Posted by: jeannineatkins | February 4, 2008

What I’m Reading: One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge

After I was recently asked to speak this spring about science writing for children, another speaker emailed to say that she’d read my book, GIRLS WHO LOOKED UNDER ROCKS. Lita Judge wrote that she valued its depiction of Frances Hamerstrom, an ornithologist whose studies of prairie chickens helped our understanding of how habitat plays a crucial role in extinction of species. Frances also happened to have been Lita’s grandmother.

What a cool surprise! Even more wonderful, the first book that Lita has both written and illustrated is about Frances Hamerstrom, featuring another aspect of the long, eventful, and admirable life of a woman who shared a home with husband, children, eagles, hawks and owls. ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS:HEALING THE WOUNDS OF WORLD WAR TWO is about a relief effort she organized, sending shoes, clothing, and food overseas to those in need.

The story is told through the point of a view of the girl who was Lita’s mother. We sees this narrator open envelopes stuffed with the tracings of the feet of people in need of shoes — worn ones were fine, anything to help keep out the cold. With the war officially over, I liked how the females of the family take on a new “battle to keep families safe from cold and hunger.” The family first sends shoes to one family, then are asked if they can find shoes for another ten people. After those are sent, they’re asked for a hundred more, then a thousand. Friends write to friends who write to more friends, and everyone helps. More than three thousand shoes were sent overseas from this project, as well as socks, soap, sugar, tea, and cans of beans.

Lita shows time passing as the seasons change, from a watercolor where snow casts a haze over a cool blue sky, with other blues –periwinkle, violet– reflected in the snow on the ground, to the warmer tones of summer. The book ends indoors, with the mother dancing in red shoes. Gorgeous collaged endpapers show old newspaper clippings,family photos, and parts of the letters and envelopes that Lita unearthed from the attic, inspiring her research and story.

l look forward to meeting Lita, as well as Loree Griffin Burns llgburns and others at the Cambridge Science Festival this spring. And I look forward to Lita’s next books. On her website, I admired sketches for a upcoming book based on another historic event. The strong and graceful lines of Lita’s sketches reminded me of Robert McCloskey’s. But this time we won’t see ducks and ducklings in Boston: we’re going to have to make way for elephants.

I learned something about history and could see why ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS won many awards. A perfect picture book pick, I think, for my first contribution to Nonfiction Monday! You can read about other great nonfiction at the roundup organized by Anastasia Suen on her Picture Book of the Day blog,

(and yes, I am feeling pretty cool having managed to upload these pictures. Not without some time and a patient, helpful husband! Thanks, honey. What can I say, those Tolkien-lovers are the best.)



  1. Hi Jeannine,
    I added your link to the Nonfiction Monday Round-up!

  2. What a wonderful connection. You must have been so amazed when you got the email. And her illustrations ARE beautiful, you’re right!

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