cover image All by Herself

All by Herself

Ann Whitford Paul, Michael Steirnagle. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201477-3

Paul (The Seasons Sewn) surfs through history, emerging with an assortment of 14 plucky young heroines--some famous, some not--to commemorate in verse. In ""Ida Lewis,"" one of the strongest poems, the poet's use of repetition and rhythm mimics the pounding of the waves from which the 16-year-old daughter of a lighthouse keeper single-handedly rescues four men whose boat has capsized. Other poems highlight such galvanizing girlhood incidents as Amelia Earhart rocketing off the toolshed roof in a homemade roller coaster she fashioned from a wooden crate; more contemplative poems reflect cerebral heroines such as nature writer Rachel Carson and educator/activist Mary Jane McLeod (later Bethune). From Wilma Rudolph, who discarded a painful leg brace and went on to win three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics, to fourth-grader Golda Mabovitch (later known as Golda Meir), who encouraged her classmates to donate money for books for poor children, the poems describe telling moments from these inspiring lives. A few poems may be difficult to decode without a context, but an afterword fleshes out the historical details. Paul keeps the flow lively by employing a range of poetic styles, including free verse and rhyming couplets, while the broad, energetic brush strokes and intense hues of Steirnagle's (Billy Lazroe and the King of the Sea) oil portraits reflect the fierce determination of his subjects. An intriguing hybrid of history, poetry and art, this book may well prod readers to find out more about these strong role models. Ages 6-9. (Nov.)