Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - The Extraordinary Life of Anna Swan

Author:  Anne Renaud
Publisher: Cape Breton University Press (May 18, 2013)
Audience: Grades 3 to 5
Source: Personal Copy
Biography * Gigantism * Women's History

Description from GoodReads:

In 1846 an unusual baby girl was born in Nova Scotia. She started out large, at 13 pounds, but only kept growing. Anna Swan grew until she was nearly 8 feet tall. Billed as "The Nova Scotia Giant Girl" she spent time working for P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York, and other similar enterprises. She traveled, and met the queen of England. She even found love with a man her own height. This is her remarkable story.

My thoughts on this book:
As I read through The Extraordinary Life of Anna Swan, I found her story to be inspiring.  Swan, with the support of her family, was able to turn her height into a means for creating a career and an opportunity for travel, which would normally not have been available to women during the 1800's.  At first, when I thought about Swan's entrance into the Barnum's Museum and Circus, I was a bit sad. What must it have been like to be made the center of attention for your size.  However, in some ways, the circus provided her with an acceptance and freedom that life at home was unable to.  Her small farming community in Nova Scotia was unaccustomed to making the accommodations that Anna needed.

Author, Anne Renaud writes about Anna Swan in a way that draws young readers in and makes them want to know more about Anna.  Readers feel both the joys and struggles that Swan faced on a daily basis. Swan's engagement and marriage to Martin Van Buren Bates (who was her size) was a definite reason to celebrate.  However, when reading about the the birth and deaths of her two children, readers feel Swan's sadness and loss.

As I read through this biography, I was reminded of another story.  Kate Klise's picture book Stand Straight, Ella Kate, which is about Ella Kate Ewing who lived in the United States.  It is unsure whether Ella Kate would have known about Anna Swan's life since she was just a teen when Swan died.  However, these two women shared much in common as a result of their shared physical stature.

Pair The Extraordinary Life of Anna Swan with the picture book Stand Straight, Ella Kate by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise, which is a look at another remarkable woman from Missouri with pituitary gigantism. 

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