WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Type: African American, Picture Book, Historical Fiction
Basic Idea: The book tells one page biographies of various black women, accompanied by illustrations.
Plots: 4/5 Well Done: The stories were inspirational biographies that taught about the events in the woman’s lives. It covers both the humble beginnings and the hard earned achievements of forty women from the beginning of America’s history. Little to nothing in the stories were boring, though they were told in simple prose form.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: The biographies were direct and orderly. It had a clear beginning, middle, and ending, with details covered in a way that captures the interest.
Graphics: 4½/5 Amazing : The art was in a word, wonderful. It does inspire a quiet satisfaction. It was delicate, soft, and touching, as well as detailed with shading and folds. Everything, from the doll like women to the headings of each page was drawn neatly and beautifully. Though it was in cartoon form, it was as artistic as cartoon could be.
Moral: 2½/5 Good and Bad Morals/Role Models: The role models were almost all inspiring in one way or another, but some of the modern ones (born after the forties and fifties) were liberal and were associated with liberal groups, such as the Communist Party. One was a lesbian/bisexual, though this fact is never mentioned.
The most consistent theme in the book is to be hard working and determined. The theme is that should make goals and never, ever give up on them, despite what others may say. This has positive and negative shades. Almost all of the women who worked for what they wanted did not want anything wrong. Going to a school that teaches law or science is not wrong. Becoming a famous singer or ballerina is not wrong, in it of itself. Learning to fly an airplane is not wrong. In fact, many of the women were inspiring and admirable. Unfortunately though, today people are not fighting for the basic civility of being allowed to eat in the same train cars regardless of race or of being allowed to follow ones dreams regardless of race. It is about doing whatever one wants regardless of right and wrong. While this book could easily inspire people to pursue ones dreams through hard work, it could also be used to justify pushing the edges of what is appropriate and acceptable.
Besides this, some of the terminology was a bit rebellious, saying things such as “she was never one to fall in line” and “But she didn’t stop being a rebel.” While the overall attitude is not rebellious or nasty, there was some wording that is worrisome for conservative families.
Overall: 4/5 Well Done: This book was, in a word, inspiring, but in the wrong hands could be dangerous. A very conservative Christian may want to avoid this book altogether, though some may be able to still take away from it without being affected negatively. It all depends on where one is spiritually. You may not want your young children to read it, though I believe, with guidance, children twelve to thirteen and older can take away the good in this book.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1½/5 Medical and Suggestive Content: It mentions that Maya Angelou was abused, though does not say how; research will show that this abuse involved being raped when she was a child. It is mentioned that a woman had breast cancer. Some women (mainly those in the sports career) were wearing just leotards, though one woman had a sheer skirt over it. Some women wear low V neck outfits, though no cleavage is ever shown. It is mentioned that a man and woman kissed on a TV show.
Violence: ½/5 It is mentioned that a woman got hit on the head with a piece of iron.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 0/5 None
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1½/5 Some Brief Mention: It is mentioned that a woman is threatened with death. It is mentioned that a woman worked against the practice of lynching, which is the illegal mob hanging of a person. A bombing is briefly mentioned once. It is mentioned that a woman got hit on the head with a piece of iron, resulting in a coma and narcolepsy. There is mention that a woman found a cure for leprosy. It is mentioned that a woman had polio and had to wear a leg brace. A positively portrayed woman is mentioned to have been in the air force and the Department of Defense, and another woman was a combat pilot. Two book on a woman’s shelf (ones which she wrote) are called Our Dead Behind Us and The Cancer Journals.
Religious Issues: 1/5 Brief Mention: It mentions that Sojourner Truth (a woman) was a preacher. Mardi Gras is mentioned twice. It is briefly mentioned that one of the things a girl learned was mythology.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: The author calls a person in the acknowledgements a “magician.” It is mentioned that a woman was a folklore author.
Others: It is mentioned that Angela Davis (who is portrayed positively in the book) was a member of Black Panther (a group that was similar to Black Lives Matter) and the Communist Party. The lives of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on Star Treck, and Oprah Winfrey are talked about, the former being in Uhura’s costume. Audre Lorde is talked about, though not mentioned in the book, she was a lesbian/bisexual. It mentions that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Trekkie. Ballet, the blues, jazz, folk music, opera, night clubs, and science fiction entertainment are all mentioned, and women that are portrayed positively participate in these activities. It is mentioned that one woman refused to work in a night club because she was a Baptist. Grammy Awards, the play A Raisin in the Sun, the magazine Seventeen, and other works of entertainment are mentioned. There is positive mention of the Harlem Renaissance. Positively portrayed women are said to be feminist or women’s right’s activist, and on a woman’s bookshelf, there are two books that look like they have the word “feminism” in it, though one is partially blocked. A woman is mentioned to be the “godmother of the civil right’s movement.” There is a list of recommended movies, books, websites, music, and websites at the back of the book.
The author mentions Disney and DreamWorks in her about section.
Overall: 1/5 All Ages Appropriate: While because of the moral and style of the book I would not recommend this book until someone was twelve to thirteen years old, I think morally it is appropriate for children of all ages.