Author Spotlight: Rochelle Melander

It’s time for another Author Spotlight, and I am so excited that today’s Author Spotlight is also a Book Tour Stop for Rochelle Melander’s newest release Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing.

Rochelle Melander wrote her first book at seven and has published 11 books for adults. Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is her debut book for children. She’s a professional certified coach, an artist educator and the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two dogs. Visit her online at writenowcoach.com or rochellemelander.com

Thank you so much for joining me today! I am so excited to chat with you today, but I was hoping you might start us out by introducing yourself, and telling us a bit about your latest release Mightier Than The Sword: Rebels, Reformers& Revolutionaries Who Changed The World Through Writing.

Thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog! I’m excited to be here.

Let’s start with the important things: I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not far from Lake Michigan with two dogs, two kids, and my husband, who is also a writer. My family keeps me grounded. 

I own the business, Write Now! Coach and coach writers and students who struggle to overcome procrastination and distractions to get their work done. I also edit and do freelance writing. Mightier Than the Sword is my 12th book, and my first book for young people. I’ve wanted to write for young people for a long time, and I am delighted to finally have that chance!

Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is a middle grade social justice book that tells the stories of historical and contemporary writers, activists, scientists, and leaders who used writing to make a difference in their lives and the world. The stories are accompanied by writing and creative exercises to help readers discover how they can use writing to explore ideas and ask for change.

Title: Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing
Author: Rochelle Melander
Illustrator: Melina Ontiveros
Publisher: Beaming Books
Published: July 27, 2021
Recommended Ages: 8-13 Years
Format: Hardcover

What inspired you to write Mightier Than the Sword?

I’ve been teaching writing to young people for many years. I often use mentor texts as writing prompts—maybe the poems of Richard Wright or Langston Hughes. I tell them stories about the writers, too. Young people liked hearing stories of people like Maria Merian, who at 13 designed an experiment to study the life cycle of silkworms. I also found stories online about young people who wrote to change the world—people that wouldn’t normally be included in a book. After using these stories for years, I felt like it was time to create a resource so that I could share these stories and writing exercises with young people.

Mightier Than the Sword is such a unique book in that it’s both a biography collection and a collection of writing prompts. How did the idea for such a unique format come to you?

I love books that are interactive, that invite the reader to participate in some way. My last book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity invites readers to take on quests to understand and improve their work habits. I wanted Mightier Than the Sword to share the stories about mentors and then encourage young people to write. The writing prompts enabled me to do that.

You cover so many wonderful writers in Mightier Than the Sword, (I think I counted 140 including the mini-biographies peppered throughout) spanning from 978 to present day. There are so many people throughout history who have changed the world with writing. I know it must have been hard to narrow down your selection. How did you select the writers you included? What was the research process like? It must have been quite an undertaking!

I have been collecting names and stories for years. To develop the list, I read many anthologies, searched online, and talked to history and English professors. Then I chose an array of people based on three criteria:

  • Representation. I wanted children to find a diverse cast of people from a wide range of cultures, life experiences, and writing styles. 
  • Diverse disciplines. I wanted young people to see the unique ways people use writing in their work. 
  • Recognizability. I wanted young people to open the book and recognize some of the writers.

Once the book was accepted by the publisher, we worked together to finalize the list.

Then, I started reading and writing. For each person or document, I read an article on Wikipedia or a history website (https://besthistorysites.net/general-history-resources/). If possible, I read primary sources. Next, I turned to biographies and other history books. After I wrote the chapter, I would often go back through these resources to check my facts.

I wrote the book during the pandemic. I was very lucky. When I had a sense that the libraries were going to close, I spent a wild weekend running around to various libraries in town, checking out books. I think I had over 100 books checked out during that time. And during the research process, I purchased a few books as well. 

I know it sounds like a lot of work, and it was—but I really enjoyed digging into the lives of these writers!

Not to ask you to play favorites, but were there any standout subjects that were more fun to research or write about?

I found Charles Darwin’s story to be helpful and inspiring. He goofed off in grade school, skipping out to wander the woods or do chemistry experiments with his brother. (Don’t think he was being studious—he made laughing gas!). He went to college to study medicine but didn’t like it. Then he tried divinity studies (Rev. Darwin?). All along he was chasing after beetles, which was a popular pastime in his day. His father thought he was a failure. A trip around the world launched his career as a naturalist. He spent the rest of his life doing experiments and writing books—while working about 3 hours a day. He was a great dad, keeping detailed journals about their development (they may have been a science experiment to him). And when On the Origin of the Species was published, he spent much of his time promoting his book: by writing letters! I was inspired that Darwin wasn’t the typical overachiever and yet, when he followed his passion, he achieved so much. 

