Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Melodie Stacey

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Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Melodie Stacey
Published June 4th, 2024 by Cameron Kids

Summary: Else B. in the Sea is a poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science from author Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator Melodie Stacey.

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish.

Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey is the author of many picture books, including Boats on the Bay, as well as the well-received picture book biographies Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas (winner of the 2022 Northern California Book Awards – Children’s Literature Younger Readers and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist), Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (a NSTA Best STEM Book of the Year). She lives in Sonoma, California. For free downloadable activities and more, visit her website,  jeanneharvey.com.

Melodie Stacey is a fine artist and illustrator whose work can be found in the picture book Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made. She lives in Brighton, UK.

Instagram
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @jeannewharvey
Melodie Stacey: @melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @cameron_kids and @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Twitter/X
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWHarvey
Melodie Stacey: @Melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Pinterest
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Review: I love learning about new people (to me) from history that expand my knowledge of the world. Else is such a cool character and to know she is a real person makes it even more intriguing and amazing. Else is definitely a person whose story should have already been told, and I am so glad that Harvey and Stacey are telling it now.

Like Harvey has done in all of her picture book biographies that I’ve read by her, she expertly mixes narrative and nonfiction to ensure the book not only teaches the reader about the person but also entertains and keeps attention along the way. This is so important to ensure that readers will gravitate towards hearing this story with a side effect of learning about an amazing person, in this case Else.

Stacey’s illustrations take Harvey’s words and make them sing off the page with illustrations that range from full page to small additions, keeping the eyes from ever wanting to stop exploring the art, just like Else explored the sea.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much to do in conjunction with this book in the classroom! After reading the book aloud, I would then make sure to read the author’s note and dive deeper into:

  • Deep sea creatures and what has changed in our knowledge of them since Else’s time.
  • How color changes when light is removed, including the underwater color spectrums.
  • Why women scientists were excluded normally during Else’s time and how including them affected how others viewed the expeditions that Else was part of.
  • How paint and salt water interact and trying to paint under water!
  • Other woman who took first steps that need to have their story told.
  • The science behind bioluminescence.
  • The math of the ocean.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Else’s childhood and roadblocks early in her life affect her?
  • What does Else’s idea to practice painting the “ocean firsthand” and “descending as far as she could by herself” tell you about the type of person Else was? How about her ability to learn to paint underwater?
  • How has scuba gear changed over time?
  • Why did William Beebe have to kill animals to allow them to be studied/painted? What are your thoughts on this?
  • How did Else’s paintings of Beebe’s discoveries give “people a way to escape their worries”?
  • Why do you think Harvey wanted to tell Else’s story?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Science, Ocean creatures

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

The Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watched Them Happen by Ryan G. Van Cleave, Illustrated by Ððm Ððm

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The Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watch Them Happen
Author: Ryan G. Van Cleave
Illustrator: Ððm Ððm
Publishing May 9th, 2023 by Bushel & Peck Books

Summary: For generations, trees have silently witnessed history’s most pivotal moments. Here are their stories.

In the sweep of wind over grass,
near the pulse of rivers,
we stand,
monuments of bark
and age-curled green.

Above, an avalanche of stars.
Below, the ocean of earth.
Within, the uncounted lives
birthed, bloomed, and plucked
from the gardens we tend.

We survive.
We remember.
We witness.

In evocative verse and stunning artwork, Witness Trees is the story of the world’s most enduring witnesses: the trees. From the Flower of Kent apple tree still standing in Sir Isaac Newton’s yard, to the English oak given to Jesse Owens after facing down Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the California redwood saved from destruction by July Butterfly Hill, to the Callery pear tree still miraculously alive after the World Trade Towers fell, Witness Trees is a moving tribute to the world’s most famous trees, many of which still need humanity’s protection. Be moved, be inspired, be amazed by the quiet, reverberating voices of nature’s sentinels: the witness trees.

For each tree depicted, there is information about that tree and the events it witnessed. Among the trees lovingly discussed are 20 trees you can visit today.

About the Creators:

Ryan G. Van Cleave wrote his first poem at age five, and he’s been writing, reading, and loving poetry ever since. He earned a Ph.D. in American Literature with an emphasis in poetry and has taught at numerous colleges and universities. Currently, he runs the creative writing major at Ringling College of Art and Design. As The Picture Book Whisperer, he helps celebrities and high-profile clients write picture books and kidlit projects. Visit his blog at https://www.onlypicturebooks.com/.

