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The Picture-Book Club > March 2010: Discuss Our "Outstanding Women" Club Reads HERE

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message 1: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 03, 2010 08:53AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Happy March! I have been eagerly awaiting this date so we can begin our first ever Picture Book Club Monthly Discussion. If you are new to the club, you can click HERE to see the books on OUTSTANDING WOMEN that we will be discussing in honor of Women's History Month:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

I'm hoping we will have a great deal of FUN discussing these picture books and also share some great food for thought since our topic is so rich with possibilities given the social, historical, and contemporary importance of the subjects being discussed.

To keep discussion threads a bit more tidy, and also allow greater ease for compare/contrast discussions of the books, please use this thread for discussion of all of our chosen picture books and perhaps mention at the beginning of your post which book(s) you are addressing in that post.

Feel free to post your reviews of the books, or consider answering one or more of the following questions--or add your own questions. I want this to be a place for what YOU want to talk about and encourage ideas and participation from everyone, even if you were only able to read one or two of the books.

Ideas for Discussion:

Which book was your favorite and why?

Were you familiar with the historical figure before you read the book? If so, did the book change any perceptions you'd held?

How do you feel the contributions of the woman/women are influencing us today?

Did you find many common themes given that the books cover various eras and geographic locations?

Did you feel the illustrations enhanced the story? Did you have a favorite illustration?

If you read the story to a child, what did he/she think of the book?

Did you feel the Author's Notes enhanced your appreciation of the subject?

Do you feel compelled to read more about any of these women?

Anything else you want to share???

Happy discussing and cheers to outstanding women, past, present and future!

If you want to discuss picture books on Oustanding Women not part of our six book "Official List" please do so here:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments I read all 6 of them last week, and when I get home today I'll return with some of my thoughts.

I think that my favorite of the 6 was Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read all 6.


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments So, I thought it would be my favorite of the six and it was: Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai. I loved the illustrations; I have a great fondness of illustrations of plant life that appears miniature on the page. I was completely inspired by this woman and have put some other children's and adult books on my shelves about her and about Kenya's Green Belt movement. The whole world could learn a lot from what the Kenyans are doing. The author's note at the end was helpful, yes; I usually love extra material in the form of author's notes, etc.

I also thought I'd love and did:Of Numbers And Stars: The Story of Hypatia. The pictures worked for the book, though they're not in my favorite style. I knew very little about Hypatia, and I want to read more about her. I guess having her fate in the author's note in the back allows parents to skip it with younger children if they want to do that. But I think this book should be for 7 or 8 & up anyway.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride stood out in my pile of books because of that amazing cover. I really grew to enjoy the illustrations in this one. My mother loved Eleanor Roosevelt and I knew quite a bit about her, and some about Ameila Earthart, mostly about her famous flight when she was lost, but I also didn't know they were friends. The author's note really helped show what was fiction and what was non-fiction.

She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! was a lovely surprise. I had no idea how the (Massachusetts) Audubon Society was formed and really, really had no idea how connected it was with the women's rights/Suffrage movement.

A huge pleasant surprise re the story, and I loved the illustrations, was Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!. Very inspiring.

I had really mixed feelings about Sitti's Secrets. I thought that the illustrations were lovely. But, I thought it was strange - especially given that her father was fluent - that the girl didn't know more of her grandmother's language. But the connection between grandmother & granddaughter was sweet, and the girl with her cousins & learning about another culture, very interesting. I thought that the relationship between girl & woman was a more powerful message about peace than the (silly? - I want to use a stronger word) at the end of the book; that letter really irked me.

So, just some thoughts. I'm happy to chime in more in response to others' comments.


message 4: by Lee (new)

Lee (leekat) I've read three of the books so far and thought they were all wonderful! It's hard to pick a favourite but I also found Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai the most inspirational. I found the beginning a bit dry or maybe I'm just used to reading picture books for younger readers.

The only one my daughter was interested in me reading to her was Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!. We read it twice through and both enjoyed the style of the illustrations and the narrative. My daughter had lots of questions and she was quite surprised to hear that there was something wrong with showing bare legs.

I really loved and was very pleasantly surprised by She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!. I thought the style of the illustrations was funny and vibrant. I was impressed with the dedication of these two women and what they accomplished.

Great selections!


