Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

brave girlBrave Girl is the true story of Clara Lemlich and her quest to improve working conditions of girls in the garment industry in the early 1900’s. Clara was a pioneer and advocate for workers’ rights. She fought for better wages, better working conditions, better hours, and was jailed seventeen times for her efforts. When no one else would step forward, Clara took charge and organized the largest strike of women workers in United States history. If you, or your children, don’t know about Clara, now is the time to learn.

What makes Clara even more astounding was her youth. She immigrated to America with her family when she was a teen and quickly started working in the factory. Instead of carrying her books to school, Clara carried a sewing machine to work. Three hundred girls worked in the factory with only one toilet, one sink, and three towels for all of them. If a worker was only a few minutes late, half of their pay was docked. It was long hours for little pay. Clara was determined. Though she was tired, she went to the library after work to educate herself.

Clara’s story is not only informative, it is inspiring. Boys and girls should learn about Clara and her passionate spirit. This book is the story of standing up for what you know is right, for what you know you deserve, no matter what anyone else may do or say to you. Clara was a teenager when she staged the protests and brought attention and change to working conditions in the garment industry.

The book can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a role model for young girls and to highlight women’s history. It can be also be used as a discussion on workers’ rights (for older readers) and as part of a unit on child labor laws throughout history. Even for upper elementary and young middle school students (who might consider themselves too old for picture books), it can provide a look at an individual during an important time for workers’ right in the United States. Though not the focus of the book, it does present the issue and history of immigration to the United States from Eastern Europe.

There is a much needed author’s note at the end with more about Clara’s life and the world she lived in. There is also a selected bibliography with primary and secondary sources, which offers a good chance to introduce this concept to children in a classroom or library setting along with providing sources for further reading. The book is recommended for ages 5-9.

Bibliographic Information:
Markel, Michelle, and Melissa Sweet. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. New York: Balzer Bray, 2013. Print.

A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Miss Moore Though Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atweel


Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

rosie I first read this book when our copy came in at the library, as I usually read all the new picture books, but this book stood out in my mind. Months later I still remembered and re-read it to blog about for this class. It was actually one of the first books I thought of when I read about this assignment for class. This is an adorable book that everyone should read–boys, girls, parents, teachers, librarians–everyone.

Rosie Rever, Engineer centers around a shy, blonde second girl named Rosie who creates doohickeys and thingabobs from things found in the trash and knick knacks in secret. No one knows about any of Rosie’s project, but it quickly becomes clear that wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, Rosie proudly displayed all her projects and creations to family members and friends, but that all changed when she showed a new creation to her favorite relative, Uncle Fred. The zookeeper, Uncle Fred, laughs and laughs at the hat she made him. He laughs so hard that he wheezes and tears run out of his eyes. After that, Rosie hides her creations. It isn’t until her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and expresses her dream to fly that Rosie begins work on her largest creations yet: a contraption that Aunt Rose can fly in. Yet, Rosie flies in the machine before showing her aunt because she doesn’t want to be laughed at or have anyone see her fail. But Aunt Rose sees Rosie’s flying and subsequent crash. Aunt Rose laughs, and Rosie feels more humiliated than ever, but Aunt Rose quickly explains. Aunt Rose doesn’t see Rosie’s failure as a failure at all. Before she crashed, her invention did exactly what it supposed to do: Rosie flew. Not that the first failure is done, Rosie can try again and achieve her dream. Together, they work on the machine and Rosie begins sharing her creations with all the second grade, who all join in making things.

rosieriveterThe book is influenced greatly by Rosie the Riveter, the fictional iconic figure of WWII with the slogan “We Can Do It!” which actually appears on the seat of Rosie’s flying machine. Great-great Aunt Rose is actually dressed like Rosie the Riveter and Rosie herself wears a red bandana. Aunt Rose used to work on planes and there is a neat page that features different planes with information about the first women to fly each one. After the story is finished, the book includes a brief section on Rosie the Riveter and what she meant to women.

This book is so cute and important because it shows a girl interested in a topic that many girls aren’t interested in and even discouraged from joining: engineering. It accurately depicts the hesitations a girl might have about it, especially when a relative ridicules her for it. I love anything that shows gender in a non-typical gender role or interested in something stereotypically for the opposite gender. The connection to Rosie the Riveter makes this book even richer and provides plentiful opportunities for discussion.

Rosie Revere, Engineer can be used for many, many programs. It would be perfect for a program on careers, Women’s History month, family, success, what success means, and never giving up. It can also be paired with the Iggy Pop, Architect by the same author and illustrator, especially when doing a program on different careers. It’s also great for STEM programs for younger children, and I’m sure this corresponds somehow to the Common Core standards. I don’t know the ins and outs of Common Core, so I can’t give specifics, but I feel like this would fit.

Iggy Pop, Architect by Adrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Not All Princess Dress In Pink by Jane Yolen & Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Invention by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

The Woods by Paul Hoppe

woodsI love this charming picture book. The Woods tells the story of a little boy who must venture into the “woods” to find his lost bunny. He arms himself with his flashlight, but he isn’t afraid. Not until he meets a big, scary bear! The bear wasn’t actually scary though; he was just afraid of the dark. So, the little boy shares his nightlight with the bear and joins the boy on his quest to find his bunny. This pattern continues for the length of the book. After the bear, the boy meets two giants, and a fire-breathing triple-headed dragon until they come to a big, scary cave. Inside the save, they meet a big, hairy, scary blue monster! Just like the others, he’s not actually scary, but upset about something that the boy makes better. And the huge, scary blue monster has the boy’s bunny! But he only took the bunny because he was lonely in the dark, spooky cave. The boy agrees to share his bunny and the boy, the bear, the two giants, the triple-headed dragon, and the big, hairy, scary monster all head out of the woods and into the boy’s bedroom. The last image is the boy snuggled in his bed with his stuffed bunny, dragon, bear, and hairy, scary monster. I believe the giants were drawn on paper that are in this trash can at the start of the story, but are then crumpled and on the floor at the end of it.