Ððm Ððm is an illustrator who uses his art to sow seeds of joy. He has illustrated multiple books and lives in Vietnam.

Review: This book is intriguing and beautiful. First, the verse is very well written. It is lyrical and beautiful–it will lend its self so well to reading aloud. Second, the art is superb! It is realistic, colorful, eye catching, and breathtaking! Third, the idea of this book is just so fascinating. I, obviously, knew trees had been around much longer than most of us could imagine, but to see the timeline included in the book and all of the history included within just blew my mind.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be amazing to take each of the Witness Trees and let a group of students learn more about the historical event as well as the tree that witnessed it. Each group could then present to the class. (Please note that many of the events are tragic, so choose the events and students for each wisely.)

Also, at the beginning of the book, the author includes some trees that aren’t included in the book, so students could take each of these books and create their own spreads with a poem about the tree based in its history.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the author’s choice of verse affect the tone of the book?
  • How did the illustrators structure of putting the tree on one side of a spread and an illustration related to the history on the other side add to the history shared?
  • What makes trees so amazing? What about these trees specifically?
  • What time in history do you wonder if there is a Witness Tree for it? (Extension: Have students research and see if there is one.)

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Interest in trees, Picture books in verse

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

Hooray for DNA! How a Bear and a Bug Are a Lot Like Us by Pauline Thompson, Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

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Hooray for DNA! How a Bear and a Bug Are a Lot Like Us
Author: Pauline Thompson
Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli
Published April 25th, 2023 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary: Bill Nye meets Green Eggs and Ham in this playful and rhythmic nonfiction picture book that introduces readers to the concept of DNA, and celebrates the similarities we share with all life-forms–and each other!

DNA is the ABC
of what makes you, you
and what makes me, me.

Did you know we share DNA with every living thing? Humans, bugs, bears, even a virus–we all have shared DNA hidden inside us!

From a debut author and an award-winning illustrator, here is a bouncy and playful picture book–perfect for the classroom or for story time–about the genetic code that makes up all living things, and reminds us that we’re all more alike than we think.

About the Creators: 

About the author

PAULINE THOMPSON is a Toronto based artist and writer. Her work spans 25 years of creating, exhibiting, and incubation. Her love of popular science is the fuel for her children’s stories. In her spare time, Pauline facilitates writing workshops for Writers Collective of Canada.

About the illustrator

GREG PIZZOLI is the award-winning author and illustrator of many books for kids including the award-winning picture books The Watermelon Seed, Good Night Owl, and The Book Hog. He lives in South Philadelphia with his wife, two daughters, dog, and cats.

Review: What a fun introduction to DNA for young children! The author’s rhyming and rhythmic text lends itself to a read aloud and Pizzoli’s illustrations are as eye catching as always. Along with a great message about humanity, the book delivers a solid introduction to the idea of DNA.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: After reading aloud this book, dive into the back matter! The author has some great resources including more about the science of DNA, an activity comparing and contrasting ourselves and other items, and resources, including videos, that can be used in the classroom. This would be a perfect addition to an early education lesson on DNA!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is DNA defined in the book?
  • What is something that you were surprised that we share DNA with?
  • What would we be like if we had no tissues or organs?
  • How closely related, DNA-wise, are all humans?
  • What does the book share that each of our unique DNAs lead to?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science books for children

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**Thank you to Cate at Nicole Banholzer PR for providing a copy for review!**

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao

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Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American
Author: Laura Gao
Published: March 8, 2022 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary: After spending her early years in Wuhan, China, riding water buffalos and devouring stinky tofu, Laura immigrates to Texas, where her hometown is as foreign as Mars–at least until 2020, when COVID-19 makes Wuhan a household name.

In Messy Roots, Laura illustrates her coming-of-age as the girl who simply wants to make the basketball team, escape Chinese school, and figure out why girls make her heart flutter.

