One of my earliest posts after launching this blog addressed the question of "Monthly Themes". If you've been a loyal reader, don't bother to link back, because you're already aware of my conflicted views on this practice. But if you're new around these parts (or posts) I urge you to take a moment to read the link above and give some thought to this longstanding literary practice.
Back in March, the official "Women's History Month", I became aware of these three titles but made a conscious choice to save them for now.
|Harcourt Children's Books, 2003|
David Adler's success with picture book biographies is indisputable, in part because of his ability to cover all the essential details of lives while seamlessly revealing the background and the mid-ground of the world surrounding those lives.
In this case he presents a generic version of a player in one of the women's baseball teams that arose of necessity during World War II. Generic, but only in that it is not an individual's biography, and yet it's so very specific I feel as if I know this family. You will, too, including the daughter who helps Mama practice, the quirky grandparents, and the proud dad returning from war. (Fans of picture books and baseball should check out Stephanie Lowden's recent blog posts, too.)
Paula Wiseman Books, 2013
Leavitt's remarkable capacity for detailed observation, measurement, and comparison of the daily star images, coupled with her insatiable desire to understand the universe, led her to make paradigm-changing discoveries about space, stars, and the Milky Way. Her work changed forever our understanding of the size and relationships within space, and she is acknowledged as a landmark figure in the study of astronomy.
Backmatter in this book is a rich resource, including further details of her life and accomplishments, a glossary, other women astronomers, and resources for further study.
|Calkins Creek Books, 2012|
Molly's story blends her traditional roles (cook, servant) with her very untraditional sense of self, especially for the times. The precise details of her assistance in fighting a fire in the midst of a winter storm aren't nearly as important as are her confidence and commitment. The fact that the firefighters felt such respect for her competence and courage is seen in the backmatter research notes. The patterns of firefighting described are also well-documented and offer readers real insight into the vulnerabilities of city dwellers in those times.
Molly, Henrietta, and Mama are women who shaped the world around them rather than conforming to the expectations of their times. By so doing, they changed history, and their stories are far too important to be shelved, waiting for another "Women's History Month" to roll around.
My concerns about the limitations of theme months, though, do not apply to "appreciation" events. In particular, I encourage everyone to celebrate National Library Week, April 14-20. In fact, why not head over to your library this week and check out any or all of these titles. While you're there, thank a librarian. The library is often the first (and frequent) stop individuals make as they begin their own journeys to changing history for themselves.