Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Two Who Persisted

    Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!
              I know that many are talking about this book. I feel that every teacher should share this with their middle grade and older students, or every parent should share with their even younger children, bit by bit, then researching more about those people that Schomburg learned about, those whose "works", first writing then art, he collected during his entire life. Carole Boston Weatherford uses Arthur (born Arturo) Schomburg's own words as an opening quote: "The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future. . . .History must restore what slavery took away."
        I became angry as I read this book, so filled with bits of historical figures who were never written about in my own years-ago history textbooks. Oh, I may have heard a little about Fredrick Douglas or probably George Washington Carver, but few others, until I got to college. Yet even then, there were limits. Carole Boston Weatherford has chosen to write Schomburg's story as a timeline, telling of the first spark that made him curious and determined. A teacher told him that "Africa's sons and daughters had no history, no heroes worth noting." He did not stop searching and learning, first enthralled by an early almanac written by Benjamin Banneker, self-taught inventor, astronomer, and draftsman. The book is a sort of list, and shown beautifully with Weatherford's descriptions through the years of Schomburg's studies, are Eric Velasquez's illustrations. He shows Schomburg aging but surrounded by those very heroes and the artifacts representative of what they created, which his teacher said did not exist.

         Through all the years, Schomburg's collection grew and grew. He married three times, had children, and continued searching and collecting. The end result is that his last wife threatened to leave unless something was done to move the collection somewhere else. The beginning of its fate began with The Carnegie Corporation which bought it for $10,000. and donated it to the New York City Library's Division of Negro History, Literature, and Prints. This through the years has become a new Schomburg Center which opened in 1980. There is much more I could share, but as I wrote at the beginning, everyone should read this book.
         Carole Boston Weatherford has added a timeline, source notes, and a bibliography. She shares that Arturo Schomburg placed a personal nameplate in every book he collected, and there is one at the back of the book that tells what his bookplate was like, with a brief comment. It's a fitting ending.

           Here is another example of those not often noted, and often struggling at the beginning of careers because of who they are. Zaha Hadid is a woman and an Arab. She struggled for a long time to get people to build her designs. When reading this book about Zaha Hadid, I searched for pictures of her buildings. Wow! I have never heard of her or her work, and it is (to me) unusual, perhaps partly true because I know little about design. 
            Jeanette Winter's books are always creative and the way she chose to tell the story feels right. There is brief text but page-filled illustrations that show Zaha Hadid's thinking and vision. An architect relies on the ability to envision a design and often Zaha's comes from observations in nature. For example, she looks at shells in the ocean and designs/builds a stadium, "cradles it like a cocoon. She looks up at stars and galaxies and sees swirling buildings." Her early childhood was filled with Zaha's fascination with designs, in nature, in Persian carpets at home, in her mirror that is not a square. She goes to London to school to become an architect, entered competitions and the first time she won, they refused to build her "outlandish" design. She didn't quit, did not design more buildings with rectangles, but persisted. And she finally had one building built. 
         Winter had added small sketches of Zaha's most well-known buildings at the back, along with an afterword and a source list. I enjoyed learning about this famous architect very much.


  1. These look so good! Like I put on another post, I have been slacking on nonfiction picture books this year, and I feel like I am missing so many! But I love reading about them, even if I don't get to them.

    1. There are so, so many, I agree, Kellee. Just when I think my pile is diminishing, I see another review of a book I want to read. And it is fun to read about them that way, too. Thanks!


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