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Sarah Gives Thanks, by Allegra and Gardner

  • November 10, 2012 5:44 am

Until I read this book, I had no idea how important Sarah Josepha Hale was to our country. She helped make Thanksgiving a national holiday (it was considered more of a New England holiday in the early 1800s).

Although as a young woman Hale was barred from college due to her gender, she studied at home alongside her brother, using his college texts. After the death of her husband, she was able to support her five children with her income as a writer.

As the influential editor of magazines for women, she encouraged education and exercise for women. She frequently wrote about the importance of Thanksgiving as a way to promote gratitude. She sent letters to politicians and businesspeople, and encouraged her readers to do the same. Finally, after five presidents had refused to consider her request to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, President Lincoln proclaimed in 1863 that Thanksgiving would be held nationwide on the last Thursday in November.

Hale’s story is told in simple, engaging language by Mike Allegra, with realistic, colorful pictures by David Gardner. The book also includes a biographical sketch for adults, as well as a list of resources for further reading. This book would be appropriate for elementary students above the age of seven or eight.

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, by Malaspina and James

  • October 20, 2012 4:41 am

Just in time for the election, here’s a picture book about Susan B. Anthony voting for President in 1872–well before the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, officially acknowledging that women have the right to vote.

Anthony argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, gave women the right to vote because it stated that all citizens have equal rights.            

She and 15 other women successfully registered to vote, and cast their ballots. However, soon after the election they were all arrested. Before her trial, Anthony toured the country, arguing her case before the American people.

Although she lost the case and was fined $100, she declared she would never pay a penny.

Anthony’s story is told in simple language by Ann Malaspina, with appealing watercolor illustrations by Steve James. An appendix includes background information for adults, a short bibliography, and a reproduction of a letter Anthony wrote to her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton after she voted.

This book would probably be most appropriate for ages 8 and up, because younger children may not understand the legal concepts. It could also be used as a quick introduction to voting rights, women’s rights, and/or the 14th and 19th amendments, for older students.                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

Kids Changing the World

  • January 15, 2011 1:28 pm

I love books about kids taking action to help others and make the world a better place. Children’s talents and abilities are underused in this world, I believe. Young people are often seen as incapable of holding valid opinions or exercising leadership. We generally do not allow children or young people a voice or any responsibility in running their own schools or communities.

Here are a couple of recent books which profile children and teenagers who have taken on leadership roles and made a difference in the world.   I hope that books like these will encourage adults to train young people for leadership roles, and to share leadership and responsibility with young people in an appropriate way.

Click on the titles below to buy these books.

Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet, by Janet Wilson features full-color, two-page spreads about 10 young people from around the world, as well as shorter profiles of 20 more. At the back of the book are suggestions for how readers can get involved and make a difference. My son and I enjoyed reading about William Kamkwamba of Malawi, who put together windmills using salvaged parts; Kruti Parekh of India, who incorporates environmental messages in her magic shows; Fang Minghe of China, who takes photos of illegal wildlife being sold in order to help the police catch these criminals; and all the other young people in this book.

Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change by Garth Sundem profiles 30 young people from around the world. The profiles are grouped into five categories: Kids Saving the Environment; Kids Standing Up for Themselves; Kids Helping Others; Kids Overcoming Challenges; and Kids Using Talents and Creativity. Unfortunately, this book includes no actual pictures or photos of the kids that are profiled. Despite this drawback, it is an inspiring book. Some of the young people in this book are also featured in Our Earth, but many are different.

I have included these books on both my girls and boys lists.

Tao-Girls Rule! by CJ Golden

  • October 24, 2010 2:12 pm

Click image to buy book

The subtitle of this book is: “Finding balance, staying confident, being bold, in a world of challenges.” Tao-Girls Rule! is a cross between a self-help book and a pep talk, with advice based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao.

According to this book, a Tao-Girl is tenacious, accepting, optimistic, grateful, imaginative, radiant, and loving. Chapters are organized around these seven qualities, and explain how girls can use Tao principles such as “tzu jan,” “wu-wei,” and “yin-yang” to deal with life’s challenges.

The author, CJ Golden, has worked with Girls Scouts of the USA to present Tao-Girls workshops, and stories from these girls are included throughout the book. Golden’s web site, www.taogirl.com, also features stories from girls who have completed her workshops.

I liked this book and I would recommend it, but I did not like some of the silhouette images on the cover. A couple of the images show girls with skirts that are far too short (in my opinion). All the girls on the cover are very thin. I do like the image of the girl in lotus posture. I would hope that, in a future edition of the book, the author and publisher would find a way to include silhouettes or drawings of a more realistic representation of teenaged girls on the cover.

That said, don’t judge this book by its cover! The advice inside is invaluable. I wish I’d had this book as I was growing up.

I have included this book on my girls’ book list.

Dear Diary: I’m Pregnant — interviews by Anrenee Englander

  • July 10, 2010 5:42 am
dear diary

Click on image to buy book

Anrenee Englander decided to interview teens who faced pregnancy to help teens understand their choices in this difficult situation, and the possible results of those choices.

Dear Diary features 10 teenaged girls who talk about how they decided to keep their baby; give the baby up for adoption; or choose an abortion. They also talk about the consequences of those decisions: their feelings, their lives after giving birth or having an abortion, and their advice to other teens facing a similar situation.

Interestingly, no matter what their own personal decision, all the young women in this book expressed the belief that women should have a choice in this situation–that no one else should force them to make one choice over another.

The interviews are presented without any judgment, and with very little editorial commentary. The young women talk about failed birth control; lack of birth control; drugs and drinking; being homeless; religious beliefs; boyfriends; parents; their love for their baby; and more.  Many of the girls said they wanted to participate in the interviews to help other teens. “I just want other people to know that they’re not alone,” said Rose. “Having a baby isn’t going to end your life.”

Some of the teens also remarked that the inteview was the first time they’d ever talked about these issues with anyone else, and that the interview process itself was helpful and therapeutic.

To find pregnant teens to interview, Englander posted flyers at health clinics, high schools, hospitals, and homeless shelters. She conducted 40 interviews, 10 of which ended up in this book. Although the young women came from a variety of backgrounds, all of them had endured traumatic, troubled lives, including poverty, single-parent families, and abuse. Englander points out that although teen pregnancy happens in all parts of society, none of the girls who contacted her were from financially stable, two-parent  families in which there was no abuse.

First published in 1997, the book was updated in 2010 with a new resources section, including emergency hotlines, resources for finding a health clinic, and resources for abortion and adoption.

A nonjudgmental book like this one can help teens sort out their own feelings and needs from the demands and opinions of society and family members. I have included this book on my girls list.