Children’s publishing is awash with fabulous, fresh, picture books telling the sometimes only semi-biographical stories of remarkable women. Covering fashion designers, scientists, cooks and more, these books hope to expand the vision of their own possibilities for young readers.
Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad
The intro to this book explain that it isn’t based on a true invent from the famous chef’s life, but is instead a savory “what if” story. Julia is young girl with exquisite taste in cuisine. Along with her friend Simca, Julia practices cooking French food and prepares many bad meals along the way. In an attempt to stay young, the girls create dishes so delicious that it forces grown-ups to leave behind their busy, worry and hurry.
The sweet story is peppered with sophisticated word choices, and the story is light and wispy. The illustrations are predominately black line drawings with some pieces of each page filled with color. From Julia’s curly brown hair, to the rainbow of smells and flavors wafting from the pot, the pops of color add to the sweetness of the story. This would be a lovely book for kids to share with any adult foodies in their lives.
Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie van Haeringen
When you hear the name Coco Chanel what do you envision? Maybe a stiff clothed fashion mogul. Maybe you recall her perfume and its infamously expensive ad campaigns. What you probably don’t picture is a Cinderella type orphan, scrubbing floors and working long hours of every day. Coco was raised in an orphanage and in that setting she learned to sew and design clothes. When she left at eighteen years of age, she wasn’t sure what she was going to do but she was certain that whatever she did it wouldn’t include being poor, and unlike Cinderella, this orphan didn’t need a prince to make her dreams come true.
She noticed that many women’s clothes were restrictive and form-fitting. She designed a string of more comfortable yet professional clothes and is given credit for creating the little black dress.
The illustrations are spare but sweet, as is the story. It is a slight but accessible story that encourages kids to work hard to make their dreams come true.
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
A true treasure, this book incorporates, among other things, actual drawings made by Primatologist Jane Goodall when she was a child. Printed on a natural paper with a sand color, young Jane falls in love with her stuffed toy chimpanzee. She studies everything that she can find about the creatures and dreams of someday living in Africa and studying and serving the creatures.
As adults we know how this story ends, but children will delight in seeing an actual photograph of Jane and a chimp, her dream come true on the final page.
The simple and sweet illustration style perfectly compliments the aptly chosen, yet simple story-telling style. There are watermark scientific images behind the text which help draw the reader into the all encompassing obsession of Jane’s life. This book is smart, witty and a pure joy.