Hillary by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade, 2016. 40 pages.
What It Is: A picture book biography about Hillary Rodham Clinton
What It’s About: Hillary Clinton! Although Winter begins with Hillary’s childhood, the majority of the book is about her life as an adult. Winter emphasizes Hillary’s accomplishments, particularly the ones in which she is the first to do something (either as a woman or the First Lady in particular) or rises to overcome significant obstacles.
What Works: Winter’s text is dispassionate in a good way. I’ve seen accusations of propaganda and that it’s not exciting enough (ironic that those have both come up). However, when you are writing a book about a major Presidential candidate during the campaign season, a more dispassionate tone will bring more bipartisan readership. Additionally, Winter humanizes Hillary a bit more than similar books, showing her real life obstacles (fatigue, balancing work/family, etc.). Colon’s art is a bit static–the snapshot effect in a sense that captures an event frozen in time. It’s a good accompaniment to the tone of Winter’s text.
What Doesn’t Work: The opening sequence lauding Queen Elizabeth, Joan of Arc, Rosie the Riveter and then… Hillary… feels a bit disjointed and smacks of hagiography (although Hillary isn’t presented as a saint, per se). Additionally, given that this book has just been published and some of Hillary’s less saintly actions have been in the public eye for some time (ahem, the issue of her email comes to mind), a bit more nuance in the text would have been helpful. Additionally, there is scant end matter: no bibliography, no documentation. (There is an author’s note.)
What I Think: Of the three Hillary picture book bios I’ve read, I like this one the best for its dispassionate tone. It’s a good starting point to learn more about this remarkable woman, whether or not you agree with her politics.
What I Recommend: Use this book with older elementary students to discuss presidential candidates and history, the growth in women’s rights, and to learn more about this particular presidential candidate in particular. Challenge your students to find out information about Hillary that is not in this biography that might offer a bit more balance to the picture.