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August 10, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon
I grabbed two children’s books from Church Street a couple of weeks ago for my kids (ages 12 and 14) and me to read. We believe you’re never too old for children’s books and have been enjoying the words and art in She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger and Radiant Child, written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe.
She Persisted highlights 13 American women who did big things. Clinton writes about Virginia Apgar and Ruby Bridges. She writes about Claudette Colvin and Margaret Chase Smith. It’s okay if all of those names don’t ring a bell–Clinton is here to educate and inspire. She provides a short paragraph about each woman’s accomplishments and includes quotes by them, too. Gorgeous artwork accompanies Clinton’s words and helps bring everyone to life.
Clinton pulls together a diverse group of women–some more famous than others–to weave a tapestry of hope for readers–boys and girls, young and old. The words in She Persisted will sink into hearts and minds and provide encouragement on many levels. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Florence Griffith Joyner: “When anyone tells me I can’t do anything… I’m just not listening anymore.”
Radiant Child is the story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The vibrant art and meaningful narrative by Javaka Steptoe earned this book The Caldecott Medal. Steptoe holds open the curtain for us to have a glimpse into Basquiat’s childhood and talent. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He includes moments of sorrow, touching on themes of mental illness and tragedy in ways that are accessible to readers of all ages. A short biography of Basquiat is included at the end of the book, as well as notes from Steptoe about motifs and symbolism in Basquiat’s art and how he has been impacted by Basquiat’s work.
Children and adults alike will connect with the life and work of Basquiat. They will learn from this book, like Basquiat learned from his mom, that “Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things.”
Charlotte lives in Homewood with her husband and their two children. She’s earning an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, and she does freelance writing and copywriting. You can find her online at www.charlottedonlon.com and on Twitter at @charlottedonlon. You can sign up for her newsletter about what she’s reading and writing here.