Children's Book ReviewsThe Internet Writing Journal, May 2000
Page Three of Three
Voices of the Alamo by Sherry Garland, Illustrated by Ronald JimlerScholastic, March 2000.
Picture Book, 40 pages
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Sherry Garland and Ronald Himler team up to create this unique look at the history and people of the land which is the site of the Alamo. Told in a series of prose poems from the varying points of view of the people who shaped Texas, the story starts in 1500 with a captivating portrait of a nameless Payaya maiden who notes, "But this earth does not belong to me, for who can own the wind or the rain?" The story moves forward to the Conquistadors of 1542 who are there to find gold and glory, to 1745 when the Catholic priests build missions near San Antonio, to 1834 when we hear General Santa Ana rail against the Texians and declare he will drive them from Mexico, to 1836 when we see a poor peasant who has been conscripted into Santa Ana's army, to the final days of the heroic last stand of the brave defenders of the last battle at the Alamo, and to the final winning of Texas' independence from Mexico.
Sherry Garland's prose poetry is haunting and moving, without ever becoming maudlin. Ronald Himler's watercolors are rich and vibrant, with a slight otherworldly quality which adds to the atmosphere of the past. Garland takes care to show all sides of the conflict; nevertheless, the defenders still come across as brave souls and Santa Ana like the arrogant egotist (and poor strategist) that he was (he was eventually captured while sound asleep in his tent having grossly underestimated the independent-minded Texans.) This is jewel of a book and is the kind of story that will make children love to hear more about history -- especially Texas children who grow up with stories about the Alamo.
You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! by Shana Corey, Illustrated by Chesley McLarenScholastic, March 2000.
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In the 1850s women's clothing was uncomfortable, hot and weighed between 20 and 40 pounds. Amelia Jenkins Bloomer had never seen the point of "proper" ladies' fashions. To her, they simply prevented her from doing the things that she liked to do. An early feminist, she worked tirelessly for women's rights, and formed her own newspaper called The Lily. She was inspired when she saw a new outfit of pants (or bloomers as they were later called) worn by the cousin of her friend, feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The fashion statement was picked up by women all over the nation, to the absolute horror of the establishment.
This delightful picture book tells the story of Amelia Bloomer, her refusal to be proper, and her fashion forward statement with snappy prose and the wonderful and vivid gouache illustrations of Chesley McLaren. When Amelia wears her new outfit she hears, "You forgot your skirt, Amelia Bloomer!" from an impertinent little boy. "'Shocking!' everyone else said. But Amanda perseveres to great success. The book ends with bloomers eventually going out of style. "But did people really forget all about Amelia Bloomer and her improper ideas?" asks the author -- and the page is illustrated with swimwear from the 1920s, bellbottoms from the 1960s and power suits of the 1980s. This is a marvelously imagined and clever book -- don't miss it. Highly recommended.
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