Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker

Overview

A vision of dignity and freedom and a powerful role model for girls and women of all races

"This impressive picture book will delight young readers as it gives a sense of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

"Lasky's engaging account moves smoothly through events in Walker's life. . . . The illustrations . . . are attractive and rich in historical detail." — BOOKLIST (starred ...

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Overview

A vision of dignity and freedom and a powerful role model for girls and women of all races

"This impressive picture book will delight young readers as it gives a sense of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

"Lasky's engaging account moves smoothly through events in Walker's life. . . . The illustrations . . . are attractive and rich in historical detail." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

A biography of Sarah Breedlove Walker who, though born in poverty, pioneered in hair and beauty care products for black women, and became a great financial success.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lasky (A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain; Science Fair Bunnies, reviewed above) chronicles the life of Sarah Breedlove Walker, who was born in 1870 in Louisiana to former slaves and became the richest African-American woman of her times and a major philanthropist. Her childhood was marked by dire hardships: by seven she was an orphan and working full-time as a laundress; by 20 she was a widow and a mother, beginning to go bald from years of poor nutrition and hard labor. In her 30s, she experimented with natural ingredients and chemicals and created a formula to restore the health of both hair and scalp. Beginning with door-to-door demonstrations in "colored" women's kitchens, she built her business into the Mme. C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, by 1912 "one of the biggest companies in America." Lasky is better at conveying the young Sarah's suffering than she is at suggesting the texture of Walker's adult life, but she does a good job explaining the sociocultural factors affecting African-American women's attitudes toward hair. Bennett's (Gettin' Through Thursday; Cherish Me) soft-focus pencil and watercolor pictures suggest Walker's personality, although they tend to be short on action. Ironically, the illustrator's concluding note, in which she speaks as a black woman about her own attitudes toward beauty, may be for many readers the most affecting passages here. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
This longer-than-usual, picture book tells the inspiring story Madame Walker, best known for founding a turn-of-the-century company that bolstered the beauty of African-American women. Lasky does an incredible job of getting to the emotional and character qualities of this amazing woman who did much more than change hair. Walker was the first freeborn child of a large, loving family. Life on their small farm was nearly impossible with the threats of poverty, disease, hard labor, and the KKK. After her parents' death, young Sarah moved to St. Louis where the stresses of early marriage, overwork, and poor nutrition resulted in loss of her hair. Inspired by a dream and prayer, she creates a concoction to rebuild healthy hair. She builds not just hair strength, but the esteem of black women by praising and enhancing their physical appearance and employing them as her sales force. Once she has attained financial security, Walker turns to the fight for the rights of women and all African-Americans in areas of culture and social justice. Illustrator Bennett, who, as a child was taught by her mother about the beauty and wonders of African-American hair, lauds the inner and outer beauty of the story's characters. 2000, Candlewick, Ages 6 to 10, $16.99. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Through a readable text and wonderful illustrations, Lasky brings to life one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in the United States. The author's research is extremely thorough, including interviews with her subject's great-great granddaughter. The narrative traces Breedlove's girlhood as the first free-born child of former slaves in Louisiana to her hard life as a laundress and single mother in St. Louis. The text explains that her interest in natural plants and oils to treat the hair of "colored" women stemmed from her own experience with damaged hair. Working with formulas in her own small laboratory, Breedlove began producing hair products. After her marriage to Charles Walker, she was able to open a factory in Pittsburgh. To sell her products, she enlisted black women of all ages to market them door to door. By 1912, the Mme. C. J. Walker Company was one of the largest companies in America. Lasky emphasizes the contributions of Walker and the company to the well being of black women and the community. Bennett's full-page watercolors give faces to the characters without overwhelming the text. Their pacing and placement help move the story along. This impressive picture book will delight young readers as it gives a sense of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
The girl who was to become Mme. C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, in poverty, to ex-slave, sharecropper parents in rural Louisiana in1876. Orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, she was a widowed mother of a three-year-old daughter at only nineteen. As the first African-American woman entrepreneur, she transformed the image of African-American women, identifying and marketing products for their unique cosmetic and beauty needs. Lasky (A Brilliant Streak, 1998, etc.) has crafted an inspirational narrative that effectively turns on a succession of dramatic or emblematic moments in Mme. Walker's life: hearing Margaret (Mrs. Booker T.) Washington speak; praying and dreaming of Africa; being inspired to use herbs and natural oils to cure her hair loss; giving her own speech (the only one by a woman) at the National Negro Business League. Walker created a beauty empire based on direct sales. Facing racism and sexism, she developed her own formularies, designed her own advertising, built her own factories, hired women managers, and trained her army of direct-sales representatives. She validated pride, demonstrating a unique definition of beauty free from the standards of the majority culture. Walker's life continues to resonate as a model for self-realization, self-sufficiency, and community-building. Lasky effectively uses actual quotes while "responsibly imagining" situations to best reflect her subject's life and experiences. Lasky also opted for the use of the term "colored" as a more historically accurate term. Bennett's earth-toned, full-page, pencil and watercolor paintings add immediacy and intimacy while advancing the narrative.(Picturebook/biography. 8-10)
From the Publisher
This impressive...book will delight young readers as it gives a sense of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
Sarah was born in Louisiana in December of 1867 where her parents were sharecroppers. Orphaned by the age of seven, Sarah and her sister Louvenia barely eked out enough to live by doing laundry for white people. Soon even this was not enough for them to stay alive so in desperation they traveled to Vicksburg, Mississippi in hopes of finding a way to make a living. At fourteen she married as a way of escaping her awful situation, but five years later she was a widow with a young daughter and living in St. Louis. As the years passed Sarah began losing much of her hair and eventually decided to try and make a product to restore hair growth. Finally she hit upon the right formula, developed two other hair products and began selling them door-to-door. Sarah remarried, founded her own company (Mme. C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company), and went on to become one of the wealthiest African-American women of her era. This wealth enabled her to give back to the people of her race, get involved in politics, and work for racial equality. Incredibly vivid, detailed watercolor and pencil illustrations are one of the book's strong points and enhance the straightforward text. They fully portray the emotions, attitudes, and atmosphere of the story. Biographies are always in demand for reports and history units. This title, part of the "Candlewick Biographies" series, should be strongly considered for the first purchase list. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763602536
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.63 (w) x 12.13 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Lasky says, "When I was a little girl growing up in Indianapolis, I loved having a lemonade stand. One of my very early memories is coming into the kitchen with a jar full of money and my mother exclaiming, 'Goodness, Kathryn, maybe you'll grow up to be the next Madam Walker!'" Kathryn Lasky lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nneka Bennett studied animation and illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. She has illustrated many books for children and currently lives in East Orange, New Jersey.

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