Vision of Beauty: a mighty story of dignity and freedom

Vision of Beauty tells the story of Madame CJ Walker. And a fascinating story it is.

Madame Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the youngest child in her family and the first person in her family to be born free. Her family were slaves in Louisiana until emancipation in 1865. 

Sarah was born in 1867 and lived an extraordinary life.

During her at once difficult and blessed life, Sarah married twice, had a daughter, and built a cosmetics empire. 

The story is carefully pieced together so that the historically verifiable parts of Sarah’s life are blended with the broader history of her communities and with just enough artistic license to make it easy to read. There’s quite a bit of text on each page for what is also a picture book (and the pictures are wonderful – sometimes troubling, sometimes joyful, sometimes full of despair, sometimes full of hope).

Beginning in the late 1870’s, each short chapter spans a number of years in Sarah’s life and we follow her from being a very young child who works with her family sharecropping, through to just prior to her death at the age of just 51. 

There are insights into the life of poverty and struggle that was the seemingly inevitable lot of colored people immediately following emancipation. (The author Kathryn Lasky explains that she uses the term ‘colored’ to be consistent with the time that Madame Walker lived.) But Sarah manages to rise above her circumstances.

In desperation, having lost almost all of her family and her husband and with her hair falling out, Sarah prays and then starts searching for a homemade cure. 

It's this homemade cure that is the starting point for Sarah’s empire.

This isn’t a religious book – there is just one mention of prayer – but it is certainly inspiring. Best of all, Sarah’s ongoing desire to lift others comes through loud and clear.

There are lots of jumping off points in this story too – mentions of aspects of history that could be more fully investigated such as the emancipation of slaves in the US; the Ku Klux Klan; the rampant effect of Yellow Fever and Cholera; voting rights for women; segregation, discrimination and so on.

With the story of Madame Walker tucked away in memory, we all may choose to work a little harder, forgive and move on a little quicker, care a little more for others, and remember our own self worth a little more easily. Such a wonderful book. 

VISION OF BEAUTY: THE STORY OF SARAH BREEDLOVE WALKER
by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Nneka Bennett - Turtleback Books, 2012
ages 4 to 12 years / diversity, powerful lives, s.o.s.e.

BuyNowButton (1).png

AMAZON - BOOK DEPOSITORY

Names in this book: Owen, Minerva, Alex, Louvenia, Sarah, Leiia, Margaret

Don't Cross the Line: the limits of authority—and how we choose

Don't Cross the Line: the limits of authority—and how we choose

Power flows from perceived external authority, and freedom flows from claiming personal authority. Sometimes, anyway. Life is complex!

In this story the arbitrary exercise of power is set in clear and absurd relief against obvious freedoms.

Ages 2 - 8

Read More

Emma And The Whale: life is full when we have a respectful connection with nature

Emma And The Whale: life is full when we have a respectful connection with nature

Jesse gave us Emma And The Whale by Julie Case when we first moved here and it perfectly matches our new found reverence for the ocean.

Emma is a young girl who lives in an old crooked house, but she doesn’t mind because it’s near the ocean, and that is her favourite place to be.

‘After school, Emma always took her dog, Nemo, to play at the beach. They combed the shore for shells and stones and sea glass. At low tide, that’s when they found the best treasures.

Sometimes Emma saw whales in the water. Sometimes she saw dolphins, and once a loggerhead turtle. She liked to picture an ocean teeming with life, with no balloons or bottles spit to shore.’

The magic and mystery of the ocean solidifies one foggy day when Emma discovers a beached baby whale.

Read More

Petra: an endearing tale of optimism

Petra: an endearing tale of optimism

ages 2 to 8 My kids have a thing for rocks. Our house is full of ‘cool rocks’ that have been picked up nearly every time we go outside. They use them as a phone, a pet, a magic crystal and everything in between. I’m still trying to work out what exactly it is that makes some rocks ‘cool’ and others just a rock. I think in the end it comes down to perception – the potential the kids see in each rock, and there’s an important life lesson in that.

It’s a lesson that is taught in a gentle way in Petra by Marianna Coppo.

Petra may be a rock, but she’s not ‘just’ a rock.

Read More

a three eyed, long eared alien child reminds us to be welcoming and inclusive

a three eyed, long eared alien child reminds us to be welcoming and inclusive

ages 2 to 8 years
Feeling lost, unwelcome or out of place is one of childhood’s certainties. They’re feelings that will come to every child in one measure or another. Teens, of course, continue to have those feelings, and so do adults. For displaced people, regardless of age, those feelings are frequently more than an emotional reaction—they can be the cold hard facts of life. Beegu is a displaced alien child who....

Read More

Ada Lovelace's brilliant combination of imagination, maths and science — the first computer programmer

Ada Lovelace's brilliant combination of imagination, maths and science — the first computer programmer

ages 5 to 10 years
......... Ada is known as the first computer programmer as a result of a paper she published with Charles Babbage—he was the official author, but the footnotes were credited to her. Well, her initials were on them anyway: 'She was afraid her work wouldn’t be taken seriously if people knew it was written by a woman.'

Her life is captivatingly told, from her early years as a child fascinated with flying, to her marriage, her friendships 

Read More