Tag Archive | Marjorie Priceman

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?


Written by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Henry Holt & Company, 2013

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell
(1821 – 1910)

I’ll bet you’ve met plenty of doctors in your life.

The story starts in the 1830’s, which was a time when women were expected to be wives and mothers or one of the expected female occupations, such as a teacher or a seamstress. Elizabeth Blackwell was a little girl during these times and was the kind of girl who stood up to any challenge and let her curiosity lead the way. As a child, she would get nauseous at the sight of blood and hated being sick. When she grew up, though, she had a friend with a terminal illness and this friend suggested she become a doctor, because it would be so much nicer to have a female doctor. Elizabeth couldn’t stop thinking about the idea, even though others thought it was ridiculous. She took a teaching job to earn the money to go to medical school but no school would accept her. Finally, she found a school and, even though the acceptance had started as a joke, she made the best of it and graduated at the top of her class. She became the first woman doctor and paved the way for all the women who followed her.

When Elizabeth Blackwell first started on the road to become a doctor, she was told that women were ‘intellectually inferior’ to men and it was actually suggested to her that disguising herself as a man was the only way she could ever get into medical school. And once she graduated, it didn’t really get any easier. She may have had a medical degree, but that didn’t mean people were ready to accept her as a doctor. As a strong conservative and social reformer, she advocated for better hygiene and sanitation, but also against contraception and the Contagious Disease Act. She established a medical school for women in London and published several books on the physical and moral education of children, particularly girls.


I love that she appears calm and steady while everyone is laughing at her.

The book opens with Elizabeth as a child and we see that she is curious and headstrong. Author Tanya Lee Stone makes her story inspiring and interesting, making us believe in her so much that, by the end of the book, we know she is capable of achieving any goal she sets for herself. I like that she includes that Elizabeth was disgusted by illness and the sight of blood, because it shows yet another obstacle that she had to overcome. Marjorie Priceman’s illustrations, in gouache and india ink are full of color and movement. A note in the back of the book presents more information on the rest of her career after school and references are included for further reading, as well. Considering that I have been seeing a female doctor for most of my adult life, I am extremely grateful to Dr. Blackwell and all that she did to break down this barrier.

And what did we learn from her? What she teaches me is that many doors that are wide open now were once shut and we owe a debt to those who struggled to open them.


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World


.Written and Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Dragonfly Books, 1994

Making an apple pie is really very easy.

To make a pie, you just need to get all the ingredients at your local market, mix them, bake them and you’re done. But what if the market is closed? Well, then you’ll need to pack a suitcase and head to Europe. You can pick wheat in Italy, then head to France to pick up a chicken (since French chickens lay the best eggs). After that, it’s a quick trip to Sri Lanka for some kurundu tree bark (for cinnamon) and then to England for a dairy cow to provide the milk. On your way to Jamaica for sugar cane, get some salt from the ocean’s saltwater. Stop by Vermont to pick your apples (and don’t forget to get an extra one for the cow and chicken you’re bringing home) and rush home quickly so your ingredients don’t spoil. When the pie is baking, you can invite some friends to share it and remember that apple pie is great with vanilla ice cream, which you can buy at your local market. And if the market is closed, you can have the pie by itself.

Sri lanka

Better not disturb that leopard while getting your cinnamon.

What a fun idea for a book! Author/illustrator Marjorie Priceman gives her main character a wonderful adventure, travelling the world to collect ingredients for her pie. In the course of her travels, we wind up thinking a little more broadly about where all these things come from. The book includes a world map on the endpapers and a recipe for apple pie for those folks who find their mouths watering for some pie by the end. (Too bad it didn’t come with a plane ticket for those of us who were struck by a desire for world travel!) The artwork is bright and colorful, with lots of glimpses of all the foreign lands that our main character visits in her quest for the ingredients. The book’s ending is a perfect comedic button to end the story. I can see lots of ways this book could be used for lessons and for showing kids that the things we pick up in our local store have their own origins.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s good to think about all the ingredients you use for any project and make sure they’re top quality.

The Blue Ribbon Day


Written by Katie Couric, Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Doubleday, 2004

Ellie McSnelly and Carrie O’Toole

raced down the hall of Brookhaven School.

How is the author famous?  Katie Couric is a reporter and journalist who has hosted shows on all three major networks in the US.

Ellie and Carrie both try out for the soccer team and imagine the fun they’ll have playing on the team together. Ellie does well, but Carrie struggles with the game and doesn’t make the team. She goes home feeling very sad and her mother comforts her, reminding her that everyone has a chance to shine, once they find where their skills lie. The next day, Carrie discusses the upcoming science fair with her lab partner and she proposes an idea that she’s been considering. Together, they work in the lab and create multi-colored crystals that win the blue ribbon at the science fair. Ellie is proud of Carrie’s success and Carrie cheers Ellie on the next day when their team wins the soccer game.

They're so girly that even their soccer dreams have purple swirls.

They’re so girly that even their soccer dreams have purple swirls.

Author Katie Couric first wrote about these two friends in her first picture book, The Brand New Kid, in which they learned about tolerance and friendship. Here, they are learning that everyone has different talents. The plot is a little cliché and the rhymes are a little clunky in places, but I think kids will overlook that and get a lot out of the message. I’ve seen some people criticizing the book for encouraging kids to give up if they don’t succeed at their first attempt, but I didn’t feel that it was sending that message at all. Caldecott Medal winner Marjorie Priceman illustrates this book in bright colors and fills the backgrounds with a diverse group of fellow students.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that you’re not going to have all the same talents as your friends and that’s fine. Keep the friends, support their talents and cultivate new talents of your own, which will lead to new friends as well.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin


Written by Lloyd Moss, Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995

Awards: Caldecott Honor

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

The plot in a nutshell:  Many instruments make up an orchestra

What begins as a trombone solo becomes a duo when a trumpet joins in. A French horn makes it a trio and a cello comes along to turn it into a quartet.  Those four are joined, in turn, by a violin, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and harp to make a chamber group. As each instrument joins, the book tells us the name of the group, according to the number of players. The orchestra performs a concert and the crowd applauds, hoping for an encore before they go home.

I love that the dog is trying to conduct.

I love that the dog is trying to conduct.

Author Lloyd Moss knows what he’s talking about when it comes to classical music. He was an announcer on New York’s WQXR classical radio for more than 50 years and hosted a radio program where he talked to famous authors and musicians about the music that they loved. While this book could easily be passed off as a counting book or even a ‘learn more about the orchestra’ book, it feels more like a nudge in the direction of music appreciation. The verse is lyrical and fun, with descriptive phrases that make you want to hear the instrument.  The flute is described as a ‘slender, silver sliver.’ How awesome is that to say aloud?

The artwork, from illustrator Marjorie Priceman, dresses the diverse musicians up in formal attire and sets them against a bright background.  There are also a mouse, a dog and two cats onstage that add to the fun by reacting to the music being played. The illustrations are done in gouache, with great details in the presentation of each instrument, such as having the harp descend from the ceiling as though coming down from heaven. Composer Marvin Hamlisch created a musical score to this book so that it could be presented in concert and Mr. Moss was the first person to narrate it. I imagine that would have been tremendously wonderful to see.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that many different configurations of instruments can make wonderful music, but the best is a concert when they all play together.

Rachel Fister’s Blister


Written by Amy MacDonald, Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Houghton Mifflin, 1990

Rachel Fister

Found a blister

On her little left-hand toe

Recommended by: Krista (Utah)

Who is Krista? Wife. Mom. Loves picture books.

How did you discover this book? I picked it out to read to my kids.

What do you like about it? Fun pictures and clever rhymes!

The plot in a nutshell: Everyone offers advice to cure a girl’s blister

Rachel shows the blister to her mother, who calls in her father to look at it. From there, they contact the farmer, doctor, nurse, Rachel’s siblings, rabbi, maid, pastor, postman, priest, vicar, fireman and the police. They all try different ways to fix the blister, but nothing seems to help. In desperation, they call the palace and ask the Queen, who suggests using their lips. Everyone is confused, but Rachel’s mother knows exactly what it means and she gives the blister a kiss, which does the trick.

Quirksome is an excellent word.  I'm going to use it today.  You should, too.

Quirksome is an excellent word. I’m going to use it today. You should, too.

Author Amy MacDonald says that she dedicated this book to her daughter, Emily, because she was the kind of kid who always made a big deal out of every little cut and scrape and Ms. MacDonald was the kind of mom who didn’t. The family in this book certainly knows how to blow a minor thing like a blister WAY out of proportion, calling in just about everyone in town to offer suggestions on dealing with the issue. The book is written in a very sing-song rhyming meter with internal rhymes that are delightfully fun to read aloud.

The artwork, from illustrator Marjorie Priceman, matches the frenetic pace of the rhyme’s cadence, with watercolor sketches that seem to have movement all their own. Everyone in these pictures is active, which I think contributed to my desire to read the book very fast when I read it aloud. There are also lots of comedic moments in the book, mostly concerning some of the ridiculous potential cures that people try on the infamous blister. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I can only imagine this one would be a real hit with little kids. It’s a ton of fun.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that in spite of all the different theories and options out there, sometimes the old-fashioned cures are still the best.