Monday, March 3, 2014

Women's History Month Book Review: Florence Nightingale, by Demi (Henry Holt, 2014)

Women's History Month began on Saturday, March 1.  You can learn more about outstanding children's books on women's history by following the 4th annual group blog which I co-organize with fellow blogger/librarian Lisa Taylor, Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, Once again we will feature posts from distinguished authors, illustrators, librarians and bloggers, and we invite you to participate in the conversation.  This year's contributors will include authors Tonya Bolden, Sandra Neil Wallace and Gretchen Woelfie, librarian Penny Peck, and many others.  In addition to the blog, you can also access our content on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  While new content is published only in March, the blog is available all year long as a resource for librarians, parents, and educators.  Please join us in our 4th annual celebration!  

Here at the Fourth Musketeer I will also be highlighting books about women in history this month.  Today I will be reviewing Demi's newest book on Florence Nightingale.  Demi has published over 150 books during her long career, many of them large format biographical picture books aimed at elementary school-aged students.  In addition to their informative text, Demi's biographies showcase her unique artistic style, which features a strong Asian influence, traditional materials, intricate patterns, and vibrant, glowing colors.
When I was a girl in the 1960's and '70's, Florence Nightingale would have been one of the only women from history you would have been likely to find a book on in the children's biography section of your local library, although I would be reasonably certain that I could not have found a biography as beautifully illustrated as this new one.  On the end pages and title page, we see Florence as the iconic Lady of the Lamp.  The book unfolds in a traditional linear narrative, beginning with Florence's birth and girlhood.  She was born into a very wealthy British family, where she had all the advantages of an upper class upbringing.  But her interest in nursing and helping others began at a young age; Demi shows us Florence as a little girl playing hospital with her dolls.  Her interest in nursing intensified on a family trip to the Continent when in addition to seeing the tourist sights, she visited hospitals and charities.  Her parents were opposed to her becoming a nurse, but eventually relented when they saw her commitment.  

Demi's text and artwork show Florence's career progressing from working at a hospital for indigent women to her groundbreaking work nursing soldiers in the Crimean War, where she arranged for patients to get healthy food and water and stressed the need for cleanliness.  We see Florence wandering the wards at night with her lantern, earning her nickname, The Lady with the Lamp.  

Florence worked herself to exhaustion and suffered ill health later in her life.  Nonetheless, she continued to work for the poor and downtrodden in society, and inspired the founding of the International Red Cross.  

Demi's book not only provides an outline of Florence Nightingale's remarkable life but also considers her legacy as an extraordinary woman in history.  Back matter includes a timeline and suggestions for further reading.

This slim but powerful volume is a must for school and public libraries. 


Jan Godown Annino said...

I'm sorry to say that I haven't thought of Florence Nightengale in years, since our daughter was in elementary school.
Demi's book, as shared by this post, reminds me what a key figure she is in our world history. She should be much more known & revered.

Thank you Margo.

Mary said...

Thanks for reviewing this book! It sounds wonderful, and FN always worth another book.

PragmaticMom said...

I never knew that she inspired the creation of the Red Cross! Great review!

Resh said...

All of Demi's books are amazing! I have to say I haven't read this one yet and after reading your reiview, I am curious! Thanks for sharing on the kidlit Carnival for March.
-Reshama @ Stackingbooks