Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Persistence From History


  Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific non-fiction books!
     There's a new word people have been talking about this past year, and I seem to have read books that show three  examples of "persistence" when these people in our history followed their dreams.


         A story of Noah Webster's fight to bring American words and American history to schools in "America" shows continuing determination. Noah grew up with parents who taught him to read and write, provided him with books and newspapers. He convinced them to send him to Yale at the age of fifteen! There he found friends who agreed with the early talk of revolution because of the outrageous taxes. He did not serve in the military in the Revolution, but fought through the written word with letters, speeches and news articles. After independence, he taught, and that is when he began his lifelong goal of preparing a dictionary that included uniquely American words, even changing the spelling. Tracy Maurer showed Webster's persistence, but also that he had quite a temper, always wanting his way, what he thought was "the" way. He didn't always win, but often.
         I assume that Tracy and Mircea Catusanu, the illustrator collaborated for the clever idea of allowing Webster to do part of the editing. Really! The opening endpaper shows a "note" from Webster telling about this. Throughout the book, there are added notes hand-printed from "him" that either change the information or add to it. Even on the copyright page, there is a note when he shares that he was part of the push for American copyright laws. The illustrations combine cartoon-like people with a wealth of added images, like on the double-page spread that shows the beginning of his work for a dictionary. There he sits at his desk, wiping his brow as he looks at a book, surrounded by piles of books and papers. (His note says he checked his pulse while working on this, a big workout!) The illustrator shares that some images are copied from Webster's original notes and letters.
          Several pages of backmatter include an author's note, an illustrator's note, a timeline, a bit about Charles Merriam who bought Webster's work from his heirs, and several pages of different sources. It's an extensive book for a beginning study of this beloved dictionary.
         

        I know many have already read and loved the story of this artist who seemed to be born with a paintbrush in his fist. The author/illustrator, Javaka Steptoe, does not share any of Basquiat's art, but   he says he uses Basquiat's style to illustrate his story. The cover itself is a portrait of the artist in front of so many definitive parts of the breadth of what Basquiat achieved in his young life. Graffiti art fills the endpapers, the way that he began his career. It is told that from a young age, he dreamed he would become a famous artist. He was influenced and encouraged by his mother who took him to museums. When he was badly injured by an auto accident, his mother gave him a copy of Grey's Anatomy from which he learned and drew. Sadly, his mother suffered from mental illness and ended up going away. The story tells that he tried drawing himself out of that sadness, ended up moving to New York City from Brooklyn, and began to make his way through painting street art. For such a brief picture book, the story also tells of many of his successes, and then sadly, his end.  Added information and a note about the art is in the backmatter.



         
        This older book beautifully captures the life of challenges Wilma Rudolph faced, even beginning her life as a 'too-small' and sickly baby. Then she was five; she had polio. Many said she would never walk again. She said not only would she walk, but she would run. She's the first woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic competition. David Diaz art illustrations are breath-taking. Acrylic/watercolor with black outlining, then set onto a related photograph of the times in sepia tones feel as if they show Wilma's strength, too. It's quite an amazing story.


HAPPY READING!

6 comments:

  1. What a wonderful thematic link between these books!

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    1. Thanks, Annette. It was serendipity! Just happened to have these ready to share.

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  2. I really need to find Noah Webster - it sounds so interesting but I've had trouble locating it! Really liked the Wilma Rudolph biography. Such an inspirational person!

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    1. I also read the earlier Webster biography, and enjoyed it, but this one is very clever. I hope you can find it, Michele. Yes, I loved hearing about Wilma Rudolph. I remember being excited when she won, but don't remember that I knew anything else about her.

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  3. So glad you enjoyed Noah Webster's Fighting Words. Gotta tell you that the editing by Webster was Tracy's idea. She's in my critique group and is phenomenal! Don't miss her new biography of John Deere, too, if you haven't seen it. John Deere, That's Who!

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    1. I think it's a marvelous book, Laura, as you can see. I haven't seen the John Deere book, but know of it. A friend's husband collects all things John Deere and I sent her the book's link. They were thrilled. I need to read it now that I know that Tracy did it & that she's your critique partner! Happy you told me!

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