Today’s Marvelous New Picture Book is Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Published in 2013, this newer picture book took me by surprise! While many non-fiction, biographical picture books can contain excessive amounts of facts and dates presented in unappealing ways, this book reads like a narrative! The book does just what it claims in the title: it tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor.
The book begins Elizabeth’s story in her childhood, talkingabout her curious personality and early-on rejection of the gender roles of the time (for those non-history buffs out there that’s the 1830s). Stone’s writing style flows beautifully, and she grabs the reader’s attention with this opening address: “You might find this hard to believe, but there was a time when women weren’t allowed to become doctors.” In addition to the engaging nature of the text, the writing also features witty comments and a challenging vocabulary. The vocabulary and content alone make this book an excellent read for any classroom, especially in the upper elementary grades where it is sometimes difficult to find picture books with elevated content and language.
The book goes on to tell of Elizabeth’s rejection from 28 different medical schools until she was finally (and some what reluctantly) accepted. Stone is very blunt about the sexist prejudices held by many of the time (both men and women), but she does not let this overshadow Elizabeth’s determination and the support of her husband and friends. Elizabeth’s story is exceedingly well told in a way that children will both enjoy and find interesting. And for additional information, Stone includes a more detailed history of Elizabeth’s life at the end of the book.
Two-time Caldecott recipient Marjorie Priceman’s illustrations in this book are beautiful. The watercolor images are absolutely incredible and flow seamlessly from page to page. The detail on the elaborate dresses of the women in the book is incredible. My favorite image in the text is the one pictured above, where Elizabeth as a child is looking out over the city. Although the content of the book is nonfiction and factual, the illustrations give this book the story-like, imaginative beauty most often associated in fictional picture books. I really appreciate Priceman’s use of illustrations on the book’s end pages and copyright pages as well. All in all, a beautifully illustrated book about a bold woman in history! A must read!
Other historical picture books by Tanya Lee Stone!
Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote
Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder
The House that Jane Built (A book about Jane Addams coming in June 2015!)