June 09



The theme for today will be strong women…mighty women…moms…grandmas…NUNS (of which I have many stories)…women who just plain broke the rules.


Women Who Broke the Rules is a new set of chapter books for grades 2 to 4. My literary inspiration–if I may dare mention her name–was Jean Fritz, the master of this field, who keeps readers turning pages of her biographies with her famous light touch.


Enquiring minds might want to know about rules I myself have broken. Many. The NUNS I had throughout grade school and high school can confirm that. I did a lot of standing in the corner when I was little (for talking too much). In high school, I got kicked out of a classroom (for giddiness) and had a reputation for being snarky. For reading too much on the job, among other transgressions, I was fired from my after-school job as a library aide. As for college–the only woman in my family who’d been to college was an aunt who was a NUN. It was a time when many, including some of my professors, didn’t believe girls should go to college. Unjust, unfair.


Maybe that’s why I can’t get enough of women’s history. It’s fascinating, still underreported, and more important than ever for inspiring young girls to break confining rules, control their own lives, and take up leadership. And to inspire young boys to admire powerful women.


Wilma Unlimited came out of this interest, as did books on Pocahontas, Louisa May Alcott, and Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought)–women with real power. There’s also A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull. She was the first woman to run for Prez, back in 1872, when women couldn’t even vote. In 2008, when yet another woman tried, I proposed Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight. (The country still wasn’t quite ready, but a revised edition is coming this August.)


The intent of WWBTR is to enshrine strong women who helped shape our country by refusing to conform to the rules of their day. And there are so many to praise. Dolley Madison, for example, was a patriot and a born politician. Yes, she was a party animal too, but her parties had a point–uniting a very young country.


Add mine to the outpouring of kudos for Judy Blume, having her well-deserved moment in the sun with her new adult book. Her kids’ books broke the rules and broke new ground, and she’s just personally appealing as a 60s feminist.


Sacajawea–this 16-teen-year Shoshone Indian girl, carrying her baby, explored the country with Lewis & Clark and helped in crucial ways to make the expedition a success. It was a most unusual life story for a woman of her day.


Sonia Sotomayor broke barriers as she made her way in a dicey New York neighborhood with her parents, recently emigrated from Puerto Rico, to life as one of the most important women in the country. A Supreme Court Justice who idolized Nancy Drew and grew up to solve mysteries on a national scale.


And now a cover reveal for one of the NEXT two books: Edwin Fotheringham’s delicious take on Coretta Scott King, coming in December. (Scroll down to the end of the post to see the cover reveal.)


Coretta Scott King, facing discrimination at every step, set out to be a concert singer. But she put her career on hold to partner with her husband, becoming a human rights activist speaking out on major political issues.


It’s up to you, readers, whether there will be more WWBTR to come. All around my office, I have lists of women I’d love to add to this series, plus I welcome new suggestions. How cool would it be to have a 50-book series? Very cool.

Thanks for reading this.

Kathleen Krull,a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club

Kathleen Krull is a prominent biographer for young people. Her Wilma Unlimited was named an ALA Notable Book; her Lives of the Musicians was a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award winner; and her other nonfiction has won countless other awards. Kathleen also wrote A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull for Walker & Company. She and her husband, illustrator Paul Brewer, live in San Diego, California. For more info (and gossip), please visit her website at www.kathleenkrull.com and friend her on Facebook.