Monday, July 18, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Ida Lewis

Picture book biographies have a difficult task.  They must take the life of a person and condense it into only a few words and pictures.  This is challenging in that people are complex, motivations and feelings can be hard to explain to a picture book audience in a way that they understand.  Marissa Moss does an excellent job in her newest book.

The Bravest Woman in America
by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
Tricycle Press, 2011.
Grades K-3
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Ida Lewis loved everything about the sea, so when her father became the official keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, she couldn't imagine anything better. Throughout the years, Ida shadowed her father as he tended the lighthouse, listening raptly to his stories about treacherous storms, drowning sailors, and daring rescues. Under her father's watchful eye, she learned to polish the lighthouse lens so the light would shine bright. She learned to watch the sea for any sign of trouble. And, most importantly, she learned to row. Ida felt ready for anything and she was. (

Moss does a great job of introducing us to Ida, whose greatest passion is the ocean, in all its forms.  Her eagerness is demonstrated through her determination to learn to row the boat that takes her father out to the island to check the lighthouse. It would have been nice to have a bibliography, but the author's note is adequate. U'Ren's illustrations beautifully compliment Moss's descriptions by showing the reader Ida's love of the sea and her determination to do whatever it took to help her father run the lighthouse.  I love how Moss shows us Ida's determination and courage in gradually taking over the lighthouse keeping duties and rescuing people in trouble. 

I found U'Ren's illustrations interesting.  The use of ink and watercolor works well.  I thought the use of outline especially effective in showing the solid shapes of people, land, and things, and the lack of outline on the ocean gives the reader a sense of the wildness and openness of the ocean. The use of framed illustrations provides a feeling of solidity and safety after the dangers of the ocean.   All in all, I'd say this is one of my favorites this year.   I look forward to sharing it with my students.

Check out Nonfiction Monday, a weekly listing of children's nonfiction, for more great nonfiction recommendations.  Today's host is Chapter Book of the Day.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this book. I'm thinking about trying to write a picture book biography and am starting to look into how other people have done it. This book looks like one to check out!

    ME...JANE (by Patrick McDonnell) is a recent biography of Jane Goodall that I found particularly inspiring. The text is heartwarming and the illustrations beautiful.


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