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Keep Climbing, Girls
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Keep Climbing, Girls

by Beah E. Richards, LisaGay Hamilton (Introduction), R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)
The only way to make a bid
for a girl's equality is to climb right up to the
toppermost bough
of the very tallest tree.

The dynamic ode to girl power was written by noted Afro-American actor, poet, and playwright Beach E. Richards. First published in 1951, her poem is given new life in this edition that includes an introduction by


The only way to make a bid
for a girl's equality is to climb right up to the
toppermost bough
of the very tallest tree.

The dynamic ode to girl power was written by noted Afro-American actor, poet, and playwright Beach E. Richards. First published in 1951, her poem is given new life in this edition that includes an introduction by LisaGay Hamilton and stunning illustrations by R. Gregory Christie. With its inspirational messsage, this book will empower children with the realization that "the path of life goes up and up/not down!"

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With good humor and love, this poem by the late African-American actress Richards suggests a strategy for girls who believe that boys "have the upper hand." The author asserts that "the only way to make a bid/ for a girl's equality/ is to climb right up to the toppermost bough/ of the very tallest tree." Christie's (Only Passing Through) boldly brushed gouache spreads show the nimble girl in pigtails and a yellow dress, seated high up in a nest of branches, while a concerned Miss Nettie yells from below. First, the woman warns the young heroine of physical harm, then threatens the loss of beauty. "You're... going to have a tomboy's scars." Christie zooms in on the girl at her perch, depicting her reactions to Miss Nettie's cries. Triumphant, calculating, sure of herself, she's a portrait of self-confidence. Miss Nettie's threats bring more scandalized-looking women to her porch, but the girl keeps climbing ("a little girl victorious/ can't hide her childish glee,/ to see Miss Nettie so put out/ that she, a girl, could climb a tree"). Scolded by Miss Nettie that night, the girl bows her head, but the next morning, her thoughtful sideways look at another tree proves she's not cowed: "The moral is: Keep climbing, girls,/ and let no one prevent you!" Sometimes girls have to buck strangers in the battle to succeed; just as often, this tale hints, they have to rebel against those who love them most. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The book opens with an introduction to Beah E. Richards, a performer as well as a poet. This poem was first published in 1951 and its emergence as a picture book, boldly colored and well-presented, works quite well. The message is obvious: Girls should strive to succeed and not let the barriers of convention and sexism stand in the way. This may sometimes require a girl to ignore the rules. The text is not inflammatory but rather is boldly encouraging. A young girl climbing a tree ignores Miss Nettie's admonishments and climbs higher and higher. Miss Nettie is afraid the child will fall and hurt herself but the girl's ambition trumps any fears. And, despite punishment for not behaving as a young lady should, the girl persists. "Though the braids be pulled,/and the ear be tweaked,/t'won't dim the brave adventure." 2006 (orig. 1974), Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 8.
—Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-In this picture-book rendition of Richards's 1951 poem of the same name, girls are urged to "keep climbing" no matter what obstacles get in the way. Bold gouache illustrations create a beguiling green-and-gold landscape with an irresistible tree and a determined little girl who climbs it higher and higher with every page turn. Stern and frightened Miss Nettie tries coaxing the child out of the tree, using scare tactics of broken necks and taunts of tomboy. "But a little girl victorious/can't hide her childish glee,/to see Miss Nettie so put out/that she, a girl, could climb a tree." An introduction by LisaGay Hamilton gives readers more information about the poem and Richards, an African-American actor, playwright, and poet who set her own sights high and faced plenty of challenges along the way. This work helps to encourage and bolster up young girls as they begin to make their way in the world.-Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
First published in 1951 by the late actress and poet, Keep Climbing, Girls gets renewed energy from the strong gouache images of Christie and the introduction from Hamilton. The story, with its percussive rhyme, is simple: Miss Nettie calls to the girl in her charge to get down out of the tree she's climbed. However, the unnamed little girl already knows "little boys have the upper hand / in this world." Despite Miss Nettie's pleadings, she isn't about to surrender the view from the top of the tallest bough, except on her own terms. Black, brown, gold and green make the bold palette of matte colors and powerful shapes Christie uses to such good effect. Both a period piece and a shout-out of encouragement, this is sure to find a new, responsive audience. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.30(d)
AD890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Beah E. Richards (1920-2000) was born Beulah Elizabeth Richardson in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the number-one rule in her parents' home was, "The bottom is overcrowded so strive for the top!" She came to New York in 1950. Her first significant stage role was in 1955, playing an elderly woman in the off-Broadway play Take a Giant Step. She developed a career as a prolific actress, playwright, and published poet, receiving a Tony nomination for her role in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, and garnering an Oscar nomination for her part as Mrs. Prentice in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. In 1988 she won an Emmy for her role on Frank's Place, and in 2000 she won an Emmy award for her role on The Practice. LisaGay Hamilton accepted the award on behalf of Ms. Richards, and delivered the Emmy to Beah in Mississippi. Ms. Richards died two weeks later.

LisaGay Hamilton wrote and directed the award-winning documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, which chronicles the life of Beah Richards. Ms. Hamilton was a series regular for seven years on the television drama The Practice as Rebecca Washington. Along with Beah Richards, Ms. Hamilton appeared in the movie adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel Beloved. She is a graduate of the Juilliard Drama Division.

R. Gregory Christie won a Coretta Scott King Honor (Illustration) for his first book, The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children. Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, was selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. Yesterday I Had the Blues by Jeron Ashford Frame won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Claudia Lewis Award for poetry (given by Bank Street College of Education), and was a BCCB Blue Ribbon Winner. His latest book is The Lost Boys of Sudan. Visit Mr. Christie's Web site at www.gas-art.com.

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