Somehow, in my career as librarian and book reviewer, I have developed a specialty in reading, reviewing, and raving about picture book biographies of women. I LOVE THEM. I find them a fascinating medium when done well, and kind of hilarious when they are done poorly. Ask me about the worst one I’ve ever read—it was BAD. Like, kind of offensively bad.
Anyway, because of that niche, I love to read children’s biographies of all kind, and with an exhausted by Who HQ and their lack of Who Was Louisa May Alcott, I noticed a new chapter book series called SHE PERSISTED. Inspired by the picture book of the same name by Chelsea Clinton, this series introduces famous figures—past and present—and details not only their biography but the struggles they overcame along the way. How they PERSISTED, you see. Each book is written by a different author—some well-known in the kid lit world, like Newbery Winners Meg Medina, Tae Keller, and Kelly Starling Lyons.
I first noticed this series because they were writing one on Marian Anderson. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I enjoy reading books on Anderson, and seeing which of them actually talk about the fact that she did end up performing at Constitution Hall.
Guess what? She Persisted: Marian Anderson does!
These chapter books are short—-80-90 pages, but quick and moving readers. Interesting biographical narratives, black and white narratives, boom, read it and you’re out.
At ALA Annual in DC, I stumbled upon a booth where THREE authors were signing their She Persisted Books, and as a Newbery acolyte, I jumped in line to be near Tae Keller and Meg Medina. Kekla Magoon was also at the booth, signing She Persisted: Ruby Bridges.
I love these books because they are quick readers, fulfilling, and I love having a sort of middle ground between picture book biographies, which are inherently limited by their page count, and thicker, more boring traditional biographies. I also think that having already known-authors write these books is a great way to help them reach a broader audience, and to explore the intersections of our identifies and our inspirations and what we write.
I am also excited that, while some of the choices for subject are hardly lacking for biographies about them (Sonia Sotomayor, Coretta Scott King, Malala) there are some lesser-known women being featured, including Diana Taurasi, Temple Grandin, Patsy Mink, and more.
The following women have She Persisted titles on sale now:
Coretta Scott King
Florence Griffith Joyner
Margaret Chase Smith
Where’s the fun in what’s already done, though?
These are five women I would LOVE to see star in a She Persisted book.
- Adelaide Johnson
- Tammy Duckworth
- Elizabeth Jennings Graham
- Nina Otero-Warren
- Bessie Coleman