Sunday, July 4, 2010

REVIEW: Independent Dames

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution
Anderson, L.H.  (2008).  Independent Dames.  New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Appetizer:  As a class prepares to put on a play about the American Revolution they showcase some of the women who helped create the U.S.A.  This information picturebook very intentionally pushes the ladies of the revolution (or the daughter of liberty) into the spot light, giving voice to historic figures that are usually left in the background or worse, not included at all.

The stories of female revolutionaries will educate, inspire and amuse many readers.  Anderson uses succinct language to share the women's stories.  She avoids being metaphorical (which is one of my favorite parts of her YA novels, but I was thankful to see it excluded from this picturebook).  Anderson makes sure to include an African American voice, that of Phillis Wheatley.  Older students could go from this picturebook to reading her poetry as fast as a teacher can hand them a second book.  The stories of Sally St. Clair a Creole girl, and Iyonajanegen a Oneida woman are also included.

While I love the message of this book, I really wasn't rocking the illustrations.  Even more so than with the color, all of the watercolor illustrations feature a lot of pen lines in the drawings,  criss-crossing and adding depth and dimension.  But really, all those lines just made the pictures too busy and a bit overwhelming to look at.

Also, since there's the general narration text on each page, side boxes of various women's biographies or stories and dialogue boxes, it's hard to know what the reader should read when.

Along the bottom of each page, runs a who's who and timeline to help share the history of the time period.  It include major events like the dates of various wars, proclamations, etc.  And while this is a nice touch, I know my ten-year-old-self.  Ten-year-old-me would never have bothered to read all those details.  I think some of my close friends would have.  But then, that's why ten-year-old me always secretly hated all of my friends.  Nerds.

So, in conclusion, yes to the concept of this book.  No, no, no to how busy each page of the book was.

Dinner Conversation:

"Look, another school play about the heroes of the American Revolution.  How sweet."

"Of course, you're missing part of the story.
In fact, you're missing about half of it."

"Hello?  How about the women?
What about the girls?
They wanted a free country too."

"Deborah Sampson cut her hair, dressed as a man, and lived as a male soldier for eighteen months.  She was wounded twice in battle--once by a saber blow to her head and later by a gunshot in the leg.  Deborah was discharged when a doctor discovered she was a woman, but she received a military pension."

To Go with the Meal:

This picturebook would be a wonderful supplement to a standard textbook.  Students can pick among the women described to research further and they can act out scenes from the story, or write letters in the voices of the women, etc.

Students could add to some of the brief stories of the various women throughout the book.  They could imagine dialogue and scenes to help the stories come alive.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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