The portrait illustrations by Melina Ontiveros are so great, and I love that we get a face to put with the names and stories of each writer featured. I believe Mightier Than The Sword is your first illustrated title? How was your experience working with an illustrator?

Melina is wonderful! I didn’t actually work with her—all the briefings went through my editors. But we’ve gotten to know each other on Instagram and email. She’s going to be a guest on my blog next week (writenowcoach.com/blog). And I hired her to make a Mightier-like portrait of me!

You’ve been writing since you were young, and now assist young writers through your writing workshop Dream Keepers. What books or authors inspired you to write the most as a child?

Hands down, Madeleine L’Engle. In second grade, I fell in love with A Wrinkle in Time. When I was in my first job, I learned she was going to be presenting at a conference in a town nearby. I was lucky enough to meet her. 
I was also inspired by poets and playwrights. When I was 6, a friend gave me the book, I See a Poem. I read that book so many times. As a teen, I read the play, The Belle of Amherst by William Luce, and fell in love with Emily Dickinson and her poetry. (My favorite was, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”) I kept a commonplace book, where I copied down quotes and poems I liked. And, I had notebooks where I wrote bad poetry!

Mightier than The Sword is a perfect selection for classrooms with so many writing prompts to choose from. If teachers and young readers only take one thing away from Mightier Than the Sword, what would you want it to be?

I want young readers to see that there are many different kinds of writers and many ways to write. I want Mightier Than the Sword to be an invitation to them, letting them know that the world needs their ideas and stories and activism. 

I hope teachers will be inspired by the many types of writing—and use the book as a supplement to their curriculum. 

Those are all of my questions. Thank you again for taking the time to answer them all! Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?

Thanks so much for having me. I have a blog where writers talk about how to use their books in the classroom. Feel free to stop by: themightywriters.com.

You can find Rochelle online at writenowcoach.com or rochellemelander.com, and on social media at Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Don’t Miss The Rest of The Tour!

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Flashback Friday – Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

It’s Flashback Friday again, and today I am sharing one of my favorites genres—a picture book biography! Originally released in April 2020, Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera is a stunning example of the powerful way picture books can bring historical figures to life for young readers.

Title: Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Author: Suzanne Slade
Illustrator: Cozbi A. Cabrera
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: April 7, 2020
Format: Picture Book

Exquisite details the life of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, from her childhood surrounded by books to her celebrated career sharing the stories of the people of the neighborhood she grew up in. We follow the ups and downs of Gwendolyn’s life, including the struggles her family faced during the Great Depression, Gwendolyn’s struggles to feel seen amongst her peers, her marriage and the birth of her first son, wrapping up in 1950 when she won the Pulitzer Prize.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ story is especially inspiring to young writers, because Gwendolyn herself started writing when she was only seven years old. Children will find an example in Gwendolyn’s childhood to observe the world around them and find the poetry there.

The illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera are absolutely stunning. The color and composition of the acrylic paintings are so beautiful throughout, and every page breathes life into Gwendolyn’s story. It’s no surprise that Exquisite was a 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Honoree.

The back matter contains a wonderful Author’s Note with additional details about Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as a timeline of her life, making Exquisite a great selection for classroom and school libraries.

You can pick up your own copy of Exquisite wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you again to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sending me a review copy of Exquisite. This book is a beautiful example of why picture book biographies are my some of my very favorites.

About The Author:

Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of many books for children, including several about other groundbreaking women, such as Dangerous Jane and A Computer Called Katherine. Slade lives in Libertyville, Illinois.

You can find Suzanne online at her website suzanneslade.com and on Twitter (@AuthorSSlade) and Instagram (@authorsslade).

About The Illustrator:

Cozbi A. Cabrera holds a BFA from Parsons School of Design. She has illustrated several books for children and is also well known for her handmade cloth dolls. Cabrera lives in Evanston, Illinois.

You can find Cozbi online at her website cozbi.com and on Twitter (@CozbiHandmade) and Instagram (@cozbi).

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A Day For Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day

I can’t think of a better selection for Memorial Day weekend than A Day For Rememberin’ by Leah Henderson. This beautiful picture book is a fictionalized account of a true historical event that many believe to be the first celebration of Memorial Day. Though today we honor veterans of all wars, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in Charleston, South Carolina when newly freed citizens marched to honor the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom in the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the Confederate Army converted the Washington Race Course in Charleston into a prison. They imprisoned captured Union soldiers and subjected them to inhumane treatment. Though the prison was only open for seven months, 257 Union prisoner died there due to exposure, disease, and starvation.

