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Jackie and the Books She Loved - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Many people know Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis as the First Lady of the United States and the wife and widow of President John F. Kennedy. But this enticing biography highlights another lesser known, important facet of Jackie's life - her adoration of books and her love of writing.


Book cover - Jackie Kennedy standing in front of a bookcase, clutching a book in her arms.

Jackie and the Books She Loved


Author: Ronni Diamondstein


Illustrator: Bats Langley


Publisher: Sky Pony Press (2023)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Books, reading, biography, and writing.


Synopsis:

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." —Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


Discover a delightful new story about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, one of the most famous women in the world.


History remembers Jackie as the consummate First Lady, especially for her White House restoration and the cultural events she instituted during her husband’s administration. Jackie was on the world stage in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. She led the nation in grieving the fallen leader with grace and dignity.

In this inspirational celebration of reading, Ronni Diamondstein, with her engaging writing style in this picture book biography, introduces readers to an independent and confident Jackie and the idea of how books guided her life. The insightful story paints the portrait of a child captivated by reading and a love of literature and writing—from five‑year‑old Jackie reading Chekhov stories to a seasoned and confident Jackie at her desk as an editor in the last two decades of her life.


Jackie never wrote a memoir but revealed herself in the nearly 100 books she brought into print. Jackie and the Books She Loved is a dazzling book about the real woman behind this American icon of style and grace brought to life by the whimsical and tasteful artwork of Bats Langley.


Opening Lines:

Little Jackie Bouvier learned to read at an early age. She kept

her books in a pair of bookcases that her mother had given

her for Christmas. She started a library of her own—with many

about ballet!—and filled the shelves in no time.


What I LOVED about this book:

First, it was a really fun idea to put a number of reading and writing related quotes by Jacqueline Kennedy on the end pages. The reader gets an immediate sense of how important books were to Jackie. Tracing her life, the book does a great job of showing Jackie surrounded by books and a love of reading. As a young girl, Jackie made her own library, snuck into "the guest room, where the grown-up books were kept," or often wrote her own stories and poems. I really enjoyed Ronni Diamondstein's inclusion of Jackie's poem "Sea Joy" and the beautiful seascape Bats Langley created to accompany the poem.

Internal spread - young Jackie on step stool arranging books in a bookcase. On right, Jackie sitting in a window seat reading a book with her dog and stuffed bear.

Text © Ronni Diamondstein, 2023. Image © Bats Langley, 2023.


As a student, Jackie often had her nose in a book or wrote poetry and stories for the school newspaper. Books and writing continued to be a very important part of her life.

Internal image - on left, Jackie in bed with a book shushing a talkative roommate. On the right, Jackie pointing to her article in the school newspaper.

Text © Ronni Diamondstein, 2023. Image © Bats Langley, 2023.


Ronni follows Jackie's journey after college to her job as a journalist in Washington D.C., where she interviewed "everyone from bus drivers and children to ballet dancers and VIPs, including her future husband, Senator John F. Kennedy." A man who shared her love of reading and writing. In fact, her writing skills helped him become president. Then as First Lady, she created a child's guidebook for the White House. And as a mother, she shared her love of reading, poetry, and writing with her children as well. I love the inclusion of the bear on the pile of books, drawing a connection to earlier illustrations of a young Jackie reading to or making up stories about her stuffed bear.

Internal image - on left President Kennedy watches Jackie hand out her guide books to kids visiting the white house. On the right, Jackie and her kids on White hOuse lawn reading a book togther.

Text © Ronni Diamondstein, 2023. Image © Bats Langley, 2023.


As her children grew, Jackie took her deep love of books and writing and worked her way up into the position of an editor with a publishing company. "She loved having a career and showing her children how important it is to have work you are passionate about." Throughout the colorful illustrations, Bats Langley employs a playful and intriguing arrangement of papers and books cascading, flowing, and swirling around Jackie. In addition to a detailed timeline, the importance of books and one's ability to write, as well as her legacy as an editor, is further explored in an extensive and personal author's note. This is definitely a tribute and ode to a remarkable woman and the books she loved and helped create.


Resources:

Photo of a homemade book with a ribbon binding.
  • using this simple method, make your own book(s) to collect your stories, poems, or memories.

  • what are your favorite books and/or poems?

  • Check out the reading and writing activity sheets on Ronnie's website.


If you missed the interview with Ronni Diamondstein on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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