As mentioned last week, I’m excited to see 2012 picture books, even as we get closer (just a little over a week now!) to the announcement of the 2012 Caldecott winner.

Read more new and notable books for kids this January.

Actually, given my enthusiasm to hear the Caldecott committee’s announcement on Jan. 23, it would be altogether more accurate to type it this way: JUST A LITTLE OVER A WEEK NOW! (I’ll spare you a larger font and the excessive use of exclamation marks.)

One well-crafted title I’ve already seen in 2012 is Shana Corey’s picture-book biography of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, called Here Come the Girls Scouts! It’s illustrated by debut artist Hadley Hooper and was released by Scholastic this month in anticipation of the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary this spring.

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What a surprise this book was to me. I knew nothing about Juliette or even, honestly, the Girl Scouts. (I know what the average person on the street knows, mainly that their cookies are super delicious, and that Samoas and Do-si-dos tie for Best Cookie of All, and my mind simply cannot be changed on that, thanks anyway for trying.) I was somewhat amazed, and pleasantly so, to read how progressive the first troop was. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

First a bit about Juliette…

“Daisy was a girl with gumption,” Corey starts out (with a really eye-catching first spread from Hooper). “Daisy grew up in Savannah, Georgia, at a time when proper young ladies were supposed to be dainty and delicate.” But Daisy thought that was “bosh!”—to be precise about it.

When she was old enough, and despite losing almost all of her hearing to an ear infection, she decided to travel the world. She also was a true eccentric: “When her camellias didn’t bloom in time for a party, she ‘borrowed’ blossoms from her neighbors’ gardens and tired them to her trees,” Corey writes in a closing author’s note.

Most importantly, she bucked the confines often placed on young women of that time. Indeed, if you take a look at the 1887 portrait of her, which hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and is included in the book, you have to wonder—or at least I do—if that isn’t the face of a woman who is feeling, quite possibly, a tad bit stifled by that corset and all that it represented at that time in American history. 

It was while in England that she discovered the existence of the Boy Scouts, deciding to bring such a group for girls to America. She called her cousin, asking her to join forces, and got right to work, devoting all her time and energy at the age of 51 to the new organization.

Now, back to how remarkably progressive the first troop was: For one, Daisy was determined for the Girl Scouts to be diverse, actively forming groups for girls of all classes (orphans and society girls), as well as both Christians and Jews; it was in 1921 that they finally opened the Scouts to minorities.

But it was subverting the expectations of girls and women for that time that was most impressive. Sure, Daisy was determined for the group to “do good deeds,” but they would also camp, swim, hike, tie knots, save lives, learn to survive in the wilderness, learn to boat, play basketball, how to “secure a burglar with eight inches of cord,” how to stop a runaway horse, how to get the skin off a sardine, and—best of all—go on walks, savor the green and breathe the good fresh air, as Corey writes.

“In MY day, young ladies knew their place!” muttered many appalled ladies, but Daisy kept her head up and carried on.

Hooper incorporates quotes from the first Girl Scout handbook into her warm illustrations, which were created with paint, ink, printmaking techniques and a bit of digital manipulation—and which capture both Daisy’s spunk and grace. These quotes in and of themselves are fascinating, many of them even more applicable to contemporary life: “Fresh air is your great friend.” “In this United States of ours we have cut down too many trees…So let us plant trees.”

And the closing author’s note on Corey’s detailed research? Also captivating. She includes an extensive list of sources, even for those handbook quotes. Well done, all around.

So, sit down with your favorite box of Do-si-dos (or, OK, Thin Mints, if that’s your style) and be sure to experience this one.

Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.