Shirley Chisholm is a Verb

Shirley Chisholm is a Verb
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
July 28, 2020
Buy This Book
A timely picture book biography about Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, who sought the Democratic nomination to be the president of the United States.

Shirley Chisholm famously said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." This dynamic biography illuminates how Chisholm was a doer, an active and vocal participant in our nation's democracy, and a force to be reckoned with. Now young readers will learn about her early years, her time in Congress, her presidential bid and how her actions left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire, uplift, and instruct.

Editor review

1 review
Exemplary Biography of an Exceptional Woman
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
For readers who are too young for Bolden's Speak Up, Speak Out! The Extraordinary Life of "Fighting Shirley Chisholm (2022) or as an excellent classroom read aloud, Chambers and Baker's Shirley Chisholm is a Verb introduces Chisholm and her career in politics through lively illustrations and innovative prose.

Moving forward from the thought that "Verbs are words that move the world forward", we see Chisholm's childhood in Barbados, her move to New York City, and her path through college and her early career. She started in education, working in early Head Start programs, and using every opportunity to better the world around her for others. She ran for a seat on the New York State assembly and won that, then continued on to serve as a congresswoman and eventually run for president. This was not an easy course to follow, since both women and Blacks faced a lot of opposition, but she was dedicated to changing the world and never gave up.
Good Points
The use of boldfaced verbs, and pages revolving around how Chisholm "campaigned", "represented" and "created" gives an interesting focus and rhythm to the information presented. This drives the story forward in a compelling way that a standard text might not. This has a lot of information for a read aloud, but the format of the prose keeps the story from seeming lengthy.

Baker's illustrations are bold and bright, and capture some well known photographs of Chisholm. Some of her 1960s and 1970s polyster suits are captured with bright colors; there were so many astonishing outfits that I wish a few more bright colors had been used in the clothing. I love that she didn't default to the black and navy ensembles that so many current women politicians wear!

Chisholm's legacy is well addressed, with information about Ferraro, Obama, Clinton, and the host of new female representatives that have been elected in recent races. The personal note from Chambers, with her recollections of seeing posters for Chisholm as a child, end the book on a personal note.

There are a growing number of picture book biographies, like Bryant's Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX, Levy's I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, and Sotomayor's Turning Pages: My Life Story, that cover pioneering women in the political arena. These make me hopeful that soon there will be so many women in office that it will no longer be noteworthy. Young readers of all cultural backgrounds will soon be able to picture themselves in the highest offices in the land.
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