Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies Book Poster Image
Fascinating profiles celebrate women of American Revolution.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Clear information on the role of 10 women influential in the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. The roles of the women profiled are varied and include writer, spy, soldier, head of the postal service, and First Lady. The book includes an illustrated time line of events and a list of websites for further research. Readers get experience with features common in nonfiction texts such as time lines, subheads, and captions. Supports the Common Core Standards.

Positive Messages

Girls can be brave and active in times of social upheaval and can contribute to social movements in important and unusual ways. Even though history books celebrate the Founding Fathers, the role of women was significant in the founding of the United States.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ten women are profiled, and all are positive role models for girls. The very point of the book is to bring these historical role models to the fore.

Violence & Scariness

Though the subject is revolution and war, it's not graphically depicted. There's also implied violence in the references to slavery.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Founding Mothers by popular journalist Cokie Roberts (NPR, ABC News), profiles 10 women, many previously unsung, who contributed to the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. Based on the book Roberts wrote for adults in 2004, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, this lively picture book is exquisitely illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Diane Goode, and the prose is clear and accessible. It's best for older readers who can handle the text-heavy pages and the challenges of historical content.

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What's the story?

Popular media journalist Cokie Roberts has condensed her adult book FOUNDING MOTHERS, a celebration of women's role in the founding of the United States, into a book for young readers. It's in picture-book format, illustrated evocatively by Caldecott Honor winner Diane Goode. The book profiles 10 women who played roles as varied as spy, soldier, First Lady, revolutionary poet, and playwright. Some of the women, such as Martha Washington, may be familiar to young readers. Others might be new -- for instance, Phillis Wheatley, the young slave wrested from Africa as a child who grew up to become a celebrated poet. There are also exciting vignettes about an 18-year-old who carried secret messages on horseback, and another who fought as a soldier, dressed as a man. There's rich information about both the role of women and the historical period in general.

Is it any good?

Founding Mothers is a welcome corrective to history, putting both a human and female face on the American Revolution. The prose is accessible, often conversational. The illustration evokes the time, using watercolor, sepia, and antique pens and inkwells. Teachers will love the book for the classroom. Parents may be glad to have a book of nonfiction that celebrates the role of girls and women in the early history of America.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why history books have overlooked these women and the role played by women in general. Why do you think that happened? What's different now about what women can do?

  • What roles appeal to you? Are any surprising? Inspiring? Which women profiled are your favorites? Why?

  • The thorny issue of slavery is threaded through Founding Mothers, as it was in the life of the time. What information can you find about slavery in the text? Is any of it surprising? Uncomfortable?

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