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Children's LiteratureThis "Ready to Read," Level 3 choice, and a part of the "Stories of Famous Americans" series, is a short biography of Clara Barton. Crippled with self-doubt and low self esteem, the young Clara had a partially unhappy childhood as the youngest of five children. But when she discovered a talent for helping people, both as a teacher and as a nurse, she blossomed. Readers are introduced on the first page to the reason Clara Barton is remembered—as the founder of the American Red Cross, but the text starts with her childhood. Later, readers also see a determined woman who battled to secure a permit to nurse on the Civil War battlefields as the wounded soldiers were often much worse than they should have been because of the long transport to faraway hospitals. Later, raising money to continue helping wounded men, she visited Europe and there discovered the International Red Cross, its symbol, and the agreement that help was neutral. When she returned, she founded the American Red Cross. The awkward illustrations of Clara Barton won't win many readers' accolades but other illustrations do a better job of fleshing out the times. Well written, the book covers the high points of Barton's life with enough background detail to inform readers of the context, challenge, and importance of her actions. A timeline is included. 2004, Aladdin, Ages 7 to 10.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.