Rose O’Neill: The Girl Who Loved to Draw by Linda Brewster

 I’m happy to have been involved in the KidLit Cares auction for Superstorm Sandy relief for so many reasons. First, of course, is the money we raised for the Red Cross relief effort. But beyond that, my own contribution – the school and library planning and publicity packages – have led me to discover some really amazing titles that I might otherwise have missed.

One of them is ROSE O’NEILL: THE GIRL WHO LOVED TO DRAW by Linda Brewster.

It’s a gem of an artist biography but a tough one to peg when it comes to readers’ ages. It’s the kind of title you might pick up at an art museum bookshop as an adult, reading to gain an appreciation for the history of the artist behind the work. But it’s also just the kind of book that young artists and readers will love, since it really focuses on the girl who grew into America’s first woman cartoonist.  And it’s a title that school librarians and teachers in grades 4-8 should know about, too, especially with the invitation to explore more creative nonfiction under the Common Core Standards. This book would be a great model for kids working on their own biographies of famous artists or musicians, or really any public figures.

This is Rose’s story, and it begins when she is small – a child about to start out on a covered wagon journey across the country to live in a sod house.  Rose’s journey with her parents and siblings includes long days in a Conestoga wagon. It includes financial troubles and evictions, happiness and heartbreak, but most of all, it includes art and love. No matter how tough things were for Rose’s family, her parents managed to surround her with books, take her to the theater occasionally, and support her talents in both theater and art.

Rose grew up to be not only a gifted illustrator, inspired by her life stories and the baby brothers and sisters she helped to raise, but also an advocate for women. She was a part of the suffrage movement, using her popular Kewpie characters to help spread the message. And this book does an amazing job of telling and showing Rose’s story.  There are great, vivid examples of her drawings here that lend themselves to conversations about the connections between an artist’s history and her work. Kids will be excited to study the illustrations and make those connections to the biographical text.

As part of the planning and publicity package, I took a look at how this title might help to meet the Common Core Standards. Here are a couple of the reflection/writing questions that’s part of the new study guide:

While Rose O’Neill may be best known for her Kewpies, her artistic talents span a wider range of styles. Her “Sweet Monsters” drawings drew controversy when she shared them. View some of these and read about them here:

 Does it surprise you that this work was done by the cartoonist you read about in THE GIRL WHO LOVED TO DRAW? Why or why not?

Read Rose’s poem “The New Baby” on page 13. How does this poem written by Rose herself compare to Linda Brewster’s narrative account of the birth of Rose’s little sister?  How are the two accounts similar? How are they different?

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.9 Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

To read more about this great illustrated biography, check out Linda Brewster’s website: 

This book is with a smaller press, so it’s one that lots of teachers and librarians might have missed, so I’m giving away a copy today to help spread the word. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment that includes your email, and I’ll drop you a note to get your address if you win (U.S. entries only, please!)

5 Replies on “Rose O’Neill: The Girl Who Loved to Draw by Linda Brewster

  1. I will definitely add this title to my granddaughter’s library. She’s just a toddler now, but we’re stocking her shelves with information and positive role models.

  2. Thanks again for another good title that I would have missed otherwise. I have sent an email to our librarian about getting our hands on this book. I am getting excited for the start of the school year!