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. 

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor

Women’s History Month – Mar. 1 – 31, 2019

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Sonia Sotomayor, Author

Lulu Delacre, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages:  4-12

Themes: Sonia Sotomayor, Hispanic-American judges, Supreme Court, Autobiography, Pursuing Dreams

Opening: My story is a story about books — of poems and comics, of law and mystery of science and science fiction — written both in Spanish and in English.

Synopsis:

Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers.

Her first memory of how words mesmerized her came from her Abuelita (grandmother), who recited poems written long ago about the tropical island home her family left behind. When Sonia was diagnosed with diabetes at seven and had to give herself shots, she found comic books with super heroes her best medicine. Books became her “loyal friends.” They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico,

When her father died, Sonia was nine. She found refuge in a neighborhood library. A neighbor surprised her with a complete set of encyclopedias that added to the home library. She also became a big Nancy Drew fan and decided that she could figure out mysteries too. Books took her all over the world and to the moon.  They taught her right from wrong. She learned about inequality. And she began to dream of a future for herself where anything was possible.

What I like about this book:

Turning Pages is an inspiring book that will leave readers hopeful and excited about their own dreams.  The written word is important to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which is reflected in her lyrical and rhythmic text.  She writes with love, enthusiasm and candor. I am thrilled to see such a deeply personal book for young people. But I believe fifth – seventh grade students would benefit. She is an important role model for youth.

This is the first time Sotomayor shares her own personal story with young readers. It is a down-to-earth story about the magical power of reading and how it shapes periods of her life. In her words: “Books were the magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes / little boats that helped me to escape sadness at home / my snorkel and flippers, helping me get there / my time machine, inspiring me to imagine what I would be when I grew up / my launchpad, blasting me straight into my dreams / lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me / mirrors of my very own universe.” 

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx with humble beginnings. Her family was from Puerto Rico and she spoke Spanish at home. Children of immigrants will relate to her struggle to learn English, balance two languages and learn to fit in with others. It was her love of books that helped her make sense of her life and her world.

Lulu Delacre’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations perfectly echoes the rich textures of Sotomayor’s life.

Resources: This book is a treasure and would be a great read-aloud for classroom discussions about  women in power, the Supreme Court or government service. There is a Timeline of Justice Sotomayor’s life and a lot of photographs on the front and back endpapers.

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

*Library Copy.