Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J.

Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls
Wilder, Madam C. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their
By: Jeanniene Atkins
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Copyright: 2010
Reading Level: Grades 5-8
Genre: Biography, Poetic Novel
Setting: The Wilders: United States (Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and places in
the west); Madam Walker: Missouri, Indiania and New York; Madame Curie:
Most of us have heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the “Little House” books; Marie
Curie, the discoverer of radium; and/or Madam C.J. Walker, the first AfricanAmerican woman millionaire. However, how many know that these three
significant women have two connections: they were all born in 1867 and all
three were supported and assisted by strong daughters. Laura’s daughter Rose
who encouraged her mother to write her stories and helped her create the Little
House series. Irene was inspired by her mother Madame Marie Curie and went
on to do significant research. Madam C. J. Walker built her beauty empire to
give her daughter a better life and ultimately her daughter helped build the
business that made her mother a millionaire.
AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: An English major, Atkins enjoyed
reading books with her daughter, and researching women in history who had not
received their rightful credit. She teaches children’s literature at the University of
Massachusetts-Amherst. You can read more about her at:
Other books written by the author:
Aani and the Tree Huggers; Anne Hutchinson’s Way; Get Set! Swim!; Girls Who
Looked Under Rocks; The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists; Mary Anning and
the Sea Dragon.
Revised 3/7/08
Dear Mother, Dear Daughter: Poems for Young People by Jane Yolen
Running Back to Ludie by Angela Johnson
A Mother’s Heart, A Daughter’s Love: Poems for Us to Share by Joyce Carol
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
Out of the Dust, and Witness by Karen Hesse
Carver: A Life of Poems by Marilyn Nelson
1. How do the lives of the three (3) woman in the story differ? How are they the
same? Which do you think had the most hardships to overcome?
2. How is this book similar to and different from other biographies?
3. Compare the relationship these young women have to their mothers to a
relationship you have with an adult in your life.
4. How did Madame C.J. Walker affect Indianapolis and the state of Indiana?
5. What other famous (or not so famous) mother/daughter pairs have you learned
about already?
6. How do you feel about writers “predicting/inventing” conversations and details
of a story? Does it add or subtract from the story? Why?
7. Which mother/daughter pair reminds you the most of your family? Why?
8. Do you think poetry was a good way to tell this story? Why or why not?
Reading Standards for Literature:
1. Analyze how the author uses prose to develop each character within the
Revised 3/7/08
2. Determine the central theme of the book and analyze its development
throughout the book.
3. Research one of the main characters of the book. Make inferences
concerning this character using specific text to support your inference. Use notetaking skills when completing your research for writing your findings.
4. On her website, Atkins recommends researching a person and writing a poem
about him/her.
5. Research Madam Walker’s life in Indianapolis. If possible, visit the Walker
Theatre in Indianapolis, which includes a small museum of items documenting
her life.
6. There are many lyrical, descriptive lines in the book. Select one of these, or
fina another you like in the book, and describe its meaning. Then write your own
descriptive passages.
P. 27 “Sweeps with the diligence of a criminal hiding tracks.”
“Trees, like imagination, leave spaces to slip through.”
“She labors over legends that aren’t hers, like a woman stitching buttonholes for
P. 186 “Radium tangles invisibly in her hair.”
7. Locate a list detailing birth years of famous people. Find three people born in
the same year and compare and contrast their lives.
6.2.6, 6.2.7, 6.3.4, 7.1.1, 7.1.2, 7.5.1, 8.3.1
Understand, describe and narrate how Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre
Curie, isolated two new elements that were the source of most of the radioactivity
of uranium ore.
Social Studies:
Give examples of the changing role of women and minorities in the norther,
southern and western parts of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century,
and examine possible cause for these changes. (Individuals, Society and
Other (List Activity and Indiana Academic Standards Grades 6-8 addressed
by each):
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Challenging Words (pronunciation, spelling, defining) (include chapter and/or page #):
Nobel Prize
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