"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, July 15, 2013

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

One of the great things about ALA is wandering around the exhibit area and meeting and talking with authors and illustrators. I must have been destined to meet Tanya Lee Stone because I kept crossing paths with her, it got to the point where I instinctively waved at her, as if waving at a friend!  It all started when I walked by a booth where she was signing her new book, Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.  

I had promised myself that I would buy and/or take fewer books home this year, that I would focus on ones that I would use in my teaching.  I love Tanya Lee Stone's work, so thought I would just share that information and move along.  Well, after speaking with her for a while and hearing about the new book, I knew I had to have this one.  Purchased it was, and into my bag it went.
Tanya Lee Stone has written another engaging and accessible biography for young readers.  I use Sandy's Circus, her biography about Alexander Calder with my fourth graders.  The art teacher has also purchased this book and uses it in her lesson with that grade.  It is also great to pair with The Calder Game by Blue Balliett.  
I have used Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote with my third graders as a way to introduce the biography unit.  They love this book.  Both the writing and illustrations appeal to and charm the students.  It is a fun book to read aloud with students and begins many interesting conversations.  
Who Says Women Can't be Doctors? offers the same opportunities and experiences. The writing will appeal to students and get them appropriately outraged at the obstacles Elizabeth Blackwell had to overcome. Stone has invited the reader to "take a walk" in her shoes, from the first line, Tanya Lee Stone has engaged the reader and challenged him or her to imagine life for Elizabeth.

I brought the book to the museum of a local country doctor/gentleman farmer.  I figured this was the perfect place to read it. 
Like Stone's other biographies, Elizabeth Blackwell's characteristics are just as important as her accomplishments. Students will walk away knowing that courage and determination, a sense of self, and a strong will will help you achieve your dreams. This is not a litany of her accomplishments  but a window into her world and who she was.  The author's note at the end fills in the gaps in Elizabeth's life and is sure to inspire students to want to learn more.

I love Marjorie Priceman's illustrations.  They are whimsical, yet carry the serious message of the text. Their engaging and lively line will keeps students attuned during read alouds and provide insight into the text.  The variations in spreads give proper import to specific moments in the story.  The illustrations capture the time period perfectly and the wonderful expressions will help readers understand the story.  
My question is, "Which Elizabeth will Tanya Lee Stone write about next?" Queen Elizabeth I or II? Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?  Turns out she's switched to Jane and will be writing about Jane Addams! Keep your eyes out for The House That Jane Built, to be published in 2014.


  1. Thanks for this great post. I also loved this book and I like how you write that Tanya Lee Stone "does not give a litany of (EB's) accomplishments but a window into her world and who she was." That's what makes it so fun!