Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead by Michelle Markel, illustrated by LeUyen Pham has sat on my desk for many months now. I generally shy away from reviewing books of a political or religious nature because it's just easier. However, now that I am an elementary school librarian and I am directly affecting the education of 600+ kids, I have found my voice. And, I think I have found a way to talk about Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead in a way that allows party politics to take a backseat to what is a great biography of a woman who has done very important things in her life that were made more difficult because of her gender and the double standards that exist to this day.
What I appreciate most about Markel's book is that she frames Hillary's story in a way that kids will understand and relate to, sprinkling in quotes from Hillary herself. Hillary is a girl, born in a time when "girls weren't supposed to act smart, tough or ambitious." Markel and Pham's work on Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead is impressive, consider the fact that this is a 32 page picture book. There is a timeline at the end of the book and an exhaustive artist's note that lists all the people portrayed in this book. From the start, where Hillary is portrayed amongst a group of great men of the mid-20th century, you see that this is a book that is filled with historical figures.
After an early childhood set up that establishes the unbending expectations for being a girl, Markel traces Rodham Clinton's passion for public service and social justice, inspired by experiences with her church youth group, including hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Attending an all-girls college, Hillary is elected student body president and chosen to give the first ever senior graduation speech in 1969. Following a senator who discourages students from protesting about America's problems, Hillary criticizes his words, receiving seven minutes of applause.
From her time at Yale Law School, where she was one of 27 women among a class totaling 253, to her marriage to Bill Clinton, Markel makes note of the challenges she faced. As a mother, lawyer and more, she is criticized for her "looks, because she didn't take the time to paint her toenails or style her hair," things no man would be dinged for. Markel goes on to point out the cruel ways that Hillary's appearance was picked apart by petty, scorching criticisms during her husband's presidential campaign. Two pages cover Hillary's attempts to secure affordable health care for all Americans and the vitriol and threats she faced, forcing her to wear a bulletproof vest as she traveled about.
In 1995, Hillary made a stunning speech at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing in which she said, "Women's rights are human rights, once and for all." Markel mentions that her speech was blacked out by the Chinese government and that it made front page international news, but that doesn't quite convey the remarkableness of it at the time, or the ways in which this is still an issue. But that's a lot for a kid's picture book...
Hillary's work as goodwill ambassador, senator and Secretary of State and first run for president are also covered. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to lead ends where it began, with Hillary, now grown, in a room full of remarkable people who have made great contributions to the lives of others. This time, she is surrounded by women.
If she becomes the first woman president of the United States, there will be many, many more books written about Hillary Rodham Clinton. But, even if she doesn't, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead is and invaluable contribution to the world of kid's books. Every year, the second graders at the school where I work have to do a report on a hero - someone who worked to make other people's lives better, and it is a challenge to find books for them, especially books about women. I am proud and thrilled to be able to place this book on the shelf alongside Jeanette Winter's Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan.
Source: Review Copy