- Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for Workers' Rights by Deborah Hopkinson
Hopkinson, Deborah Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for Workers' Rights; illus. by Kristy Caldwell. Peachtree, 2020 [36p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781682631362 $18.99 Reviewed from digital galleys Ad 6-8 yrs
"How many years will it be until you turn sixty-two? … Now, hold onto your answers until the end, when you'll find out why this is important. And why (when you get there) you'll want to thank Frances Perkins." With this teaser, Hopkinson launches a picture book biography of the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet position, and a driving force behind Social Security, the program adopted as part of [End Page 478] Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-fighting New Deal. Caldwell's watercolor illustrations introduce viewers to New York sweatshops, bread lines, and the horrifying tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, all of which influenced Perkins' advocacy for worker health, safety, and limited weekly work hours, which in turn led to her presidential appointment. Hopkinson focuses on Social Security as Perkins' premier achievement, providing a safety net for retirees, surviving children and spouses of deceased workers, and persons with disabilities. However, by the time she circles back to the opening math exercise, Perkins is subtly upstaged by discussion of Social Security today, leaving some listeners scrambling to understand how some kids might benefit from Social Security now, while others not until they're sixtytwo. The book provides some cautious nuance in its closing notes, but there will surely be some adult readers sardonically muttering their own prognostications about SocSec, and they may need to guide discussion that integrates Perkins' story with today's workplace struggles for income security. Source notes and resources are also included.