Richie's Picks: LOUISA: THE LIFE OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
- Richie's Picks: LOUISA: THE LIFE OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Yena Zeldis McDonough and Bethanne Andersen, Holt, August 2009, 48p., ISBN: 9780805081923"Louisa, like her sisters, went to school in Concord. She didn't much care for arithmetic or grammar, but loved reading, writing, history, and geography. And sometimes she felt that nature was her best subject of all. The hills, meadows, trees, and flowers taught her what no books could teach. She described running through the woods on a fall morning and stopping to watch the sun rise. 'A very strange and solemn feeling came over me as I stood there,' she later wrote in her journal, 'with no sound but the rustle of the pines, no one near me, and the sun so glorious, as for me alone.'"I didn't really have an interest in reading about Louisa May Alcott. It is just that I have always been fond of Bethanne Andersen's artwork, and end up checking out whatever new book I see her name on.And that is one of the great things about picture book biographies. One need not be invested heavily in reading about a particular person. It's only going to take a few minutes to read one, and you can figure that you will come away knowing a little something to do with somebody worth writing a book about. Do this repeatedly, and you are guaranteed to have a good time while becoming significantly more enlightened and educated.As Dr. Hani Morgan wrote in an online article a few months ago,"In today’s global age, it is important for young students to develop multiple perspectives..."Educators can guide students to develop cross-cultural understanding at an early age by using well-written picture book biographies which represent people from diverse backgrounds."As we know, there are hundreds of great picture book biographies about people from all sorts of backgrounds. If we check lists of recipients of the major awards over the past decade, we find picture book biographies like these:THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS: THE TRUE STORY OF BOB AND JOE SWITZER'S BRIGHT IDEAS AND BRAND-NEW COLORS by Chris Barton and Tony Persiani, ill (Sibert Honor)THE WALL: GROWING UP BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN by Peter Sis (Sibert Medal, Caldecott Honor)WALT WHITMAN: WORDS FOR AMERICA by Barbara Kerley and Brian Selznick (Sibert Honor)SEQUOYAH: THE CHEROKEE MAN WHO GAVE HIS PEOPLE WRITING by James Rumford (Sibert Honor)ACTION JACKSON by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan, and Robert Andrew Parker, ill. (Sibert Honor)WHEN MARIAN SANG by Pam Munoz Ryan and Brian Selznick, ill (Sibert Honor)A RIVER OF WORDS: THE STORY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, ill. (Caldecott Honor)HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX: A TRUE STORY FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson, ill. (Caldecott Honor)MOSES: WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM by Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson, ill. (Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Medal)ROSA by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier, ill (Caldecott Honor)THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS by Mordicai Gerstein (Caldecott Medal)THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS by Barbara Kerley and Brian Selznick, ill. (Caldecott Honor)MARTIN'S BIG WORDS: THE LIFE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier, ill. (Caldecott Honor, Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Coretta Scott King Honor)PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA: THE STORY OF WANGARI MAATHAI by Claire A. Nivola (Jane Addams Children's Book Award)DELIVERING JUSTICE: W.W. LAW AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Jim Haskins and Benny Andrews, ill. (Jane Addams Children's Book Award)HARVESTING HOPE: THE STORY OF CESAR CHAVEZ by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales, ill. (Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Pura Belpre Honor)BAD NEWS FOR OUTLAWS: THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF BASS REEVES, DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and R. Gregory Christie, ill (Coretta Scott King Medal)BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT by Sean Qualls (Coretta Scott King Honor)TALKIN' ABOUT BESSIE: THE STORY OF AVIATOR ELIZABETH COLEMAN by Nikki Grimes and E.B. Lewis, ill. (Coretta Scott King Honor)RAP A TAP TAP: HERE'S BOJANGLES - THINK OF THAT! by Leo and Diane Dillon (Coretta Scott King Honor)ONLY PASSING THROUGH: THE STORY OF SOJOURNER TRUTH by Anne Rockwell and R. Gregory Christie, ill. (Coretta Scott King Honor)DIEGO: BIGGER THAN LIFE by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and David Diaz, ill. (Pura Belpre Honor)MY NAME IS GABITO: THE LIFE OF GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ/ME LLAMO GABITO: LA VIDA DE GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ by Monica Brown and Raul Colon, ill (Pura Belpre Honor)CESAR: SI, SE PUEDE!/YES WE CAN! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and David Diaz, ill. (Pura Belpre Honor)MY NAME IS CELIA: THE LIFE OF CELIA CRUZ/ME LLAMO CELIA: LA VIDA DE CELIA CRUZ by Monica Brown and Rafael Lopez, ill. (Pura Belpre Honor)In reading LOUISA: THE LIFE OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, I was delighted to discover a kindred spirit. She loved nature. She grew up vegetarian and spent some time living on a commune. She was a writer and loved reading aloud. An incident as a young child caused her to spend her life as an outspoken abolitionist. And she was a tragic figure -- she died at fifty-five. (Well, I'm going to be turning fifty-five, and so it feels tragic that someone died so young...) This book gives a great overview of the highlights and challenges that she faced in her life. Bethanne Andersen's illustrations add so much to the story, and there are great resources at the end of the book.So, for having invested a few minutes , I now know that LMA was a pretty cool person. Maybe, now, I'll finally read one of her books. But in either case, LOUISA: THE STORY OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT is a beautiful and well-written picture book biography that is well worth having in collections serving elementary and middle school students.Richie Partington, MLIS
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