A TAKE-CHARGE GIRL Blazes a Trail to Congress: The Story of Jeannette Rankin

I’ve been following the work of illustrator Rebecca Gibbon for a couple of years now, ever since learning she’d be illustrating my 2024 biography with Calkins Creek, BIRD GIRL. 

So when I heard that Rebecca had illustrated author Gretchen Woelfle’s new book, A TAKE-CHARGE GIRL Blazes a Trail to Congress:  The Story of Jeannette Rankin, I was thrilled to get an advance peek. 

I’m always impressed by Gibbon’s ability to make history spring to life in the bold, bright look that has become her trademark. Her style is instantly recognizable, and she really wows in this book.

In my favorite biographies, authors let us know their subject’s outstanding trait right up front. They’re then able to come back to it again and again, seamlessly SHOWING readers how that trait helped shape that person’s entire life. This book, appropriately, opens with the setting.  

Then, in only the second spread, Woelfle drops us into a Jeannette-in-action scene that shows us her defining trait:  “Jeannette Rankin was a take-charge girl.” Immediately, readers are curious to see other ways in which Jeannette is going to take charge. I love that the publisher used bold red print to emphasize important turning points throughout Jeannette’s life. 

Readers get brief glimpses of experiences that steered Jeannette Rankin’s life choices that, along with her stubborn take-charge attitude, pushed her forward –through college, through working with immigrant children (including her dismay at the appalling conditions in which they lived), to becoming a social worker, and eventually coming to a realization:  “I saw that if we were to have decent laws for children, women would have to vote.” Then, stand back, world!  

Rankin worked tirelessly to make it happen, facing the usual arguments from men (and sometimes women): that women weren’t smart or tough enough for politics, that “women should stay home and mind the children.” That, in turn, compelled her to enter politics, running to represent her home state in Congress.

She threw herself into campaigning in her usual take-charge way, stumping more than 6,000 miles, giving speech after speech … and then enduring days of vote counting (sound familiar?) before finally being declared the winner –– and America’s first Congresswoman. 

You won’t want to miss the extensive back matter here, either. Author Woelfle knocks herself out to give readers the whole picture, and it’s impressive! Pick up a copy today and introduce kids to yet another unsung woman who deserves her time in the spotlight.


Calling all nonfiction writers! Remember to follow along with the Nonfiction Ninjas as they bring us Nonfiction Fest 2023 — advice and inspiration from nonfiction authors (and illustrators) all this month! Check them out here.

Also, one of my critique partners has a new picture book debuting today! Please check out Norene Paulson’s heartwarming NILA’S PERFECT COAT, and visit her website to learn how she’s teaming up with www.onewarmcoat.org to help provide coats for kids in need.

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Bird Girl - Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature With the World, Parrotfish Has a Superpower, Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Sea Turtle Swims, Kangaroo Hops, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, We Love Babies!, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2025: Polecat Has a Superpower!, It's Corn-Picking Time!, Giraffe Runs. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at http://jillesbaum.com.


  1. This looks like a book I will want to explore. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Wow, I think I will love this book!

    I’ve read Nila’s Coat, and it is just right. Yay!

  3. I love it when books celebrate strong women in politics! Congrats!

  4. Yay for books that spotlight strong women from the past and present. This sounds like a good one! I love Rebecca’s art, too! I will check out NILA’S PERFECT COAT as well!

  5. What an amazing book! Can’t wait to read it and pick up some bio tricks for 2 books I’m stuck on. Ty, Jill.

  6. This looks great, Jill. I love that cover!

  7. Such a powerful message for kids…especially girls!

  8. This looks like a wonderful book, Jill. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on your upcoming biography and a Woo-hoo! for Norene’s newest book, too!

  9. Penny Parker Klostermann

    This sounds like a great one! And the art is wonderful!

  10. So beautiful and important. And those illos! 😍

  11. I worry when I hear that editors are quick to say no to PB bios these days because there are so many notable people whose stories deserve a PB bio. I’m glad Jeannette Rankin’s story got to be told and hope that publishers will continue to take bios of lesser known people, especially women and diverse people!

  12. I’m immediately drawn in by the illustration style. And then I want to know more about this amazing woman. Adding it to my TBR list. Thanks for the rec!

  13. Connie Porter Saunders

    So happy to learn about this book!

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