Synopses & Reviews
Eleanor Roosevelt was raised in a privileged but stern Victorian household, with an affectionate but mostly absent father and a critical mother who made fun of her daughter's looks. Alone and lonely for much of her childhood, Eleanor found solace in books and in the life of her lively and independent mind. Her intellectual gifts and compassionate heart won her the admiration of many friends -- and the love of her future husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While other young women of her class were spending time at dances and parties, Eleanor devoted her energies to teaching children in New York City's poorest neighborhoods. Later, she became the most socially and politically active -- and controversial -- First Lady America had ever seen. Ambassador, activist, and champion of civil rights, Eleanor Roosevelt changed the soul of America forever.
In her eloquent prose, Doreen Rappaport captures the essence of Eleanor's character and the deep significance of her legacy. With beautiful paintings by Gary Kelley and selections from Eleanor's own writings, Eleanor's Big Words is an extraordinary tribute to an extraordinary American.
Rappaport's spare text and Kelley's handsome paintings, evocative of WPA murals, reclaim the legendary first lady's story for the younger set, revealing the person behind the icon. Writing in clipped, one-or-two-sentence paragraphs that have the feel of blank verse, Rappaport is vivid and frank about Eleanor's unhappy childhood and overbearing mother-in-law ("Sara told Eleanor what clothes to buy and what food to serve.... She even chose their furniture"), although she demurs when it comes to the Roosevelts' own marital problems. Each spread is anchored by a quote from Eleanor herself, set in large type to convey her voice, growing sense of confidence and moral conviction (the opening endpapers read, "Do something every day that scares you," setting a powerful tone from the outset). Kelley's muted palette conveys the gravity of the times and provides a striking visual counterpoint to his dramatic, strongly geometric compositions. Even if readers have little sense of history, they will close the book understanding that it was America's great fortune to have Eleanor's life coincide with some of its darkest hours.--PW
Rappaport's picture book-biography is now a familiar one-a band of text per spread, large-type quotations from the subject, arresting artwork-but it continues to be successful. With so many young eyes now directed on a new First Lady, this look at Eleanor Roosevelt, who blazed a path for her successors to set their own public agendas, is particularly timely. Rappaport portrays Eleanor as a child who grew up in families boasting more privilege than affection, as a woman who married an appreciative husband (no mention of forthcoming marital drama, only distance) and thereby acquired a censorious mother-in-law, and as a First Lady who dedicated herself to causes of her own choosing, as well as diplomatic missions requested by husband FDR, and who continued her life of service after his death. The quotations chosen are particularly apt, revealing, as the subtitle suggests, Eleanor's growing confidence and candor over the years. The white-gowned young woman boating with her husband suitor warbles, "I am so happy in your love, dearest, that all the world has changed for me"; ten spreads later, a much steelier Eleanor opines, "Do what you feel in your heart to right-for you'll be criticized anyway." Kelley supplies more literal, softer-edged scenes for this title than the Bryan Collier and Kadir Nelson artwork in previous volumes (Martin's Big Words, BCCB 1/02; Abe's Honest Words, BCCB 10/08), but his illustrations retain something of the monumentality and all of the dignity that mark the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln works. Again, Rappaport furnishes useful end matter as well, including a timeline, a list of research sources, and print and online suggestions for young readers. This will serve as an exceptional step-up to Russell Freedman's Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery (BCCB 10/93).--BCCB
Unlike the subjects of Rappaport's earlier "words" biographies such as Martin's Big Words (rev. 11/08) and Abe's Honest Words (rev. 1/02), Eleanor Roosevelt may not be immediately familiar to potential readers. Here, Eleanor's words define her growth from an insecure, unloved child ("I wanted to sink through the floor in shame") to a reluctant but forceful political voice ("You must do the things you cannot do") to respected citizen of the world ("All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights"). Rappaport's text outlines Eleanor's developing concern for others and lessening concern for self, epitomized in a triple-frame illustration of Eleanor addressing an audience that convincingly conveys her metamorphosis and increasing confidence. Appended with a timeline of important events in Eleanor's life, notes from both author and illustrator, a selected bibliography, and recommended readings and Internet sites.--Horn Book
Once again Rappaport celebrates a noble, heroic life in powerful, succinct prose, with prominent, well-chosen, and judiciously placed quotes that both instruct and inspire. From her lonely childhood to her transformative education in Europe and marriage to Franklin Roosevelt, the subject is portrayed as a serious, intelligent, hardworking humanitarian. Despite the picture-book format, students get enough background and information to appreciate the woman's outstanding qualities and contributions as well as enough details for reports. As in Martin's Big Words (2001) and Abe's Honest Words (2008, both Hyperion), each spread features the winning combination of the author's text, the subject's quotes, and evocative artwork. Personal notes from the author and illustrator are appended. The evocative pictures tell the story of both the subject and her country. Kelley's subtle use of contrast, such as Roosevelt's posh townhouse juxtaposed against a poorly lit tenement or Marian Anderson, clad in black, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, is quite powerful. Celebrate women in history and in politics with this picture-book life--SLJ
Even familiar political figures can get bold new treatments, as this dramatic picture-book biography shows. The wordless cover, featuring only the face of Eleanor Roosevelt, her expression one of hope mixed with purpose, immediately captures attention. Before the story begins, a double-page spread is offered with just the quote, "Do something every day that scares you." The book then opens with glimpses of Eleanor's early life: her mother thought her ugly, too serious, and called her Granny. After her parents' death, she moved in with her grandmother, who did everything she thought was right for a little girl except hug and kiss her." The narrative moves swiftly through the important moments in Roosevelt's life, including marriage and family, but along with accomplishments, Rappaport does something more subtle-she shows the way Eleanor grew into herself. Crisp sentences focus the narrative and are bolstered by the quotes that end each page. If the text has a smart spareness to it, the accompanying art is composed of rich, beautifully crafted paintings that also catch Roosevelt's growing sense of purpose. There are a few quibbles-the quotes could have been more clearly sourced, and there's no mention of FDR's affairs, an important reason for Eleanor's growth-but overall, this is an exciting introduction to a well-loved leader.--Booklist
Unhappy and quiet as a child, Eleanor Roosevelt learned to speak for herself as a teenager, encouraged her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt's political career and made one for herself during his presidency and after his death, defending the weak and fighting for freedoms. This brief but inspiring biography combines outsized quotations from her many writings with a simple, direct text (rendered in a large font) delineating her life. Beginning with the striking cover portrait, Kelley's luminescent pastel illustrations in subdued colors show Eleanor at various stages-serious child, independent schoolgirl, devoted wife, public speaker and United Nations representative-as well as the world she cared for. No specific sources are provided for the quotations, but the author has appended a list of selected research sources, appropriate further reading and websites and a chronology. Suitable for reading aloud as well as independently, this is a gracious and admiring portrait, a splendid way to introduce the "First Lady of the World" to a new generation of young children.--Kirkus
In her eloquent prose, Rappaport captures the essence of Eleanor Roosevelt's character and the deep significance of her legacy. With beautiful paintings by Kelley and selections from Eleanor's own writings, this work pays tribute to an extraordinary American. Full color.
About the Author
Doreen Rappaport has written numerous award-winning books for children, including: Freedom Ship
and The School Is Not White (
both illustrated by Curtis James); Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
, a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book; and John's Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon
, also illustrated by Bryan Collier. She lives and writes in upstate New York.
Gary Kelley earned a degree in art from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Among his many awards are twenty-three gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators and the 1991 Hamilton King Award for best illustration. Mr. Kelley lives in Cedar Falls.