Shortly after the end of the civil war, twenty-eight newly freed men volunteered their time and labor to create a permanent resting place for the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom. On May 1, 1865, the first free May Day – in a time when Black people weren’t allowed to congregate freely – 10,000 Charleston residents gathered to march, sing, and spread flower petals to honor the lives of those soldiers. While some may not agree with Leah Henderson’s assertation that this was the first Memorial Day celebration, it’s hard to argue with the dates.

In A Day For Rememberin’ we follow ten-year-old Eli, a (fictional) son of one of the men who worked to build the cemetery. Eli longs to join his father in his work, but he must attend school, now that he has the freedom to do so. On the tenth day, Eli and other boys his age are allowed to help whitewash the fence. The next day, newly freed citizens, abolitionist, missionaries, and more all gather at the racecourse to honor the fallen soldiers.

A Day For Rememberin’ is an essential history lesson with a whole lot of heart. The back matter contains a fantastic Author’s Note, further detail about the history of Decoration Day, and a timeline. I would highly recommend this title for classrooms and school libraries.

The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are fantastic. They perfectly capture Eli and all the residents of Charleston, taking readers back in time.

A Day For Rememberin’ is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Leah Henderson is an award-winning author of multiple titles for young readers, including one of my personal favorites: The Teacher’s March. Please visit Leah’s website at leahhendersonbooks.com.

Floyd Cooper is the award-winning author and illustrator of Max and The Tag Along Moon, Jump, and many other children’s books. To learn more about Floyd and his work, please visit his website at floydcooper.com.

Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing a review copy of A Day For Rememberin’ with me. I am so honored to share this story with my readers today.

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Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

Sarah and the Big Wave by Bonnie Tsui is a wonderful picture book biography that tells the story of Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks.

Young readers will learn about Sarah’s journey to become a pioneer for women in surfing, including her challenges, such as finding gear in the right sizes and finding a welcoming group of friends to share her passion with. Sarah and the Big Wave shares a wonderful lesson of following your passions and persevering through challenges. And of course, this is a great pick for young surfing enthusiasts.

I really love the illustrations by Sophie Diao! The way she captured both the beauty and movement of the ocean was really stunning.

The back matter also contains a wonderful timeline of the history women in surfing from the 1600’s to 2020, making it a great resource for educators.

Sarah and the Big Wave is officially out next week, but you can purchase it anywhere books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Bonnie Tsui is an author and journalist who lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at bonnietsui.com.

Sophie Diao is an artist and illustrator based in San Francisco, California. Please visit her website at sophiediao.com to learn more about her and her work.

I also want to thank Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for proving me with a review copy of Sarah and the Big Wave. I loved learning about Sarah, and I’m so glad to share her story with you all.

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The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee

If you’re looking for a picture book about bravery and passion, I have the perfect pick for you today!

The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung is a phenomenal picture book biography detailing the life of Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American woman to fly for the US military.

Despite being born during a time when racial bias was rampant against Chinese people in the United States, Hazel Ying Lee wasn’t afraid of anything. Hazel fell in love with flying when she was in an airshow with a friend. She worked an “invisible job” as an elevator operator to pay for flying lessons. Regardless of both the gender and racial barriers of her time, she would go on to serve as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

I appreciate that The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee doesn’t shy away from the obstacles faced by Hazel, specifically the racism she faced. From an encounter with a farmer who mistook her for a Japanese fighter when she crash-landed in a Kansas field mid-training, to Hazel’s family’s fight to bury her in a whites-only cemetery when Hazel died in service to her country at the age of 32, these examples give us a great introduction to talk to young readers about the racism directed towards Asian Americans, which seems to all too common during the time of COVID-19.

Even with these hard lessons of injustice, The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is a beautiful book celebrating the accomplishments of a groundbreaking woman. I really appreciated the beautiful illustrations by Julie Kwon.

The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Julie Leung is a children’s book author based in New York. She is also the author of one of my favorites: Paper Son: The Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at jleungbooks.com.

Julie Kwon is an artist and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is her debut picture book. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at julikwonart.com.

Many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for generously providing me with a review copy of The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee. I’m so grateful to have a part in sharing Hazel’s story.

