“Roses and Radicals,” by Susan Zimet (Viking Books for Young Readers/Viking Books for Young Readers)

“Votes for Women,” by Winifred Conkling (Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Young Readers)

Many young readers might rightfully wonder: How could it possibly have taken until 1920 for women to win the right to vote? Two new books make clear how fierce the struggle was, exploring how generations of female activists challenged women’s inferior status and faced derision, physical attacks and (in the 1910s) lengthy imprisonment. In Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote (Penguin, ages 10 and older), Susan Zimet powers through many decades of history, focusing on the central roles of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul but also highlighting the work of such agitators as Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Writing for a slightly older audience with Votes for Women: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot (Algonquin, ages 12 and older), Winifred Conkling provides a more detailed and nuanced account of Stanton, Anthony, Paul and their allies. Both authors ably show how women’s suffrage intertwined with abolitionism, Quakerism and the temperance movement, while also pointing out the racism and elitism of some suffrage leaders. With either book, young readers will find fascinating, still-relevant lessons about power, persuasion and politics.

Abby McGanney Nolan


“Mary's Monster,” by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook/Roaring Brook)

Two hundred years ago, the “first science fiction industrial-age novel” was published anonymously, notes Lita Judge in her haunting, graphic novel Mary’s Monster (Roaring Brook, ages 15 and older). Since then, “Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus” has inspired heated discussion, countless speculative fiction stories and numerous theater and film adaptations. Yet today, most teens know little more about the book’s English author than her name: Mary Shelley, who at 19 wrote her masterpiece in nine months. Through free-verse poems that draw vividly upon Shelley’s journals, letters and manuscripts, Judge offers a riveting immersion in Mary’s experiences as a teenage runaway. Judge’s intense, shadowy watercolor illustrations add to the dark drama of her tale. Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died soon after Mary’s birth, but young Mary absorbs her mother’s then-radical ideas about women’s rights by reading her books. These bolster Mary when she faces rejection — by her family, friends and society — for running off with a married man, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Judge also revisits that stormy summer in Geneva, when the Shelleys’ erratic host, Lord Byron, challenges them to write a ghost story. Throughout Judge explores the circumstances that deeply animated Mary’s creation of her bereft, wandering “Creature”: the early deaths of her children, the suicides of her older half sister and Percy Shelley’s estranged wife and most especially, the banishment by her father. For teens, Mary’s life is a powerful example of resilience and artistic integrity. Fittingly, it is her monster who has the last word, praising this long-dead author for the hard work that allowed her fierce genius — and him — to flourish: “Her spirit whispers eternally through me.”

Mary Quattlebaum

Baby Monkey is a soft-coated young monkey with the cheeky grin of a pre-kindergartener. He has a job: Solving cases involving missing or purloined valuables. Baby Monkey is quite a successful detective with his own routines: Look for clues, take notes, have a snack, solve the crime. Oh, and put on pants before solving the crime. This is the part that will have the audience for Brian Selznick and David Serlin’s delightful Baby Monkey, Private Eye (Scholastic, ages 2-7) in giggles: Baby Monkey is not at all adept at putting on his pants, but he doesn’t give up. Baby Monkey’s office is a cozy space, filled with intriguing detail and references to cinema, art and invention that change to reflect each of Baby Monkey’s upcoming cases. Selznick’s pencil illustrations are delightful — full of energy and humor. The nearly 200 pages give the book a solid feel, enhanced by the inclusion of a table of contents, a tongue-in-cheek but usable index and a clever made-up bibliography. Serlin and Selznick use fewer than 70 new words — all in an impressively large font — to tell the story, with plenty of repetition and clues about what comes next. It’s silly, endearing and adventurous for a brand-new reader and any older listeners who will enjoy the fun.

Kathie Meizner

Young readers