Book Review: One for this Election

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls are Born to Lead
Written by Michelle Markel • Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

An inspiring portrait of Hillary Rodham Clinton from her childhood through her tenure as the United States Secretary of State. This biography showcases the Democratic Presidential Nominee’s barrier-breaking accomplishments and touches on many challenges she faced along the way.

Reasons I love it:

  1. It is boldly in favor of Hillary Clinton as a person, a woman, a politician and an advocate for change. It outlines her life through the lens of a woman challenging assumptions and pushing down barriers; she has always been a strong, passionate leader working to make a difference. In this regard, I find it to be incredibly inspiring.
  2. Gender is an ever-present theme throughout the book. Sentences like, “But she couldn’t believe how people criticized her – in ways they’d never criticize a man. They said her headbands were too casual and her attitude was too feisty. An ex-president said a First Lady shouldn’t be too strong or too smart. Others called her “the Hillary problem” – and a lot worse things than that” introduce ideas of gender bias in child-friendly language. Though the story does not dive beyond these general descriptions, it creates a platform for deeper discussion with young readers. If nothing else, this is definitely a book for mighty girls – and for boys who support mighty girls.
  3. I had the privilege of meeting the illustrator, LeUyen Pham, earlier this year at a writer’s conference. She is an amazing woman whose life and words have inspired me on my writing path. She embodies many of the themes of female empowerment and breaking barriers shared in this book. The illustrations in this book are simply amazing. Pham’s research shows in her artwork inclusion of significant people, memories and details throughout Clinton’s life. A four-page artist’s note is included with explanations of the symbolism, significance and history in each illustration. In addition depth and detail, the artwork is bright, cute and engaging.

One Wish: The first spread begins with, “In the 1950’s, it was a man’s world. Only boys could grow up to have powerful jobs. Only boys had no ceilings on their dreams.” The illustrations on these pages include two Black men. It is factually incorrect to imply that only women faced discrimination at a time Black men and women were in the midst of Jim Crow laws. I also didn’t love the line, “Her youth group met with poor black and Latino teenagers in the inner city.” As a book about gender, this book works to inspire young readers; however, its short inclusions of race are problematic.

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Two Rhyming Mighty Girl Books

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Ada Twist, Scientist
Written by Andrea Beaty • Illustrated by David Roberts

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Ada Twist, a young girl with insatiable curiosity, embarks on fact-finding missions and conducts elaborate scientific experiments to find answers to the questions that fill her head. When her experiments to discover the source of a mysterious stink go too far, her exasperated parents banish her to the Thinking Chair. Will Ada’s budding science career be cut off just as it begins?

Reasons I love it:

  1. Ada Marie Twist (named after Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie) is a young Black girl with a gift for science. She asks questions that lead to more questions and she is determined to find answers. She is unafraid of failure, passionate and persistent. Her curiosity and daring experimentation are infectious to her classmates, family and audience!
  2. Ada’s family contradict some negative stereotypes about Black families. Her parents and older brother support her growth, participate in her experiments, and nurture her passion.
  3. It is the perfect starting point for learning about the scientific method and scientific inquiry. This book could be used from elementary school up to high school to hook students into science. It is a celebration of STEAM.
  4. Upbeat rhyming text. The rhythms make for a fun read aloud.
  5. Beautiful, detailed illustrations. I particularly love the mother’s fashion. I’d wear those dresses if I could!

One Wish: I wish more books about children of color were written by authors of color. This is more of a comment on the industry and not one specifically targeted at Ada Twist, Scientist.

Interstellar Cinderella
Written by Deborah Underwood • Illustrated by Meg Hunt

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In a girl-power retelling of a well-known fairy tale, our heroine is a mechanic who loves fixing space ships. When Cinderella is abandoned at home, Murgatroyd the mouse and Cinderella’s fairy god-robot must get her to the Royal Space Parade. On the way, Cinderella sees the prince’s ship in smoke and she must zipzap with her socket wrench and swoop in for the rescue!

Reasons I love it:

  1. It is a fairy-tale retelling that empowers girls. Cinderella is a problem-solving girl with an aptitude for fixing things. She is more interested in pursuing her passion than marrying the prince. The book subtly, but clearly, shows readers that girls can and should dream past the boundaries outlined for them by tradition.
  2. The prince is a man of color; he is desirable, he has power, and he is kind. It is rare to find “good” characters of color in fairy-tales, if at all. I appreciate the interracial friendship illustrated in the story.img_7434
  3. The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful. The style is unique and bold with details to discover with every read.
  4. Fun rhymes that introduce creative vocabulary make this another fun read aloud.

One Wish: A few leaps in the story feel like we skip forward and miss connecting details. While the illustrations fill in some gaps, there are a couple places where the reader must fill in the holes themselves.

Happy reading!