News & Reviews

The Only Woman Whose Name Is on the Declaration of Independence



Christy Ottaviano Books (pub.1.25.2022) 40 pages

Author: Ella Schwartz

Illustrator: Dow Phumiruk

Character: Mary Katharine Goddard


"Born in 1738, Mary Katharine Goddard came of age in colonial Connecticut as the burgeoning nation prepared for the American Revolution. As a businesswoman and a newspaper publisher, Goddard paved the way for influential Revolutionary media. Her remarkable accomplishments as a woman defied societal norms and set the stage for a free and open press.

When the Continental Congress decreed that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, one person rose to the occasion and printed the document—boldly inserting her name at the bottom with a printing credit: Mary Katharine Goddard."

Tantalizing taste:

"Most parents in colonial America thought girls should only learn to cook, sew, and take care of the house, but Mary Katharine's parents disagreed. They wanted their daughter to have the same education as her brother, William. Mary Katharine learned how to read and write just as well as her brother. They were mostly taught by their mother, who encouraged the Goddard children to study Latin, ancient history, and classic literature. As a young girl, Mary Katharine realized that knowledge made her powerful."

And something more: In the interview of Dow and Ella on John Schu's Watch. Connect. Read. Dow shares more about this inspiring and beautifully illustrated book: "I am grateful for talented authors like Ella. Her meticulous research shines a light on Mary Katharine's life and accomplishments. I am also grateful for our editor Christy Ottaviano (Christy Ottaviano Books), who champions so many stories of influential and brave women like Mary Katharine."

And I agree! I too am grateful for the wonderful Christy Ottaviano.Christy was the editor of the children's picture book biography that Dow and I did together, MAYA LIN: Artist - Architect of Light and Lines, which shares the story of another inspiring and influential woman.

Updated: Mar 22

The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson



Abrams Books for Young Readers

(pub 3.8.22) 48 pages

Author: Sandra Nickel

Illustrator: Helena Perez Garcia

Character: Joanne Simpson


"When Joanne Simpson (1923-2010) was a girl, she sailed her boat beneath the puffy white clouds of Cape Cod. As a pilot, she flew her plane so high, its wings almost touched them. And when World War II began and Joanne moved to the University of Chicago, a professor asked her to teach Air Force officers about those very clouds and the weather-changing winds.

As soon as the war ended, Joanne decided to seriously study the clouds she had grown to love so much. Her professors laughed. They told her to go home. They told her she was no longer needed. They told her, 'No woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will.'

But Joanne was stubborn. She sold her boat. She flew her last flight. She saved her money so that she could study clouds. She worked so hard and discovered so much that—despite what the professors said—she received a doctorate in meteorology. She was the first woman in the world to do so."

Tantalizing taste:

" By the time Joanne was five, she had discovered her mother didn't much care where she was. That summer on Cape Cod, she slipped a small boat into the inlet behind her cottage, tipped her face to the sky, and watched the clouds above her. There were whiffs and ribbons and mountains of clouds. Some were brilliant; some were frightening. Joanne loved them all.

By the time Joanne was ten, she had learned her mother's words could be icier than the coldest winds.

You are too stubborn. You are too smart.

You have to be lovable to be loved, Joanne."

And something more: Sandra Nickel kindly shared with me her experience of first school visit with her new book: "I just had my first school visit for Breaking Through the Clouds and you could have heard a pin drop. The kids were absolutely enthralled by Joanne's scientific journey and the subject of clouds. I think they were fascinated by Joanne, because I told her story as she did. I went through boxes and boxes of her scientific notes and private papers at Harvard University. I discovered that Joanne's mother was neglectful and emotionally abusive, and I begin Joanne's story that way, showing how clouds became her escape and later her life's passion. As I told the kids about this, I saw them becoming more and more invested in Joanne's journey and also more interested in clouds. It was as if the saving nature of clouds in Joanne's life made clouds more valued and interesting to them. It was beautiful to see."

Thank you to Sandra for sharing your experience with the students. I'm certain those children and all others who read the book will see and appreciate clouds in a new way, and be saddened yet also inspired by the story of Joanne Simpson. And, of course, as another author of picture book biographies, I'm very impressed that Sandra carefully researched this book by going through boxes and boxes of Joanne's scientific notes and private papers at Harvard. Primary sources are the best for telling a person's story!

Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artists



Holiday House (pub.5.11.2021) 48 pages

Author: Laurie Lawlor

Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander

Character: Marianne North


"In 1882, Marianne North showed the gray city of London paintings of jaw-dropping greenery like they'd never seen before.

As a self-taught artist and scientist, Marianne North subverted Victorian gender roles and advanced the field of botanical illustration. Her technique of painting specimens in their natural environment was groundbreaking. The legendary Charles Darwin was among her many supporters.

Laurie Lawlor deftly chronicles North's life, from her restrictive childhood to her wild world travels to the opening of the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens to her death in 1890. The North gallery at Kew Gardens remains open to the public today."

Tantalizing taste:

" Marianne slept anywhere - hammock, mat, or straw pallet. Often she shared her shelter with pesky rats, lizards, stinging ants, giant spiders, and poisonous snakes. More than once marauding crows tried to steal her glittering tubes of paint. Never a picky eater, she consumed anything - from squid to mangoes, from crabs to guavas."

And something more: Marianne North's Legacy, at the back of the book, shares an anecdote about the times and prejudices Marianne faced, but also her spunk: "An early visitor, who wandered in by accident while Marianne was still getting ready for the opening, was said to have been nearly knocked breathless by the display. [He asked] 'It isn't true what they say about all these being painted by one woman, is it?' When Marianne replied that yes, she had indeed done them all, the man was flabbergasted. 'You!' he declared 'Then it is lucky for you that you did not live two hundred years ago, or you would have been burned for a witch.' Marianne took this as a back-handed compliment."

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

Jeanne has reviewed over 170 picture book biographies here and

previously on her blog  titled  TRUE TALES