Unique Picture Books for Kansas Day

by Cassie Wefald

Unique Picture Books for Kansas Day

by Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Kansas Day is January 29 and recognizes the day Kansas achieved statehood in 1861. It’s a fun time to talk about state symbols like sunflowers and honeybees, and to make Kansas-shaped cakes. You’ll find picture books in the History Neighborhood in our Children’s section that provide opportunities to dive into unique stories and achievements of famous Kansans.

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas” by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Don Tate, is a must-read for Kansas fans. Junius was born into slavery in Kentucky around 1859. In 1879, he traveled on foot to Kansas where Junius and his wife worked and saved to purchase 80 acres near Edwardsville. They grew so many potatoes that eventually Junius became known as the “Potato King of the World.” In 1909, Junius was able to build a 22-room mansion overlooking their farm. Charles, their oldest son, graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College — now K-State — in 1904, and Edwardsville still celebrates Junius’s life. “No Small Potatoes” will spark curiosity about Junius and how he made an impact on Black lives in this area of Kansas.

In “Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman” by Sharice Davids, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, kids learn about a Kansan making history now, as she is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. As the child of a military mom, Sharice grew up moving often, but she was good at making friends. Sharice loved to hear other peoples’ stories and ideas, and she became fascinated with martial arts. Sharice, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, attended law school though she did not know any other Native Americans who were lawyers. She worked to represent Native people and eventually worked in the White House. There, Sharice discovered she wanted to use her big voice in Congress to speak for people who were not well represented in government. A section of the book provides a short history of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Did you know the first U.S. female mayor ever elected was a Kansan? Karen M. Greenwald and Sian James’s “A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor” is a fun book for Kansas Day and women’s history. When Kansas became the first state allowing women to vote and run for local office in 1887, many men were opposed to the change. In the small town of Argonia, some men were annoyed by women taking an active interest in the mayoral election. They decided to put Susanna Madora Salter on the ballot as a joke, hoping to humiliate her and discourage women from their political interest. In “A Vote for Susanna,” Grandma Dora retells Susanna’s story to her grandson, Ed, as they bake a cake. Ed thinks the men were mean, but then Grandma happily tells him how Susanna won the election in a landslide with votes from both women and men. She became the first woman mayor in U.S. history. As the family enjoys their angel food cake, Grandma reveals that she is Susanna Madora “Dora” Salter.

Salter was another Kansas State Agricultural College graduate. I first learned about her in “Coloring the Past: Twenty Riley County Women Who Made History,” a reproduceable coloring book published by the Riley County Genealogical Society and the Riley County Historical Society. You can find it at rileycountyks.gov/1906/Coloring-Book.

The Greatest Thing: A Story about Buck O’Neil” by Kristy Nerstheimer, illustrated by Christian Paniagua, tells a very brief history of Buck’s life, but it’s really all about the pictures. Paniagua’s art is full of action and movement. You can feel the energy coming off the pages! Kids will enjoy learning how Buck played baseball first with a rock that was wrapped in a sock. He practiced hard and pursued his dreams, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. The last section is about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that Buck helped found. If young baseball fans haven’t yet heard about Buck O’Neil’s place in history, logon to mhklibrary.org to reserve this book!

Families are invited to Zoofari Tails Storytime on Friday, January 27, 10 a.m., to hear stories about Kansas animals and examine animal artifacts from Sunset Zoo. We’ll read “Hark! I Hear a Meadowlark!” by Roy Bird and “Prairie Chicken Little” by Jackie Hopkins, two more fun books for you as you celebrate Kansas’s birthday.