How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

A Story about the
Nation's First Woman Detective

Albert Whitman & Company

(published 3.1.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Elizabeth Steenwyk
      and Illustrator:  
Valentina Belloni

C haracter: Kate Warne

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "The president was in peril but Kate Warne knew what to do.
     One day in 1856, a young woman showed up at the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency asking for work. A female detective? No one had heard of such a thing! But Kate knew she could do the job as well - or better - than a man. Before long Kate was donning disguises, solving cases, and becoming one of Pinkerton's best detectives.
     Then came a secret that would affect the whole country: an undercover plot to assassinate President Lincoln on the way to his inauguration! The Pinkerton detectives had to stop it from happening, and Kate Warne set out on her most important mission. What would it take to save the day?"
T antalizing taste: 
    "Pinkerton hired her the next day and, just like that, Kate Warne became the first female detective in the nation.
     She disguised herself in fancy gowns and turned up at society parties. Many of the women there were married to successful men in business and politics, and they were eager to talk about their husbands' careers, especially to Kate, who they thought was one of them. Sometimes she dressed as a fortune-teller or wore other disguises to parties. She collected useful information this way."

and something more: I was fascinated to learn about Kate Warne's direct involvement in preventing the Baltimore assassination plot. The Note at the back of the book explains that at "a time when women had few rights and received little credit for their work, Kate pushed boundaries and defied expectations.
     The Pinkerton Detective Agency became the Union Intelligence Service during the Civil War, and its role in protecting President Lincoln made it the precursor to the U.S. Secret Service of today.  After the Civil War ended, Kate continued to work for Pinkerton until her death in 1868, when she was just thirty-eight years old, presumably of pneumonia.


Elizabeth Started All the Trouble

Disney Hyperion
(published 2.23.2016)
40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

 A uthor: Doreen Rappaport

and Illustrator: Matt Faulkner

C haracter: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
                    and other American women
                    who fought for women's rights

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "She couldn't go to college
     She couldn't become a politician.
     She couldn't even vote.
     But Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn't let that stop her.
     She called on women across the nation to stand together and demand to be treated as equal to men - and that included the right to vote. It took nearly seventy-five years and generations of women fighting for their rights through words, through action and through pure determination ... for things to slowly begin to change
     With the help of these trailblazers' own words, Doreen Rappaport's engaging text, brought to life by Matt Faulkner's vibrant illustrations, shows readers just how far this revolution has come, and inspires them to keep it going!"
T antalizing taste: 
    "On January 10, 1917, the suffragists started picketing in front of the White House. In rain. In snow. In blistering heat, they stood silently with their signs.
     Angry mobs attacked them. The police did nothing to protect them, nor did they arrest any of their attackers. In the next eleven months, more than two hundred women were arrested for picketing. Almost one hundred women served time in prison. Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months and thrown into solitary confinement for two weeks with nothing to eat but bread and water. Lucy Burns and forty other women were beaten.
     Other suffragists took their places in front of the White House.
     Newspapers wrote about the brutal treatment of the women. Support for their cause grew. A judge finally ruled that the arrests were unconstitutional and ordered the women freed.
     A year after the women started picketing, President Wilson declared his support for an amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.
     On August 26, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote, became law."

and something more: The Author's Note reminds us "what seems hard to believe today, with girls and young women asserting leadership in so many different fields, that there was a time when women had no real legal rights... In 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed that women have the right to vote- along with many other rights - most people considered her ideas preposterous and controversial. Women who agreed with her were mocked and slandered... They were not just fighting for their own rights; they were fighting to change history for all people. The decision to 'include' all Americans as real citizens is still unfolding in this country Remember thee women when you need courage!"
    I thought the choice of narrative of this book to include all the women, and supportive men, was a powerful way to tell the story of the suffragists. And Matt Faulkner's evocative illustrations truly bring the sacrifice, determination and courage of these women to life.


Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

Marie Tharp Maps
the Ocean Floor

A Paula Wiseman Book
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
(published 1.15.2016) 40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Robert Burleigh
      and Illustrator: Raul Colon

C haracter: Marie Tharp

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Marie Tharp always loved maps. Traveling with her father to make surveys, she felt like maps talked to her. Then in college, a teacher pointed out that though the oceans cover more than half the earth's surface, scientists knew very little about the bottom of the seas. She wondered, how deep are the oceans? Is the seafloor flat or are there mountains on the ocean floor?
     In the 1940s Marie entered a world where it was not easy to be a woman and a scientist. And having a woman on a ship was thought to be bad luck. Still she persevered. Today Marie Tharp is considered one of the twentieth century's most important scientists, though she is little known.
     Award-winning author Robert Burleigh tells the story of Marie Tharp's imagination and determination. Luminously illustrated by Raul Colon, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea is a book that will inspire readers to follow their dreams."
T antalizing taste: 
    "People had long attempted to measure the depth of the oceans. Sailors once lowered weighted ropes to make such measurements. More recently, scientists had begun using machines that sent sound waves from a ship to the seafloor and back again ... These measurements are called 'soundings'...
     You have to think big, I told myself. I hauled a large table into my workroom and covered it with a huge sheet of paper. To me it was a blank canvas filled with possibilities. I couldn't wait to get started.
     ...It was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle. I felt like a detective solving a great mystery.
     I was a scientist at last ...
     I was a kind of artist, too... I couldn't see it with my eyes, yet a 'portrait' of the ocean floor was coming into view."

and something more: The back matter of Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea explains that Marie Tharp "was a key figure in helping to map and understand the seafloors around the world. Her work was also valuable in proving the theory of continental drift: that all the continents on earth move very slowly, toward or away from one another, over time... It took years for Marie's work and achievement to receive full recognition... Marie Tharp died in 2006. Among the many tributes that she received, one scientist put it very simply, 'Marie didn't just make maps. She understood how the Earth works.'"

Miss Mary Reporting

The True Story of
Sportswriter Mary Garber

A Paula Wiseman Book
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
(published 2.16.2016) 40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

uthor: Sue Macy
      and Illustrator: C.F. Payne

C haracter: Mary Garber

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Press Box: Women and Children Not Admitted. 
    So read the press pass that Mary Garber had to wear as a reporter at sporting events. It was embarrassing, even insulting, but in the 1940s, sports - and sports reporting - was a man's world.
     Mary didn't let that top her. She never let anything stop her, really. As a kid, she played quarterback for her local football team. Later, as a reporter, she dug in her heels and built up her own sports beat. For close to fifty years, Mary shined the spotlight on local heroes whose effort might otherwise have gone unnoticed. 'That's Miss Mary Garber,' one boy said at a soapbox derby. 'And she doesn't care who you are, or where you're from, or what you are. If you do something, she's going to write about you.'
     This is the story of a woman who pursued her dream and changed the world."
T antalizing taste: 
    "Jackie [Robinson] became a role model for Mary. She was inspired by his quiet dignity in the face of taunts and jeers from people who couldn't accept a black man in the major leagues.
     'There's no getting around the fact that Robinson met these challenging days with maturity and courage,' she would write in 1956. 'It takes guts to keep your mouth shut and walk away. It is against every normal reaction of human behavior. But Robinson did it.'
     Mary had to endure her own share of slights and struggles."

and something more: In the Acknowledgements of Miss Mary Reporting, Sue Macy explains that when she headed to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to research the story at the Forsyth County Public Library, she met "the librarian, Fambrough 'Fam' Brownlee, a fount of local history knowledge. Fam was a wonderful guide and a valued witness, as he played high school sports when he was young and knew Miss Mary." Isn't that a terrific research connection?


Clean Sweep

Frank Zamboni's
Ice Machine

Tundra Books
(published 1.5.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

uthor: Monica Kulling
      and Illustrator: Renne Benoit

C haracter: Frank Zamboni

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "In 1940, Frank Zamboni, along with his brother and cousin, opened their own skating rink in California. Their biggest frustration was the time it took the crew to resurface the ice - up to an hour and a half! Skaters grew impatient with the wait. Could Frank turn a ninety-minute job for five men into a ten-minute task for only one?
     Working in the shed behind his ice rink, Frank drew designs and built models of machines he hoped would do the job. Frank worked on his invention for nine years, making each model better than the one before. Finally, in 1949, Frank tested the Model A and it did exactly what he wanted it to - it gave ice a smooth finish in a fraction of the time. The Zamboni ice resurfacer had arrived, and ice rinks haven't been the same since."
T antalizing taste: 

