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

Synopsis:

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. 

Making Their Voices Heard by Vivian Kirkfield

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Vivian Kirkfield, Author

Alleanna Harris, Illustrator

Little Bee Books, Biography, Jan. 28, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes:  Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe, Biography, Jazz musician, Actress, Singers, Friendship

Opening: “Ella and Marilyn. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike — full of hope and dreams, and plans of what might be.”

Bookjacket Synopsis:

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike–full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town–one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they’d forever be known as.

Why I like this book:

There is so much beauty, sensitivity and heart in Vivian Kirkfield’s picture book about two female iconic performers, Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe.  I was mesmerized. Alleanna Harris’ artwork  is colorful and compliments the story. Look at that fabulous book cover!

The narrative is lyrical and richly-textured. “Wrapping herself in Ella’s voice…” and “velvety shube-doobie-doos wowed auidences…” And there are moments where the text is sparse, yet powerful. “Marilyn swayed to the melody…Ella swayed to the rhythem…Marilyn held her breath… Ella filled her lungs…” So beautiful!

Ella and Marilyn were on the outside, an unlikely pairing. Alternating stories about each woman mirror their humble beginnings, inner struggles, similarities and differences.  But on the inside they shared the same hopes and big dreams of performing. They were destined to meet, support each other and form a lifetime friendship.

Kirkfield did a remarkable amount of research on both women. She shares little-known stories that many adults are unfamiliar with.

Resources:  Make sure you read the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book, where more information is shared about Ella and Marilyn’s relationship. Adults will find it interesting. Visit Kirkfield at her website.

Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. From shelving them in a children’s library and reading them with her kindergarteners, to writing them, her goal has always been to help kids become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of many picture books including: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting BookPippa’s Passover PlateFrom Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves; and Sweet Dreams, Sarah. Her parent-teacher guide, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking is a valuable resource for child-care facilitators. Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire, where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her ten-year-old grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner.

*Reviewed from a library copy.