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Opening The Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

As we enter the second week of Black History Month, I want to share Opening The Road by Keila Dawson with you all.

This inspiring picture book biography details Victor Hugo Green’s creation and distribution of The Negro Motorist Green Book, or as most people call it today, The Green Book.

In the late 1930’s, Black Americans were not guaranteed safe travel throughout the United States. Segregation barred Black motorist’s access to establishments like gas stations, rest areas, or hotels. The high number of “sundown towns”, all white communities that excluded non-white individuals after dark though intimidating and often violent tactics, made it dangerous for Black Americans to travel long distances.

Inspired by a Jewish newspaper, Victor Hugo Green, a US Postal Service worker in Harlem, decided to write a book to help Black travelers find safe options. The Green Book allowed trips to be planned with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and many other businesses that welcomed Black customers. This travel guide became an invaluable resource for Black Americans throughout the country, and it flew off shelves, eventually selling over two million copies.

I love that the illustrations by Alleanna Harris bring life not just to Victor’s story, but also to the stories of many Black families who were able to safely enjoy family vacations.

Victor’s story highlights the resilience Black Americans have shown amid the countless obstacles facing them throughout our nation’s history. In the face of enormous challenges like segregation and racism, Victor, Alma, and all of Victor’s Postal service friends found a way to distribute vital information throughout the country, allowing numerous travelers safe passage.

The back of the book contains a fantastic author’s note that includes more historical detail, context around why The Green Book is relevant to conversations about safety in Black communities today, and information on current projects inspired by The Green Book, as well as a timeline.

You can purchase a copy of Opening The Road wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Keila Dawson is an author, editor, and former teacher based in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at keiladawson.com.

Alleanna Harris is an artist and illustrator based in New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at alleannaharris.com.

I would like to thank Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of this amazing book. I am so grateful to be able to share Victor Hugo Green’s story.

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Old Enough To Save The Planet – A Picture Book For Young Climate Change Activists

When you hear of young climate activists, your mind may go to well known activists like Greta Thunberg. But there are children across the globe, just like our children, who are taking action against climate change.

Old Enough To Save The Planet by Loll Kirby introduces us to twelve young climate activists, and highlights the actions they are taking to make change in their community.

From New York to Australia, these young children are making huge changes like reducing the effects of traffic pollution, diverting food waste from landfills, and reducing litter pollution.

I love that Old Enough To Save The Planet gives specific examples of different elements affecting climate change, like littering and deforestation, as well as specific ways to address many of those issues. Sometimes, I feel like children’s books about climate change add anxiety for children when they describe the problems facing our planet, but this one is written with so much hope and encouragement that it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

The beautiful illustrations by Adelina Lirius capture the beauty of nature, as well as the diversity of our communities, providing a great visual of how we can all work together to save the the planet that we all share

To further assist young readers in making a difference, the back of the book has several empowering ideas, including a list of ten ways young readers can help save the planet, ten ways to make their voice heard, and resources for further reading.

Old Enough To Save The Planet officially releases in North America next week (February 9, 2021), but you can preorder it today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Loll Kirby is a children’s book author and former teacher based in Bristol, UK, who was inspired to write this book by her students. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at www.gatherandgrow.co.uk.

Adelina Lirius is an extremely talented illustrator based in Stockholm, Sweden. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at adelinalirius.com.

I would like to thank Abrams Young Readers and Magic Cat Publishing for providing me with a review copy of such a wonderful book.

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Grace Banker And Her Hello Girls Answer The Call: The Heroic Story of WWI Telephone Operators

Are you looking for a picture book biography about an inspiring woman serving her country during wartime?

Might I suggest Grace Banker And Her Hello Girls Answer The Call: The Heroic Story of WWI Telephone Operators by Claudia Fridell?

I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Grace Banker before I read this book, but I can’t wait to share her story with you now!

In 1917, a 25-year-old Grace Banker answered an ad seeking French-speaking telephone operators to join the Signal Corps of the United States Army. Though she couldn’t vote yet, Grace was selected as a chief operator and led a team of thirty-three operators who translated commands and transferred secret codes on the front lines during World War I.

These women were some of America’s first female soldiers and they kept communications open despite the explosions, fires, and poor weather conditions they faced. Their skill and dedication to their work played a vital role in the victory of World War I, though they remain unsung heroes today.

Working closely with Grace Banker’s family, Claudia Friedel and Elizabeth Baddeley have created a biography that feels personal. Quotes from Grace’s diaries are used throughout the book to truly highlight her voice.

