Friday, March 18, 2011

Discovering her passion and calling: The dedicated life of Eleanor Roosevelt

March 18 - Today's post provided by Great Kid Books

As our daughters encounter struggles and defeats throughout their life, one of the traits we most want them to develop is a sense of resiliency: a sense that they can pick themselves up and try again. But key to this resiliency is a sense of purpose – why you are trying so hard, bruised and battered,to pick yourself up and try again. We do learn from history, and a remarkable woman to share with our daughters is Eleanor Roosevelt. She epitomizes resiliency in many ways. Throughout her life she encountered difficulties and tragedies, but she discovered a true passion and purpose and through this was able to develop a much stronger belief in herself. Below are two excellent books to share with your

“I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could do.”
Eleanor, Quiet No More, by Doreen Rappaport, introduces Eleanor Roosevelt as a woman who blossomed as she discovered her own abilities, her calling to help others, and her voice in the life of the nation. As in Martin’s Big Words, Rappaport uses Roosevelt’s own words to anchor each page, showing Roosevelt’s growth from an insecure, unhappy child to an influential voice in the politics of the nation and the world. Eleanor’s early life, while one of great privilege, was also one filled with tragedy. Both of her parents died before she was ten, and she was raised by her grandmother with little affection. Although her new husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was charming and caring, Eleanor’s mother-in-
law was controlling and domineering. As Franklin entered politics, life began to change for Eleanor.

“What one has to do usually can be done.”

Rappaport’s introduction to Eleanor Roosevelt is especially powerful in the way she shows how Eleanor grew into her own voice. She used her position as the wife of a senator, and then as the first lady to pressure officials to provide the best care for wounded soldiers, to help the millions of people out of work in the Great Depression. Gary Kelley’s artwork conveys Eleanor’s growing confidence and sense of purpose. His muted colors convey the gravity of the times, but may not pull children into the book. The book’s cover, dominated by subdued grays and blues, does not immediately attract children the way some of Rappaport’s other books do, but its message certainly does.

“You must do the things you cannot do.”

Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Life, by Candace Fleming, provides a longer, fuller look at Eleanor’s life for children who want to learn more about her remarkable life. Written for children ages 12 to 14, Fleming assembles an amazing amount of primary sources, from letters Eleanor wrote to her beloved father, to archival photographs and diary entries, to reproductions of newspaper accounts. Fashioned as a scrapbook, this book is perfect for either browsing through or reading cover to cover. Fleming provides a detailed look at Eleanor’s life, and she is adept at looking at the complexities in Eleanor’s life – her strengths and weaknesses, her successes and controversies, her friends and enemies. Fleming has organized her biography into seven chapters which roughly follow the timeline of Eleanor’s life, but individual chapters focus on topics such as her marriage, “self-discovery” and her focus as a “friend of the people”. Some young readers may find it confusing as Fleming jumps around to different times a bit, but I found Fleming’s writing compelling and fascinating as she draws connections between different events in Eleanor’s long life. Fleming is sincere, respectful and perceptive throughoutthe book, guided by her passion for her subject. As she writes in a personal introductory note,

Eleanor “faced life’s slings and arrows, creating an ardent, exhilarating life devoted to passion and experience, to thinking and doing and growing. This passionate life touched men, women and children everywhere. Why? Because in Eleanor’s vision of a more generous world she included people of every race and religion, of every social and economic class. Her profound sincerity caused them to believe – with her – in the innate goodness of humanity.”

Enjoy sharing these compelling, riveting, moving books with your children as you celebrate
 Women’s History Month.

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Gary Kelley
NY: Disney-Hyperion Books, 2009
ages 6 – 10
available on Amazon or at your local library

Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Life
by Candace Fleming
NY: Atheneum Books, 2005
ages 12 – 14
available on Amazon or at your local library
All quotes in bold above are from Eleanor Roosevelt, as shared in Eleanor, Quiet No More, by Doreen
Rappaport. For archival, public use photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt, see Wikimedia Commons.

Editor's Note:
Mary Ann Scheuer of Great Kid Books is a librarian at a public elementary school. In addition to her blog, Great Kid Books, you may find her on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.


  1. Thanks for this post. I'm so glad there are books for children about this remarkable woman!
    I admired her so much when I was growing up. She seemed to be so wise, kind and accomplished, and was a wonderful role model when I was growing up. A few years ago I was told by someone who worked with young people that they didn't know who Eleanor Roosevelt was,however, which truly saddened me!
    I am familiar with the very enjoyable Doreen Rappaport book and think Gary Kelley's illustrations are gorgeous. I do hope that children don't consider them too dark! I always am attracted to children's books by their illustrations...
    I am looking forward to reading the other book you reviewed!

  2. I have to share my funny Eleanor Roosevelt story. When working at an independent children's bookstore, I had an elderly lady come in looking for a biography for her granddaughter. I suggested Russell Freedman's excellent biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and she looked at me funny and said something on the order of, oh no, I don't like her! It was all I could do not to laugh since I don't consider Eleanor Roosevelt to be very controversial nowadays (in fact, I think of her more like an icon!) but it was a reminder that she certainly was in her own day.

    I imagine 50 years from now someone pulling out a book on Hillary Clinton and getting a similar reaction!