Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters

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Overview

As a child, Laura Ingalls Wilder traveled across the prairie in a covered wagon. Her daughter, Rose, thought those stories might make a good book, and the two created the beloved Little House series.

Sara Breedlove, the daughter of former slaves, wanted everything to be different for her own daughter, A'Lelia. Together they built a million-dollar beauty empire for women of color. Marie Curie became the first person in history to win two Nobel ...

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Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters

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Overview

As a child, Laura Ingalls Wilder traveled across the prairie in a covered wagon. Her daughter, Rose, thought those stories might make a good book, and the two created the beloved Little House series.

Sara Breedlove, the daughter of former slaves, wanted everything to be different for her own daughter, A'Lelia. Together they built a million-dollar beauty empire for women of color. Marie Curie became the first person in history to win two Nobel prizes in science. Inspired by her mother, Irène too became a scientist and Nobel prize winner.

Borrowed Names is the story of these extraordinary mothers and daughters.
Borrowed Names is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Borrowed Names:

 

* “This book, powerful when read independently, would also make for a great readers’ theater project for teens. The images created bring powerful emotions to the surface, felt by the women profiled here and by those who read this gem that belongs in any literary cedar chest, as well as in every collection.” —School Library Journal, starred review

 

*  “In vivid scenes written with keen insight and subtle imagery, the poems offer a strong sense of each daughter’s personality as well as the tensions and ties they shared with their notable mothers. Writing with understated drama and quiet power, Atkins enables readers to understand these six women and their mother-daughter relationships in a nuanced and memorable way.” —Booklist, starred review

 

* “The thirty vignettes concerning each mother-daughter pair offer just a few telling facts, beautifully phrased and skillfully arranged to evoke the most significant events and emotional trajectories of entire lives.” —The Horn Book, starred review

starred review The Horn Book

* "The thirty vignettes concerning each mother-daughter pair offer just a few telling facts, beautifully phrased and skillfully arranged to evoke the most significant events and emotional trajectories of entire lives."
VOYA - Geri Diorio
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, and Marie Curie were all born in 1867. All three made names for themselves when it was truly still a man's world. All three also had daughters who were heavily involved with their mothers' careers. Laura and Rose Wilder were not close while Rose grew up, but they ended up working together on the famous Little House books, working so closely, in fact, that who wrote what can be called into question. Madam C. J. and A'Lelia Walker lived in poverty, until Madam C. J. created hair care products and made a fortune. A'Lelia enjoyed the fruits of her mother's success and tried, unsuccessfully, to get her mother to slow down and enjoy them herself. Irene Curie struggled to get close to her distant, workaholic mother by being an exceptional student and scientist. Sadly, Irene followed in her mother's footsteps, being an indifferent parent to her own children while earning her own Nobel Prize. Atkins conjures up rich images with her spare poems and clearly shows readers the Wilders' simple home, Madam Walker's giant factory, and the Curies' garage laboratory. She carefully reveals Rose's wanderlust, A'Lelia's joy at being able to buy nice clothes, and Irene's tunnel vision as she seeks her mother's approval. The end matter includes a timeline placing the women in context with history and with each other, as well as a selected bibliography. Photos of all the women are included, showing them at the height of their fame. This enjoyable biographical/historical book should be accessible even to reluctant readers. Reviewer: Geri Diorio
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—The year 1867 saw the birth of three remarkable women who, along with their daughters, made their marks on society and changed the world. Their lives and those of their daughters are captured within three segments that read like novellas. Atkins's use of narrative poetry is perfectly suited to the recollection of moments thoroughly researched from sources listed in the bibliography, as well as those from the author's imagination. The fundamentals captured here most emphatically are: both generations' need to be independent, to strike out on their own, coupled with the wish for one another's love and support, if not possible due to separation, then through bonds surpassing any possible physical boundaries. There is nothing false in the depictions of these women: their accomplishments, their struggles, joys and heartaches, and most of all their relationships. This book, powerful when read independently, would also make for a great readers' theater project for teens. The images created bring powerful emotions to the surface, felt by the women profiled here and by those who read this gem that belongs in any literary cedar chest, as well as in every collection.—Tracy Weiskind, Chicago Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805089349
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 986,281
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeannine Atkins is the author of several books for young readers including Anne Hutchinson's Way. She teaches children's literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and lives in Whatley, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

CLEARING LAND

LAURA INGALLS was born in the big woods of Wisconsin, but within a few years called many other places home: the Kansas prairies, a dugout by Plum Creek in Minnesota, covered wagons rolling westward, and at last a little house near Silver Lake in the Dakota Territory. There her family survived many blizzards, but one long winter they almost starved before Almanzo Wilder drove horses through the deep snow to get wheat and saved them all.

Almanzo began courting Laura when she was fifteen years old. Her father didn’t object, though her mother believed Laura was more smitten with Almanzo’s half-wild horses. At eighteen, Laura stood before a preacher, who agreed that a bride should promise to honor and love but not obey, and changed her name to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Almanzo called his wife Bessie to distinguish her from his sister, who was also named Laura. Their daughter, Rose, who was born about a year after the wedding, would call her Mama Bess.

FIRE

Rose sees blood on the linen

before her grandmother plunges

the sheets in a tub. Pa scrubs dirt

from his hands. What ever happens,

fields must be tended.

Mama Bess goes back to bed. Again.

Won’t you get up?

Soon, Mama says, but Rose is hungry.

She puts a stick in the woodstove.

When the kindling, burning at one end,

turns too hot to hold,

she drops it.

Fire creeps

across the floor and laps the wall.

Air, once quiet and invisible,

spits sparks and orange flames.

Burning tablecloths twist like memory.

Where are you?

