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Wonderful Lessons From Inspiring Picture Books

I think I never stopped reading picture books. Even when I was a teenager. Somehow my love for the printed word in all its forms overcame all (well, almost all) other ideas about what books should be read by whom. Today’s focus is on wonderful lessons learned from inspiring picture books, using a few recent, well, inspiring picture books!

Then there is the fact that picture books serve so many purposes simply by being what they are; they delight and entertain, they inspire and inform, and they are pure joy.

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The Inspiring Picture Books

(and their Wonderful Lessons!)

The Fighting Infantryman

Book Info

Title: The Fighting Infantryman: The Story of Albert D. J. Cashier, Transgender Civil War Soldier
Author: Rob Sanders 
Illustrator: Nabi Ali 
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies, LGBTQ (6 – 9 years)
Publisher: little bee books(June 2, 2020)
Source: Copy from publishers to read for the Cybils Round 1 judging

Description: This beautifully written and timely story shows a transgender soldier’s personal bravery as he faced daring challenges on the battlefield and privately battled the restrictions and confines of gender.

My Thoughts

This was certainly an unheard story of an unknown (at least to me) brave soldier. Sanders’ narrative along with Nabi Ali’s illustrations give readers insight into Albert’s life; from the time little Jenny donned boy’s clothes to help out with chores, and later took on the role of Albert to enroll as a solider in the army, until later in life when his pension was repealed, and what happened after.

Backmatter includes Author’s notes, a timeline, a list of resources, a glossary, and pictures of Albert. Sanders uses the notes to further discuss what we know about Albert D. J. Cashier, more about the news that made the headlines and the resulting events, as well as to ponder unanswered questions, including Albert’s reasons and motivations.

While we can never be sure if it was necessity that led to Jenny becoming Albert or just who he was, the book does reveal how gender (binary or not) was and still is an issue today in many areas.

Lessons Learned

I was somehow reminded of watching Mulan when I read this, and how, the other soldiers were at the forefront to lend support after they found out she was female. This true story teaches that we should standup for others, be a true comrade and offer support. It also tells us that bravery can help overcome many obstacles. Teachers and educators can also use this to introduce concepts of pension, and petitioning to the government to right a wrong.

Get It Here

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How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion

Book Info

Title: How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion
Author: Ashima Shiraishi 
Illustrator: Yao Xiao 
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies, (4 8 years)
Publisher: Make Me a World (April 7th 2020)
Source: e-copy from publishers to read for the Cybils Round 1 judging

Description: From Ashima Shiraishi, one of the world’s youngest and most skilled climbers, comes a true story of strength and perseverence–in rock-climbing and in life.

My Thoughts

This introduces readers to Ashima Shiraishi, or more specifically to how she approaches “problems” (which is what climbers term the boulders they have to climb next).

While the illustrations didn’t fully appeal to me, I am sure they will appeal to many audiences. I totally loved how both text and artwork showed how Ashima visualizes the problems she faces; and how she uses each fall/failure to learn how to do better the next time, until finally she succeeds in solving the problem (or in this case, climbing that rock).

A book that urges young readers, through art and narrative, to reach for the stars, to learn from mistakes and failures, and to keep going no matter what..

Lessons Learned

Using examples and those cool visualizations, we learn that life is bound to throw obstacles at us, and we need to work through them. We need to learn from failures, and look within as well as think outside the box to solve problems. That we have to keep going, and that a combination of perseverance and patience will get us to the top of the hill. And of course, that practice makes perfect.

Get It Here

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Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Book Info

Title: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe
Author: Vivian Kirkfield
Illustrator: Alleanna Harris 
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies, Performing Arts (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: little bee books(January 28th 2020)
Source: Library

Description: Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are. 

My Thoughts

This was a beautiful story of a warm and wonderful friendship. While I knew a little about each woman separately, and certainly more about Monroe that Fitzgerald (should have known more about her too), I had no idea of the friendship they shared.

This book starts off with showing both stars at the start of their careers, and their individual struggles because of race and gender based barriers. Then, it shows how their lives intersect; and how they help and support each other once they connect.

A heartwarming and inspiring read of how women can lift each other up.

Backmatter includes an author’s note, additional details on both stars and their connection, and a list of resources.

Lessons Learned

This book shows how everyone needs help, even stars can use some support to shine. We learn to be inspired by others, and learn that lifting each other up makes everything better for everyone. Friendships are to be cherished, and we can easily show support and form alliances that are beneficial to all.

Get It Here

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Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight

Book Info

Title: Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight
Author: Michelle Lord 
Illustrator: Alleanna Harris 
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies, (5 years and up)
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books(January 7th 2020)
Source: Library

Description: The inspiring story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery—and gave her patients the gift of sight.

