She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey by Renee Watson

She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey 

Renée Watson, Author

Gillian Flint, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, Dec. 21, 2021

Suitable for ages: 6-8

Themes: Oprah Winfrey, African American, Woman in television, Actress, Activist, Philanthropist, Biography


When Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954, her young parents named her “Orpah” after a woman in the Bible. But people repeatedly mispronounced her name, so she just decided to be Oprah. 

Her family expected that she would grow up to be a maid, like her grandmother. But Oprah was very smart and was reading by age 3. She lived the first six years of her life on a small farm with her grandparents while her mother moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to find work. Oprah loved telling stories to everyone, especially the chickens and piglets. She also loved memorizing scriptures and entertained her family by repeating the pastor’s sermons. 

When she was six, Oprah joined her single mother and a baby sister in Wisconsin. But life was hard and her mother sent her to live with her father in Tennessee when she was eight. Her father was strict, limited her TV time and made sure she studied. The first time she saw Diana Ross on TV, she dreamt of being on TV one day. At 16 she had the good fortune to work at a radio station, and she later became Nashville’s first Black television host. The rest is history as she worked hard and landed her own show in 1984. She never gave up on her dream. 

Why I like this book:

Young girls will be thrilled with Renée Watson’s sparkling and inspiring chapter book about Oprah Winfrey. The story-like text moves along at a quick pace, relating important information that readers will find appealing. It is well-targeted for its intended audience. At the end, Renée Watson includes a section for readers about “How You Can Persist,” and additional reading about Oprah Winfrey.

Each  of the six chapters begin with a quote from Oprah’s beloved Maya Angelou, instead of a title. For example the first chapter opens with Every Person Is Born with Talent.  Gillian Flint’s expressive and simple pen and ink drawings compliment the story for readers and give them a peek into Oprah’s early world.

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!   

Renée Watson is among a group of authors who have been invited by Chelsea Clinton to write chapters books for young readers about the childhood and lives of remarkable women. Clinton is calling it the “Persisterhood.” If you are looking for biographies of famous girls/women to inspire young readers, this series is a perfect choice. 

There are 14 books about American women released monthly in 2021 and 2022. They include Harriet Tubman, Claudette Colvin, Sally Ride, Virginia Apgar, Nelly Bly, Sonia Sotomayor, Florence Griffith Joiner, Ruby Bridges, Clara Lemlich, Margaret Chase Smith, Maria Tall Chief, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey and Coretta Scott King. I believe there are more books being written.  This is complete series belongs in every school library. 

Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel Piecing Me Together received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. She is the author of several books for young readers, including Ways to Make SunshineSome Places More Than Others, and Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills. Her work has received international recognition and an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. She has given readings and lectures on the role of art in social justice at many renowned places, including the United Nations Headquarters, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassies in Japan, Korea, and New Zealand. Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives in New York City. Follow her on her website, Twitter @reneewauthor and on Instagram @harlemportland.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy. 

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

29 thoughts on “She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey by Renee Watson

  1. I really wish I knew more about Oprah, and I’ve heard great things about this series (and actually just enjoyed a picture book co-written by Renée Watson, called Born on the Water), so perhaps I should track a copy of this down! It’s lovely that all of the chapter titles are quotes by Maya Angelou. Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Patricia!


    • I haven’t read “Born on Water and need to get a copy. I think you will enjoy Oprah’s story — but I love that Chelsea Clinton has selected a different author to write each of the biographies — with more to come in the She Persisted series.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oprah is a fantastic role model for us all. I love that she uses her celebrity to do good things in the world. Congratulations to Renee for writing this book, and thank you, Patricia, for bringing it to our attention.


  3. I like the books in this series, but I had some books about Oprah published in the 1990s. This is why I tend to wait until people have passed away to buy biographies of them! That 1980s book about Michael Jackson? Not so much. It’s interesting to see such popular authors picking up these short biographies to write, though.


    • I’m glad to hear you like the books in this series, because it so diverse and each book written by a different author. I love Oprah’s story, but I’ve learned a lot about other lesser known women. It is a perfect series for the targeted audience.


  4. This sounds wonderful, Patricia. Such an inspiring story. I think it’s funny that Oprah’s dad limited her tv time. I wonder what he thought of her television success. I like that each chapter began with a quote from Maya Angelou rather than a title, and the name of the series, Persisterhood, is brilliant. What a great series.


    • Yes, I wondered what her father thought of her being the Queen of Talk shows. Chelsea Clinton has authored the original called “She Persisted.” And it was a brilliant idea to invite well-known authors to write chapter books for younger girls 6-9.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t find the adult version in audiobooks, Patricia, but I found and listened to this one. Such a fascinating biography. Thanks so much for sharing.


      • There aren’t adult versions. There are middle grade versions written by Chelsea Clinton — She Persisted: In Science, She Persisted: In Sports and many other She Persisted titles. The chapters books are for younger kids 6-9 years. Glad you enjoyed Oprah’s biography. One of my favorites is Claudette Colvin. There are another 12-14 chapter books being released this year for young readers about famous women as children. One a month. I would acquire the entire series if was a school librarian or teacher. The price is right too.

        Liked by 1 person

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