Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Capstone Graphic Biographies

Library collections are always changing. Twenty years ago, I needed 100+ page biographies for students who were assigned biography projects. Today, I need shorter biographies on a wider variety of people. It's still a challenge; for Black History Month, there are a million different biographies of Rosa Parks or Mae Jemison, and for Women's History Month, so many versions of the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt or Susan B. Anthony. One teacher now assigns three minute presentations on activists, politicians, journalists, and other very specific types of careers, and it's been hard to find. 

When I Tweeted about this, Capstone reached out with several of their new series, including their Barrier Breakers and First But Forgotten series. I definitely have lots of these on order for next year! 

Still hoping for my Flemmie Pansy Kittrell biography! 

Turner, Myra Faye and Jenai, Markia (illus.)
In Disguise on the Underground Railroad: A Graphic Novel Biography of Anna Maria Weems
January 1, 2024 by Picture Window Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Weems' family, including her parents and eight siblings, were enslaved in Maryland in th emid 1800s. Her father had an understanding with his enslaver, and paid him so that his family could stay together. He was saving up to purchase his family when the man died, and the family was sold away by the inheritors. Anna's new enslaver would not sell her, hoping for more money. The family had help from lawyer Jacob Bigelow, and there was even a Weems ransom fund to try to raise money to reunite the family. Eventually, an escape was planned, and Anna, disguised as a young man, took a harrowing journey to Ontario, Canada, where she was reunited with her family. Not much is known about her life after that, although it is likely that she was educated at the Buxton Mission School. 

The graphic novel format moves this story along very quickly, and the pictures will give young readers a better idea of what the world looked like in the 1800s. There is a nice glossary at the end of the book, as well as lists of resources. 

Lukidis, Lydia and Sotirovski, Aleksandar (Illustrator).
Hiding from the Nazis in Plain Sight: A Graphic Novel Biography of Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya
January 1, 2024 by Picture Window Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Even at a young age, Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya were reknowned pianists, playing for audiences as well as on the radio. When the Germans invaded Kharkiv in 1941, the family was captured and sent on a death march. Once at the camp, the father bribed a guard to look the other way while the girls ran away. Zhanna managed to stay with friends, always on the move. She was eventually reunited with Frina, and the two managed to stay safe by leaving Ukraine and eventually moving to the US. There, they continued their musical careers. 

It was interesting that Zhanna's son was involved in the writing of this book, and believes that his mother and aunt may have been the only two Jewish survivors from Kharkiv. The notes about the rest of the women's lives, the bibliography, and the glossary round out this excellent short book. 

This was a different Holocaust story, and would be a good nonfiction companion to Zail's Playing for the Commandant Ross, Susan L. Searching for Lottie or  Ross' Searching for Lottie

Ms. Yingling

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