Wednesday, July 3, 2019

NF Picture Books Celebrate Unknown Heroes

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!

     Time to celebrate two little-known heroes on this Independence Day eve.

     Tomorrow is America's 243rd Independence Day. It was grand to see that this historical expedition celebrated the nation's twenty-eighth during their journey.

        In their debut picture book, Hasan Davis and Alleanna Harris let this 'unsung hero' tell his story of this perilous journey, including encounters with Native peoples under the leadership of Captain William Clark, on orders from President Thomas Jefferson. They were commanded to communicate that those peoples were now under the law of the nation of the United States. In the midst of the story of the hardships and challenges, York is rather a mystery to the Natives, sometimes thought to be their spirit brother. They had never seen a black man and Clark used York as an entry to the native communities.
       The story shared that York was the only man who set out with Lewis and Clark on their journey of exploration who did not volunteer. As William Clark’s enslaved manservant and the only nonwhite member, he didn’t have the choice. There is little known of York, but Davis writes in a kind of travelogue of the expedition from Louisville in 1803 to the Oregon coast in 1806. You will recognize some parts of the story like Sacagawea joining the group and the land and weather challenges. York's feelings on the journey include his pride in being given a vote to choose the site of the first winter camp, but also his noticing that his name is not celebrated as a hero at the end by Captain Clark, his owner. That York worked so hard yet never freed and able to return to his family is included in the story and in the final author's note. There is some conflict as to the true end of his life.
         Alleanna Harris' illustrations remind of the older style paintings of that time, and offer hints of York's part in the expedition: he worked so hard but is shown to be on the edges of the groups, in the shadows. There is much told that can be discussed with a student group in studying early American history as this expedition was part of the beginning of Western Expansion.

       Considering I see my granddaughters, 10 and 8, running everywhere and participating in several sports, I am thrilled to see another story of a woman who loved to run and finally got her wish, to run the Boston Marathon. Unlike Bobbie Gibb, who heroically ran incognito first, Kathrine Switzer registered. The story shares that there was nothing on the registration form that asked for gender, but when she began to run, people mostly cheered her on, and when a few tried to pull her off the course, others stopped them. 

        Kathrine Switzer's story, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered runner, is told in this debut for both author and illustrator. She is shown to be racing past a tree in her backyard, marking the trunk with chalk to record her laps, until "1 mile!" She loves to run but other people stare and wonder if something is wrong because girls aren't supposed to exert themselves that much. She grows up always challenging herself, always fighting the belief that women are "too weak, too fragile," to compete. It's a story to appreciate and to celebrate. Rooney's mixed media, collage with paint, paper, and pencil illustrations capture Kathrine's story well in motion and in color. There is an author's note, a brief part about women and the Boston Marathon, plus a bibliography.


  1. I hope more stories of unsung heroes are heard.

    1. Yes, I agree! And there are more I have not read out now! Thanks, Earl.


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