Election day is next week. In the relentless frenzy over this election, I try to remember how many women fought for my right to vote. Mara Rockliff’s book Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles is a light-hearted, fun look at what women were willing to do to change hearts and minds.
In the book, we follow Nell Richardson and Alice Burke as they circle the country in an automobile–a notable novelty at the time–to campaign for Votes for Women. They have plans for how to respond to naysayers–“If anyone said women didn’t have the brains to vote, then Nell would dash a poem off right then and there to prove they did. If anyone said they should cook and sew and leave running the nation to the men, then Nell would whip an apron up while Alice gave a speech to prove they could do both.”
They encounter challenges on the road: a blizzard, sinkholes, swarming children, a recalcitrant horse. But they simply deal with the problems and continue on their way, talking everywhere about votes for women.
Hadley Hooper’s pencil and print illustrations capture period detail with a deft touch. And the back matter explains why yellow is so important in her palette–“The color yellow stood for Votes for Women everywhere in the United States.”
I loved the back matter in this book. I’ve been thinking a lot about back matter lately because as adults talk to me after reading my new book, they almost always mention how much they love the back matter. That doesn’t surprise me because I was thinking of adults when I wrote it. But I was surprised at a reading when a fourth grader peppered me with questions about the back matter, too. Later his mom told me that had been his favorite part of the book. I hadn’t realized it would have child readers, too!
Rockliff’s back matter is extensive–two full spreads–but her audience seems to be the engaged child reader, like that fourth grader at my reading (for example, the recommended books are all kids’ books). The narrative voice is very similar to that in the main text of the book. I love the telling details she includes in the back matter–that the christening of the car left a dent in the radiator, that the car company used Nell and Alice in their advertising, and that women held a “walkless parade” in St. Louis, where they stood silent on city sidewalks as conventioneers passed them on the way to a political convention.
If the current election is getting you down, let the history of suffrage give you some welcome distance. And inspire you to actually cast that ballot!
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, illustrated Hadley Hooper. Candlewick: 2016.
I participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy every Wednesday.