Picture Books That Honor Women

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Historically women have had to toil long and hard to achieve the same rights and privileges as men. March is Women’s Month, time to recognize some of these legends.

“Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge Grows in the Bronx” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.99) by author Jonah Winter with illustrations from Edel Rodriguez, is a bilingual picture book that tells the story of President Obama’s latest choice for Supreme Court Justice. The first Latina to fill such a coveted position, Sotomayor grew up in public housing in the Bronx, the daughter of a widowed mother who worked as a switch board operator by day and studied to be a nurse at night. That work ethic and the understanding that she would have to be the best, spurred Sonia to study. She graduated at the top of her class and won a scholarship to Yale. Sotomayor’s path has not been easy but it has given her a unique perspective on the people for which she ensures safe and fair laws.

Betsy Dowdy may or may not have lived, but her story lives on so that truth may not be important. “The Ride, the Legend of Betsy Dowdy” (Atheneum Books for Younger Readers, $16.99) by Kitty Griffin tells the story of a sixteen-year old girl who lived in North Carolina, in a time of rebellion. Her father and many others were beginning fight for freedom from King George III of England. Betsy and her father received word that the red coats were heading their way to steal the Dowdy’s ponies and supplies. Betsy believed that, “she couldn’t stop the king. She couldn’t fight for freedom. But she could ride.” She did just that riding her pony Bess through the night over the choppy waters of Currituck, staying on a narrow path of marshland, through thick forests and despite the cold and discomfort eventually arrived to warn General Skinner of the Continental Army. Victory was claimed on December 9, 1775 helping to show the British that their armies could be defeated. Illustrator Marjorie Priceman uses paint to convey the need for speed and the state of discomfort rather than show the “beauty” of the terrain.

Some people influence by the way they live their life and such was the case with Audrey Hepburn as told in “Just Being Audrey” (Balzer + Bray, $16.99) by author Margaret Cardillo and illustator Julia Denos. Growing up hungry in war-torn Holland after World War II, Audrey wanted to be a dancer. Her path ultimately led to a career in movies where her cropped hair and tall thin figure inspired many to dress like her. Audrey was known as a kind person who didn’t have “Hollywood airs.” She spent much of her later years traveling and working as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. This earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, “one of the highest honors a person can receive.”

Here is a link to the Amelia Bloomer Project that recommends feminist literature.

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