Insightful, original, and hilarious, toggling seamlessly between past and present, China and America, Gao’s debut is a tour de force of graphic storytelling.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book last year and immediately knew I wanted to use it in my class. It fit into so many topics that we discuss in class, and it is a powerful memoir. Gao offers a nuanced look at discrimination, specifically against Wuhanese Americans related to COVID-19, and she also offers insight into issues that many immigrants face in the US. I love the book description that she is trying to figure out “why girls make her heart flutter.” Gao’s sexuality is a part of the book, but it isn’t the plot driver. This normalization is important in literature, and I think readers expect that when a character is LGBTQ, it will be the main focus of the text. Instead, Gao’s life—told with a great level of humor, even when topics are tough—is depicted through images and words in a way that will connect with readers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be interesting to have students depict the themes of this book visually.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some of the themes of this text?
  • How does Gao integrate images and words to tell her story?
  • What aspects of this book connected with you?
  • What did you learn about discrimination related to Wuhanese Americans?

Flagged Spreads: 

Recommended For: 

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Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Author Guest Post!: Let Nonfiction Sing by Margarita Engle, Author of Destiny Finds Her Way: How a Rescued Baby Sloth Learned to be Wild

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Welcome to the

Destiny Finds Her Way

Blog Tour & Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Destiny Finds Her Way by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle, blogs across the web are hosting guest posts from Margarita as well as the book’s photographer, Sam Trull, who is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the Sloth Institute — a sloth rescue organization based in Costa Rica. Join us for a journey behind the scenes of how these two amazingly talented women teamed up to bring this inspiring, true story to readers everywhere and learn more about sloths and the work being done to protect them.


Let Nonfiction Sing!

by Margarita Engle

Destiny Finds Her Way is a book I feel honored to have written. When I saw Sam Trull’s beautiful photos of Destiny the sloth, I decided to visit the Sloth Institute in Costa Rica. There, I had the chance to witness Sam in action, rescuing baby sloths and teaching them how to live in the wild. The experience was inspiring.

I wanted to write Destiny’s story in a way that might inspire young readers to learn more about wildlife conservation. The tropical rain forest has its own rhythm, and poetry is musical language. However, nonfiction is usually presented in a more detailed prose style. I decided to combine poetic devices with facts. The first device I used is onomatopoeia, where words resemble their real-life sources. Examples are the eee, eee, eee of darting squirrel monkeys, and ah, ah of a frightened baby sloth. Instead of rhymes at the ends of lines, I included words with vowels that rhyme. In ‘macaws squawking,’ all the “a “sounds rhyme. I’m sure readers will be able to find many other parts of the story that sound musical.

Readers will also discover the other senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, as well as sound. In addition, movement is an important aspect of the story’s musical nature. I hope words like scratched, swayed, and climbed will help make Destiny’s journey come to life in a joyful, dancelike way. There is nothing more celebratory than knowing she is now healthy and free in the wild!

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About Destiny Finds Her Way

(ages 4-8, Hardcover Picture Book, National Geographic Kids Books)

Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and photographer and Sloth Institute Executive Director Sam Trull team up to bring the inspiring and true story to life of how Destiny, a motherless baby sloth, sightless in one eye and rescued by Sam in the Costa Rican rain forest, defies the odds, overcomes her obstacles of limited sight and learns the skills she will need to return to her wild, forest home.

Without her mother to protect her or teach her, Destiny is found and taken to a rescue center in Costa Rica. The little sloth soon befriends other orphaned sloths. Her poor eyesight, however, makes it hard for her to keep her balance. Eventually Destiny begins to use all of her senses to explore the world around her. But can she learn to climb? Can she master the other skills she needs to survive on her own? And will Destiny be brave enough to return to her wild, forest home?

In addition to learning about Destiny and her journey, readers are immersed in the world of sloths and sloth rescue in this uplifting story about overcoming obstacles and believing in yourself.

About the Author:

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, memoirs, and picture books, including The Surrender Tree, Enchanted Air, Drum Dream Girl, and Dancing Hands. Awards include a Newbery Honor, Pura Belpré, Golden Kite, Walter, Jane Addams, PEN U.S.A., and NSK Neustadt, among others. Margarita served as the national 2017-2019 Young People’s Poet Laureate. She is a three-time U.S. nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Book Award. Her most recent books are Rima’s Rebellion, Singing With Elephants, and Destiny Finds Her Way. Her next young adult verse novel is Wings in the Wild, and her next picture book is Water Day.
Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives on the island. She studied agronomy and botany along with creative writing, and now lives in central California with her husband.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About the Photographer:

Sam Trull has been a photographer and a wildlife biologist for decades. After many expeditions to Madagascar, West Africa, and Central America, in January 2013, she settled in Costa Rica, where she co-founded and is the executive director of the Sloth Institute. Her first photo book, Slothlove, was published in April 2016.

