Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President

Heart on FireHeart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President. Written by Ann Malaspina. IIlustrated by Steve James. Albert Whitman & Company, 2012. 32 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 6-9. ISBN: 9780807531884.

Susan B. Anthony thought that the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, gave her and every other woman who was a citizen of the United States the right to vote. She registered to vote in 1872 and four days later she voted for president of the United States. Two weeks after that she was arrested for “voting without having the lawful right to vote.” All of her female friends who voted were also arrested. She was tried, convicted, and fined $100 which she refused to pay.

This story is much more accessible than a biography of Susan B. Anthony would be. It captures her outrage at not being able to vote. Like a refrain in a song, the writer uses the words “Outrageous. Unbelievable. True.” The words appear throughout the story.

There’s a nice history of Susan B. Anthony’s struggle to win the right to vote at the end of the book. It points out that she died in 1906 and the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. There’s also a selected bibliography. On the last page there is a photograph of Susan B. Anthony.

The deeply colored illustrations focus primarily on the upper torso and heads of their subjects. This gives the reader a chance to see the character faces up close, and thus to see a bit of the feelings and motivations expressed in their faces.

Heart on Fire could be used anytime by a child interested in writing a report about Susan B. Anthony. It would also be a great read aloud choice both for election season and for women’s history month.

Before reading this book I knew that Susan B. Anthony worked tirelessly to win American women the right to vote. I did not realize that she had, in effect, committed civil disobedience by testing her right to vote. My admiration of her and my gratitude to her have increased by reading Heart of Fire.

This week Nonfiction Monday is being hosted by Wrapped in Foil

Nonfiction Monday

Blog Reviews:

3rd Grade Reading
Gender Equality Bookstore
Literacy Toolbox
My Book Addiction Reviews
NC Teacher Stuff
True Tales and a Cherry on Top
Youth Services Book Review

Professional Reviews:



The Day Gogo Went to Vote

The Day Gogo Went to VoteThe Day Gogo Went to Vote. Written by Elinor Batezat Sisulu. Illustrated by Sharon Wilson. Little, Brown and Company, 1996. 32 pages. Recommended for ages 6 and older. ISBN: 9780316702713.

1997 African Studies Association Children’s Book Award

1997 Jane Addams Honor Book

1997 International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society

Thembi, who is six, spends most of her after-school time with her great grandmother, Gogo, who is 100. They are blacks in South Africa in 1994. Soon the first election day on which blacks can vote will arrive. No one in the family expects Gogo to vote. She hasn’t left the house for years. Gogo, however, is determined to exercise her right to vote.

Thembi asks Gogo why it is so important for her to vote. Gogo answers: “Thembi, black people in South Africa have fought for many years for the right to vote. This is the first time we have a chance to vote for our own leaders, and it might be my last. That is why I must vote, no matter how many miles I have to walk, no matter how long I have to stand in line.”

Gogo insists that Thembi accompany her to the polling place. Thembi is very proud of her role in helping her grandmother to vote. She asks many questions at the polling place. The voting officers are pleased to answer her questions so that she will be ready to vote when she becomes 18.

Afterwards there is rejoicing about the voting, and then more rejoicing when Nelson Mandela wins the presidency. But the important thing, more important than Mandela’s win, is that Gogo was able to vote.

The illustrations give a sense of the characters and the importance of what they are doing. Each two-page spread has a fair number of words. Because of that, this might work best as a book read aloud to elementary school students.

In order to keep a democracy, it is vitally important that people vote. We often forget this in the United States. This story is a beautiful lesson in the importance of voting.

Blog Reviews:

6 Elements of Social Justice Ed.
The Picture Book Pusher
Africa Access

Professional Reviews:


Eyewitness: Vote

Eyewitness: Vote by Philip Steele.  DK Publishing, 2008.  72 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 8-17.  ISBN: 9780756633820.

“Eyewitness: Vote” contains a remarkable amount of information about what it means to vote.  It follows both the history of and current status of voting rights worldwide.  The book spends a good deal of time on a history of democracy.  It explains the many different way countries worldwide have chosen to implement democracy. Besides that, it starts with “Citizens Assemblies” in ancient India and Iraq, then moves to the system of government called “demokratia” which started in Greece in 508 BCE, and traces the development of democracy forward from that time.  The reader will learn about Perikles, the French revolution, the rise of fascism, Thomas Paine, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The information is presented as topics, which each topic on a two page spread. Every spread includes an explanatory paragraph about the topic and beautiful photographs and captions related to each topic. For example, on the spread entitled “Polling Day” there’s a picture of a Nenets woman, from the Russian Arctic, placing her ballot in the ballot box.  The “Polling Day” spread includes seven other pictures and captions.

Vote invites the reader to dip into the book and become absorbed. One can start anywhere in the book and learn something about voting. It’s also possible to read the book cover to cover but because there’s no strong narrative line I found this frustrating.

At the end is a fascinating “timeline of democracy”, and an equally fascinating “A to Z of famous people.”  There’s also a very thorough index, which is a must in a book constructed as this one is.  In addition, there’s a large poster about voting and a CD of clip-art about voting.

I can imagine children pouring over this book in a classroom, in a library or in their homes.  And I can imagine children returning to it time after time.