My Thoughts

Yet another unsung and unknown(to me) hero of everyday life. This is definitely a book that belongs in any list of truly inspiring picture books.

Dr. Patricia Bath was a pioneer indeed, in so many ways; as a woman of color in a field at a time and age when very few women were doctors; and as a pioneer in the field of laser surgery. She was an inspiring woman, and fought for herself, and for others throughout her life.

Michelle Lord uses straightforward language and weaves in direct quotes throughout that adds power to the narrative.

Backmatter includes a timeline, author’s note, as well as more information about Dr. Patricia Bath, and citations as well as reading resources.

Lessons Learned

You can break through barriers of race and gender through tenacity and grit. Be curious, be passionate, be kind. Strive to help others. Stand up for yourself and for others.

Get It Here

Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound

Queen of Tejano Music: Selena

Book Info

Title: Queen of Tejano Music: Selena
Author: Silvia López
Illustrator: Paola Escobar  
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Women Biographies, Diverse Reads(6 – 9 years)
Publisher: little bee books(August 25th 2020)
Source: Copy from publishers to read for the Cybils Round 1 judging

Description: This is a moving and impassioned picture book about the iconic Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla, that will embolden young readers to find their passion and make the impossible, possible!

My Thoughts

Another picture book that taught me a lot about someone I had just known by name. My teens definitely knew her better than I did, but they learned a lot from this book as well.

I was simply blown away by the artwork in this book. That cover is simply stunning, right? If I had not got this book as part of the Cybils Awards reading, I know I would have got it for myself anyway for I would have fallen in love with the frame-worthy illustrations. The artwork is simply stupendously amazing. (Adverb overload, I know, but needed!) Selena’s beauty and her warm, joyful personality shine through the pages.

While the wordiness of the book does not lend itself to a read-aloud, every word lends to the inspiring narrative of Selena’s life; from her childhood dreams to her struggles, and to her successes. My only quibble was that the author chose to mention her death not in the main narrative, but as part of notes included in the extensive backmatter.

Backmatter includes a timeline of her life; additional information on Tejano culture and history; Selena’s death; and a few more relevant details.

Lessons Learned

We learn that with passion and persistence, all barriers can be broken, just like Selena did with those of gender and race (and even age). The lyrics of Backstreet Boys’ As Long As You Love Me started playing in my mind as I wanted to talk about another learned lesson (with one difference)!!

Because no matter who you are, or where you are from, or what others tell you, what really matters in the path to your success is what you do.(and how you do it too). (oops – a long, long sentence but..)

Get It Here

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Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Book Info

Title: Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane
Author: Kirsten W. Larson  
Illustrator: Tracy Subisak 
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Women’s Biographies, Inventors, STEM (7 – 10 years)
Publisher: Calkins Creek (February 25th 2020)
Source: Library

Description: This picture book biography explores both the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles one of the greatest challenges of the early 1900s: designing an airplane.

My Thoughts

Books like these are the reason I love picture books. I learn so many wonderful things and hear about amazing people who certainly deserve more recognition.

Emma Lilian Todd is one such inspiring person. Her spirit of invention, passion for tinkering, her determination, and ability to learn from failures shine through on every page. Tinkering with everything she could as a child to working on designing a more practical airplane, Todd followed through every dream, and soared!

Larson’s lyrical language interspersed with direct quotes makes for a strong and engaging narrative, one I totally loved reading out loud (to myself!) I loved the focus on learning from failures, and the trial-and-error method. It was also inspiring to note that in the age when women were not looked upon as inventors or tinkerers, Todd pursued her dreams with passion and grit.

And I also enjoyed Tracy Subisak’s charming illustrations that capture whimsy in brushstrokes and technical details in ink with equal ease.

Do not miss the backmatter in this book. It offers more details about aviation history in general, as well as cool photos of Todd’s airplane. The author’s note also includes additional information about aviation and Todd. There is also an exhaustive bibliography for the curious reader.

Lessons Learned

Readers learn that the phrase ‘If at first you don’t succeed, Trytrytry again‘ is totally true. Persisting in the face of failure and obstacles, and learning from those failures, as well as learning from nature and what others have already done will help reach goals. The concept and process of the scientific method is shown through Todd’s experiments as a child, and on her airplane design.

Get It Here

Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound

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Wonderful Lessons Learned From Inspiring Picture Books

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these books, or similar books about these individuals? As always, I look forward to your thoughts, recommendations, and comments.

33 thoughts on “Wonderful Lessons From Inspiring Picture Books

    1. Totally agree with you Beth. We discovered so many wonderful books (and authors) during the Cybils reading (and I still have to get started on all those other categories still, as well as those books that missed getting added to the nominations for various reasons)

  1. I loved reading about these. Proves that picture books are not just for kids. =) I loved how you were reminded of Mulan by one and was reminded of the importance of persistence by another.

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