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Oh, I wanted to add that if we are having the theme of the environment/nature for April, Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai works at least as well for that theme as for the outstanding women theme.

Lee, I agree with you and Maggie about Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!. Those illustrations were something! I'm glad Maggie liked it. Yes, I'm surprised by how many picture books are really no longer for ages birth-3, 3-6, 4-8, but are better geared for older kids.


message 6: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 02, 2010 07:56AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Loving the discussion so far! ;-) I'm glad that those of you who've posted have enjoyed most of the books so far.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride is the only one of our selections that I had read previously and I was thrilled to include it in our list to introduce it to more people because I loved it when I read it last year. First, I think it's so cool because it includes TWO outstanding women. I knew a bit about both of them but, like Abigail, I had no idea Amelia and Eleanor were friends--though it does make sense. I think my favorite aspect of the book is the joy and excitement and sense of camaraderie that just sparkles off the pages. Here are two very strong and interesting women in their own right, but when they get together you can see how it just creates this atmosphere where they just "go for it!" I think the parallel with Amelia's flight and Eleanor's ride are just great and I love all the little details like what they ate for dinner and Amelia giving Eleanor the scarf. At first, I wasn't sure what I would think of the illustrations, despite being a Selznick fan from the fabulous Hugo Cabret story (mentioned by Abigail above). I just didn't really like the cover illustration--I think it just seemed to me that the story would be so vibrant and colorful and I didn't know how black and white could convey that. Boy, was I wrong! I felt the illustrations were absolutely radiant. I think my favorite is the one where Amelia is telling everyone at the dinner table what it is like to fly at night and you can see the jubilation on her face and everyone else is just kind of swept away in this dreamy magic. I love it! :-)

I was inspired to learn more about both women and can highly recommend Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life It's delightfully written and includes a great deal of information on her entire life--lots of photos and newspaper articles and things like that--very scrapbook-like, as the title suggests. It's a "children's" book, but for older readers.


message 7: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 02, 2010 07:57AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Lee, I'm so glad your young daughter was able to enjoy "Mermaid Queen"--I thought that would probably be the most suited to the young end of the picture book audience. As Lisa pointed out, it really does seem like most of the picture book biographies are geared for older kids.

That brings up an interesting question--those of you who did read these to your kids, what age(s) are your kids? Did you preview the books to see if they would fit the age/interest level or just go for it and see what kind of response you got? Did you leave off the author's note for any of them? (Sometimes it seems to me the author's notes are geared more for parents or adults than the kids, but then sometimes they seem very kid-friendly.)


message 8: by Lee (new)

Lee (leekat) I hope to read all of the stories to her even if her attention span wavers. I don't read the author's note to her. I may relay some of the information contained there if she asks questions.


message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Kathryn, I agree that many of the authors' notes seem to be for adults, not the kids. I really love the extra material, and

Lee, That seems like a good way to do it, giving extra information (that you've learned from an author's note) if your daughter asks questions.


message 10: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
By the way, if you want to discuss picture books on "outstanding women" that aren't among the six "official" club reads we're discussing here, you can do so on this thread:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...


message 11: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Kathryn wrote: "By the way, if you want to discuss picture books on "outstanding women" that aren't among the six "official" club reads we're discussing here, you can do so on this thread:
http://www.goodreads.com..."


Thanks, Kathryn. Yes, it would be cool to have this option every month.


message 12: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
I'm glad :-)


message 13: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 03, 2010 09:30AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "I had really mixed feelings about Sitti's Secrets. I thought that the illustrations were lovely. But, I thought it was strange - especially given that her father was fluent - that the girl didn't know more of her grandmother's language. But the connection between grandmother & granddaughter was sweet, and the girl with her cousins & learning about another culture, very interesting. I thought that the relationship between girl & woman was a more powerful message about peace than the (silly? - I want to use a stronger word) at the end of the book; that letter really irked me.

Lisa, I loved the book overall but I agree with you that the letter seemed out of place and a bit jarring in context of the main story, which did seem powerful enough to convey the message of peace. I liked the idea of the girl feeling empowered that she could take a proactive role in government and society and write to her president (nice for kids to see one of their peers in this kind of role we usually see reserved for adults) but it just felt kind of "off" with the rest of the story. I, too, loved the illustrations!