Website | Instagram

About the Sloth Institute:

The Sloth Institute (TSI) is a nonprofit organization located in Costa Rica with the mission to enhance and expand the welfare and conservation of sloths through rescue, rehabilitation, release, research, and education. In addition, TSI works on targeted conservation projects to improve the safety and quality of sloth habitats and teaches other rescue centers how to better care for and release their sloths. TSI believes that all sloths were born to be wild and deserve that second chance at freedom.


Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

GIVEAWAY

  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of Destiny Finds Her Way
  • US/Can only
  • Ends 3/18 at 11:59 pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

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Blog Tour Schedule:

March 6th Pragmatic Mom

March 7th Heise Reads and Recommends

March 8th Mom Read It

March 9th Unleashing Readers

March 10th Imagination Soup

Play Like a Girl by Misty Wilson, Illustrated by David Wilson

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Play Like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir
Author: Misty Wilson
Illustrator: David Wilson
Published: September 22, 2022 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary: Debut author Misty Wilson chronicles her seventh-grade experience as the only girl on her town’s football team in this empowering graphic memoir about teamwork, friendship, crushes, and touchdowns.

Misty never shies away from a challenge, on or off the field. So when the boys tell her she can’t play football, there’s only one thing to do: join their team and show them what she’s got.

But the training is rougher than she thought—and so are the other guys, who aren’t thrilled about having a girl on their team.

Middle school isn’t so easy, either. Misty wants to fit in with the popular kids, but they think a girl playing football is “weird.” Even her best friend doesn’t get it.

Can Misty find a way to score points with her teammates, make new friends, and show everyone—including herself—what it means to play like a girl?

“I am a huge fan of Misty and her courageous journey of staying true to herself. Readers will love her!” —Terri Libenson, New York Times bestselling author of the Emmie & Friends series

“This is the book I wish I’d had as a kid. Misty’s passion for football and her fight to play in a male-dominated sport while balancing friendship and crushes makes for a winning read!” —Dr. Jen Welter, first female NFL coach, first female running back in men’s pro football, and founder of Grrridiron Girls.

Ricki’s Review: I loved this graphic memoir. It felt very real to me, and the scenes really packed a punch. I especially loved the football scenes, which were full of great plays and amazing strategies. I wish I’d had this book when I was a middle school girl. In the scenes where the boys were rude, I remembered a similar comment when I was in 8th grade taking tech ed.

The book does a particularly good job depicting middle school. It’s a tough time and a struggle for a lot of kids, and I think middle schoolers will find solace in this book. There are great themes of identity and friendship.

I’ve already recommended this book to several young people, and I am so glad it exists!

Kellee’s Review: Misty Wilson’s memoir starts with “I wish someone had told me middle school would be so hard.” As a middle school educator, I felt this and knew that this books as going to hold some middle school truths. And it did: growing up, figuring out who you are, finding and keeping friends, navigating crushes, and more. All of this is so tough in middle school, so having a book to read about it really helps middle schoolers navigate it all.

I really loved reading Misty’s story. I, too, was a tomboy who didn’t do make up, would love to play a sport more than anything, and just couldn’t figure out how to be a good friend with the people who I thought I should be friends with. So much of middle school is fighting who you really are versus who everyone else and society wants you to be (and ignoring the mean comments along the way). This story was refreshing and will definitely find readers in middle school.

Play Like a Girl will add to the books I can recommend to Telgemeier fans, and it has the extra topic of football which will lend itself to finding even more readers!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is a great tool for teachers who are teaching memoir. It demonstrates how illustrations can depict a story richly and realistically. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What struggles does Misty experience?
  • What words would you use to describe Misty, and why?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • Is this a book that is just for girls? Why might all kids learn from this book?

