A VOICE FROM THE WILDERNESS

THE STORY OF ANNA HOWARD SHAW

Brown (Mary Kingsley in Africa, 2000, etc.) relies on Anna Howard Shaw’s autobiography as the inspiration for his account of a woman whose pioneer background prepared her for the causes she championed in her adult life. “By most measures, Anna Howard Shaw’s life was hard and filled with struggle. But Anna used her own scale and kept her own measurements, and that made all the difference.” So begins the story of a young girl who survived a perilous crossing of the Atlantic, settled in Massachusetts, and then spent one and a half years in the Michigan wilds, where the family was 100 miles from the railroad and 40 miles from a post office. Although Anna learned to hook fish with the iron wires from her hoop skirts and chop sod with an ax to plant corn and potatoes, she didn’t have any schooling. But there were books and she read histories, novels, and math texts until she knew them by heart. She was a schoolteacher at 15 and eventually graduated from college and received a medical degree—highly unusual for a woman in her time. She became a minister and was angered by the fact that women’s wages were half of what a man earned. She spoke to people around the world, battling for women to win the right to vote since that was, to her, the first step to independence for women. Anna Shaw died one year before the woman’s right to vote became law. Elegant phrasing and seamless narration complement pastel watercolors. The paintings are especially effective in conveying the mood of the text. Quiet, lovely scenes of the forest are in contrast to the lively scenes of the children carrying out chores. An author’s note fleshes out the details of this extraordinary woman’s life. (Biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-08362-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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BEATRIX

VARIOUS EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF BEATRIX POTTER

Winter follows up Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World (p. 111) with a similarly evocative character portrait, pairing small, formal, closely-framed portraits of Beatrix Potter—at various ages, and usually in the company of small animals, as she so often was—with a first person narrative into which she folds Potter’s own words (set off in italics). The general tone is grave, often melancholy: “No one has time for me. I talk to the birds, who have the time.” Reflecting the loneliness of her childhood, Potter’s face is the only human one to be seen (with a single, late exception), and an occasional slight smile is the only outward sign of her inner pleasure at drawing, photographing, or just being with her many animal friends. Winter traces Potter’s burgeoning interest in observing and recording the natural world, covers the genesis of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and closes with a “happily-ever-after” image of rabbits and fairies dancing in the dooryard of the farm where Potter spent her last decades. “I live so much out of the world,” she ruefully averred, but, just as her works have helped to connect generations of children to the natural one, so will this diminutive keepsake bring her private one into focus. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-30655-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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