Growing up, I visited my grandparents on the farm every summer, and every day after our huge noon dinner (not lunch), when Gram finally rested, I would sit by myself in the quiet, dim living room and read Childcraft. My favorite volume was the one about real people. I read about Jenny Lind and Robert Fulton and…Jane Addams. So I was thrilled to see a picture book biography of my childhood hero but worried that it wouldn’t be nearly so inspirational as that long-ago Childcraft article.
I needn’t have worried. Jane Addams’ life was inspirational, and Tanya Stone’s retelling captures Addams’ determination to make a difference in real lives. We see Addams’ privileged childhood but also see events that haunted her, glimpses she got of another, grimmer world than the one she lived in. We follow her as a young adult as she takes concrete steps to find a way to change that uglier world into a more hopeful, beautiful one. We see her win others to her cause and see examples of how Addams’ work started to change lives.
Stone uses picture book craft to keep us turning pages. The very first page ends with a question.
In 1889, a wealthy young woman named Jane Addams moved into a lovely, elegant house in Chicago, Illinois. But instead of moving into a lovely, elegant neighborhood, she picked a house that was smack in the middle of one of the filthiest, poorest parts of town. Why would a wealthy young woman do this when she could have lived anywhere?
How can you help but turn the page to learn the answer?
I’m excited to have a book to share with children whom I think will love Jane Addams just as much as I did back in Gram’s farmhouse.
The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. (Henry Holt: 2015).