Skip to content

Q&A with the Author of “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?” + a Giveaway

I’ve encountered some engaging new picture book biographies in the past few months.  I’ve blogged about I’ve Seen the Promised Land by Walter Dean Myers and Leonard Jenkins, Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson  and A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet.  I’m back with great new biography, in time for Women’s History Month, today.

9780805090482Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman hooked me in with the title immediately.  You see, I couldn’t find a doctor costume in my daughter’s size this past Halloween.  The closest one to her size was a larger boy’s medical coat, which frustrated me immensely.  Therefore, I knew this book was probably going to be a good fit for our family because of its content.  What impressed me, as I read through it the first time, was that it wasn’t just the story of how Elizabeth Blackwell bucked the odds to become the first female medical doctor.  It was an expertly written biography I could foresee using in writing workshop when teaching all students how to lift the level of their writing.

I had a few questions for Tanya Lee Stone after reading the biography. I hope you find her answers something you can use with your students when you use this as a mentor text in biography writing units going-forward.

Stacey: What intrigued you about Dr. Blackwell?

Tanya:  I love her story of perseverance and thought a picture book about her would encourage younger readers to discover her story.

Stacey:  Elizabeth felt like a character in a book to me.  How did the research you did about her influence the way you developed her into the main character, so-to-speak, of this biography?

Tanya: I always look for specific details that I find incredibly interesting, and there were great ones for Elizabeth! I knew they would be intriguing to kids.

Stacey: I LOVED the introduction to the book.  It has such voice and is something that can surely lift the level of introductions many kids write when they craft biographies.  Would you talk more about why you crafted the introductory page this way.

Tanya: My goal for any beginning is to grab the readers’ attention right away and make them want to turn the page. Starting at the “beginning” of a biography; i.e. when someone was born, etc.., is not always the most engaging way to start. I tend to focus on what I think is the most interesting concept to me and hope other readers agree!

Women Doctors 1
Stacey:  There’s a very conversational tone to this book.  How do you think that helps your readers interact with the text?

Tanya: I hope it keeps them engaged and makes the reading experience lively. I am always striving to present history as storytelling so that it doesn’t come across as dry for young readers.

Stacey:  Often the illustrations in the book highlight some of the text.  Did you decide to do that or was it Marjorie Priceman’s decision?

Tanya: There were some joint decisions made about highlighting certain parts of the text in an illustrated way (such as all of the twenty-eight Nos), and that process is generally done between the illustrator, author, and editor. Marjorie’s work is incredible, isn’t it? I absolutely love the illustrations.

Stacey:  The book concludes with Elizabeth’s graduation from medical school.  As readers learn in the author’s note, there was so much more to her life as a doctor.  How did you decide what part of Elizabeth’s life to focus on in the book?

Tanya:  Any time I write a picture book biography, I have to decide what piece of a person’s life story I’m going to tell. For Blackwell, I wanted to capture her spirit and tenacity, and the journey of deciding to apply to medical school. Then it seemed right to be able to include that piece of the story through graduation, and paving the way for the women who continue to come after her. But I like to include an Author’s Note so I can provide some additional important information, and I hope interested readers will go on to learn more about her through other sources.

Stacey: You’ve written other fantastic biographies about great women.  Can you share the process you use when you write biographies?

Tanya: Once I have chosen my subject, I start by reading everything I can get my hands on. Then, when I feel as though I have a good understanding of the subject and have found enough information to work with, I think about what part of the story I found most interesting or exciting. Then I start experimenting with how to write it. I often try several different approaches before I settle on what I feel is the best one. So, lots of research, writing, and revision!

Stacey: What are you working on next?

Tanya: Next up is a picture book about Jane Addams called The House that Jane Built, which will be out next year.

Take a look at some interior spreads from Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?:

Women Doctors 2

Women Doctors 3

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell for one of our readers who resides in USA and Canada only.  (If you live elsewhere, but have a US or Canada mailing address, then you may enter to win a copy of this book.)  Many for thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for sponsoring this giveaway.
  • To enter for a chance to win a copy Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? of each reader should leave one comment about this post in the comments section of this post. Feel free to share your thoughts about the Q&A, ways you might use this book in your classroom, or thoughts about biographies in general.
  • All comments left on or before Sunday, March 17th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator.  I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post by Tuesday, March 19th.  Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Macmillan send the book out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.

