Equality’s Call – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Equality’s call, The Story of Voting Rights in America

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Magdalena Mora

Publisher: Beach Lane Books, 2020

Ages: 5-8

Themes: equality, voting rights, women, African Americans, Native Americans, poor, voting, elections, voting rights history

Opening: 

Our founders declared

When our country began

That consent of the governed

Was part of the plan.

Synopsis:

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This unflinching and inspiring history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

Why I like this book:

I love the simplicity, refrain and clear message in this book about the FIGHT for equal voting rights and what a journey it has been. It shares the story of how although voting was written into the constitution it took a long time for voting for all citizens to be realized. The lyrical text and warm illustrations are filled with energy and a powerful history of perseverance. It is pitched so even very young listeners are going to catch on to the feisty and weighty message. The meter is excellent and the stanzas slip easily off the tongue. A book that calls attention to voting in America seems incredibly relevant right now. The wonderful refrain reminds us this privilege should never be taken for granted and we should fight to uphold this equal right.

This is a great picture book to share aloud in November with children in classrooms and libraries.

Love the call to action at the end.

The journey’s not over.
The work hasn’t ended.
Democracy’s dream
Must be constantly tended.

Activities/Resources:

I am FB friends with the author and she gave me permission to copy a recent post she made about the evolution of this book.

Writing the book was an interesting learning journey for me. The idea for the book began several years ago, when my younger son and I were talking about the upcoming centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. As we talked, I began to think that I might like to try writing about a few of the well-known women who fought for its passage.

As I began to work on the book, though, I realized that I couldn’t write what I had initially set out to.

One issue that changed my approach was that in learning more about the women’s suffrage movement, I learned that in addition to being an inspiring movement led by courageous and visionary women, it was also a movement that was often racist and exclusionary toward non-white women. I also learned that the voting rights gained with the 19th Amendment were primarily gained only by white women.

A second issue that changed my approach was that in learning more about women’s suffrage, I realized that it’s hard to understand any specific aspect of U.S. voting rights expansion or contraction without seeing the change in the context of the overall development of U.S. voting rights, as well as in the context of issues like slavery and racism and other forms of oppression which are woven into every aspect of our nation’s history. Each change in voting rights is connected to all that, and also cannot be understood without understanding the myriad ways that voting rights can be denied – not just by outright denial but also by limiting who can be a citizen and by creating barriers that suppress voting.

And the third issue that changed my initial direction for the book was my growing awareness that the history of people standing up for voting rights is not a thing of the past. That history is still being written. Barriers to voting, and activism to address those barriers, are ongoing.

And so it was that my initial idea to write a children’s book about a few of the well-known women of the women’s suffrage movement evolved into a different kind of book, one that provides an accessible entry point to the whole history of U.S. voting rights, from founding to present. The main text is a brief 400 words, in rhyme, with a recurring refrain. Additional backmatter provides further information about amendments and legislation, as well as micro-bios of about 60 voting rights activists.

The rhyming story can be shared and enjoyed by kids as young as preschool, but the book can also be read by older students or used in a classroom setting to begin to discuss and learn more about voting rights issues, past and present.

I hope you will consider taking a look at the book. The illustrations by Magdalena Mora are outstanding, and the subject matter is important for all of us to engage with (if not through this book, then through others).

You can find Equality’s Call at your local library or your favorite bookstore. On its last page, after the activists’ bios, you’ll find a question, one that the work of activists past, present, and future asks of us all:

How will YOU answer equality’s call?

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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6 Responses to Equality’s Call – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Gabrielle Snyder says:

    Great choice! I appreciate the call to action. And it was interesting (and eye-opening) to read about the book’s evolution. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Not to be an echo of Gabrielle Snyder’s words above, but I also found the book’s evolution quite interesting to read about. I’ll be sure to add this book to my wish list.

  3. Fantastic rec, Joanna! The author’s note gives us so much insight into her process. Thank you for sharing that. And after reading an article yesterday on how voter suppression is alive and well in the U.S., this book couldn’t come at a better time. All 20 copies plus digital versions are in use at the SFPL right now. I’m so glad it’s being shared!! I also wanted to say that I love the illustrations I see here. I’ve put it on hold. Thanks!

  4. Great #PPBF choice, Joanna! So timely. I love the call to action and most importantly the discussion by the author of the impetus and driving force for the current format of the book! What a rare gift to include for the reader. Thank you. I hope this book gets widely shared & read and that everyone continues to fight for this right.

  5. Patricia Nozell says:

    What a terrific book to highlight in this centennial & election year! Can’t wait to find & read it!

  6. What a perfect book for young children about the right to vote — especially with this month’s Women’s History theme — the battle for the right to vote. I reviewed a more detailed book on suffregettes and their battle for freedom for older middle grade students. This rhyming book would compliment and be more understandable for children. I also share your thoughts and views about the racism, slavery and oppression. It was a victory, but not for all. Watched the movie “Harriet” again last night, and hadn’t realized her role in the right to vote movement — but it makes a lot of sense.

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