This book immediately reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Just like Max, the boy in this book (who was never given a name) goes on an adventure, but the adventure is all in his head. Like Where the Wild Things Are, this book shows the imagination and creativity of children to make anything normal into something fantastical. This would be great for a multitude of programs including those on adventures, woods, being scared, getting over being scared, being kind to others, sharing with others, and even for a bedtime program as the book starts with the boy’s bedtime routine and ends with him going to bed.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby
No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont
Mine! by Shutta Crum

Bibliographic Information:
Hoppe, Paul. The Woods. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle, 2011. Print.

One Dark and Dreadful Night by Randy Cecil

One Dark and Dreadful Night is a delightful picture book that tells the trials of Maestro Von Haughty as he tries to put on a play of three different fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Hansel and Gretel. The plays will be performonedarkanddreadfulnighted by the Wayward Orphans theater… if one little orphan girl will cooperate. Lily, the lead in the play, doesn’t like Von Haughty’s attempts for the tales to be dark, grim, scary, and dreadful. Lily adds fairy princess, giant bunnies, butterflies, and humor to the dark tales and overtakes the plays.

Lily’s comments about everything going on in the play are hilarious. She adds humor and snark that prevents any young child from getting scared while encouraging children to use their imagination. In Little Red Rose, as Van Haughty calls Little Red Riding Hood, Lily wonders how she got the name and thinks it should be changed because her name is Lily. The brambles and briars loom on the page, but Lily isn’t scared. She thinks someone went just a little overboard with the decorations. Lily showcases that capacity and necessity of a child’s imagination. Von Haughty is not at all pleased with Lily’s attempts to change his production, but he is helpless to limit her imagination and her desire to make the tales her own. Her humor also reveals that almost any scary situation can be less scary with the right amount of humor.

For programming for libraries and classrooms, this book could be included in a program on fairy tales for preschoolers and younger elementary students. Even better, it would be perfect for fractured fairy tales. It would also be included in a program featuring humorous books and be used to encourage students to think of how they might change a fairy tale or any other story. It would also be great for any students interested in theater or in a program about theaters and plays.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Wolf who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugenios Trivizas
Sleeping Bobby by Mary Jo Osborne

Bibliographic Information:
Cecil, Randy. One Dark and Dreadful Night. New York: Henry Holt, 2004. Print.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Bibliographic Information:Klassen, Jon. This Is Not My Hat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2012. Print. 978-0-7636-5599-0.thisisnotmyhat

This Is Not My Hat tells the story of a little brown fish who has a blue hat on his head, happily swimming around the ocean, but that hat is not his. The little fishy stole the hat from a very big fish who was sleeping. The little fish decides to hide where the plants are big and grow close together because he (?) erroneously believes no one will be able to see him there.

The story engages young readers before the cover of the book is even open. The title begs the question: Who’s hat is it? How did the brown fish get the blue hat? The illustrations are not busy or overcrowded. The background on most pages is black, creating the sense that the fish are dozens and dozens of feet below the surface of the ocean, so far down that the sun doesn’t reach.

The text of the book is black and is set against a white background, which makes it easy to read, and doesn’t interfere with the illustrations. There are no gender pronouns used, which is nice, because it allows the reader to identify with either fish. Plus, the story is ridiculously funny as everything that could possibly go wrong for the little fish does. The little fish thinks everything is going as planned, but the readers know better.

The ending is cute, but for me, it is a weakness. The big fish, who looks like a whale, finds the little fish where the plants grow tall and close together and takes his hate back. Since the little fish stole the hate, which is wrong, it’s fine the big fish gets the hate back. But we aren’t shown how the hat was retrieved. Perhaps it’s because I read so many fairy tales that are filled with darkness and death, but first though upon finishing the books was “OMG! HE KILLED THE LITTLE FISH!”

Now, there isn’t any evidence in the book to back me up, but there isn’t any evidence to disprove me. I even read a different by Jon Klassen, I Want My Hat Back, hoping it was some kind of sequel, but it offered no answers as the books aren’t in any related with any of the characters. This may just be me, but I need to know what happened to the little fish.

The audience for this book would be primarily preschoolers (ages 3-5), however it will also appeal to older students who may be struggling readers or who continue to love picture books.

It could be uses to educated older children on the ocean. It invites conversation about how far down fish live, what types of fish the children think the fish are, and what the ocean looks like at different depths. It could also be used for slightly older children who may be struggling readers. The book flows very naturally and it quite humorous. The little fish says no one will tell where he went (the crab d0es) and the readers know this even though the fish doesn’t. It creates suspense that should engage struggling and reluctant readers. The book is obviously great for a fish theme storytime and anything involving the ocean. It could also be used as part of manners program as it is not polite (and illegal) to steal as the little fish did.

Suggested Readalikes:
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Award:Caldecott Medal 2013