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.
Louisa 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 Education
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)