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Monday, March 3, 2014

Florence Nightingale, written and illustrated by Demi. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Florence made many improvements in her new job. She taught the nurses who worked with her that the hospital must be clean and organized so that they could give the patients the best possible care. She stressed the importance of providing hot water and hot food..."

Florence Nightingale was born a child of great wealth. The family's lifestyle was extravagant, and privileged. It meant little to Florence. Rather than attend parties and social gatherings in her home, she preferred to be alone. Even as a very young girl she liked to imagine organizing health care for sick dolls and running a hospital that would help the sick and infirm.

Her family's wealth allowed for extensive travel. At each new destination, she was less enamored of the famous people she met and more aware of the plight of the poor and sick. She kept clear records of the facilities available to help others. She realized that nursing was her true calling. Her parents were not in agreement; in fact, they were aghast at such a thought. Further travels only intensified Florence's resolve. Her parents were finally convinced that she must find her own way.

It was the beginning of a long and illustrious career for a determined, thoughtful and brilliant woman. Florence did her research and developed new and successful ways to alleviate the pain and suffering of many, while also informing government of ways to improve the conditions in hospitals around the world. Her work was relentless. Despite suffering from lingering health issues throughout much of her life, Florence never gave up working to make change, consulting with governments to effect that change and constantly striving to improve thinking about the way in which care was provided.

Her legacy lives on:

"The International Red Cross began awarding the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1912, two years after her death. It honors outstanding nurses. We remember Florence Nightingale today as the driving force behind improvements in nursing during her time and as a woman of extraordinary vision, who believed that no problem, however big it seemed, was ever too big for her to solve."

A detailed timeline and a short list of suggested books for further reading are found following the text of her story.

Demi does a brilliant job of giving life to this epitome of the nursing profession. Her watercolor and mixed media images are rich and detailed, as is her story. While we are always aware of Florence in the accompanying artwork, she doesn't overpower with her presence. She is at the 'heart' of the story, but never the focus.

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