5 Great Children's Books for Women's History Month
Filed under: Books for Kids
When Women's History Month rolls around, the first way my 9-year-old daughter celebrates is by angrily griping, "Month?! We only get one month?" But after that, she likes to put her focus on learning about as many important historical women as she can. Thankfully, the children's book publishing industry is there to help her (and the rest of us). Picture book authors, in particular, do a fantastic job of turning a spotlight on unsung heroines of women's history. Here are a few wonderful examples.
"She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story" by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate (Collins, $17)
Stories don't get much more inspirational than Effa Manley's. She starts off with a successful boycott that forced Harlem businesses to start hiring African-American workers, and ends up as the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In between she pulls off one amazing first after another, never letting racism or sexism get in her way. Don Tate's accompanying artwork has a wonderful period feel to it. Combined with the wistful prose of Audrey Vernick, it makes you wish you could have been in the stands for those Negro League ball games of yore.
"For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart" by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher (Tricycle Press, $16)
Talk about unsung. How many of you out there knew that Mozart had an older sister who was every bit the musical prodigy he was? And tragically, none of her compositions survive. But this truly lovely book serves as a much-needed tribute, not only to the woman herself, but also to the sweet and beautiful relationship she had with her famous brother. The illustrations are nothing less than breathtaking -- textile-enhanced paintings that look almost as if the artists brushed their paints directly onto tapestries that were ripped from the walls of Versailles.
"Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith" by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Scott Dawson (Dutton, $17)
Another woman to be the first honored in her sport -- this time at the Motorsports Hall of Fame -- Louise Smith has pros and cons as a role model. Discovered by NASCAR founder "Big Bill" France, Smith broke new ground in a sport that was decidedly male, but she also gained popularity among racing fans by being utterly reckless. She was an unrepentant risk-taker. As the book says, when she raced, she either won or she crashed (and usually crashed). But her crazy, wild side also makes for some great stories. Scott Dawson has some fantastic scenes depicted here, like the one of Smith sitting on top of her car as the vehicle is sinking into a lake. Even if you don't want your kids to emulate her actions, it's hard not to admire her spirit.
"Liberty's Voice: The Story of Emma Lazarus" by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
The feats of Emma Lazarus may not seem as showy, but she was a risk-taker in her own right. She dared to publish the poems she composed when she was only a teenager; to ask for a critique of her work from one of her idols, Ralph Waldo Emerson; and to become a voice of protest against the oppression of Russian Jews. Plus, there's the whole bit about having her words etched onto the Statue of Liberty. There's a certain kind of kid out there -- quiet and brainy, but passionate and gutsy -- for whom Lazarus is the perfect hero.
"Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart" by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, $21)
Amelia Earhart may be far from unknown or unsung, and, no, this is not a picture book (although it does contain loads of great historical photos), but "Amelia Lost" is such a fabulously different and interestingly put-together biography of the famed aviator that I had to include it in this list. Older gradeschool kids can learn more interesting facts about Earhart's exciting life here than they've probably seen anywhere else. And the way the author handles the mystery of Earhart's disappearance should be intriguing even to adults. Throughout the book, you'll hear testimonies from several amateur radio users, all of whom claim to have received distress call messages from Earhart on the day of her last ill-fated flight. It's fascinating stuff.
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