Smoke stings her eyes. Someone grabs her arm

and a fistful of forks. They rush

from the crackling, tumbling house.

Outside, Rose breathes the stink of burning chairs,

bedding, sacks of flour, jars of plum preserves,

beans left soaking in a yellow bowl.

The house becomes an oven, ruining

broom and dustpan,

the sewing box with its tomato- shaped pincushion,

an embroidered needle case, pewter buttons,

scavenged ribbon,

spools of crimson and sky- blue thread.

Little is saved but old dresses, silverware,

and a platter decorated with a sheaf of wheat, bordered

with a prayer: Give us this day our daily bread.

Under a blackened cottonwood tree,

its slim shade useless now,

Pa leans on his cane. What happened?

Mama says, I shut the door to sweep,

so dust wouldn’t get in the kitchen.

A spark from the woodstove caught the floor.

Rose, three years old, cries, I’m sorry.

We built one house. We can build another,

Pa says. What matters is we’re safe and all together.

Mama nods. It was an accident.

She turns to sort through what might be saved.

A wilderness of cracked china, ashes,

days when safety

was as common as a roof. She folds her black

wedding dress and tells Rose, You did nothing wrong.

But then she whispers,

We won’t speak of this fire again.

THE SECOND SECRET

Rose’s grandparents welcome the family

to their home where everything is kept in place

so Aunt Mary, whose blue eyes

can’t see past their own shine,

knows which tin holds sugar and which flour

and exactly how many steps

to take between the ivy and geraniums she waters.

Rose minds her grandmother, who says,

Keep away from the woodstove.

Rose can feel even Aunt Mary’s blind eyes on her.

Grandpa plays traveling songs on his fiddle

while Mama flips through brochures about farmland.

She, Pa, and Rose move to Minnesota,

where the cold winters deepen the pain in Pa’s legs.

They journey to Florida to grow oranges,

but Mama finds Southern air too steamy.

Back in South Dakota, wolves howl. Rain beats

down the wheat and corn fields one summer.

The next July, flax and oats wither without rain.

Rose says, I want a brother or sister.

Hush. Mama Bess distracts her with a story

of a land where bright red apples grow.

She works for a dressmaker sewing buttonholes,

tucking in the short edges of cloth,

striving for stitches too small to see, trimming thread.

Her stiff hands move up and down

twelve hours till sundown,

six days a week. She earns a dollar a day.

At last she unclasps the needle, stops at the bank

for a one-hundred-dollar bill she hides

in the lap- sized desk Pa made and sanded smooth.

She says, Don’t touch.

I know, Rose replies, obedient at eight, though

she loves to watch her mother’s hand slide

over the slanting surface covered with green felt,

the crack of brass hinges when the lid is lifted.

Mama warns, Don’t tell a soul what’s in that box.

PRAIRIE

Pa cuts black oilcloth to cover and make curtains

for a carriage they load with a bedspring,

feather mattress, quilts, pots, Mama’s desk,

and a coop of noisy chickens.

Is this their last summer on the prairie,

their last good- bye?

Rose throws her arms around Grandpa,

who smells of wood smoke and hay.

Grandma’s apron smells of cinnamon and flour.

Rose touches Aunt Mary’s hair, the color of flames.

Pa hitches up horses that pull them to the plains,

where the world is all land and sky,

the only sounds, birds, wind, grasses.

As dust billows, Rose bumps her mother’s steady arm.

Pa lets Rose hold the reins.

She snaps them, willing the tired horses to trot faster.

Pa takes back the lead and shouts, Whoa!

They rest the horses at creeks.

Pa spits watermelon seeds.

Rose tries to spit farther. She and Mama Bess hold up their skirts to wade.

Women come here for water,

but linger for words.

Where are you from? Where are you going?

Mama sniffs the heads of bundled babies.

She watches children

play shadow tag. The running water

seems to sing not here, not yet.

Some nights, Mama hauls out her lap-sized desk.

Rose watches her pearl- handled pen glide

like a lullaby. What are you doing?

I want to remember. Her hand makes small circles

before she shuts the lid on secrets.

As darkness and stars fill the sky, Mama talks

of olden days, back when she was called Laura

and won a prize for memorizing the most Bible verses.

One hard winter when her family ran out of coal,

they twisted hay to burn. After the flour was gone,

they ground wheat in a coffee mill to make bread,

almost as sweet as milk and honey.

When water got scarce,

they prayed for rain. They relied on self and neighbor.

Sometimes tales end with Pa

taking Grandpa’s line: Go west.

Mama mimics Grandma: What ever you say, Charles.

They laugh at words Mama never uses

except in these stories

where she’s a child until she meets Pa,

who risks his life in a storm to get everyone food.

They find a preacher who agrees

to take obey out of the wedding vows.

One night Mama and Pa walk in the moonlight.

Rose is alone in the covered carriage, though neighbors

are a quick call away.

Rose runs her hands over the green felt,

then opens her mother’s desk. The brass hinges squeak.

She doesn’t find a corner of sky, but hears

the river roll like Mama’s hand over paper,

a quiet claim: Here I am.

Excerpted from Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins.

Copyright 2010 by Jeannine Atkins.

Published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Company.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2010

    wonderful

    i read this book and it is wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    500 (HAVEN'T READ IT)

    You spelled 70% of that wrong, 5th-grader! Though this book seriously looks good. I don't know that l want to spend however much money when you could just look in the Encyclopedia and find very basicly the same thing

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    Anonymous on Feb.27,2013

    I wish they would let you know how many pages are in the books. I just wasted $6 on two books that only had 20 pages. Thats why I wont buy this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2013

    I hated this book

    It was horriable i just wasted my money compely give it o stars but i cant on this stupied thing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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