7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #707: Featuring Rachelle Baker

h1 September 6th, 2020 by jules

“Some words, when they CONNECT with the right people, become almost like potions or spells. These words become magical. That’s the way it was with Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and verbs. She understood, almost intuitively, how and why verbs are not just words about being, but doing. Verbs are words that move the world forward.”


Let’s take a look today at a new picture book about politician Shirley Chisholm, who made history in 1968 by becoming the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. This biography—Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! (Dial, July 2020), illustrated by Rachelle Baker—comes from author Veronica Chambers, who writes in a closing “personal note” that, as a child growing up in Brooklyn, she remembers seeing posters (“SHIRLEY CHISHOLM FOR CONGRESS”) in her neighborhood. She writes that “because of Shirley Chisholm, I thought, ‘I could be a congresswoman.’ After all, I passed a picture of a woman who looked a lot like me, who had that job.”

Chambers kicks things off with Shirley at the podium, pictured above, and then takes readers back to Chisholm’s childhood in a family of immigrants who moved often. When Shirley was young, they moved from New York City to Barbados (where her mother was from). At the age of nine, Shirley and her family moved back to New York. Chambers documents Shirley’s love of reading and dedication as a student and how, post-college and post-master’s degree, she taught and helped implement Head Start. “She believed,” Chambers writes, “that ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth.'” We then read about Chisholm’s decision to enter politics — her seat on the New York State Assembly; her work in Congress (“There wasn’t a single person who looked like her”); her work to implement the WIC program for Women, Infants, and Children in need of food, as well as the national school lunch program; her work on the Education and Labor Committee; and her effort to help create the Congressional Black Caucus: “She wanted Congress to look like the America that had elected her.”

Chambers also writes about Chisholm’s decision to run for president. “She was,” Chambers writes, “the first Black person, and the first woman, to make a serious bid for the presidency.” Later, Chambers adds:

With each delegate that voted for her, she put a crack in the ceiling that separated women and men of color from the highest seat in the nation: the presidency.

In one of the book’s closing spreads, Chambers connects Chisholm to the women for whom she paved the way — Geraldine Ferraro; Hillary Rodham Clinton; and the record-breaking number of women elected to Congress in 2018.

Chambers writes in a chummy tone accessible to young readers: “She also helped create the national school lunch program, but she didn’t decide the menus. (So if you don’t like your lunch, please don’t blame her!)” And since she emphasizes throughout the book that Shirley was “always a doer,” many of the verbs on these spreads are in a large font of a different color (a teal shade).

This is illustrator Rachelle Baker’s picture-book debut, and she brings a cool palette of copper, teal, cobalt, and olive shades to these illustrations that depict Shirley working determinedly to serve others. Here’s what she has to say about working on the book:

When illustrating Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!, I was really drawn to how Veronica talked a lot about her being a person of action. She was such an animated and active person, always fighting for herself and for the people, and I wanted to make sure that every page showed that. Whether it was through color or movement, I wanted Shirley to look as though she was going to pop out of the page and do her thing!

I like being really loose with my colors and compositions when I’m having fun. I usually gather my reference materials and kind of put things together as I go. With this book, I did a ton of image research (my iPad is still feeling it), watched videos of interviews and speeches, and read articles and stories before starting my sketches. It definitely taught me a lot about staying organized.

Here are some more spreads from this biography. …



Two images above: Click either image to see spread in its entirety


“She replied, ‘I’m Fighting Shirley Chisholm.
You can’t wish me away. You just can’t.'”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“People had called Shirley Chisholm many things before, but now they said she was:
Black. Beautiful. Brave. Brainy. Bright. Believable.
(Click spread to enlarge)


SHIRLEY CHISHOLM IS A VERB. Text copyright © 2020 by Veronica Chambers. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Rachelle Baker and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

1) Protesters. In Rochester and beyond.

2) This week’s news about Curtis Flowers. Finally.

