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Rose O’Neill: The Girl Who Loved to Draw

  • November 21, 2009 6:40 am
Rose O'Neill

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I had never heard of Rose O’Neill before picking up this book, although I was familiar with “kewpies,” her most famous creation.

Rose O’Neill was a commercial illustrator and comic artist in the early 1900s, at a time when most commercial illustrators were men.

This children’s biography of Rose O’Neill concentrates on her childhood. Her father was a bookseller who had difficulty supporting his growing family, so Rose and her siblings moved often and lived in small, cramped homes in Nebraska and Missouri. However, the family was happy together. Rose never had formal art lessons: she taught herself to draw by copying illustrations from the stacks of books always around the house. 

When she was 13, one of her drawings won a prize from an Omaha newspaper. At the age of 19, she went to New York City to begin her career as a freelance illustrator for magazines and books. In 1909, when she was 35, she created the first kewpie character for Ladies Home Journal. This character proved so popular that Rose wrote and illustrated weekly kewpie stories and cartoons, and oversaw the manufacture of a kewpie doll.

Rose’s wealth allowed her to support her parents and siblings. Rose worked for the right of women to vote, and she mentored young artists.

This 68-page biography is in an oversized 10″ x 12″ format. It is lavishly illustrated with over 100 drawings and photographs. The author, Linda Brewster, skillfully pairs Rose’s adult drawings with the childhood events that may have inspired them. The book is based on Rose’s unpublished memoirs, so the writing comes alive with dialogue and Rose’s memories.

You can buy this book from my girls list.

New Moon Girls magazine

  • November 7, 2009 9:02 am

New Moon magazineI just received an e-mail from a founder of New Moon Girls, which, since the early 1990s, has published a wonderful, girl-edited, advertising-free  magazine for girls ages 8-14. The magazine is now in financial trouble and may close at the end of this year.

I would like to invite my visitors to contribute or subscribe to New Moon Girls magazine and help keep its doors open.

Unlike most magazines for girls, this one has no diet advice, no fashion features, and no advertising.  It’s a  full-color, fun magazine edited by a group of girls in Duluth, Minnesota, with the help of an adult staff. The most recent issue features: an article about an Iraqi girl who, at the age of 17, started that country’s first National Youth Orchestra; world records set by women; hidden pictures; an interview with author Madeleine L’Engle; a science project about cloning; an advice column with questions and answers from girls; and opinions, art, and fiction by girls.

Please check out New Moon Girls and, if you can, sign up for a subscription or make a donation.

The Goat Lady, by Jane Bregoli

  • October 31, 2009 12:45 pm
The Goat Lady

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The cover of The Goat Lady captured my attention right away: a full-length, detailed portrait of a strong, cheerful elderly woman in baggy clothes, with a goat by her side. How often does one see a carefully-done portrait featuring an older woman who is clearly not wealthy?

The book tells the true story of Noelie Houle, a French Canadian who found work in a Massachusetts factory as a young woman. When she developed arthritis, a doctor suggested she try drinking goat’s milk. She bought a goat, found the cure worked, and added to her flock, giving away extra goats to Heifer International, a nonprofit organization which donates farm animals to the poor. 

Yet her neighbors did not see Noelie’s determination and selflessness. They only saw her run-down house and her unruly animals.

One day, two children befriend Noelie and visit her often to help with the chores. The children tell their mother, an artist, about Noelie, and the mother decides to paint a series of portraits of the over 90-year-old woman. Once the paintings are shown in the town hall, the neighbors come to see Noelie’s strength and character, and to appreciate her way of life.

To me, this book is really about two strong, determined, forward-looking woman: Noelie Houle, and the author, Jane Bregoli, who took the time to see beyond the conventional stereotype of a poor old woman, and to showcase what was beautiful and special about her.

The story is told through the eyes of one of the author’s children, and is illustrated with several portraits of Noelie, as well as other pictures showing scenes of her home, animals, and her interactions with the author’s children.

This is a very special book, and I highly recommend it. You can purchase it from my girls list.

Clever Rachel, by Debby Waldman and Cindy Revell

  • October 24, 2009 9:05 am
Clever Rachel

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What crosses the river but cannot move? What has an eye but never sees? In this retelling of a Jewish folk-tale, Clever Rachel is a girl who loves riddles. A smart boy, Jacob, hears about her and decides to challenge her.  He is astonished when she answers his best riddles in no time flat. 

But when a desperate woman visits Rachel needing answers to some riddles, Rachel and Jacob realize they must work together to help solve the riddles, which will allow the woman to marry the man she loves.

My seven-year-old son really enjoyed guessing the answers to the riddles woven into this story. Seven more riddles are printed on the last page. This would be a great book to read aloud to a class.

You can buy this book from my girls list.

When the Bees Fly Home, by Andrea Cheng

  • October 10, 2009 10:20 am
when the bees fly home

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Jonathan, an elementary-school boy, is not strong enough to help his father, a beekeeper, with his work, and his father is annoyed. The father seems to prefer Jonathan’s preschool brother, who loves to show off his muscles. The family is struggling financially: a dry spell means less honey to sell.

One day, Jonathan helps his mother make beeswax candles by decorating them with tiny beeswax sculptures. His father is impressed, and starts to appreciate Jonathan’s artistic skill. The decorated candles sell out at the farmer’s market, and Jonathan collects many more orders.  That night, Jonathan and his father enjoy some quiet time on the porch as the rain finally comes down.

This unusual picture book contains bee facts on each page. My sons were interested to learn, for example, that bees’ wings beat 180 times per second.

Another thing I liked about this book is that the parents are a mixed-race couple. This is never mentioned in the story, but the watercolor pictures by Joline McFadden show a fair blond father and a brown-skinned, black-haired mother. It is rare to see a mixed-race couple presented in a picture book in a matter-of-fact way, without a lot of commentary.

You can buy this book from my boys list.