Common core
Common core

Brave Girl

By Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early 1900s, tackling topics like activism and the U.S. garment industry, with handstitching and fabric incorporated throughout the art.

When Clara arrived in America, she couldn't speak English. She didn't know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that didn't stop Clara. She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a shirtwaist factory.

Clara never quit, and she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers the country had seen.

From her short time in America, Clara learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

  • Grade level: 4
  • Interest Level: P-3
  • Guided Reading Level: R


Brave Girl Teaching Guide

This teaching guide for Brave Girl aligns with Common Core standards for grades 2-5 and includes discussion prompts and extension activities that cover writing and presenting speeches, writing arguments, research, and more. [PDF]

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  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Imprint: Balzer + Bray
  • Format: Hardcover
  • On Sale: 11/30/-0001
  • ISBN: 9780061804427
  • ISBN 10: 0061804428
  • ISBN 13: 9780061804427
  • Pages: 32
  • Trim Size: 8.50 x 10.50 in
  • Subcategory:
  • Juvenile Nonfiction / Biography & Autobiography / Women
  • Juvenile Nonfiction / Girls & Women
  • Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / General
Booklist 2013 Lasting Connections
Social Studies; SLJs Best Books of 2013, Nonfiction
2014 Sydney Taylor Notable Book, Younger Readers
2014 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book
2014 Amelia Bloomer Project List, Early Readers Nonfiction, Top Ten
2014 Flora Straus Award

Booklist (starred review)“The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and time cards … This book has fighting spirit in spades-you go, Clara!”

School Library Journal (starred review)“Readers are treated to solid information with a buoyant message about standing up for what is right. Sweet has created an outstanding backdrop for Markel’s text with a vibrant collage of watercolor, gouache, blank dress-pattern paper, bookkeeping pages, stitches, and fabric pieces.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Sweet incorporates images of assorted fabrics and stitch patterns into her tender illustrations, brightening the lives of workers whose reality was bleak.”

The Horn Book“In her simple but powerful text Markel shows how multiple arrests, serious physical attacks, and endless misogyny failed to deter this remarkable woman as she set off on her lifelong path as a union activist.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books“Markel ably brings to life the plight of immigrant garment workers and Clara’s courageous advocacy.”

Read an excerpt


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