Our new children’s book, Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, tells the incredible story of Ira Aldridge. When we’ve shown this book to readers, we get one of two responses:
1) “I’ve never heard of Ira Aldridge.”
2) “You have a book about Ira Aldridge??! That’s so wonderful!”
The truth is, bringing Ira’s story to new readers is one of our great joys as a publisher. His is a story of phenomenal talent and determination, of someone who was truly born to do what he did. Too often, history has let the achievements of black people fall through the cracks–especially when they take place outside the narrative of slavery and civil rights. If you look at the African American biographies that appear most often, so many of them are focused on names we already know: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass. While it is important to remember these people and their achievements, acknowledging the contributions of black people in other arenas–art, music, science, and in this case, Shakespearean acting–is equally important. Continue reading →
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
First Lady Michelle Obama travels to China this week from March 19-26 and will be focusing on the power and importance of education. In an open letter to American students, the First Lady writes, “During my trip, I’ll be visiting a university and two high schools in Beijing and Chengdu (which are two of China’s largest cities). I’ll be talking with students about their lives in China and telling them about America and the values and traditions we hold dear. I’ll be focusing in particular on the power and importance of education, both in my own life and in the lives of young people in both of our countries.”
We at Lee & Low Books wish we could join the First Lady, but since we can’t this time around, we will be reading the biography of one of China’s greatest statesmen, poets, and humanitarians, Su Dongpo. This scholar is a shining example of how persistence and dedication to one’s studies lead to achievement beyond the classroom and enable one to affect meaningful change.
Since it’s Women’s History Month and baseball season is right around the corner (!), we asked our favorite sports expert, author Crystal Hubbard, whether she thought women should be allowed to play professional baseball. Here’s what she had to say:
Pitcher Jackie Mitchell signed a contract to play for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a Southern Association minor league team, in 1931. This deal differed from most because Mitchell wasn’t like the other boys. She wasn’t a boy at all. She was a woman, one of the very few to play professional baseball on all-male teams. Although Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an April 2, 1931 exhibition game against the New York Yankees soon after signing with the Lookouts, baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis canceled Mitchell’s contract, claiming that baseball was too strenuous for women. Commissioner Ford Frick, on June 21, 1952, officially banned women from professional baseball.
Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.
We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.
Writing someone’s biography can be a tricky business. First—and this is important—you’ve got to be enthusiastic about the person you’re writing about. Otherwise, it won’t work. Readers will know that on some level you’re not engaged and they won’t enjoy reading the book any more than you enjoyed writing it. I was asked once to write a biography of the Three Stooges. I said no, because I’ve never found their humor to be funny. Sure, I could get the facts right, but that’s not enough. You have to have passion.
Happy Baseball Season, readers! As Major League Baseball is gearing up for another rousing year, Lee & Low is releasing a picture book biography about a little talked about baseball legend who made a powerful impact. William “Dummy” Hoy was a talented player with a standout record who made an immense impact on the way that the great American pastime was played. Hoy’s stats are even more impressive when you consider that he was also one of the first deaf players in Major League Baseball.