Little Leaders – PPBF and Women’s History Month

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Title: Little Leaders, Bold Women in History

Author and Illustrator: Vashti Harrison

Publisher: Little Brown and Co., 2017

Ages: 5-11

Themes: trailblazers, black women, role models, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, civil rights, diversity, girl power

Genre: biographies


Sample of the Introduction:

In a society where being black and female meant being an outsider or sometimes invisible, these women dared to go after what they wanted, to demand what they deserved. Some of them were reluctant leaders, while others were not even conscious of their bravery, but their legacies live on to pave the way for more of us to follow. Many of them didn’t set out to be pioneers, but all of them were, and we can look to each of them for inspiration.”


Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come. (Goodreads)

Why I like this book:

87 pages of short, pithy biographies telling readers about these women’s personal lives, as well as their accomplishments and why they deserve to be not just remembered, but celebrated. The full-page illustrations are stunning, and complementary to the weight of the narrative. This is a book that belongs in every elementary classroom and library. 

I am so happy to not only have well-known women such as Mae Jemison,  Rosa Parks,  Mahalia Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Josephine Baker, etc included, but lesser know but equally remarkable names such as Alice Ball, chemist and researcher, or Mamie Phipps Clark, social psychologist and counselor. So many different professions (including literature, art, science, politics, education, athletics, entertainment, and activism etc) are also included, which will especially inspire young girls to think big when it comes to career paths. 

Vashti explains her rationale for having all the women depicted as “little girls serving as stand-ins for these famous women” and her desire for them to be “interchangeable” so that readers can see themselves in the images. I am not 100% sure I like the term “little” for these women, but I don’t think young children will take it in any demeaning way.


Mr. Schu did a great interview with Vashti about her inspiration for this book. 

I would definitely share the introduction with children.

The further reading includes: websites, movies, books, recordings, and books by some of the women depicted in this book.

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.

This entry was posted in Biography, Black history Month, Book recommendation, Perfect Picture Book Friday, women's history month and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Little Leaders – PPBF and Women’s History Month

  1. I have been wanting to read this book. I don’t find “little leaders” bothersome because of the depiction of the women as girls with big dreams. It only emphasizes to girls that they too have greatness within them. Nice review.

  2. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    We just bought this for our school library. Yay! It’s a great book and is already in circulation.

  3. What stood out for me about these amazing women was the line: others were not even conscious of their bravery. When someone is truly passionate about the journey they embark on, bravery takes a back seat. It’s all about maintaining focus on the goal/dream. I’m adding this book to my library wish list. I sure hope they have a copy.

  4. Barb says:

    This sounds like a very inspiring book.
    I wondered about the word “little”, too, but when I followed your link and read the interview, it made better sense. Boldness can come from someone who’s little, quiet or shy. I like that 🙂
    Her explanation for giving all the characters the same face was interesting, too.
    Great choice!!

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