She Was the First!

By Kirkus Reviews

This picture-book biography shows how Shirley Chisolm’s upbringing and talents led to her career in politics and her historic run for the U.S. presidency. By the age of 3, Shirley was leading children twice her age in play. When finances were difficult at home in Brooklyn, her parents brought her and her sister to live with her grandmother in Barbados, where she experienced farm life and beaches and saw black people in all sorts of positions. Readjusting to New York at age 10 during the Great Depression was difficult, but Shirley ultimately excelled in school, completing college and going on to become a schoolteacher before her work with community groups led her into politics. Approximately half of the story details Shirley’s childhood and youth, and the other half shows Chisholm’s transition from teaching into politics, focusing on how she gave a voice to the powerless. Russell-Brown’s text does a remarkable job of pulling together the threads of Shirley’s life to show how her experiences informed her life trajectory, ending on a note of triumph even though she does not win the presidential nomination. Velasquez’s watercolor illustrations are full of life, using texture and light to capture vivid and varied scenery, personalities, and emotion. An extensive afterword expounds upon Chisholm’s continuing legacy. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.8-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 61.2% of actual size.) Important history made beautiful and engaging.