Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Vherses: A celebration of outstanding women

Vherses: A celebration of outstanding women

J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrator:  Mark Summers 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Creative Editions, 2005   ISBN: 1568461852

For hundreds of years women lived restricted lives. A male dominated society dictated what women could or could not do, and the could nots greatly outweighed the coulds. Of course, some women chose to challenge the system, and in the eighteen hundreds more and more women dared to do things that were considered unsuitable for the gentler sex.

   In this splendid collection of poems J. Patrick Lewis celebrates the lives of fourteen women who chose to do something meaningful and sometimes controversial with their lives. The first poem is about Emily Dickinson, a woman who wrote poetry that was unusual and unconventional, who had the courage to be true to herself. Emily had her own voice and style, choosing “to weave a word,” and living a quiet life that was full of solitude and reflection.

   Georgia O’Keefe and Martha Graham also chose to find their own ways to express the creativity that lay in their souls. Georgia created paintings whose unique colors and themes startled people. Martha Graham dared to dance in a different way, focusing on “excitement and surge,” rather than beauty and elegance.

   Then there are the women who had a different sort of courage. Eleanor Roosevelt “the great first lady” who “Looked fear in the face,” championed the poor, the disenfranchised, and the downtrodden. Fannie Lou Hamer also chose to speak out. In her case she fought for the rights of America’s African American citizens, defending their right to vote and their right to freedom.

   In a similar way, Rachel Carson chose to speak for Nature, whose voice was being ignored. Her “little book,” which was called Silent Spring, helped people to understand that humans cannot take nature for granted, and that they need to care for and conserve our beautiful and wild places and our natural resources.

  J. Patrick Lewis also celebrates the lives of women who pushed their courage and bodies to new heights. Amelia Earhart dared to be the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic and pushed on even when her altimeter failed and when her plane’s wings “were icing over.” Gertrude Ederle also had to overcome appalling conditions when she swam the English Channel and made the fastest crossing made “By woman or by man.”

   Throughout this book, beautiful poetry and lovely art is paired with short descriptions of the lives of the fourteen women mentioned. The collection will touch, inspire, and appeal to readers of all ages.