In 1990, Amy Gary discovered unpublished manuscripts and songs from Margaret Wise Brown tucked away in a trunk in the attic of Margaret’s sister’s barn. Since then, Gary has catalogued, edited, and researched all of Margaret’s writings. She has worked with several publishers to publish more than 100 of those manuscripts, which include bestsellers and Caldecott nominees.
Amy’s work on Margaret has been covered in Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, and on NPR. Her biography on Margaret, In the Great Green Room, was published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, and was named a best book of the year in 2017 by Amazon.
She was formerly the Director of Publishing at Lucasfilm and headed the publishing department at Pixar Animation studios. In addition to writing, she packages books for retailers and consults with publishers. In that capacity, she has worked with Sam’s Wholesale, Books-a-Million, Sterling Publishers, and Charles Schultz Creative Associates.
In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown
What is my book about?
Before Margaret died in 1952 at the age of 42, she had published almost one hundred children’s books. Many may recognize the titles of her books such as Goodnight Moon or The Big Red Barn, but most don’t know that Margaret was a leading figure in a children’s literature revolution. Fairy tales and fables were often part of the school curriculum in the 1930s, which served to reinforce diminished roles for girls and violence as a way to resolve conflicts. As part of a movement to create more “democratic” literature for children, Margaret studied what caught a child’s attention, then wrote stories and poems that reflected a child’s own world.
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Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse
Why this book?
I loved the way this book intertwined Florence Nightingale’s story with images of her life. It may have been written for young adults, but readers of any age will be immersed in this well-written and graphically beautiful book. Catherine Reed’s engaging story of Nightingale combating the gruesome hygienic conditions at the Crimean battlefront, going against Victorian society expectations, creating sanitary methods still used today, and earning the moniker of The Lady with the Lamp is a testament to the difference one life can make.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll laugh again and again and again. Tina Fey is wildly witty, and she’s got a stack of awards to prove it. I feel fortunate to have existed in the same lifetime as this writer/actor/producer/mom because few have risen to her level of top-notch humor that is served with a healthy side of bewilderment-that-she-got-so-far humility. Fey sums up her rise to the top with a quote worthy of a plaque hung over the mantel of my fireplace - “You are no one until someone calls you bossy.” Well said, Liz Lemon.
Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Why this book?
In 2012, Pope Benedict declared Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th Century nun, to be Saint Hildegard, recognizing “her holiness of life and the originality of her teaching.” This biography of Hildegard is Matthew Fox’s third book on this once-obscure nun, who from childhood had prophetic and God-inspired visions. Hildegard documented those revelations in her art, music, and writings. At a time when the church cited Eve as an example of how women are innately evil, Hildegard argued that the divine feminine existed to balance the masculine tendency to lord power over others. Although her efforts did little to budge the gender lines within the church hierarchy, she did lead a successful charge to keep nuns away from the clutches of abusive priests by establishing separate monasteries. That alone should have earned her sainthood, in my opinion. However, her honors were earned on many fronts. Her botanical and medicinal texts are still studied by scientists and more of her liturgical chants survive from the Middle Ages than any other musician. Her art, visions, and operas continue to inspire many followers of this extraordinary woman.
Behind the Scenes: Or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House
Why this book?
The stars had to align perfectly for this autobiography to have been written. Born into slavery in the American South, Elizabeth Keckley learned to read and write at a time when laws forbade it. Her skills as a seamstress allowed her to buy her freedom and later become Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker. She also became a close confidant of the First Lady, gaining an unfiltered view of life in the White House during one of the most crucial times in our nation’s history. After Lincoln’s assassination, Keckley published this autobiography and was widely criticized for relaying intimate conversations and private moments she shared with the Lincoln family. In addition, Keckley’s unflinching account of slavery was difficult for many to read. However, this book has endured as one of the best accounts of life as a slave and of the Lincolns’ time in the White House.
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
Why this book?
You may not know Jennifer Doudna’s name, but you’ve probably heard about her shared discovery, CRISPR. This gene-editing process won Doudna a Pulitzer Prize and is poised to help end a host of genetically-defined diseases. Doudna’s discovery wasn’t a solo act, but she pushed the door wide open for rapid-fire correction of many genetic conditions and for the creation of rapid Covid testing. As the parent of a child with a genetically-transferred disease, I count the moment I heard about CRISPR as one of those stand-still moments. CRISPR may or may not be able to change my child’s condition, but I am certain it will improve the health of future generations.
What does it mean to be free—and how can you prove that you are? Millward’s utterly engrossing book demonstrates how significant Black women’s reproductive sexuality was to their pursuit of freedom. Following the formal end of US participation in the international slave trade in 1808, white enslavers placed unprecedented demands on enslaved Black women to bear more children. Because the laws defined the child according to the mother’s free or unfree status, enslaved women literally birthed the property of white enslavers. But what if a currently enslaved person proved that the womb from which they entered the world belonged to a free person? Millward shows how Black women and their descendants paved their own pathways to freedom.
Chains tells the story of the enslaved during a revolution for independence. The irony of the enslaved risking their well-being for a new nation whose founding and ideals fell short of granting all men and all women “certain inalienable rights,” is not missed in these pages. In fact, it is masterfully delivered for all readers – young and old. Anderson is a master weaver. She beautifully threads stunning strands of real history within the tapestry of her modern classic. Most Americans are not aware that the mayor and other leaders of New York nearly succeeded in ending the rebellion against their King. In the late spring of 1776, a plan formed to assassinate General Washington. Anderson weaves the intrigue of the assassination with the role that an enslaved girl could have had in squashing it - effectively saving the American revolution.
This introduces readings to the life, teachings, and art of one of the world’s greatest female artists and intellectuals of the western mystical traditions. A 12th-century abbess of a large and influential Benedictine abbey, she defied convention for women in the Middle Ages and became a prominent preacher, healer, scientist, artist, composer, and theologian. Virtually unknown for almost 800 years, it is a credit to the women’s movement in restoring her lost legacy.
Publications of her writings, performances of her musical compositions, her ecological insights, and sense of earth “as a region of delight” are no longer silenced and contribute to vibrant understanding and discussions in the contemporary world. The art in Illuminations emerges from her mystical visions.