Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bravest Woman in America: the story of Ida Lewis by Marissa Moss

The Bravest Woman in America: the story of Ida Lewis
by Marissa Moss; Illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
Tricycle Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781582463698

Children everywhere love tales of heroism and bravery. Marissaa Moss, who wrote Brave Harriet: the First Woman to Fly the English Channel and Nurse, Soldier, Spy: the Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero tells another exciting story about a woman's bravery. This one is about Ida Lewis, a lighthouse keeper's daughter, who would one day be known as, "The Bravest Woman in America". 

Ida Lewis was born in 1842. From a very early age Ida loved the sea. 

"She loved it when it was calm and coppery in the sunlight. She loved it when it was wild with froth, like a herd of stampeding horses. She loved the crash of the waves, the screech of the gulls wheeling overhead, the bite of salt in her nose as she breathed in the ocean air. She loved it all."

When Mr. Lewis became lighthouse keeper for the small light perched on Lime Rock in Newport Harbor, Ida felt she was the luckiest girl in the world. Because they did not live on the island at that time, Mr. Lewis had to row to Lime Rock every day. In order to accompany her father Ida had to learn how to row. Ida's arms grew strong as she accompanied her father regularly to Lime Rock. He also taught Ida all about tending the lights.

Good news came when Ida turned fifteen. It was decided that Lime Rock needed a full-time keeper and Mr. Lewis was given the job. The whole Lewis family moved in to the newly built, official lighthouse. 

"Ida loved watching the sea for any sign of trouble. She loved polishing the lighthouse lens so the light would shine bright. She loved rowing her two younger brothers and her sister to school and back home every day."

This simply told story is focused on Ida as she goes from being her father's helper to taking charge of the lighthouse after Mr Lewis becomes ill and her very first rescue of three boys after their sailboat capsizes. It is after that act of bravery that Ida's father puts her in charge of the lighthouse.

Andrea U'Ren illustrations are rendered in watercolor, ink and acrylic. They are bright, colorful, and fill every inch of the page. The vivid pictures walk us through Ida's life as she grows from a young girl determined to learn how to row to a confident young woman in charge of the lighthouse she so dearly loved. 

In an author's note, we learn that officially, Ida saved eighteen lives. She was sixty-three when she made her last rescue. 
Ida grew up before women had the right to vote. She proved that a woman could be as brave as a man. "Anyone who thinks it is un-feminine to save lives has the brains of a donkey," said Lewis in an interview. She died at age sixty-nine in 1911. 

Children will easily relate to Ida's love of the sea, her devotion to her family, but most importantly her courage. The story is exciting, making it perfect for all ages. 

Though a work of nonfiction, the lack of a time line and source notes makes this useless for writing a report. In addition, those who want more information about Ida will find it difficult since Moss did not include a bibliography.

4 stars.
All ages

1 comment:

  1. Is the author the same one who writes the series "Amelia's Notebook?" My nine year old is taken with that series (she must have read almost all Amelia's notebooks from the community libirary), and she might enjoy this one as well. I am concerned though about nonfiction children's books that do not include a bibliography - there is greater authenticity, I feel, if a detailed author's note at the back could be found to kind of explain the historical/sociocultural context of the narrative. Thanks for sharing this.