skip to Main Content

For Women’s History Month – Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird Blog Tour

AWAY WITH WORDS:
The Daring Story of Isabella Bird
Written by Lori Mortensen
Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell
(Peachtree Publishing; $17.95, Ages 6-10)

 

cover illustration by Kristy Caldwell from Away With Words by Lori Mortensen

 

Before Nellie Bly or Amelia Earhardt there was Isabella Bird and, thanks to this eye-opening new picture book biography, Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, children can read about what impressive inroads this English explorer made at a time in history when a woman’s place was in the home not out globetrotting around the world, and writing about it to boot!

This “unlikely candidate for adventure,” who never felt well as a child, was born in the Yorkshire countryside in 1831. Isabella Bird suffered from a multitude of ailments and rarely left the house. That worked for awhile because, according to Victorian societal norms that she would eventually challenge, “Young ladies wore dresses. / Young ladies didn’t go to school. / Young ladies stayed home.” Countless doctors couldn’t diagnose her with anything until one doctor recommended she get some fresh air. Her father took Isabella out with him on his horse and, with his encouragement, she made discoveries that would forever change the course of her life. “Out in the wild, Isabella forgot about her aches and pains. / She breathed in new ways to see and describe everything around her.”

Captured beautifully by Caldwell’s spread below, letters from relatives abroad and other news from overseas sparked a flame in Isabella. She felt deep inside that travel would feed her soul and she yearned for the possibilities it would provide but some days she could barely get up. The tide turned for the better when her doctor suggested a sea voyage and her parents agreed.

 

interior illustration by Kristy Caldwell from Away With Words by Lori Mortensen

Interior spread from Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird written by Lori Mortensen and illustrated by Kristy Caldwell, Peachtree Publishing ©2019.

 

She boarded a mail steamer for Nova Scotia and from then on there was no looking back for this intrepid young woman. Her red leather notebook accompanied her wherever she went. I love how Mortensen weaves quotations of text from Bird’s own published books wherever it adds atmosphere to the story. Caldwell’s colorful illustrations pair perfectly with those lines. One of my favorites is, “There was a small bed with a dirty buffalo-skin upon it; I took it up and swarms of living creatures fell out of it …”

Her first book, The Englishwoman in America, was published in 1856, smack in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign. But when her father passed away Bird chose to end her explorations. That ultimately led to a flare up of her ailments and an onset of doldrums that, at her sister’s urging, could only be allayed by journeying across five continents. It took grit and guts and bravery to gallivant solo around the world to myriad destinations lacking in creature comforts, but Isabella persevered. Thanks to her detailed record keeping of all the places she visited, the nine additional books she wrote became bestsellers. People craved reading about the exotic locales and peoples that they’d never see in their lifetime whether that be climbing up Kilauea volcano in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), trekking across the dangerous frozen Persian “desert at the roof of the world,” or befriending a “notorious outlaw.”

 

int illustration by Kristy Caldwell from Away With Words by Lori Mortensen

Interior spread from Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird written by Lori Mortensen and illustrated by Kristy Caldwell, Peachtree Publishing ©2019.

 

As Mortensen’s story vividly demonstrates, the world was indeed Isabella’s home so it’s no surprise that in 1892, Bird was the first woman to ever be inducted into the Royal Geographical Society of London and a year later was presented to Queen Victoria. In 32 pages of lyrical prose, Mortensen shows young readers the personal growth and happiness that can come from travel and exposure to a vast range of cultures. Caldwell’s artwork includes just the right amount of soaring spirit a name like Bird implies.

Picture book biographies, when done well, provide a much needed window on the world of important people from the past that we might ordinarily never hear or read about. Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, does that and more. It offers inspiration and a role model for children who, long after Women’s History Month has ended, will no doubt want to seek out Bird’s impressions by turning to her original books to learn more about this trailblazer’s 19th century daring journeys. The back matter including an author’s note, a timeline of Bird’s travels and publications, Bird’s text quotations, and a bibliography make this nonfiction book ideal for both home and school. In fact, I’d give it as a gift to a child along with a journal to get them started on documenting their own travels, even if that’s just an outing to the zoo or a trip to another city.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Visit other stops below on this enlightening blog tour from Peachtree Publishing:

3/5: Let’s Talk Picture Books

3/6: Pragmatic Mom

3/7: Geo Librarian

3/8: Kid Lit Frenzy

 

The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS

(Peachtree, $16.95, ages 4-8)

Not Your Mother’s Monarch

by Bil Lepp with illustrations by David T. Wenzel

by Bil Lepp
with illustrations by
David T. Wenzel

At first glance I thought that, with its fancy gold lettering, this was a holiday book. But it’s even better. It’s a picture book page turner! Yep, and for good reason. Author Bil Lepp and illustrator David T. Wenzel have created a book for all seasons that is certain to appeal to a lot of kids with its strong story and superb artwork.

