Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb

by Veronica Chambers (Author) Rachelle Baker (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A timely picture book biography about Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, who sought the Democratic nomination to be the president of the United States.

Shirley Chisholm famously said, If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. This dynamic biography illuminates how Chisholm was a doer, an active and vocal participant in our nation's democracy, and a force to be reckoned with. Now young readers will learn about her early years, her time in Congress, her presidential bid and how her actions left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire, uplift, and instruct.

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Publishers Weekly

Chambers captures the essence of trailblazing advocate and politician Shirley Chisholm with a conversational narrative that highlights action words representative of the stateswoman. Declaring "verbs are words that move the world forward," the picture book biography sets apart nearly 30 verbs with capitalized, aqua blue typeface ("Her actions PLANTED the seeds of possibility for others"). An accessible storytelling style uses short, direct sentences to recount that, before Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress and made her 1972 bid to become the first Black and female presidential candidate, she was the daughter of immigrants and a voracious reader, teacher, and organizer. Baker, in her picture book debut, employs realistic digital illustrations to show Chisholm both smiling and serious, her jaw often resolutely set. One spread depicts current female lawmakers for whom Chisholm paved the way. An upbeat story of a dynamic pioneer whose tenacity and courage continue to inspire. Ages 4-8. (July)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Veronica Chambers
Veronica Chambers is the editor for Narrative Projects at The New York Times. She is a prolific author, best known for the New York Times bestseller Finish the Fight!, which was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post, the New York Public Library, and others. Her other works include the critically acclaimed memoir Mama's Girl; Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb; and the anthologies The Meaning of Michelle--a collection by writers celebrating former first lady Michelle Obama--and Queen Bey: A Celebration of the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, she writes often about her Afro-Latina heritage. She speaks, reads, and writes Spanish, but she is truly fluent in Spanglish. You can find her online at or on Twitter and Instagram @vvchambers.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Dial Books
Publication date
July 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF007070 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Political
JNF023000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Girls & Women
Library of Congress categories
United States
African American women
Presidential candidates
Chisholm, Shirley

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