   "Frank labored in a workshop behind Iceland. Sometimes folks stopped to ask what he was doing. When Frank told them, they often offered advice, such as 'It can't be done,' or 'Sounds crazy to me.'
    So Frank dug in his heels and tried harder.
     But the Second World War came along and put a stop to Frank's work.
     When the war ended, Frank was able to buy military parts, like an engine and axles, cheaply. He built his ice-resurfacing machine on the chassis, or base frame, of a Jeep...
     Over the years, Frank would build many models, each one an improvement on the last...
     In 1951, Sonja Henie, Norway's figure-skating superstar, bought two Zamboni ice-resurfacing machines. Henie had won gold medals three times in a row at the Olympics. Now she was making movies and performing ice shows.
     Frank painted Henie's machines fire-engine red."

and something more: The last page of CLEAN SWEEP features fun facts about the Zamboni machine, including ...  
     "The machine can remove up to 60 cubic feet of ice in one pass. That's enough shavings to make 3,661 snow cones.
     In 1960, it appeared for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games.
     In 2001, a Zamboni machine, with a top speed of nine miles an hour, was driven across Canada, from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, a trip that took four months.
     Zamboni machines are on every continent except Antarctica."

Fearless Flyer

Ruth Law and 
Her Flying Machine

Calkins Creek
(published 3.1.2016) 40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

uthor: Heather Lang
      and Illustrator: Raul Colon

C haracter: Ruth Law

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Before 1916, no pilot had attempted to fly from Chicago to New York City in one day. 
     No pilot would think of making the trip with an old flying machine and an out-of-date engine.
     And if the pilot was a woman? 
     So the experts said.
     But they didn't know Ruth Law.
     On a windy November morning, she revved her plane's engine and took off on that impossible cross-county flight.
     What Ruth Law did next amazed America."

T antalizing taste: 

   "Slowly she gained altitude.
    As quickly as the wind had gusted, it vanished. Would she have enough gasoline?
    Ruth held onto the left and right levers at all times. One wrong move would send her tumbling from the sky.Holding the right lever with her knees, she turned the knobs on the map box, strapped to her leg. 
    I had a tremendous feeling of freedom, of exhilaration, of power. I was steering my own course by a little six-inch map." 

and something more: The Author's Note of Fearless Flyer explains that "Ruth never let barriers set by society hold her back...When Orville Wright refused to teach her to fly, she found another instructor. Ruth took flying seriously... Ruth believed the key to her success was her mechanical knowledge. She spent many hours learning her plane - the engine, the nuts and bolts, the wires. She whittled struts and grinded valves until her hands blistered."  
     The book begins with this quote:  "When I was a little girl, I used to dream of flying, not with terror ... but with wonder and delight. I would be a swallow flying south, or an eagle swooping down from the clouds, and then, all of a sudden, I'd wake up, just a little girl ready to cry because she had no wings." And then she gained her wings, by persevering to become a pilot!


Ira's Shakespeare Dream

Lee & Low Books
(published 8.15.2015)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Glenda Armand
and Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

C haracter: Ira Aldridge

verview from book flap:

"For as long as he could remember, Ira Aldridge dreamed of performing the famous plays of William Shakespeare. Ira spent every chance he got at the theater, memorizing the actors' lines and movements. He knew he could be a great Shakespearean actor if only given the chance. But in the early 1800s in New York City, options for black actor were mostly limited to musical numbers.

Determined to pursue his dream, Ira set off to England, the land of Shakespeare. He soon encountered the same roadblocks and discrimination he faced back home...[but] through hard work and perseverance... the young man with a dream became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors in the world. 

Ira's Shakespeare Dream is a captivating tribute to the life of Ira Aldridge, and to the enduring magic of Shakespeare's works to inspire people of all backgrounds."

T antalizing taste:

     "Even as Ira's dream was coming true, he never forgot about his people back home and the nightmare off slavery. Sometimes, at the close of a performance, Ira came out of character and sat on the edge of the stage.
     He preached to the audience about the injustice of slavery. He told them that, although he was born free, he had once come close to being sold into slavery. Audiences were moved as Ira recounted for them the cruelties had had witnessed."  

and something more:  Last weekend at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, I enjoyed meeting Glenda Armand, the author of Ira's Shakespeare Dream. She "is passionate about sharing accounts of little-known African American trailblazers. Her hope is that these stories will inspire new generations of young dreamers to persevere despite any obstacles they may face."  
     The book's Afterword explains that "perhaps the greatest honor" Ira received is shown on "a bronze plaque inscribed with his name at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, at Stratford-upon-Avon, England, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Ira Frederick Aldridge is the only African American among the thirty-three actors to have received this recognition."