Books CORL (Check Off your Reading List) Challenge 2014 GB Challenges Multicultural - Diversity Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Women’s Dreams, Battles, and Triumphs – Razia Jan’s and Louisa May’s Journeys ‪#‎nfpb2014‬

Myra here.



We are excited to join Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Our reading goal this 2014 is 25 books!

As we continue to celebrate “voices of the silenced” until end of April, these two picturebook biographies called out to me from the library shelves. Both deal with courageous women who know their minds and who did not allow their circumstances to be in the way of their dreams and their eventual triumphs.

IMG_2539Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women

Written by: Kathleen Krull Illustration by: Carlyn Beccia
Published by: Walker Books for Young Readers: An imprint of Bloomsbury, 2013.
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I read Little Men and Little Women when I was a young girl, around 12 years old or so; and I am forever grateful to Louisa May Alcott for making my early experience with classic literature so painless and enjoyable.

The book begins with a very loaded and political statement:

“I long to be a man,” Louisa May Alcott scribbled one day, “but as I can’t fight, I will content myself with working for those who can.”


She came from a progressive family who was part of the Underground Railroad to provide assistance and shelter to slaves who have ran away, and Louisa May wanted to be in on the thick of things. By the end of 1862, she traveled on a fairly-complicated route from her hometown Concord to where the action is: Washington DC.


Her work as an Army Nurse proved to be invaluable as she has such a gentle air around her and such a compassionate spirit that she would even read to her “boys” from Dickens and would always find a way to cheer them up and make them laugh, while at the same time being highly efficient and competent in her work.


She wrote long letters back home about how she felt and the horrors and joys of her experiences. These letters were eventually collected and published in a slender book entitled Hospital Sketches. After numerous rejections from publishers with most of the fiction work she submitted, she realized that she has now found her voice and her style through her experience as an Army Nurse. How she eventually came to write the timeless classic Little Women I shall leave for you to discover.


In this picturebook biography, Kathleen Krull has once again done an amazing job in making Louisa May’s early experiences as a fearless Civil War Army Nurse and a struggling writer so real and keenly-felt by the reader. Krull juxtaposed it with what was going on in society at the time, continually highlighting world events and Louisa’s place in it. I love how she is able to skilfully navigate her writing from a macrosocial world view to a remarkable focus on the life of one woman.

For teachers who wish to discuss Louisa May’s life in the classroom, here is an additional downloadable pdf resource on Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches researched and written by historian Douglas Aumack and Executive Director Anna Aschkenes of the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an EducationIMG_2533

Written by: Elizabeth Suneby Illustrated by: Suana Verelst
Published by: Citizen Kid, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I learned about this book through the Monday reading community and I am so glad to find it in our public library.

This book tells the story of young Razia who was so excited to discover that a new school for girls was being built near their home. The minute she found out from her grandfather (Baba Gi) about this new building, she begged him to convince her father (Baba) and older brother (Aziz) to allow her to attend school.


She is envious of her two brothers Jamil and Karim who attend the boys’ school in the next village. She does not let them know that she has actually taught herself to memorize the Dari alphabet, spell her name, and read a few words. And each day, as the school building starts to take shape, with the school doors painted the bright flames of the tandoor, Razia becomes even more anxious as to whether she would be given permission to attend school.


Then one evening, her Baba Gi called for a family meeting (called a jerga) and gave a compelling argument to the men of the household about the need for girls to be educated, and what life had been during his time when women in Afghanistan were educated and held important positions in society. Razia’s eldest brother and Uncle though, feel that Razia should stay at home to help out in the orchards, and so it was decided: “Razia is not going.”


How Razia was able to convince her family to attend school I shall leave for you to discover. This picturebook is based on the real life account of Razia Jan who was born in Afghanistan and moved to the United States when she was a young woman. The biographical note found at the end of the book showed that after September 11, 2001, Razia Jan felt the need to connect people from her homeland to her new home in America and she started Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation which aims “to improve the lives of women and children in Afghanistan through education.”

Here is a short video clip of Razia Jan’s amazing journey that I found on Youtube. Truly very inspiring. Shows how undaunted women can be in changing the face of society. Fearless, phenomenal women, Razia Jan and Louisa May.



Reading Challenge Update: 68, 69 (25)


Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 1-2 of 25

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

10 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Women’s Dreams, Battles, and Triumphs – Razia Jan’s and Louisa May’s Journeys ‪#‎nfpb2014‬

  1. Thank you for suggesting the two books. Will look for them in the library. I have more time to read now.


  2. The Louisa May story looks fascinating and is new for me! I’ll have to check that one out!


  3. Great books worth checking out! I have yet to read any Louisa May Alcott and I’m glad your first forays into classic lit were enjoyable!


  4. Catherine Johnson

    I read Little Women such a long time ago, I must read it again. I like the look of the updated version and the other book looks great too.


  5. Thanks for your attention to our book, Myra, & for these heady compliments.


  6. How I love Kathleen Krull’s nonfiction books! This is a new one for me–gorgeous illustrations too. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.


  7. Both books deserve attention, Myra. What great selections you’ve shared! I’ve read Little Women so many times, and a few times with book groups-a treasure. I don’t know much about her background. And the other book, a tragedy for young women. I hope that young women like Razia Jan will make a difference. Thanks!


  8. Razia’s Ray of Hope is on my TBR list. Loved your detailed review.


  9. Great book choices. I’ll see if I can find them! 🙂


  10. I have to find the money to get Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women. I’ve got a group of girls reading Little Women and it would be a wonderful book to companion with them.


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