Comments are now closed.  Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post.  Chris H.’s commenter number was selected.  Congrats!  Here’s what Chris said:

I feel like we need books like this for the large population of society’s children that feel college is out of reach entirely. Even as a “middle class” citizen, I am puzzled by the way the government tells me that I should be able to afford a minimum of $20,000 per year for my child’s education at a state college. I can only imagine how other even less fortunate families feel.

As a second grader in the 1970s, I remember dreaming of being a teacher. Because my oldest sister was thinking of being the first in our family to go to college, I knew that this “entity” existed and was required for various careers. I asked my teacher, “Do you have to go to college to be a teacher?” When she responded, I felt my heart sink, believing that there was no way to make this dream come true. I held those feelings deep within me for years. Obviously, I overcame the odds, earning my master’s in education.

But I wonder what happens when kids don’t overcome the odds. Books like this could show them the way..

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

30 thoughts on “Q&A with the Author of “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?” + a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. I have been working with a number of teacher groups, discussing biography and craft around writing a biography. Seeing this book and the other suggestions by Stacey makes me excited about continuing these conversations!

    Like

  2. While browsing at the library today, I came across the book on the “New Books” shelf-my favorite go to spot in the library when I first arrive. I read the book and I love it! I like how it explains her perseverance and determination…where would women in the medical field be today if she had stopped at the first “no”. Also, the style of the story is reader friendly in that it has many facts to learn about Elizabeth’s life in a straight-forward sort of way! Thanks for sharing this book with us and for sharing background
    on how Stone crafted this story!

    Like

  3. Not sure my first comment made it, so here is my second try! What a great segue into Women’s History Month! I am off to add this to my ever expanding wish list on Amazon! Many thanks for the post!

    Like

  4. How appropriate to feature a bio of Elizabeth Blackwell just in time for Women’s History Month. Picture me racing to Amazon….another for the swelling wish list.

    Like

  5. Your timing is perfect! I am meeting with our 2nd grade team on Wednesday and this is the perfect article to share with them. I am excited about our conversation and where this will take us in our planning for our biography unit!

    Like

  6. I have purchased the other biographies mentioned in this post and found them very suitable for the students in our elementary school. All of our grades are doing a unit on biography so I appreciate this opportunity to select another quality book. Thanks for this information. I think the interview will help make an interesting discussion in our classes.

    Like

  7. As the mother of three girls, I appreciate the idea that women can be or do anything. As an educator, I try to convey the concept that perseverance is often the difference between success and failure. What a wonderful book! I’d love to read it with my students. And one of my daughters is a physician.

    Like

  8. The first two things that grabbed me were the idea of perseverance. This is a message the children need to be surrounded with!
    The second thing was the wonderfully crafted lead. What a strong example this would be for my students as we yearly write about an American President.

    Like

  9. I like the idea of using the book as a mentor text. I usually talk about a biography as being a history of someone’s life. I will often use our local paper and have the students look at the obituaries. I explain that this is a mini-biography about a community member. I love using picture book biographies with the kids.

    Like

  10. I am the middle of a biography unit with my students! We studied many biographies about famous people, but one of the things my students commented about when we did a write around was that biographies are only about famous. Obviously biographies can be about anyone, so we decided to write biographies about people in the community! We brainstormed a list of people in the community. For example, police officer, superintendent, teacher, doctor, small business owner, restaurant owner, volunteer, stay at home mom/dad, etc. The students are interviewing the people of the community and then they will be writing biographies about them. I am so excited to see what they write! They are so excited about interviewing these people and we are having so much fun! This book would be a great addition to my library and to use as a mentor text to expose students to different types of biographies. This would be a great example of a biography about someone that is not famous! 🙂

    Like

  11. Once for our school’s costume party, I wore a doctor’s coat and one of the boys asked me what I was dressed as. When I told him I was a doctor he said, “you can’t be a doctor, only boys are doctors.” I quickly pointed out that there are many female doctors and male nurses. This is a book needed in many schools.