Regarding the issue of the girl not knowing her grandmother's language, despite the fact her father is fluent in it. I actually didn't find that so hard to believe. I know of two families where the fathers immigrated to the US from Germany and spoke fluent German (one even had his German-speaking parents in the states, too, and spoke with them in German on a frequent basis) but neither of them taught their American-born children any German. It did seem strange to me that they wouldn't, but I guess it is just a personal choice and so I don't think that aspect of the story is too far-fetched, sadly.


message 14: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "Lisa wrote: "I had really mixed feelings about Sitti's Secrets. I thought that the illustrations were lovely. But, I thought it was strange - especially given that her father was fluent - that the ..."

Kathryn, many of my parents' German friends (who had immigrated to Canada in the 50's and early 60's) deliberately did not teach their children German because they did not want them to be stigmatised by that. Remember, it was right after WWII and the parents probably thought that if the children did not speak German, there would be less of a chance of them being harassed about their background. I know that some of these individuals later regretted this and took German in college and university, but at the time, the parents were honestly trying to protect their children from cruelty and bullying (and, I know that this is true, as some of them mentioned the former as the reason why their children did not know German). I also remember one of my college German professors, whose four year old son called German, "Daddy's weird language that makes people not like me." I felt like crying, when I heard that, especially since that was in the late 80's.


message 15: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 03, 2010 10:00AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
That is a good point, Gundula. It definitely makes a lot of sense in the WWII context, unfortunately. Both the situations I was referring to were in the 1980s-1990s so I would have thought all of that discrimination would be over by then--sad to hear the example of your college professor. I don't remember ever hearing of any discrimination about our friends but one never knows. Too bad they couldn't have felt free to at least use German in the home to allow the kids better communication with family in Germany but I certainly don't mean this as any kind of judgment since I was not in the situation myself.


message 16: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "That is a good point, Gundula. It definitely makes a lot of sense in the WWII context, unfortunately. Both the situations I was referring to were in the 1980s-1990s so I would have thought all of..."

It might also have simply been a case of not wanting the children to learn a language that the mother did not speak (I don't agree with such an attitude, as learning other languages has always been a passion for me, but the non German speaking parent might have felt disadvantaged). In the cases I knew, both parents were German and did not want their children to learn the language. However, I even remember with my own family, even though my parents always spoke German to us, there came a time when we started to answer them in English, when we started to mix up the languages, when we at times simply did not want to speak German. And, soon enough, my grandparents came over on an extended visit, which really helped our German, because they could not speak English at all.


message 17: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
I wonder if, sadly, in the case of "Sitti's Secrets" perhaps the father felt similarly that there might be some discrimination against his daughter if she learned their language? Of course, this is reading a lot into the story, but who knows...?

And, you make a good point about the mothers. I know neither of them showed interest in learning German, at least not that I know of.


message 18: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "I wonder if, sadly, in the case of "Sitti's Secrets" perhaps the father felt similarly that there might be some discrimination against his daughter if she learned their language? Of course, this i..."

That could easily be, it's sad but true that discrimination still exists today and children can be pretty rough at times. And, sometimes, we have to read into a story, or a story simply begs for it.


message 19: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Chandra,

I loved That Book Woman.

You hate to fly but love to travel? What a dilemma. ;-)


message 20: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
I'm so happy you enjoyed your adventure with Amelia and Eleanor, Chandra :-) I totally agree, flying and driving are activities I'd much rather read about than actually do! (I hate to say it, but I'm relieved to find someone else who doesn't like driving. Most people think I'm totally weird! I always say that I don't mind physically driving a car, but I absolutely hate having to watch out for all the nutz-o people on the road and dealing with traffic and whatnot so I'd almost always rather walk somewhere if I could.)

And, I am going to look for "That Book Woman" right away. Sounds marvelous! :-)


message 21: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Kathryn wrote: "And, I am going to look for "That Book Woman" right away. Sounds marvelous! :-) "

Kathryn, Definitely! I think you'll enjoy it.


message 22: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Abigail wrote: "I'm off to add That Book Woman to Mt TBR, thanks Chandra & Lisa!

ETA: except (of course!), it's already there! Ha!"


I have that experience more often than not these days. Goodreads is an amazing and dangerous place.


message 23: by Manybooks (last edited Mar 05, 2010 09:24AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Hey, I'm over fourty and have just recently gotten my license (well, it's a graduate one, so I'm not allowed to drive by myself on the highway yet). I don't think that I'll ever be a passionate driver, but I've recently moved to a rural area, so driving is necessary to go shopping etc. (even though I do take cabs, at times). Somewhat ironic though, to move or want to move to a rural area for peace, nature and quiet, but to have to get a car and learn to drive in order to buy basic necessities etc. However, I don't think that I will ever ever want to drive in a big city like Toronto or Montreal, or to drive in Europe.

Sorry, I got sidetracked (again). I want to add That Book Woman to my TBR list as well. And, Like Chandra, I have only so far been able to obtain one of the books from our local library, She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!, but wow, what a book!! I have a love affair with birds and I've always been disgusted by not only the tendency of fashion to put feathers etc. on hats and other articles of clothing and accessories, but that some of these practices are still happening.

However, I did not know that ladies in the late 19th and early 20th century were actually wearing not only feathers, but stuffed life-like birds on their hats (did they not see the cruel irony at that). I must admit that the bird aspect of the story and fact that Harriet Hemenway and her cousin Minna Hall were not only able to start a bird club, but actually able to get protective laws both passed and enforced made me not only happy and proud, but made me realise that even today, we still need these laws and brave women (brave persons) like Harriet and Minna to protect not only North American birds, but birds and other animals (and natural spaces) around the world; birds are still in jeopardy, nature is still being exploited.

One of the most amazing aspects of the book, I think, are the colourful and vibrant illustrations. I especially like the fact that David Cattrow has drawn the birds quite life-like, and very similar to illustrated birds in nature books like the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America or All the Birds of North America : American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide. This not only makes the story more poignant, the bird illustrations can also be used for further discussion and teaching, especially for topics such as ornithology, environmental protection and the immorality of hunting for fashion and sport.

For example, Cattrow has illustrations of both an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and a Carolina Parakeet on (I think) pages three and four (both of them being worn on men's hats). The Carolina Parakeet is extinct and became extinct due to both the feather trade and due to the fact that the parakeets enjoyed raiding fruit orchards and were considered an agricultural pest, while the Ivory-Woodpecker Woodpecker (even though it might yet survive in in small numbers in remote areas), was basically driven to extinction due to both the feather trade, but also because of habitat destruction in the Southern US forests. Cattrow obviously does not only show extinct birds in his illustrations (many birds like the Arctic Tern on p. 2, and the Roeseate Spoonbill illustrated on the last page are thriving today due to the protective laws Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall helped create).

Finally, I love how Harriet's cat is always shown as being an inside cat. Domestic cats are not native to North America, and outside and stray domestic cats have exacted (and continue to exact) a terrible toll on native North American bird populations. Many bird protection groups have tried to educate the public about this problem and that it is better for the native bird population if most pet cats were inside cats. Now, personally, I don't know if this could ever be possible, but it is a fact that domestic cats kill millions of native birds each year, so I think it was an ingenious ploy for Cattrow to show Harriet's cat as always being inside. In fact, the only outdoor cat in the story (on page 8) is pawing at a dead chicken. I think that both the story and the illustrations do not only tell an amazing and vibrant story, but are also a useful tool for educating our children about animal and environmental issues. I loved this story!!!


message 24: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "Gundula: I too have just read She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!, and loved it! I really liked the way that Lasky emphasized that women's organizing, around a diverse range of iss..."

Isn't that just typical, the women do most of the work, and the men get the credit. Sorry, I did not mean to sound snarky, and I am not some raging feminist, but credit should be given where and when credit is due. And, thanks for the wikipedia link, I'll be sure to check it out.


message 25: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 05, 2010 10:26AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Wow, Gundula, I really appreciate all your insightful comments regarding "She's Wearing..." I thought the story was both entertaining and enlightening but I didn't pick-up on all the details that you did. Wow, this makes me want to go back and reread it (thankfully I do still have it out from the library so I will probably do just that!)
:-)

I'm delighted that you enjoyed this selection so much given it is, alas, the only one you were able to get at the library (I hope you can get more for next month's reads!)


message 26: by Manybooks (last edited Mar 05, 2010 10:41AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Another thing that I thought was ingenious was how Kathryn Lasky described how Harriet and Minna managed to get the laws enforced by beating the fashion industry and the suppliers of the bird feathers at their own game (buying a hat and thereby discovering the name of the feather supplier). And, while Lasky points out that this aspect of the story is pure conjecture on her part, I do believe (just like she states) that it is precisely the kind of action Harriet and Minna would have taken, for, if they had simply set out alone to track down the culprits, not only would that have been much more difficult, if not impossible, it would also very likely have been a very dangerous undertaking. You cannot arrest a lady for wearing a hat, but you can attempt to research where the materials to furnish the latter have originated.


message 27: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Gundula wrote:

One of the most amazing aspects of the book, I think, are the colourful and vibrant illustrations. I especially like the fact that David Cattrow has drawn the birds quite life-like, and very similar to illustrated birds in nature books...

Finally, I love how Harriet's cat is always shown as being an inside cat. Domestic cats are not native to North America, and outside and stray domestic cats have exacted (and continue to exact) a terrible toll on native North American bird populations."


Will second: Wow, Gundula. You make a wonderful point about the illustrations and about the cats, etc.

Abigail, I was thrilled that the women's rights work was featured here. I did not know the connection between the two so I learned a lot.


message 28: by Gaynor (new)

Gaynor (seasian) | 52 comments Gundula, what an excellent point you made about domestic cats, and thank you for pointing out the illustrator's contribution to the story. Domestic cats should be kept inside or have a collar with a small bell which is shiny like a mirror when they go outside. Even that is not foolproof. People say that cats won't catch a bird if they are not hungry, but that is so... wrong.
Your visual literacy is well developed and I must concentrate on noticing these details more myself.
By the way, I love to drive, but having grown up on a farm, my father taught us all to drive, change a tire and the oil before we were 10 years old. I don't change the oil anymore, and now that I live in a city, rarely drive. It depends what you grow up with.
Good luck with your driving, you are very brave. My best advice - always be on the lookout for "other" drivers. They are the biggest danger.
I have enjoyed hearing about these books so much, have ordered them all for my little library. Now I have heard positive comments about "That Book Woman", will try and get that one too.


message 29: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
I'm so happy you're enjoying our discussion, Gaynor, and I hope you will enjoy the books when they arrive for your "little library" :-)


message 30: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Abigail, I have the identical mixed feelings about the illustrations.

Re her death not being mentioned in the story proper, I did find that weird. But, if it encourages children to learn and study and excel, and look to her as an example, then I figure they'll also become curious about her and will find out about her death. I do think if the book had been aimed at preschoolers, it would have made sense to leave the details of her murder to the note at the end, but the vocabulary and concepts in the book make it clear it's written for school aged children, maybe even those 8 and above, and learning about her death would be appropriate for the 8-11 age group. The info is in the book though so I don't have too many problems with the omission; children & parents & teachers (out loud to kds) have the option to read the note at the end as part of the book.


message 31: by Lana (last edited Mar 09, 2010 04:30AM) (new)

Lana Krumwiede | 19 comments Thank you all for coming up with such a wonderful list of picture books for this month. Such a nice variety of places and times. I enjoyed each one.

I agree that Planting the Trees of Kenya was inspiring. I have to admit I was hoping for more voice in the text, something with the flavor and tone of the region. The storytelling seemed a bit lacking in that regard, which is sad for a culture that is so rich in storytelling. The illustrations, on the other hand, were spellbinding.

Of Numbers and Stars was interesting to me because I didn't know much about Hypatia before I read it. Also inspiring. I felt that it was sometimes hard to connect to the story or the character because the wording was so general. I understand that telling a story that happened so long ago has its challenges. Since missing specifics cannot be manufactured in nonfiction, generalities are all that is left to the author. Still, I found myself distracted by wondering about all those specific things.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride intrigued me because it didn't try to tell the whole story of these two influential women. Instead it focused on one evening's events. So many nonfiction books cover a span of many years. I liked feeling like I was looking in on one moment in time.

My favorite by far was Mermaid Queen. I actually had heard of Annette Kellerman and was thrilled to see a picture book about her. To me, this has the most raw kid appeal of all the books we read. Kids might have to stretch to relate to women wearing hats with birds, erosion ruining farmland, ladies riding airplanes or studying philosophy in ancient Egypt. But every kid that I know wears a swimsuit. That's an instant connection. The way swimsuits have changed over the years is interesting to kids, I think. And it's not just the topic of this book that will pull kids in. The illustrations are colorful and bold and fun. I loved the part in the book where the illustrations take over telling the story--very engaging. Text, illustrations, topic, I thought it was a perfect package.

Thanks again for putting this list together.


message 32: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 09, 2010 08:34AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
I'm loving the discussion and wanted to jump in to the Of Numbers And Stars: The Story of Hypatia conversation. I feel very divided in reviewing this book, and torn between giving it three and four stars.

Things I like: This kid-friendly version of the story of Hypatia. Her dad totally rocks ;-) and it's nice to see a great father-daughter connection in a picture book. I love that the story brings to life such "ancient history" not only with the words but with the excellent illustrations (which I found both lovely and humorous) yet it also touches upon a theme that is still, sadly, prevalent today--boys are "supposed to be" better at math and science than girls. Hypatia is an awesome example of how girls can excel in these areas, even when other people don't think they can!

Things I didn't like: While I thought the story was really interesting, I never was really captivated by Hypatia herself. It's all very... distant, somehow. As Lana said, Hypatia doesn't show personality in the story... except what the illustrations convey and even that could have been richer. Like Abigail, I was also rather upset by the disconnect between the story and the author's note. We finish reading a delightful and triumphant story about how Hypatia was so awesome and loved by her students... then we turn the page and read about her brutal murder (whether due to her failure to embrace Christianity or her progressive ways has not been proven). WHAT!?!?!? I felt like I'd been hit in the head. True, parents can choose not to read the author's note to their children, and I don't even think that Hypatia's murder needs to be mentioned in the storyline itself--but I do think it is doing children (and Hypatia!) a disservice not to show more of the opposition Hypatia faced in her life. We get the idea that girls aren't supposed to ride through the streets of Alexandria on horseback or study the stars, but the weight of just how far against tradition Hypatia went, and how angry many people would be with her because of it, is not really conveyed. Her success would glow even more if it was made clear what she risked in order to attain it (since indeed, she ultimately lost her life for her views!)


message 33: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
By the way, welcome to the discussion, Lana! It's so great to hear your thoughts :-) I love you you described "Mermaid Queen"


message 34: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Regarding Hypatia discussion: Does anyone know if "Agora" is out on DVD or coming to US theaters??? I can't seem to find it on Amazon.com. It says elsewhere that it came out in 2009 but maybe that was a European release date?

Here is the official movie website if anyone wants to see the trailer: http://agorathemovie.com/


message 35: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "2009 was the release in Spain, Kathryn. I have heard that US rights have been picked up, and that it will be released in theaters here, sometime in 2010. I can't wait!"

YAY!!!! :-D


message 36: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 10, 2010 09:09AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Chandra wrote: "This Hypatia books sounds soooo intriguing! I'm really hoping to get my hands on it. And it seems like the Mermaid Queen book has really been a hit with the kiddos and the grown ups so I'm lookin..."

Yes, I think "Mermaid Queen" was perhaps my favorite of the books, too ;-) I'm so glad you brought it to our attention and I hope you love it when you get a chance to read it.

I found the book such a delight. The illustrations just make me smile and fit the story so perfectly. The words masterfully blend brevity and excellent word choice so that the story can be enjoyed even by young children (unlike many picture book biographies) yet has enough pizazz to interest adults, too. The author's notes are extensive and entertaining. This is a great story for anyone overcoming any sorts of adversity--physical, social, etc. Annette's triumphs are truly inspiring. But, as the author said, "What drew me most to Annette, though, wasn't that she succeeded at so many things--but that she DIDN'T always succeed. Still, she was brave and determined enough to keep trying, even when the rest of the world was telling her not to. To me, that sort of conviction--courage to believe in yourself even when others doubt you--is one of the most difficult and bravest things of all." I thought the book was so much fun, so inspiring, so refreshing and exhilarating--rather like a good swim ;-) Thank goodness for Annette--I'm very happy I can go swimming without wearing "lead chains"!


message 37: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 10, 2010 10:10AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Regarding Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai:
I think this story is so powerful not only because it shows us a truly outstanding woman--but it shows how we can each be part of something outstanding--life is always giving us opportunities to shine. When Wangari saw that the people who had once loved the land had "forgotten to care for the land that fed them" she saw how the land could not longer take care of them and this lead to all sorts of poverty and illness. People wanted to blame others, especially the government, but Wangari said, "Think of what we ourselves are doing... when we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution." I love that the Green Belt Movement began as a grassroots movement with "everyday women" planting trees and making a difference, not waiting for Big Important Government (or Big Important Men) to take care of it for them. I think this book's message is as much about personal responsibility as it is about environmentalism. The illustrations by turns convey the beauty and the fragility of nature, the beautiful unspoilt landscape, the ugly ruination of overharvesting, and the eventual blossoming of hope and renewal.

I would have liked a bit more information on why Wangari chose to study abroad and return to Kenya. Had she left with the intention of building her knowledge base to do something progressive in Kenya? Had she always intended to return? It just seemed that she was so happy and content in her youth, then suddenly she was off in America. A little more information here could have really rounded out her character (if not in the story itself then at least in the author's note).

I was also really shocked and fascinated to learn that Kenya began to "fall apart" AFTER is gained its independence from Britain in 1963. In my ignorance, I would have guessed that the years following their long-awaited independence would have been a time of celebration and progress; not that there wouldn't be lots of adjustments and some difficult ones at that, but I was surprised that, rather than an unrestrained blossoming of the native culture there was, "more poverty than before, more malnutrition, more hunger, and more unemployment." The author's note indicates this was due to the population crisis, and I'm sure that had much to do with it, but I am just curious about the political changes, too.

In any case, this is a great book in and of itself and it also inspired me to learn more about Wangari and her Green Belt Movement. I do see your point about the story lacking a bit of the "cultural flavor" that it could have, Lana. But, overeall, I really enjoyed it.


message 38: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7210 comments Mod
Chandra wrote: "It does seem to follow that often after a colony gains independence a period of some turbulence can follow as opposing factions struggle to gain control politically, materially, etc.

I know, f..."


I wonder if some of it also has to do with the fact that the native populations in colonised areas are often deliberately not educated, deliberately kept ignorant, deliberately portrayed and treated like children by the colonisers. Then, when independence does occur, the population has problems managing their country etc., because they have never been taught how to do the latter (or, more precisely, they were never encouraged to or often even permitted to learn this). Paternalism is both ignorant and dangerous.


message 39: by Lana (new)

Lana Krumwiede | 19 comments I think this is a true principle for any abusive situation, be it a country or a race or an individual. Getting yourself out of the abuse involves courage, faith, and tough choices. Healing from abuse is a long rocky road with many setbacks along the way. But it is still the right road.


message 40: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Oh, two things I read in another book that I don't think was in Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai (which I loved!!!) is that she got her undergrad & masters degree in the U.S. then got a PhD in Kenya, the first Kenyan woman to do so. Also, when she had women helping her plant the trees, she gave them paychecks and for many those were their first paychecks ever.

I did love this book and it did make me want to know more. Inevitable I think that it would be difficult for any picture book to cover a person or subject in great depth.


message 41: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 10, 2010 12:47PM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Great points, Chandra and Gundula! Thanks. (I knew if I posted my musings here some of you awesome ladies would have good insights!) I guess we are lucky that, here in America, our breakaway from England was less traumatic (in most regards).

I think I was just surprised with how things were portrayed in the "Planting the Trees" story because it DID seem like everything was so nice and harmonious and that the people were wise during Wangari's childhood (not kept ignorant) honoring the tress and all, then the sudden change when she went away for those few turbulent years. (Of course, I do have to keep in mind this is a picture book and not like they could include everything!!! The political upheaval wasn't the main point of the story, anyway.) Maybe that was just meant to show HER change in perspective, too--how we all "grow up" and realize the flaws we never noticed as kids.

I wonder if perhaps the political upheaval was part of the reason she went away to a safer place???


message 42: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Oh, I just saw your posts, Lisa and Lana--great points!


message 43: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
For any of you looking to read more on Annette Kellerman of Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! I found a biography The Original Million Dollar Mermaid: The Annette Kellerman Story that looks promising ;-) (It's not a kid's book, FYI)


message 44: by Jane (last edited Mar 16, 2010 08:14AM) (new)

Jane G Meyer (janegmeyer) | 12 comments Hey Everyone:
Coming in late here, with not much original to say. I was able to find most of the books, but not the Mermaid Queen. I did love Planting the Trees of Kenya--a very well rounded book, with lovely illustrations and an inspiring tone...

The Hypatia book is also fun. My son, who is four, didn't like any of the books. :) Oh, well--got him a book on tools that held his attention quite well...

Sitti's Secrets was my least favorite of the books I picked up. The letter to the president seemed out of place, planted, and I would have preferred if Sitti had instead simply written a letter back to her grandma--with her dad translating, about her feelings regarding their time together and then subtly mentioning the tension of Arab sentiment in this country--at this time... I also struggled with the voice of Sitti, who continually sounded to me like the author herself, not like the little girl character. The choice of language was just a bit too contrived and adult-feeling.

Anyway, fun new reads for me. Thanks for all the energy you're putting into these discussions!


message 45: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 16, 2010 08:32AM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Thanks for joining in, Jane! It's always great to hear fresh voices on these books. It's too bad your son wasn't more interested in the books, but they do seem geared for the older picture book group. I think "Mermaid Queen" was probably the most suitable for younger kids so sorry you weren't able to get that one.

Seems like everyone so far (including me) was a bit put off by the letter in "Sitti's Secrets" I like your idea of having the granddaughter write a letter back to her grandmother--that would have been so sweet!
Did anyone have a different take on the letter to the president? I know the book came out in 1997. Just wondering if there was any sort of "movement" at that time for kids to write letters to the president and if this book was maybe reflecting that? (I'm stretching here--but just wondering how, if it seemed so out of place to all of us, it managed to get past the editors at the major publishing house.) Hum...


message 46: by Jane (new)

Jane G Meyer (janegmeyer) | 12 comments Kathryn--what a pleasure to be here with you all.

My son and I had a break through on the pile of March books this morning! Just when i was about to turn them back into the library he asked to read the Miss Eleanor book--(I'm not quite sure how he knew it was Eleanor Roosevelt) so we pulled it out of the bag and read it through before handing it over to the librarian. He had question after question and was completely absorbed. Break through indeed! The plane propellers were important elements for him--and the illustration of the inside of the airplane--we analyzed every dial and gauge there...

By the way, Selznick did a stunning job on the illustrations. It helps the book cross over from being a girl book, by rendering the illustrations in black and white and focusing on the machinery at times... very smart.

My take on the letter in Sitti's Secrets is this: that the editors wanted to encourage some sort of social action in their readers--to plant a seed for kids to DO something about their uneasiness... I am a (currently unemployed!) children's book editor, so this idea immediately popped into my head--and on one side I see it as a sly and smart move, but on the other I see it as a manipulative twist that simply didn't fit the story. If it had blended better into the storyline by having, perhaps, some sort of mention of writing to the president, or (I'm not sure what) in the beginning of the book, then the letter wouldn't have stuck out so strongly at the end. There has been anti-Arabic sentiment in this country for a very long time--especially whenever the conflict within Israel is talked about, so I'm sure the author had some of this in mind when writing the book. 9-11 only makes it more prominent as a theme...
Anyway, I would have had fun editing this book--there was plenty to work with, and I love the Arab cultures, but the way it sits right now I give it a half-hearted one thumb up, one thumb down.

You all have incredible insight. Can't wait to hear what others say as we move along:) Don't you just love picture books?!!!


message 47: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments I've only read two of the selections for this month: Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! and Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, both of which I really enjoyed! I wasn't familiar with either Kellerman or the relationship between Amelia and Eleanor and thought both books did a wonderful job of introducing such great women and historical events! Plus, the illustrations in both fitted the text so well I thought!


message 48: by Ann (new)

Ann | 22 comments Okay, I have to edit my above post! I HAD heard of Kellerman! Don't know if anyone here watches Ugly Betty, but if you recall the episode this season with the bathing suits, and Betty's attempt to turn the MODE issue into something more meaningful, and the B&W beginning - I think that was a "reenactment" of Kellerman's arrest! haha! :D


message 49: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Mar 17, 2010 12:55PM) (new)

Kathryn | 5758 comments Mod
Jane, I love what you pointed out about Selznick's illustrations and making the story appealing for boys, too. I hadn't thought of that but I can totally see it now!

And, Ann, I love "Ugly Betty" and I vaguely remember that scene. Cool! and kudos to them for mentioning Kellerman :-D


message 50: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Abigail, I certainly did think of that, of women today being forced to cover up, whether to cover their heads, just about everything, not breast feeding "in public" and other examples.


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