The Power of Her Pen

Written By: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated by: John Parra

For Ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Journalists, Trailblazing Women, Historical Figure, Black Protagonists, Politics, Social Justice.

Summary: Ethel was born in 1911 and always had an ear for stories. She endured constant racism while trying to get an education, and was able to attend a local college during the Great Depression and become a journalist. Working for social justice and anti-racist causes was a running theme in Ethel’s life and she became known for organizing women’s groups and other community improvement initiatives. During WWII Ethel was an event organizer for the army in Japan, and devoted a lot of her time to writing stories about Black soldier life in her diary. Upon sharing it with a friend, she got published in Black newspapers!

Ethel returned home in 1951 and got job at a Black newspaper, the Chicago Defender. She soon became known as one of the few Black journalists in Washington DC and had an unyielding vision for asking questions about the things that mattered most to herself and the Black community. Ethel was a hard-hitting writer and worked tirelessly against the continued oppression of Black citizens. Even after her retirement from journalism, Ethel continued to teach classes at Fisk University and be a voice for her community.

This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster Canada as a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list but all opinions are my own!

Lesa Cline-Ransome

Lesa Cline-Ransome grew up in Malden, MA, a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. She considers consider herself very lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week Lesa’s Mom would take Lesa with her to the local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older she would venture off into the children’s section and gather up her own collection to check out. Through her mother Lesa realized that reading could become a wonderful escape and writing even more so. When her mother gave Lesa a diary as a gift, she first filled the pages with the “very important” details of her life—adventures with her friends, secret crushes and the many ways in which her family drove her crazy. Then Lesa began creating my own stories! Lesa became interested in children’s books the year she married. Her husband, James was working on illustrating his first book which allowed both of them to look at picture books in a new way. When they’d browse books in bookstores, he studied the illustrations, she read the stories. Lesa eventually completed a graduate degree in elementary education and through coursework became truly immersed in children’s literature.

John Parra

John Parra is the illustrator of numerous books for children including the Pura Belpré Honor winning Frida Khalo and Her Animalitos, the Pura Belpré Honor and SCBWI Golden Kite Award winning Gracias/Thanks, the Pura Belpré Honor award-winning Green Is a Chile Pepper, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Award winning Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans. John is also the illustrator of the Christopher Award-winning Waiting for the Biblioburro, and the 2018 picture book is Hey, Wall.

As a boy growing up in Santa Barbara, California, John always loved to draw — robots, creatures, cities, his family, and of course, his Hispanic roots and heritage influenced his creations. But it wasn’t until a conversation with visiting artist, Salomón Huerta, during John’s final year at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena that his art style came into focus. John discovered he could infuse his culture and personality into his work, and ever since, he hasn’t stopped.

John has taught art at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, CA, and in 2015 he shared his creations at a special event and workshop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. John’s work can now also be seen on a series of six USPS Forever Stamps titled Delicioso, which celebrates Latino food cuisine.

John loves planting Easter Eggs – funny, personal, or symbolic references. For instance, in all of his books, John always includes a self-portrait of himself as a child. But don’t ask him to help you find these hidden gems, he won’t give them away!

John lives in Queens New York with his wife Maria, and like always, he continues to work in his studio, passionately creating art.

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