    Like

  12. I do Women’s History with my third graders every year. This book would add so much to our growing collection of picture books about inspirational women! The interview was great and snippets would be great to share with students when you read the book.

    Like

  13. I feel like we need books like this for the large population of society’s children that feel college is out of reach entirely. Even as a “middle class” citizen, I am puzzled by the way the government tells me that I should be able to afford a minimum of $20,000 per year for my child’s education at a state college. I can only imagine how other even less fortunate families feel.

    As a second grader in the 1970s, I remember dreaming of being a teacher. Because my oldest sister was thinking of being the first in our family to go to college, I knew that this “entity” existed and was required for various careers. I asked my teacher, “Do you have to go to college to be a teacher?” When she responded, I felt my heart sink, believing that there was no way to make this dream come true. I held those feelings deep within me for years. Obviously, I overcame the odds, earning my master’s in education.

    But I wonder what happens when kids don’t overcome the odds. Books like this could show them the way..

    Like

  14. I love picture book biographies!!! I’ve been working with some teachers to try having their students create their own picture book biography about someone instead of the old, boring typed biography assignment. This book would be a great addition to my library!

    Like

  15. This looks great! I would love to have this book to use during our study about different careers. I think it is great for students to know they can be anything they want to be! Thanks so much!

    Like

  16. This looks like another fantastic, must have book post! While I suspect most kids think women can be doctors today, there are MANY gender assumptions that prevail and impact how we all see ourselves and our potential jobs.

    Like

  17. My mother made it a point to go to a woman doctor in the 30’s! When we moved to Long Island, my pediatrician was a woman as well. Never knew she was such an activist. I would love to have this book in my collection, just so I could tell those doctors stories too!

    Like

  18. This sounds like a perfect choice to honor women during our History Month. In my classroom, it would also serve as a mentor text for leads that catch the reader’s eye and how illustrations match the text. There are not enough biographies about important women. I plan on getting a copy of this book right away! Thanks for the interview. I enjoyed it!

    Like

  19. I love books about strong women, and I’m lucky that my mom always tried to find ones for me growing up. It’s so important to remind ourselves and our daughters that some of the things we take for granted were the result of a mighty struggle, and not even all that long ago! This would be a great addition to my personal/classroom library!

    Like

  20. I have GOT to get my hands on this book! I wanted to be a doctor, from the earliest of days – then, I changed to a Physical Therapist, after a mentorship in participated in during middle school. However, I had two male Science teachers tell me I couldn’t. One in high school, and one in college. Not only do I want to read this to ALL of my students, and help them create plans to reach their dreams, but I want to send one to both of my former teachers! 🙂 I landed where I was supposed to, but those two men from my past are, to this day, two that come to mind painfully, because I was too unaware to know better, and too kind to speak out about their ridiculousness to get support.

    Love reading history through biographies. I don’t love history, but I love biographies, so I always feel like I walk away with SO much when I read good quality biographies. Another reason I have GOT to get my hands on this book!

    Thanks for the review. Thanks for the interview. Thanks for the opportunity to win. Thanks to Macmillan!

    Like

  21. I am excited to see this and the other picture book biographies listed here. Our fourth grade teachers are going to try a biography writing unit this year and these will be wonderful mentor texts for them. The conversation with the author will also be instructive for the kids. I love the illustrations in the book as well. Thanks for sharing.
    spearse@fairhavenbe.org

    Like

  22. I love having biographies about strong women for my sixth graders to read – and this one sounds perfect. What a lot of amazing research has gone into it – and the illustrations look stunning.

    Like

  23. I teach young gifted students, and when I get a new student in the lower grades, I put a goal on the IEP for them to study and present a report on a leader. Last year, one of my first grade girls chose Elizabeth Blackwell. We both learned a lot about her. It looks like this book is a better version than the biography we read. And I’d love to share the voice and other craft examples with all of my students as they write creative nonfiction. Thanks for the information and interview.

    Like

%d bloggers like this: