What perfect timing! Mara Rockliff and Hadley Hooper’s lively nonfiction picture book celebrates a cross-country road trip taken in 1916 by suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke to spread the word about votes for women.
The two women set out from New York City in a little yellow car on April 6, 1916. On their journey to California and back, their luggage included a sewing machine, a typewriter and, yes, a “wee black kitten” (named Saxon in honor of their little runabout made by the Saxon Motor Car Company).
Hooper’s vibrant illustrations convey a delightful retro feel, while effectively capturing a sense of adventure and place. Readers are treated to a suffragist rally, a sun-drenched field with butterflies and birds and a spectacular double-page spread of a blizzard. Rockliff’s prose is just as lively. We follow the two intrepid travelers as their car nearly falls in a hole, chugs through wet sand and, at one point, goes “bump and squelch” before finally getting stuck in the mud.
In addition to a large map highlighting the suffragists’ route, there is a wealth of back matter. In an informative author’s note, Rockliff notes that while Alice and Nell’s “ten thousand bumpy, muddy, unmapped miles” might have been a challenge, the road to achieve women’s suffrage in America was far longer, stretching back to the first organized efforts at the Seneca Falls conference in 1848.
Around America to Win the Vote will be a wonderful complement to classroom discussions during this election year and an important addition to the literature surrounding the upcoming centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The final message for all readers: Vote!
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Steamboat School.