Children's Literacy Round-Up: September 22
Tuesday Tidbits: Cybils, Punctuation Day, and L. M. Montgomery

My Name Is Not Isabella: Jennifer Fosberry

NonfictionmondayBook: My Name Is Not Isabella
Author: Jennifer Fosberry
Illustrator: Mike Litwin
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

My Name Is Not Isabella

Jennifer Fosberry's My Name Is Not Isabella is not a nonfiction title, but it does convey a number of facts about famous women from history. Thus, although it's a bit of a stretch, I've chosen to feature it for nonfiction Monday. My Name Is Not Isabella takes the reader through a day in the life of a little girl who imagines herself as Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Isabella's own mother (an endnote explains that "A mother is a person who uses love and wisdom to raise children to be caring, accomplished adults").

At the start of the book, Isabella announces: "I am Sally, the greatest, toughest astronaut who ever was." A paragraph at the end of the book gives readers more background about Sally Ride (and similarly for the other women). Isabella's mother, shown primarily in the background, often truncated or in shadow, humors Isabella each time, calling her by her most recently declared name (while simultaneously, with gentle firmness, walking Isabella through catching her bus, doing her homework, and setting the table, etc.). The mother is always too late in what name she uses, however, as Isabella rapidly moves along to another hero. The end of the story leaves Isabella dreaming of who she'll be tomorrow. The last page of the book includes a list of works consulted, both books and websites, for more information about "these and other exciting women".

Mike Litwin's illustrations, apparently a combination of colored pencil and digital collage, keep this history-based book fun. Isabella is a spunky and engaging figure, with a huge head, yarn-like purple hair, and mis-matched clothing. Her constant companion is a beat-up stuffed mouse with purple button eyes that pop out from the page. As Annie Oakley, she holds a bottle of syrup like a gun, with the syrup's label a picture of a maple leaf. The implements that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell uses are photographs of ornate silver utensils. On each page where Isabella declares herself to be a different woman, the woman's name, and one of her major attributes, are shown in a large font, one specific to that woman (kind of an old west font for Annie Oakley, etc.).

But really, I think that the key to the success of this book is that Isabella looks, on every page, like she's having fun. She's not "learning history". She's excited to pretend to be each of these historical figures because they are exciting. I especially liked her pretending to be Rosa Parks while on her bus to school. This felt real and appropriate. And so, based on Isabella's genuine appreciation of these important women, I recommend My Name is Not Isabella. I think it would be a good choice for parents wanting to introduce, in a relatively gentle, non-didactic manner, some strong female role models. Plus, the illustrations are fun. Recommended for preschoolers, especially girls.

Publisher: Monkey Barrel Press
Publication Date: September 9, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: The Well-Read Child, Young Readers, Laura Williams Musings, The Reading Tub (with thanks to Jill from The Well-Read Child for the other three links)

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.