Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies, by Cokie Roberts (ages 8-12)

"What do you mean, they didn't write much about women? That's so unfair!"Emily, age 10
Tonight, I was reading aloud with my 10 year old (yep, she still loves it when I read her picture books) and I told her why I really wanted to read some of Cokie Robert's new book Founding Mothers. I explained that when I was growing up, the history books really didn't have much about the women who helped establish this country. Immediately, she was hooked and wanted to hear more.
Founding Mothers
Remembering the Ladies
by Cokie Roberts
illustrated by Diane Goode
Harper, 2014
your local library
ages 8-12
Roberts begins this picture book with letter explaining to readers how she came to write this book. It's a wonderful way to begin, because it personalizes the story for children, explaining why Roberts felt it was so important to write this and share these women's stories.
"I don't remember ever being taught anything about the women who lived at the time the thirteen American colonies decided to break from Britain and build a country. I knew nothing of the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and female friends of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence, fought in the revolution, created the Constitution, and formed our first government."
Roberts profiles ten women who were influential in the founding of the country, whether directly through their own writing or actions, or indirectly through the men they supported. She writes of Deborah Read Franklin, who ran her husband Ben Franklin's businesses in the States while he was in England. Goode's illustrations are lively and engaging, as you can see below.
Share this with children and see where the conversation takes you. I love the way Mary Lee Hahn, part of the terrific teaching duo behind A Year of Reading, describes how she might use the book:
"Even just the conversation about what makes a person influential would be fascinating, as would a discussion of the problem of how to know historic women deeply when they often did not leave a trail of primary source material for historians to study."
Roberts' writing is clear and concise, providing just enough information to pique children's interest. At times, I wish that she had shared more about where she found her information, or perhaps just a few more quotes from the women themselves. But I can understand how this might have weighed down the text too much. It's a delicate balance. Kids who are interested in learning more will definitely be interested in checking out the websites listed in the back.

For students who are interested in women's lives during this period, definitely check out the Colonial Williamsburg web site. Kids will like their new article "Martha Washington and 4 great 18th century women you've never heard of." I especially like their profiles of different women who lived and worked in Williamsburg, shedding light on the different roles and activities of a range of social classes.

Do you like sharing nonfiction picture books with children? Definitely check out the weekly feature over at Kid Lit Frenzy, hosted by Alyson Beecher.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Harper Collins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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