Cross-cultural feminist history goes down easy in this kid-friendly story.
Factual details about female factory workers in the United States and the Women’s Land Army in England merge in this fictional tale of a sunny little tractor. When readers first meet Rosie, she’s being constructed by racially diverse Rosie the Riveter–esque women in response to FDR’s Lend-Lease Act. Built with care, the tractor receives a final rose painted on her nose and then she’s shipped off to England. There, women tend the fields while the men fight in World War II. Rosie is determined to do her part, repeating, “I plow and I dig. / I dig and I plow. / No matter the job, / this is my vow.” The war ends but not her purpose—there’s a happy ending in store for the little tractor that could. Ample backmatter tells the true story behind tractors like Rosie. Children too small to appreciate Ward’s deft melding of history and storytelling will still find much to enjoy thanks to the copious mechanics, repeated rhymes, and a tractor to rival Mike Mulligan’s Mary Anne in terms of sheer on-the-job enthusiasm. Ward’s art simultaneously anthropomorphizes Rosie and gives a sense of authenticity to her human figures. More than the sum of its parts, this is a wildly successful and well-researched shaping of the picture-book form to true historical sheroes.
They could do it! (author’s note, timeline, sources) (Picture book. 4-7)