Tag Archives: strong girl

The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School
Teri Kanefield
Abrams books for young readers, 2014

This is a delicious, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, a story almost lost to history because of the racism of the times.

In Farmville, Virginia, at the age of 15, Barbara launches in her tar paper high school a strike, demanding equal education be offered to the black population.  Secretly she talks to all the kids and enlists the help of a few adult supporters.  Once the strike is launched, at an assembly where she directs everyone what to do, she enlists the help of NAACP and others.  In the onslaught of threats and ‘damage’ done to activists’ property, she persists until NAACP files a petition with the county school board demanding ‘integration of the schools’.  The school board rejects the petition and NAACP files a lawsuit in federal court alleging that segregation was unconstitutional.  This lawsuit is one of the four filed in federal court and that come together to form the Brown v. Board of Education case.  In 1954, three years after the strike at Moton High School, the US Supreme Court renders its decision declaring segregation in schools unconstitutional.  Segregation was a long time coming to the county, however, resulting in a generation of illiterate black students.

An incredible story in its day, it helps readers understand how dangerous it was to try to institute civil rights change in earlier times in the United States.  Fascinating story that will inspire readers.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon 
by Grace Lin
Lee & Low, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of those rich tales, which pulls in the reader and keeps the pages turning.  Through her tale of a young girl free of real-life cultural limitations, author Grace Lin weaves together the quietness of the Chinese culture with some boldness of the American culture.  The story works on many levels, with all the main characters growing from the experience.  I read the book twice and learned just as much the second time.

Though her hard-working family is poor, Minli is happy and enjoys her life.  Her dad tells her stories each evening to entertain her daughter.  But her mother keeps complaining about how little they have.  One day spirited Minli sets off to find the Old Man of the Moon who will tell her how she can change their fortune.  She soon meets up with a dragon and they travel together.  They meet several ‘impossible’ challenges along the way, but each time they keep their heart open and find a way around or through the obstacle.

Ms. Lin sprinkles in numerous mini ‘tales’ to give background and, often, clues about each challenge Minli faces.  Not seen often in children’s books, she inserts how Minli’s disappearance impacts her parents, gently capturing what they are learning and how it supports what Minli is learning.

Brilliantly written.  An engaging story.

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Violet the Pilot

Violet the Pilot
By Steve Breen
Dial Books, 2008
Amelia Bloomer Award

Violet reads Popular Science magazine and prefers to play with monkey wrenches and needle-nose pliers.  She is a mechanical genius.  Fortunately her parents manage a junk yard, so she has easy access to stuff.  By the time she turns eight, she is building elaborate machines—that fly!  She makes a Bicycopter, a Rocket Can and a Pogo Plane.  At school she eats alone and classmates tease her.  A poster announcing an air show, engages her dreams and she decides to enter in the show a flying machine.  She gives it a test flight and it passes with flying colors.  On the way to the air show, she spots a group of boy scouts that are having canoe trouble.  Realizing she will forgo the air show, she flies down to rescue the scouts.  From the hospital she waves good bye, but it is 3:30 and she missed the air show.  But, later that night she hears a crowd calling out, “THERE’S OUR HERO!”  The press, mayor, fire and police chiefs, along with kids from her school are outside.  The major awards her a medal of valor as a token of their gratitude and esteem.   And wait until you see the last page–Violet’s real reward!

Wake up the dreams in your imaginative young reader!

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Words with Wings

Words with Wings
By Nikki Grimes
WordSong, 2013
Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Words with Wings began as a picture book, but a wise editor asked Nikki to develop it into a novel.  Nikki created seventy-one poems to tell us Gabby’s story.

Except for English, Gabby is not the best student, she day dreams most of the time.  Her mother tries to get her to stop, while her father encourages it.  Her mother and father split and Gabby expresses her pain through poems.  Determined, Gabby tries very hard to not daydream, but her world is dull and even her teacher who normally scolds her for daydreaming, asks if she is okay.  Gabby makes a friend with an artist.  One day, while passing notes back and forth, Gabby is caught.  She walks her story of her daydream up to the teacher, returns to her seat and waits for her punishment.  Only it doesn’t come.  She worries all night.  The next day, after class, her teacher asks to talk to her.  He tells her,

“It’s wonderfully vivid,” he says.
“In fact, it’s given me an idea.
I’ll tell you all about it,
tomorrow.”

She’s dismissed and floats out of the room.  The next day the teacher announces they will have 10 minutes of daydream time every day, after which they can write them down.  Gabby’s whole life changes.  With a channel for her creativity, her relationship with her mom even changes.  Find out how.

A touching story, vivid in its descriptions, readers become part of Gabby’s experience.

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Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village


Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll
The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
by Sunny Seki
Tuttle Publishing, 2012

There’s magic in this story. While simply told, there’s something in it that stirs the heart and imagination.

Sunny Seki, originally from Japan, and an artist and story teller, gently tells the story of Yuko-Chan, a blind young girl. While many villagers feel sorry for her, she does not. She teases the village leaders who stop reciting scriptures when lights are blown out. ““Wow! You’re handicapped aren’t you,” she joked,” after she had continued reciting the scriptures, because she had memorized them.

As a female and someone with a disability, she was not allowed in school, but when the boys were left alone and made ‘noise’, she redirected them into producing harmony. Yuko-Chan heads out in a snow storm to deliver food and tumbles. She discovers the gourd, shaped like Daruma-san (Father of Zen Buddhism) up-righted itself. She came up with the idea that the villagers could make dolls that always stood upright and sell them to help them through a recent disaster where a volcano had ruined their crops. The dolls sold, and today people come from around the world to purchase them. The village’s success following the disaster started from a single idea from a blind girl.

The book includes text in both English and Japanese.

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Imogene’s Last Stand

Imogene’s Last Stand
By Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009
Amelia Bloomer Award

Join in the passion and relentless tactics of strong-headed history buff Imogine as she uncovers a bit of history that “will put her small town on the map.”

History lover Imogene fights to keep open a centuries-old historical society scheduled for demolition.  But “the new shoelace factory will put Liddleville on the map,” the townspeople say, and nobody pays attention to her.  “I won’t let it happen!” she declares.  “In the immortal words of John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight!’”  And so begins her appeal.

After several historical, patriotic grandstanding attempts to create interest in saving the site, she discovers a significant historical document.  She has only one day to save the building, and puts a scheme into place. She locks herself in a neck yoke on the building’s front porch to protest the destruction, and buy some time.

Bulldozers and TV reporters arrive; the townspeople gather to see what will happen.  When her dad arrives, the mayor demands he do something about the girl, and her father locks himself into another rack and sits with his daughter.  Midafternoon the President of the United States (a woman, of course) arrives and declares it an historical site.  Imogene succeeded in putting her town on the map!

Imogene’s parting words, “”That was totally fun!

A delicious story for strong, developing girls.

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