She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm

Lee & Low. Aug. 2020. 40p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781620143469.
Gr 2-5–This warm, inspiring picture book biography spotlights the fascinating life and achievements of politician and educator Shirley Chisholm. Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1924, Chisholm made her vibrant personality known from the start, leading groups of older kids around the neighborhood. Her parents were hard workers who had trouble feeding their family and making ends meet. They made the tough decision to send their daughter and her siblings to Barbados to live on her grandmother’s farm. Despite the jarring change of lifestyle, Chisholm’s experience in Barbados made a lasting impact. Seeing people who looked like her and worked in a variety of jobs was inspiring. It taught the future politician that she could grow up to hold a powerful position. In 1934, Chisholm moved back to Brooklyn, where she excelled in school and college and went on to become a teacher. At night, she worked closely with community groups and became a prominent voice for frequently overlooked populations: women, people of color, the poor, and children. She later won a spot in the New York State Assembly. In 1968, she became the first Black woman elected to Congress. She even ran for president in 1972. While she didn’t win, she paved the way for future Black and female presidents. An extensive afterword is appended.
VERDICT Russell-Brown, with the help of Velasquez’s expressive watercolor art, vividly brings Chisholm’s experiences to life with storytelling that will appeal to a wide variety of ages—those both aware and unaware of her legacy. Recommended for elementary and public library collections.

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