THE LESSON OF THE LARK, written by Laura Cobb and illustrated by Maya James, expands the notion of historical fiction in many ways and directions. At the core of this large-sized paperback (7 x 53/8 inches) is a rhyming prose story about a girl, a lark and a gardener interwoven with semi-primitivist paintings that depict both the lark allegory and the actual 72-year campaign to ratify the women’s suffrage amendment.
Cobb’s prose is inspirational and uplifting in tone, aimed like the rest of the book at tween readers (ages 10 to 12). It asks them: “Are you ready to change your perspective? … right this wrong, and amend it”? The lark serves as the messenger for the clarion call of giving American women the right to vote and a larger general respect as full-fledged citizens and humans. The gardener is the guide to the political and social change the amendment represents and the long process of struggle and the growth of an ideal. The girl serves as the subject for the exhortations – the everywoman of the future to be inspired by the tale and its aim.
It may be only serviceable prose and not some inspired or gifted literary expression. Yet it serves its purpose admirably as life lesson suffused with heartwarming and uplifting sentiments for young women coming into their own. Similarly, the pictures display a folk-art rawness that conveys a proletarian breadth. In its literacy, the story writes “upward” for its intended readers on an academic level, and includes a vocabulary and accompanying tests on the words used, comprehension and historical facts as well as suggested essay questions, all to enable this book’s use in a school setting. It’s a work with high utility for educators in a number of subject areas.
Ultimately, THE LESSON OF THE LARK does not merely celebrate women winning the right to vote. It’s a book with serious intentions in support of the cause of women’s rights – only one more state’s vote is needed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment 48 years after it passed Congress – and an effective tool to inspire young women as well as male supporters.
A fairly-reasoned balance is struck between storytelling and political and feminist history and education in THE LESSON OF THE LARK, where a basic prose tale offers much in the way of metaphor that serves the book’s real life aims.
~Rob Patterson for IndieReader