A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor by Karen M. Greenwald, illustrated by Sian James

A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor by Karen M. Greenwald, illustrated by Sian James. Albert Whitman, 2021. 9780807553138

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Uncorrected proof

Genre: Biography 

 What did you like about the book? In 1934, Dora invites her grandson Ed to help her make her special birthday cake.  Ed is excited to be asked, but tells his grandmother that his friends don’t think boys should bake.  She proceeds to tell him the story of Susanna Salter, who became the mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887.  Kansas had given women the right to vote before it was a federal law, and Susanna worked with some of her friends to create a ballot to help women learn about the candidates in the town’s upcoming election.  Some men disrupted their meeting and told them they had no place in politics, but Susanna did not back down.  So the men, as a prank, created a new ballot and put Susanna’s name on it as candidate for mayor, with the idea that when she lost women would be discouraged from voting or getting involved in the future.  Some other men in town offered to support Susanna, so she agreed to run, and she won, becoming the country’s first woman mayor.  And as Dora and Ed sit down to enjoy their cake, Dora reveals that she is, in fact, Susanna Madora Salter.

Young readers who like learning about the suffrage movement and other human rights activism will love this story-within-a-story.  Susanna’s courage, both in standing up to the bullying men in her town, and agreeing to run for mayor, will be seen as a positive character trait.  It’s very effective to have the grandmother telling the story, as it shows how things have changed in just a few short generations, and kids will echo Ed’s excitement when he finds out his grandmother is actually the heroine of her own story.  The cartoon-like illustrations fit the story perfectly – facial expressions on every character, whether in the foreground or part of a crowd, perfectly convey the emotions of each scene.  An in-depth author’s note shares more about Susanna (and a link to the cake recipe), and acknowledges some important sources for her research.

Anything you did not like about the book? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers who gravitate toward picture book biographies of women like Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton will enjoy learning about this less well-known but admirable lady.  A conversation-provoking readaloud  in grades 1-3 for election season, Women’s History Month or in units on community.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: July 30, 2021

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