Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Booktalks for Women’s History Month

MARCH 15 Today's post is provided by Abby the Librarian

I am always on the lookout for great titles to booktalk for Women's History Month, so I wanted to share a few of my favorites here with you today!

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 2011)

You know the story of Amelia Earhart, right?  She was a famous female pilot, flying across the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean back when airplanes were not nearly as common as they are today.  But Amelia Lost tells Amelia's story like no other book has.  The book switches between biographical information about Amelia and the story of the days of her disappearance.  In a gripping narrative, Candace Fleming relates what happened on the day that Amelia Earhart disappeared.  There were several reports of civilians (even children) picking up what might have been snatches of Amelia's radio broadcasts as her plane crash-landed on a remote island in the Pacific!  Can you imagine turning on your radio and hearing Amelia Earhart's voice calling for help?

This book brings Amelia's story to life as no other book has done.  Even if you think you know the story of Amelia Earhart, it's worth picking up Amelia Lost to give it another look!

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin, 2002).

What do chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers, and flat-bottomed paper bags have in common?  They were all invented by women!  Girls Think of Everything gives a glimpse at some of the many, many products invented by women. In some cases, women weren't allowed to patent their own inventions. In some cases, they had to fight to keep their ideas from being patented by men. In some cases, they weren't even allowed in the factories to oversee their own products being produced. But thank goodness women kept inventing things!  Short entries are accompanied by collage illustrations and a list of additional inventions by women is included in the back matter.  Bring along some of the items mentioned in the book and see if kids can guess what they have in common.

Skit Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Candlewick Press, 2010).

Ever since Ella Fitzgerald was a little girl, she had an unstoppable love for music.  When she was 14, her mother died, leaving Ella all alone and with no place to live.  But Ella didn't give up on her dream of performing.  She kept going to auditions, even though she looked like a "raggedy cat" since she didn't have money for fancy clothes.  It was hard at first, but people could see she had something special: her music made people want to get up and DANCE!  And soon, she wasn't a "raggedy cat" anymore, she was a "rowdy-dowdy high-hat baby" climbing the charts.  Ella went on to win 14 Grammy awards, including one for lifetime achievement.   Play some of Ella's music for the kids (I'm fond of the following clip if you have access to YouTube:)

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (And What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull (Harcourt Children's Books, 2000).

Which woman was not only one of her country's most successful rulers but also threw parties that lasted for 18 days?  Which woman forbid her subjects to call her queen, taking the title of king instead and leading her country in a war for its independence?  Which woman, when hit in the face with a rock during the middle of a speech, used her sari to cover the blood and kept speaking?  (Elizabeth I of England, Nzingha of West Africa [Angola], Indira Gandhi of India, respectively.)  In Lives of Extraordinary Women, Kathleen Krull gives us brief biographies, complete with juicy details, of 20 outrageous women from all over the world.

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson by Michelle Y. Green (Dial, 2002).

Ever since she could remember, Mamie Johnson loved playing baseball.  And I'm not talking softball here, I'm talking hardball.  She was a fabulous pitcher, striking out the boys in her neighborhood.  The problem?  Mamie was born in 1935, a time when women were not allowed to play professional sports.  When the All-American Girls' Baseball League was developed after many male baseball players went overseas to serve in the army, Mamie was hopeful that she could follow her dreams at last... but the League would not accept her because she was black.

Mamie still didn't give up.  She went on to play with the Negro Leagues - yep, a men's baseball league - and Mamie held her own. Her strong right arm took her far!

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009).

In 1960, the Space Race was all the rage and astronauts were American heroes.

They were also men.

Enter Jerrie Cobb and the rest of the "Mercury 13". In the early '60s, 13 women took and passed the same physical and psychological tests that men took to qualify for NASA's astronaut training program. But the "Mercury 13" women were not allowed to become astronauts, despite the fact that they were expert pilots. In fact, no woman went into space until Sally Ride did in 1983 and even then she didn't pilot the ship.

Almost Astronauts tells the story of the extraordinary women who fought for their right to make history, to go into space as qualified, talented astronauts.


  1. Abby, very happy to see, A Strong Right Arm on your list. I read it a few years ago and loved it.

    The cover of Girls Think of Everything is a work of art.

  2. You've got some of my faves here, including A Strong Right Arm!

    Women Thought of Everything would be a great companion book to some of women scientists mentioned in an earlier post here. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for sharing these women's history titles. I am familiar with Girls Think of Everything and Strong Right Arm and will have to add the others to my to-purchase list for school.