The backmatter offers plenty of additional information about Grace and The Service Corps to inform young readers of the historical significance of their achievements, as well as their fight to receive veteran recognition.

Grace Banker And Her Hello Girls Answer The Call is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Claudia Friddell is a former elementary school teacher and the author of several non-fiction children’s books. She is passionate about sharing true stories from history, and currently lives in Baltimore with her husband. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at claudiafriddell.com.

Elizabeth Baddeley is the illustrator of many biographies and non-fiction books for children, including the New York Times bestselling I DISSENT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark. She currently lives in in Kansas City with her husband and son. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at ebaddeley.com.

Thank you so much to Calkins Creek and Boyds Mills & Kane for providing me with a review copy of Grace Banker And Her Hello Girls Answer The Call. I’m so glad to be able to share such an amazing story.

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Standing On Her Shoulders – Celebrating the Women Who Came Before Us

I’m so excited to share Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women by Monica Clark-Robinson with you all today.

I originally thought this book was going to be a collection of biographies about women throughout history, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s something a little bit different.

Standing on Her Shoulders combines the elements of a love letter to our children, a tribute to our ancestors, and a biography collection, creating something altogether unique.

This book is a beautiful reminder of how strong women are when we lift one another up, how far we have come, and how far the next generation will take us. Standing on Her Shoulders is not a heavy historical text, but rather a poetic tribute to honor the legacy of women who worked to achieve the freedoms women enjoy today.

Monica Clark-Robinson’s lyrical text is paired perfectly with Laura Freeman’s illustrations, allowing us to look in on one Black family’s conversation with the next generation about the numerous women who came before them, paving the way for us all.

The back matter contains one sentence biographies of the twenty-six women featured in the illustrations (from Sacajawea to Simone Biles), opening the door to further conversations about the historic accomplishments of each woman.

My favorite part about this book however is that it doesn’t just emphasize the importance of honoring those who came before us, but also reminds young readers that someone will be standing on their shoulders someday.

Standing On Her Shoulders officially releases next week (February 2, 2021), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Monica Clark-Robinson is an author, professional actor, and voice-over artist who is passionate about stories. She lives in Arkansas with her husband, daughters, and many cats. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at monicaclark-robinson.com.

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree who has illustrated over thirty books for children, including Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice and The New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at lfreemanart.com.

Thank you to Orchards Books and Scholastic for sending me a copy of Standing On Her Shoulders. I can’t wait to share this inspiring book with my nieces.

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The Aquanaut – Encouraging Children To Dream Big

As soon as I heard about The Aquanaut by Jill Heinerth and illustrated by Jaime Kim, I knew I had to have a copy!

A children’s book written by a traiblazing female cave diver and underwater explorer, illustrated by a NYT bestselling illustrator?

Yes! Sign me up.

At first glance, I thought this book would be another empowering picture book biography focusing on girl power. (Now, don’t get me wrong! This is one of my favorite types of books, but you have to admit, there are A LOT out there these days.) I was pleasantly surprised to learn that The Aquanaut is empowering in a very different way.

Instead of encouraging readers to overcome gender specific obstacles society may present them, this book gently encourages children to dream big, and to follow those dreams. Jill tells young readers about the big dreams she had as a child. Each spread detailing her dream is followed by a wordless spread with magnificent illustrations by Jaime Kim showing us an adult Jill achieving those dreams, metaphorically speaking.

The Aquanaut is the perfect pick to encourage imagination, while also reminding young readers they don’t have to wait until they’re grown to achieve all of their dreams. If they dream of helping others, they can start today!

The illustrations in this book are absolute perfection! Somehow Jaime Kim perfectly captures the comparisons of Young Jill’s dreams and Adult Jill’s achievements, while simultaneously creating the perfect calming atmosphere for young readers to reflect on their own dreams. It’s genius!

On top of being a writer, Jill Heinerth is also an award-winning cave diver, as well as an underwater explorer, photographer, and filmmaker. To learn more about her and her work, be sure to visit her website at intotheplanet.com.

Jaime Kim is an extremely talented illustrator whose debut picture book Take Heart, My Child was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at jaimekim.com.

The Aquanaut officially releases next week (January 19, 2021), but you can preorder it today at Bookshop, Amazon, and anywhere else you purchase books. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to earn a small commission from purchases made at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site, and continue bringing content to you.)

Many thanks to Tundra Books for providing me with a copy of The Aquanaut. I am so grateful to have had the chance to review such a brilliant book!