Monday, January 23, 2017

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Doing Her Bit/Esquivel!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Based on true events, this fictional story traces the history of the Women’s Land Army during World War I. Real-life “Farmerette” Helen Stevens trains to farm the land, negotiates a position for herself and other women, and does her bit for the war effort. This unique book celebrates the true grit of American men and women.

REVIEW

During World War II there was a lack of farm labor because of the number of men being soldiers.  So the government set up a program recruiting women to help fill the void.  These women were called farmerettes.  Helen Stevens was one such woman.  She joined the program and spent several weeks being trained in the incredibly back-breaking work that farms require.  Plowing, weeding, milking, livestock tending, and fence mending were all covered.  These ladies worked through blisters, sore muscles, and exhaustion because they believed in the program.  The problem was that none of the local farmers wanted their help, they didn't think that women were capable of doing the work.  But with determination and an opportunity to prove themselves, these women set out to help their country during a really trying time, proving to be a very valuable service.  I believe stories like this one are very important.  When events such as World War II are studied, sometimes the soldiers on the front lines or the people calling the shots get all the attention.  Those who quietly provided important supporting roles are often overlooked.  This fictionalized story about real events fills an important hole in the dialogue about World War II.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. He loved music and became a musical explorer. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds. Juan’s space-age lounge music—popular in the fifties and sixties—has found a new generation of listeners. And Duncan Tonatiuh’s fresh and quirky illustrations bring Esquivel’s spirit to life.

REVIEW

Picture book biographies are becoming more common every year.  Even better, they often focus on individuals that are lesser known.  I had never heard of Esquivel before picking up this book.  The trick with picture book biographies is including enough information to really be a biography, while keeping the book an appropriate length for the book format and age range.  This particular biography not only provides a nice amount of information about it's subject, but it also does in text that has a fun musical rhythm of its own, making it a fun read-a-loud.  Tonatiuh's illustrations are delightfully colorful and full of life, just like Esquivel's music.  This is the sort of book that's perfect for music teachers to read and share with their students, along with the real-life music.  Books like this bring their subjects to life in both text and illustration.  Which is probably why this book just won a Pure Belpre illustrator award for 2017. The additional resources at the end are great as well (including links to videos of Esquivel's music).

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