3) Roberta Flack’s debut album, First Take, on vinyl.

4) The Owl House.

5) A verrrry subtle (but totally there!) touch of Fall in the air.

6) The best wild rumpus you’ll see all week. (As a former sign language interpreter, I looove this.)



And thanks to Allan Winebarger for pointing me to that video via this article.

7) Reading Strunk & White’s Elements of Style (the Maira Kalman-illustrated version makes it palatable) and its more uptight entries. Case in point:

Prestigious. Often an adjective of last resort. It’s in the dictionary, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it.

and …

Thrust. This showy noun, suggestive of power, hinting of sex, is the darling of executives, politicos, and speechwriters. Use it sparingly.

I mean, you gotta laugh. And now I am determined to use both words at least once today.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #707: Featuring Rachelle Baker”

  1. Reading 7 Imp is such a fabulous start to my week each sunday! Thanks, Jules, not only for your wonderful reviews ( i realized yesterday that i had missed an entire week in the middle of August! Such a fun catch-up!), but for your music links and other treasures in your kicks. I just forwarded the ASL Wild Things reading to my son Henry 🙂 xoxoxox, Mary

  2. Thanks, Mary! How about that video? I love the choices she makes in her interpretation. (I read after the fact that, I think?, she is an actress on a television show? Grey’s Anatomy maybe? I am unsure. I don’t watch it.)

    hope you had a good week!

  3. What an important part of history that I hope makes every school library.
    Jules, I have to check out the Illustrated Strunk and White And the wild rumpus…love!
    Mary, hi, there,
    My kicks:
    1. Reading ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong…stunning writing.
    2. A week of grand girls.
    3. Laughter.
    4. Kayaking with 3 grands.
    5. Writing class with Georgia Heard.
    6. Leaves on the water, indicators of the season’s changing.
    7. Sunrise.
    Have a great week.

  4. Jone, I enjoyed Vuong’s book too, and I got to hear him speak about it at Parnassus — in the glorious, pre-pandemic days. … What a good grand-girl week you had! Also, kick #5 is pretty flippin’ great!

  5. Hi Imps! Hello Rachelle (and Shirley, and Veronica by extension!)

    Jules and Mary: Shoshannah Stern co-created, co-wrote, and co-stars in the TV series This Close, in addition to recurring roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, and more.

    Jones: Enjoy the sunrise and the visits!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) September
    2) Music
    3) Movies
    4) Good stories
    5) Good news
    6) Virtual visits
    7) Simple

  6. Shirley Chisholm was a force! This book looks like it really does her legacy justice, can’t wait to read it.

    Jules – the news about Curtis Flowers was such a welcome high point in an often dispiriting week. Hooray for protesters keeping the message alive!

    Jone – a week of grandgirls, kayaking and laughter sounds like a wonderful week.

    Little Willow -cheers for good stories and good news – we need as many of those as we can get right now!

    My kicks:
    1) Morning coffee outside with Daisy.
    2) The doc Linda Rondstadt: the Sound of My Voice on HBO was so so good. Awesome to see she really had her girls’ backs way back when (Dolly, Emmylou, Bonnie, etc.) Plus, that voice.
    3) Two hearings in downtown Portland this week, can assure you the city is not on fire.
    4) Some nice legal opinions favorable for defendants’ rights from the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court this week.
    5) A walk around Mt Tabor that combined a work meeting with getting outdoors.
    6) Planning to grill salmon later.
    7) Bath day for Daisy!
    7.5) Sunshine!

    Have a happy and safe Labor Day, Imps!

  7. Little Willow: Isn’t This Close the show with all the Deaf actors? I will have to look that up. Thanks! … Glad you had a good week. September: Rock on.

    Rachel: Sounds like a good week for work and being outdoors (and good eating). Hugs to Daisy, as always.

    Have a good week, you all!

  8. […] blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books. The above blog was posted at 7-Imp on September 6, 2020 and is reprinted here with […]

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