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**Thank you to Katie at HarperCollins for providing us with copies of this text for honest reviews!**

Speak Up, Speak Out! The Extraordinary Life of “Fighting Shirley Chisholm” by Tonya Bolden, Forward by Stacey Abrams

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Speak Up, Speak Out! The Extraordinary Life of “Fighting Shirley Chisholm”
Author: Tonya Bolden
Forward by: Stacey Abrams
Published January 4th, 2022 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: From award-winning author Tonya Bolden comes a biography of the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Black woman to run for president with a major political party: Shirley Chisholm.

Before there was Barack Obama, before there was Kamala Harris, there was Fighting Shirley Chisholm. A daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Chisholm developed her political chops in Brooklyn in the 1950s and went on to become the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This “pepper pot,” as she was known, was not afraid to speak up for what she thought was right. While fighting for a better life for her constituents in New York’s 12th Congressional District, Chisholm routinely fought against sexism and racism in her own life and defied the norms of the time. As the first Black woman in the House and the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination from a major political party, Shirley Chisholm laid the groundwork for those who would come after her.

Extensively researched and reviewed by experts, this inspiring biography traces Chisholm’s journey from her childhood in a small flat in Brooklyn where she read books with her sisters to Brooklyn College where she got her first taste of politics. Readers will cheer Chisholm on to victory from the campaign trail to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, where she fought for fair wages, equal rights, and an end to the Vietnam War. And while the presidential campaign trail in 1972 did not end in victory, Shirley Chisholm shows us how you can change a country when you speak up and speak out.

Praise: “The strength of Bolden’s skill as a researcher is evident; chapter by chapter, she provides succinct but critical context around the motivations and movements of Chisholm’s political career. A foreword by Stacey Abrams helps establish that Chisholm’s legacy is one of political innovation as someone who forged a path for others to follow. This informative book has an engaging narrative structure. The use of repetition and inclusion of memorable pearls of wisdom attributed to Chisholm add a poetic tone. An insightful and focused profile of a political trailblazer.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This lively, detailed look at Chisholm’s personal and political life shines in its portrayal of a strong woman who never backed down; Bolden’s accessible text is great for report writers covering the groundbreaking Chisholm and the momentous time she lived in.” —Booklist

About the Author: Tonya Bolden has authored, edited and co-authored more than 40 books. Her work has garnered numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor, the James Madison Book Award, the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Honor, the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C.’s Nonfiction Award, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, the Virginia Library Association Jefferson Cup Award and the Cleveland Public Library Sugarman Award.  Lauded for her skilled storytelling, impeccable research and lively text, Tonya lives New York City. 

Review: Tonya Bolden’s biography of Shirley Chisholm is a perfect mix of historical remembrance as well as narrative structure to pull the reader in. You follow Shirley’s life as she goes against all odds and fights her way through politics, all while never losing her morals or remembrance of where she came from. As someone who knew of Chisholm but not specifics and boy, is she phenomenal! I highly recommend reading this book to learn more about this pioneer of civil and feminist rights.

Also, I read this book at the right time for me. As a Floridian going through an election, a reminder of hope is always needed. And Shirley Chisholm, her fight and success, and resilience shows that there have always been times to fight and there are always others that need to fight more.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This biography will be perfect for updating nonfiction sections of libraries. Additionally, it would be a wonderful book club choice or lit circle choice when focusing on HERstory or true history.

Extra resources:

School Library Journal, January 25, 2022: Speaking Up and Speaking Out with Tonya Bolden on Shirley Chisholm (Q&A) by Betsy Bird

YA Books Central, February 15, 2022: YABC Interview with Tonya Bolden about Speak Up, Speak Out! (Feb. 2022) (Author Interview) by Beth Edwards

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Shirley Chisholm deal with the racism and sexism she faced during her career?
  • What does Chisholm’s visit to Wallace tell us about her? Why did it make other Black politicians furious?
  • In what ways did she never let down Bed-Stuy? Why did some people feel she did?
  • How did Chisholm’s bid for the presidential nomination break barriers?
  • Why was Chisholm unhappy by the committee she was put on in Congress?
  • What major causes did Chisholm support? How did she do so throughout her career?
  • Great lesson plan on Shirley Chisholm found:

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Narrative biographies

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**