Lepp has woven a tale so engaging that children may even read the story so quickly to discover the ending that they miss Wenzel’s wonderful illustrations. Not to worry. This is a book well worth going back over again and again, first to carefully study and enjoy each picture’s small details then again to look out for items readers are asked to seek out at the book’s end. What a terrific idea making this an inviting interactive experience for both parents and kids.

Have you ever read this African proverb below? It’s just a hint of what this new children’s book is all about:

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.

The King of Little Things is not your mother’s monarch. In his realm he reigns over candle holders, corks and sleeping dogs; lanterns, lizards, wheels and cogs. How many kings find joy in the simple pleasure of admiring a butterfly’s wing? This royal majesty much prefers peanuts or a pocket watch to the riches most kings desire. He does not long for conquering the world. Instead he chooses to cherish life’s tiniest treasures along with “a cozy house and a loving queen.”

But alas, in a distant kingdom lives King Normous, a power hungry hulk of a person determined to conquer all kingdoms big and small. Imagine the King of Little Things finding out the greedy galloping Goliath (better known as King Normous) is on his way to rid the world of all things little, the foremost being The King of Little Things himself! Well our hero has a plan to stop the evil enemy with an entitlement complex and it’s not just clever, it’s downright fantastic. But I don’t want to spoil the ending. Suffice it to say that the world’s littlest things who “loved their king,” do whatever it takes to save him from being annihilated by this monster of a sovereign. There’s alliteration and rhyming galore mixed with humor and some important lessons to take away from this top notch tale.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Check out these other great sites for more reviews on this blog tour!

 

Of Dads and Dinosaurs

ADD2We’re celebrating fathers this month as Father’s Day is right around the corner.  Are Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? ($16.95, Peachtree Publishing, Ages 3-7) by Julie Middleton is the perfect picture book for young children to read with their dads. It’s cute, it’s clever and it’ll teach you a thing or two about prehistoric creatures.

Are Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? is a story about a boy named Dave, who goes to a museum with his Dad to see a dinosaur exhibit. “Are the dinosaurs dead, Dad?” is the first of many questions Dave asks his father.

“Dead?” Dad said. “Yes, the dinosaurs are dead.

But as father and son tour the museum, young Dave is sure the dinosaurs are trying to communicate with him despite Dad’s assurances over and over again that it’s not possible.

Or is it?

What I enjoyed about this simple picture book is that it’s a heck of a lot of fun to read and is educational. I absolutely love the big, vibrant illustrations by Russell Ayto and the whimsical font which makes the book look like it was handwritten. You’ll be hard pressed to find a kindergartener  or first grader who isn’t fascinated by dinosaurs; these extinct animals were really extraordinary. Besides, what better way is there to celebrate dad, and all of his expertise, than reading an especially fun book like this with him?

For another cute book about dads, check out this review of My Dad Thinks He’s Funny.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Misplaced, But not Forgotten

Debbie Glade is today’s reviewer.

As soon as I saw the title of this book, Lost and Found ($16.95, Peachtree Publishers, Ages 4-8) by Grammy Award winner, Bill Harley, I knew I had to read it. It seems I spend half my time looking for my glasses, cell phone or my husband’s wallet. I need a Lost and Found Box in my own house!

Meet Justin, a boy who has lost his favorite hat. It was handmade by his grandma, and he has to find it before she comes to the house and asks where it is (sound familiar?). The only problem is that to look through the Lost and Found at Justin’s school, he’s got to deal with grumpy old Mr. Rumkowsky, who has been there since Justin’s own mom went to that school. Justin finally gets the courage up to go to the Lost and Found, and what he discovers is very different than what he expected.

What you and your kids will love about this book are all the treasures Justin finds in the great big Lost and Found Box, which are spectacularly illustrated by Adam Gustavson. You’ll also appreciate the surprise ending, and children will learn the valuable lesson that sometimes people are not who we think they are.

We can all relate to the frustration of losing something important to us and the joy of finding it. Every child and parent on this earth can relate to and appreciate the story and marvelous illustrations in Lost and Found. Now if we could only find as many things as we lose.

Hurry! There’s still time to enter the Lost and Found Contest. You have until September 26, 2012 to enter. Read about it here.

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: