New Kids' Books Tell Stories of Women

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Basbanes For The Register-Guard

March is a month to celebrate women's history and the arrival of spring, a welcome event that makes us think of the outdoors around us, with a little time left over to enjoy a chuckle or two.

Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt

By Doreen Rappaport; illustrations by Gary Kelley

(Hyperion, 48 pages, $16.99); age 6 to 12

Caldecott Honor author Doreen Rappaport takes on another larger-than-life figure - her previous subjects have included Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln - with a penetrating profile of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) that pays close attention to the former first lady's early life as a child of privilege.

But it focuses most triumphantly on her growth as an independent thinker and a woman of action. The author uses splendid quotations on each page to complement Gary Kelley's rich paintings.

Gertrude Is Gertrude Is Gertrude Is Gertrude

By Jonah Winter; illustrations by Calef Brown

(Atheneum, 40 pages, $16.99); age 4 to 8

Pittsburgh writer Jonah Winter offers an affectionate interpretation of Pennsylvania native and long-time Paris resident Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), whose experimental writing was regarded as avant-garde in its day, made somewhat accessible here in what amounts to a clever play on words.

Appearances by Alice Toklas, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Basket the poodle and a mute bear in a chair enliven what becomes a party to end all parties. "Everyone who's everyone is at this party. And everyone is everyone. And if everyone is everyone, they must come to this party."

Artist Calef Brown seems to get what's going on, which makes for a lot of added fun. …