What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, by Chris Barton

What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? , written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

What Do You Do With A Voice Like That?, written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

I have read a LOT of picture book biographies over the last few years, and it’s still always a real treat to read one about someone who hasn’t been covered a million times already.

[No offense to Amelia Earhart and Ada Lovelace, but there are a lot lot lot lot LOT of other interesting and inspiring historical figures to read about!

RELATED. Have you seen that there’s another Coco Chanel picture book biography on the way? For real, how many picture book bios about Nazi collaborators, no matter how talented in other realms, do we really need??? Like. There are PLENTY of other fashion designers who DIDN’T work with the Nazis.

BUT I DIGRESS.]

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? tells the story of Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first Black woman to serve in the Texas legislature, who then went on to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives, making her the first Black woman from the South to serve in the House.

Barton does a particularly great job in highlighting aspects of her work and legacy that are particularly relevant to today—voting rights, fair pay, protecting the disenfranchised, holding those in power accountable to the same rules that the rest of us are expected to live by—without ever switching focus. In other words, he leaves the connection-making to the reader or readers, but it’s all very definitely there.

And Ekua Holmes’ illustrations are, of course, beautiful.

But that’s to be expected, because Ekua Holmes:

Interior from  What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? , written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Interior from What Do You Do With A Voice Like That?, written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

There’s a detailed timeline in the backmatter—one that specifically acknowledges Nancy Earl as Jordan’s “lifelong companion,” which I was glad to see (Earl also appears in an illustration, though not in the main text of the book)—as well as a list of suggested reading, a link to a complete bibliography, and a recommendation to watch this speech from the 1974 impeachment hearings. And after watching it, I wholeheartedly recommend it as well: