican children. The regular school is clean and bright and well-equipped with excellent teachers. The school for Mexican children is crowded and dirty. It doesn't even have any playground equipment and the teachers don't really care about the children's education.

Mr. Mendez is so upset with the way his children are treated, he takes the school district to court for discrimination. He wins the initial battle, but the school board appeals the verdict. He wins the battle the second time around and his children are finally allowed  to go to the regular school.

Tonatiuh not only wrote the story, he also did the illustrations. Although I enjoyed reading the book, I didn't really like the illustrations. The people just look odd in them. But, the story is still a good one.  And, there is an Author's Note at the end of the book with additional information about segregation, some photos of Sylvia, a Glossary of terms used throughout the text, as well as a Bibliography and an Index.

This is a picture book biography of Paul Erdos, an Hungarian with an insatiable appetite for math and numbers. First he learned how to count. Then he learned how to manipulate numbers in ways no one had done before.

A story about a mathematician could be quite boring. But author Deborah Heiligman writes with captivating prose to make the text interesting. The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are perfect for the text. And, whenever a number is mentioned in the text, like the number 4, it is printed in extra large print and in color to make it stand out from the rest of the text. This is done throughout the book. It adds visual interest to the text itself.

The author includes A Note From the Author in the back of the book, giving the reader some insight into how and why she wrote this story. There is also A Note From the Illustrator giving the reader information about what illustrations were used on the pages and why.

THE RIGHT WORD: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant

Peter Roget loved books and words and he loved lists. He made all kinds of lists about all kinds of things. He started witing his first book when he was only eight years old. On the cover of the book he wrote: "Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book."

In the book, he wrote many lists. The first list he made was of the Latin words he had learned. Beside each Latin word, he wrote its English meaning. Peter kept adding new lists to his book, lists like "The Four Elements," "Of the Weather," and "In the Garden."

Peter went to medical school and became a doctor, but he still kept up with his lists. He eventually went on to have his lists published and to create what we now know as Roget's Thesaurus. Thesaurus is the Greek word for "treasure house." Peter's lists really were treasures for all to share.

This is a wonderful book. The text is very well-written and very informative. The illustrations are delightful with their use of letters and words. Both an Author's Note and an Illustrator's Note are included at the end of the book, along with a Bibliography, a list of books For Further Reading and a list of Sources used.

THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins

Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in Northern California where there are lots of trees. She loved the trees. She loved them so much she was the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science.

After she graduated, she got a job as a teacher and a school principal in San Diego. San Diego is in the desert. When Katherine arrived, there were some houses but very few trees. She really missed the trees from old home and she wanted trees in her new home. She did a lot of research to learn what types of trees would grow in the desert. Then she sent for seeds and started a nursery of desert-loving trees. She sold her trees to others who wanted them and she donated thousands of them to the city, particularly to Balboa Park. She became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.

Author H. Joseph Hopkins does a great job of telling the story of this interesting woman. And, the illustrations by Jill McElmurry (interesting that her last name has the name of a tree in it, don't you think?) add interest to the tale. The author includes a page at the back of the book called Author's Note with additional information about Katherine.

Author Cynthia Levinson tells the often overlooked story of the Children's March, a civil rights protest march that took place in Birmingham, Alabama in May of 1963. More than 3,000 children were arrested for protesting, and Audrey Faye Hendricks was one of them. She spent a week behind bars in a juvenile detention facility. It was a terrible week for her but she never regretted her decision to participate in the event.

Levinson includes an Author's Note at the end of the book with more information about Hendricks, as well as a timeline of events relating to the Civil Rights Movement. One of Hendricks' favorite foods was Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter. A recipe for the roll is also included.

Elizabeth Blackwell was a brave and curious girl who had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and adventure. She was a talented musician as well as a gifted athlete.

She had no intention of becoming a doctor, because frankly, blood made her queasy and she couldn't tolerate being around people who were sick. She didn't even like people fussing around her when she wasn't feeling well. But when Elizabeth's friend, Mary Donaldson, got sick, Elizabeth went to visit her. Mary said she would have preferred to be attended to by a female physician, but at that time in history, there were no female doctors. Mary told Elizabeth that she, Elizabeth, had the brains and spunk to be a doctor and that she should do so.

The notion seemed a bit far-fetched to Elizabeth at first, but the more she thought about it, the more she liked it. On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth graduated from medical school at the top of her class and became the first woman doctor in America.

Author Tanya Lee Stone makes Elizabeth's story come alive with engaging text and lots of action. The illustrations by Marjorie Priceman do much to enhance the text. An Author's Text at the end of the book provides additional information about Elizabeth.

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