Tomorrow is Election Day here. I’ll be going to the polls, grateful that I have the right to cast a ballot.

This book is the story of Susan B. Anthony’s illegal vote in 1872 when she cast a ballot in the presidential election. The book tells an important story and it’s beautifully constructed. Malaspina doesn’t try to tell us about all the great things Anthony did in her long life; the book tells just about that one vote and its dramatic consequence (spoiler: the consequence was NOT women getting the vote!).

Instead of using wordy transitions between scenes in the book, Malaspina heads sections with their time and place: “Rochester, New York, November 1, 1872.” She also repeats a refrain to keep the book organized and connected: “Outrageous. Unvelievable. True.”

The book comes alive with the richly-textured sensory detail she uses: she “jumped up to grab her purse and wrap”; they “hoisted their skirts”; “Miss Anthony’s heels tapped faster and faster.”

After you cast your ballot, sit down and share this book with a child.

Heart  on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Steve James. Albert Whitman, 2012. 

How do you summarize a life like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s for a picture book biography? Barbara Kerley did it by choosing one theme–Emerson’s desire for a home–and follows it throughout his life. We see him longing for a home as a child, building a home and community with his wife, losing his home to a fire, and in old age finding his home restored by the community he had built. It’s a hopeful, lovely message.

And it is brilliantly executed. The quotations–how could there not be quotations in a book about Emerson?–are seamlessly incorporated into the text:

He wandered the narrow noisy streets of Boston dreaming of “a home, comfortable and pleasant.”

And they settled into, as he put it, “the lukewarm milky dog days of common village life.”

Kerley zeroes in on memorable details and renders them with an ear tuned to reading aloud:

Every morning, Mr. Emerson ate pie made from his own apples for breakfast.

The book is filled with delightful lists:

[He shared] the names of birds and varieties of pears: Bluebird, bobolink, robin, thrush. Flemish Beauty, Andrews, Bartlett, Dix.

Edwin Fotheringham’s whimsical illustrations amplify the excellent prose. A great read!

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic: 2014

stone giant

This book opens with a giant block of marble standing in a courtyard in Florence and tells the story of how that chunk of rock became Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David. The book doesn’t break any new ground historically, and it doesn’t rely on primary documents, but the clever structure makes it a great introduction to Michelangelo. Focusing first on the marble rather than on Michelangelo actually helps us see the artist more clearly because we understand better the world in which he worked.

The writing is rich with sensory details:

In summer the stone dust mingled with the sweat on his skin and made a kind of mud. In winter his breath hung in the air. He stopped only when he had to, to eat or to sleep.

Even if you don’t have plans for a trip to Florence in the near future, it’s worth visiting the statue David here in this book.

Check out the one minute trailer for the book.

Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley. Charlesbridge: 2014.