Krull, Kathleen. 2008. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams taking flight. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9781416971290.
Plot Summary –
In this biography of the former First Lady Hillary Clinton, Krull begins with a young girl who dreams of being an astronaut and moves through the major events of her life leading to her run for President of the United States. Krull focuses on Hillary Clinton’s desire to help others, and the many obstacles she faced along the way. After the story, she includes end notes that elaborate and support information in the story.
Critical Analysis –
This biography is two very different books – a picture book biography and an endnote reference book. The first part is a picture book biography. This section is engaging for young children, but the narrative does not hold the attention of older children. Each page includes an event from Hillary Clinton’s life and words of advice written in script that relate to the event. Perhaps the words of encouragement written in script will give the older reader something to think about. Another problem for older children might be the heavy handedness with the themes. One theme that is repeated on many pages in this section is her desire to help people as her driving motivation for her life choices. Also, overdone is the “space theme.” Krull uses it on almost every page with forced phrases like “blasting off like a rocket” (26), “airborne in politics” (31), and “sailed up through the clouds” (33). Younger children may not notice, but older ones will certainly feel uncomfortable with the unnaturally forced similes and metaphors.
In contrast, the endnotes section entitled, “Flying Facts” is great for the older children. In this section, Krull gives details to elaborate on each of the events listed in the picture book section. She provides very specific information including people, dates, and events important in Hillary Clinton’s life. It is in this section that the reader learns who Hillary Clinton really is and what her life was like. One example is that in the picture book section the reader hears repeatedly that Hillary Clinton wants “to help other people” (10), but it is not until the endnotes that the reader learns how she fulfills that desire. In the endnotes, the reader learns of Hillary Clinton raising money for children of migrate workers (34). This book could serve dual purposes. Younger children will enjoy the picture book story part, and older children will enjoy meeting the Hillary Clinton presented in the “Flying Facts.”
The best part of the book is the illustrations. Bates does a fabulous job with portraying the little girl dreaming of being an astronaut and showing the changes that take place as Hillary Clinton moves through her life. On page 8, a studious looking 8th grader is not swayed in her determination by a boy in front of her cutting his eyes her way with a condescending grin. On page 14, the reader sees a confident Hillary Clinton with hair up and glasses on for the first time at her college graduation. Bates also doesn’t lose sight of the space theme. She draws the solar system as the baby’s crib mobile on page 23. And finally on page 32, the reader sees an older woman proud of her lifetime of accomplishments yet ready for the challenges ahead. The illustrations tell a more engaging story than the picture book text.
Review Excerpts -
Publishers Weekly –“ Bates (The Dog Who Belonged to No One) contributes radiant if consciously heart-tugging illustrations, imbuing her subject with both an endearing geekiness and determined idealism.”
Booklist – “Krull’s text has a lofty tone befitting the book’s subtitle, while Bates’ pictures, with a stylish retro look, keep the focus on Clinton, capturing her in all her incarnations.”
School Library Journal – “Ardent Clinton supporters may relish this homage, but others probably would appreciate a more down-to-earth biography.”
*Select other books about Hillary Clinton and create a chart comparing the facts presented in each. Discuss how publication date affects information, and discuss the differences between those written by woman and those written by men. Some suggested titles are:
- Hillary Rodham Clinton by Victoria Sherrow – ISBN 9780875186214
- The Importance of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Jim Gullo – ISBN 9781590183106
- Hillary Rodham Clinton by Richard Kozar – ISBN 9780791047125
- Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Catherine Thimmesh – ISBN 9780618971435
*Compare/contrast with Maya Angelou’s poem “State Package for Hillary Clinton”
*Read other books about women by Kathleen Krull and discuss how these women are alike and different:
- Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) – ISBN 9780152008079
- A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull – ISBN 978-0802796158
- Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman. ISBN – 9780152020989
- Marie Curie(Giants of Science) – ISBN 9780670058945