Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes

Orchard. Jan. 2023. 48p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781338305906.
Gr 2-5–An outstanding picture book biography about a groundbreaking Renaissance woman. Zelda “Jackie” Ormes was an artist and storyteller from birth. By the time she was a teen, she was a sports journalist for the Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier and eventually created a comic strip called Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem,” which centered around a young woman making her mark during the Great Migration. Ormes was the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist. She also started a strip called Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger about two sisters, which she used to comment on Black life, World War II and its aftermath, and the fight for justice. It became so popular that Ormes created her own Patty-Jo dolls and began to use her influence to support better housing and schools for Black people, catching the attention of the FBI, which spied on her for 10 years. Todd’s impeccable research shines through in the accessible text. The narrative is punchy with the pop of a comic strip, and Ormes is the protagonist. It will draw in readers and make them want to learn more about this fascinating artist. Cartoonist Wright’s digital art has a textured feel, like a comic strip come alive. The 1940s setting is depicted through vivid, jewel-tone illustrations and reproductions of Ormes’s famous characters. The design perfectly matches the subject, with speech bubbles, newspaper-like clippings, and dynamic scenes. Back matter includes author and illustrator’s notes, photos, a selected bibliography, and scenes from the Patty-Jo cartoon.
VERDICT An extraordinary picture book biography about an extraordinary pioneer in comics and journalism that deserves a spot on every shelf.

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