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Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn, Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks, 32 pp, RL 2

Last year I reviewed the first four books in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series. Initially skeptical (could a picture book for a very young audience focusing on a historic figure really convey her life's work and importance?) I was immediately won over. The books in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series distill and give context to the lives of the subjects, making their contributions to humanity immediate for young readers/listener. Back matter includes photographs of the subject, when available, along with a timeline and text that adds depth to the life and work of the subject. Also, and equally important, the Little People, BIG DREAMS series stands out on the shelf. Visually, these books look very different from biographies for children and American picture books in general. That could be because this series is published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, an imprint of the British publisher The Quarto Group, known for making and selling, beautifully illustrated and designed books that, "entertain, educate and enrich the lives of adults and children around the world." The design of the books, with the black cloth spine that unifies them, also stand out for the illustrations. Save one, all of the illustrators for this series are Spanish - and women, as are the authors of the books in this series.
For some of the subjects in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, childhood traumas, like Frida Kahlo's devastating injuries from a bus accident, are important to the adults they become and the authors do a fine job presenting them appropriately. When Maya Angelou was eight, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. Referred to as an attack in her Little People, BIG DREAMS biography, it is important because it lead her her muteness for the next five years. The author, appropriately, does not mention that, identified by Angelou, the man was arrested, convicted and released. Shortly thereafter, he was found beaten to death. Believing that she was responsible for this man's death, young Angelou stopped speaking. These are the fine lines that biographers writing for young readers must carefully negotiate.
Amelia Earhart's biography is probably the thinnest of the group thus far, possibly because she didn't suffer the discrimination, poverty, tragedy or war that so many of the other subjects experienced in their lives. Nonetheless, it was interesting to learn that she created the Ninety-Nines, a club for fearless female pilots. 
Like Frida Kahlo, Coco Chanel and Agatha Christie, Audrey Hepburn is one of the subjects in the series is known for her artistic contributions to the world. Hepburn's biography in this series touches on her war related hardships suffered during her childhood in the Netherlands. Addressing her success as an actress, the author notes that Audrey sometimes worried that she did not deserve the accolades. This leads perfectly into her second career as the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

If the Little People, BIG DREAMS series had been published by an American company, Susan B. Anthony and not Emmeline Pankhurst would have been the subject of this book. Having never heard of Pankhurst, I was fascinated by the life and work of this British suffragist. Raised by activist parents, Emmeline began fighting for women's rights when she was fourteen. A young widow with four children, Pankhurst was inspired to renew her fight by her three daughters. Together, they started a new activist group that encouraged women to demand their rights with "deeds not words." In 1918, she saw the government extend the right to vote to all men over the age of twenty-one and to women over the age of thirty - if they were married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner or a graduate of a univeristy. Shortly after her death in 1928, the government extended the vote to all women over the age of twenty-one.

Rosa Parks's biography important in that it begins with her grandparents telling her stories of their days as slaves. For young readers, slavery in America is simply described as a time when, "black people weren't free to live like other people." Racism and segregation is illustrated by young Rosa and her little brother walking to their one-room school, watching as a school bus filled with white children - one of whom is throwing a banana peel out the window - speeds by. Parks's arrest for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on the bus and the results of the protests that followed and her continued work as part of the civil rights movement, although this cost her family their safety and jobs.

Click the links below for my reviews of the first four books in the series and be sure to look for two more books in the Little People,  BIG DREAMS coming this year!
Marie Curie and Agatha Christie
 Coco Chanel and Frida Kahlo

The many marvelous illustrators contributing to the 
Little People, BIG DREAMS series:

Coming in March!

Source: Review Copies


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