dean-featured-two-friends-04Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass lived near each other in Rochester, New York. Susan was a champion of women’s rights, and Frederick a champion of African American rights. In this picture book, they meet in Susan’s parlor to chat and support one another. They prepare to go out and fight for what they believe in—after taking a break for a cup of tea.

Nominated for the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List: Best Feminist Books for Young Readers.

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Reviews of Two Friends

A visit by Frederick Douglass to the home of Susan B. Anthony is at the center of this charming book about the intersections of women’s rights and African-American rights. Dean Robbins presents the two struggles as different but parallel — each historical figure wonders why their kind can’t have ‘the right to live free. The right to vote.’ On a snowy afternoon, they sit down to a cozy tea-and-cake in front of a fire and promise ‘to help each other’ fight for justice. The husband-and-wife illustration team of Qualls and Alko blend lovely, lush painting and an elegant layer of text art, with regal streams of smudgy handwritten words and snippets of vintage print.

— New York Times

The stylish ‘Two Friends’ imagines the meeting between two great progressive minds of the 19th century. When writer/orator Frederick Douglass joins abolitionist Susan B. Anthony at her home for tea, he learns of her fighting an educational system that doesn’t grant equal access to women, and in turn recounts the hardship of his enslaved childhood. The two activists share a goal: expanding the right to vote. Given such weighty material, ‘Two Friends’ is remarkably light on its feet, the composition of the pages lively and dynamic and the political figures rendered with high-beam charm.

— USA Today

In remarkably economical prose, Dean Robbins demonstrates the enormous impact Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass had on history as they worked tirelessly toward their goals of securing fundamental rights for women and slaves. Bold colors lend an upbeat feel to the illustrations, while layers of paint and mixed media create subtle texture and depth.

— Booklist

A thought-provoking reverie. Stylized mixed-media art provides period detail, warmth, and inspiration.

— San Francisco Chronicle

‘Two Friends’ takes the time to note what the characters are wearing (“Susan wore a kind of pants called ‘bloomers.’ She liked them better than the heavy dresses women were supposed to wear”), wisely indulging kids’ interests in both the superficial and the political.

— Chicago Sun-Times

A good nonfiction story for kids: A bronze statue in Rochester, New York, of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass drinking tea together inspired the picture book “Two Friends.” Author Dean Robbins imagines the famous pair meeting at Anthony’s house one snowy evening to discuss their ideas. He also shows the parallels in their lives as they grew up to fight for equality for women and African-Americans. Husband-wife illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko use bold colors with collage and script type to reflect the strong opinions of these vibrant personalities.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Repeated phrases eloquently underscore the parallels between their lives, emphasizing how both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass dared to think differently, spoke their hearts despite opposition, and worked tirelessly for a better world. Set against handsomely textured backgrounds, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko’s mixed-media paintings blend historical details with winsome touches. Whether neatly penned onto Anthony’s ink-splattered bloomers, reproduced in a dialogue balloon as Douglass speaks before a crowd, or incorporated into a collage on a tree, written words are seen throughout the artwork, underscoring the world-transforming power of language and the pledge, made by these two true-life friends at book’s end, to work together so that ‘one day all people could have rights.’

— School Library Journal

Dean Robbins’ charming picture book depicts the true story of the historic friendship between two of America’s greatest 19th-century civil rights pioneers. Husband-and-wife team Sean Qualls and Selina Alko’s warm gouache, acrylic and colored pencil, collage-inspired artwork inventively illustrates the power of ideas. The book is an artful, cleverly crafted homage to progressive civil rights leaders as well as an inspiring story of friendship.

— Shelf Awareness

The spare text and evocative illustrations create a world where ideas and words matter and where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, alternately scorned and revered by the public, come together for a quiet moment. Dean Robbins succeeds beautifully at creating a mood, and we get the sense that these two fiery figures found strength and renewal in each other’s presence. The masterful illustrations by husband-wife team Sean Qualls and Selina Alko capture the setting and the warmth and energy of the two characters.

— Isthmus

The book tackles big issues like racism in an engaging and simple way that will inspire the next generation of civil rights activists.

— Today’s Parent

Dean Robbins deftly moves between Susan B. Anthony’s objectives and words to those of Frederick Douglass. The full-bleed artwork is embellished with swirls of script from their respective writings, a plus for both artistic presentation and content.

— Kirkus Reviews

A visually appealing primer on the civil rights reformers.

— Publishers Weekly

Fascinating new history book for young readers: A tea party sounds like a sedate occasion, but these two friends who liked to meet for tea had lives that were quite the opposite. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were both great crusaders for human rights and, as it happens, great friends. We may not know the exact words they spoke during their get-togethers in Rochester, N.Y., but Dean Robbins’ debut picture book does a nice job showing what the two trailblazers had in common: “They promised to help each other, so one day all people could have rights.” The restrained text is bolstered by boldly colored mixed-media illustrations, interwoven with scraps of manuscript.

— The Virginian-Pilot

‘Two Friends’ imagines what it was like when Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass met at Susan’s house for tea to discuss their ideas about rights and freedom. The illustrations are stunning and very cleverly incorporate collage.

— Cincinnati Enquirer

‘Two Friends’ imagines Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass remembering their past struggles in the face of inequality and oppression and their efforts to master public speaking and writing in support of their causes. But it also depicts them as two amiable people sitting down to tea and cake in Anthony’s Madison Street home.

— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Notable picture book brings African American history to life for young readers.

— Tampa Bay Times

Beautifully written and illustrated.

— Winston-Salem Journal

One of the many strengths of the book is that it works for very young readers as an introduction to two important figures from American history, and it’s effective for older students learning about civil rights and the power of words. ‘Two Friends’ would make an excellent read aloud for small or large groups and is a recommended purchase for school and public library collections.

— The Nonfiction Detectives

Children who are learning about civil rights could surely use this primer about two of the movement’s huge icons: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Dean Robbins excels at including both individuals’ biographic information while simultaneously sharing their thoughts on civil rights. The story is intricately woven to capture the essence of life in the late 1800s. The engaging illustrations keep children entertained and wanting to know more.

— Kansas City Parent Magazine

Book of the Day, January 18, 2016

— Junior Library Guild

Perfect for beginning a dialogue with first graders on up about both women’s rights and civil rights. A good starting point for a more serious delving into these topics and this historic period.

— Pima County Public Library

The perfect bridge between Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

— Heathcote Library

A beautiful homage to the friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

— Wisconsin Public Radio

A delightful book.

— Milwaukee Public Radio

The illustrations are stunning and very cleverly incorporate the use of collage.

— Kenton County Public Library

Book of the Day, March 19, 2016

— Washington, D.C., Public Library

‘Two Friends’ is an inspiring new picture book about the friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. It’s told in such an immediate way that the reader is drawn right into the lives of these two legendary figures as they have tea together…stunningly perfect in text and illustrations. ‘Two Friends’ is simple enough for a small child to understand, and a wonderful conversation prompter about the important contributions of both these great people. I can think of no better picture book published recently that would be more important to add to your child’s library.

— Good Reads with Ronna

The perfect book for teachers to read to a classroom of students between first and fourth grade to spark a discussion about commitment and dedication to a cause. The illustrations of the two leaders convey their passion and their willingness to do whatever it took to change minds.

— Sommer Reading

‘Two Friends’ is a wonderful read aloud for young kids just beginning to learn American history.

— Randomly Reading

Editor’s Choice: Essential Children’s Books for January 2016. An excellent historical narrative. I love that it shows Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass supporting each other’s causes as much as their own, and that their writings are lovingly incorporated into the illustrations.

— Riffle

Here is a book perfectly timed for this election year, about two fighters for equal rights. The illustrations are realistic with bold color, with some background parts showing swirls of words surrounding Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. There are parts of the Constitution and the speeches and articles each wrote. The book can start many conversations about Anthony and Douglas, what they did, how they fought for the rights we all now have.

— Teacher Dance

Sean Qualls and Selina Alko’s beautifully composed mixed media illustrations and Dean Robbins’ lyrical text tell the story of the friendship of two famous American civil rights activists, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who came together to share cups of tea and ideas in Rochester, New York, in the mid-1800s. Cutout collages of handwritten words on the double spreads emphasize their tireless efforts in speaking out for a shared goal, that one day all people would have the same rights.

— International Literacy Association

‘Two Friends’ is a gorgeous book. The illustrations are eye-catching and beautiful, and the text provides a wonderful introduction to important debates we have had throughout our history. While it does not sugarcoat the issues of injustice, it is simple enough for very young children to understand. Older children will almost certainly have some questions about the text: Why couldn’t Susan learn what boys learned? Why couldn’t Frederick vote? Those questions will open the door for parents to begin explaining important issues in ways that children can understand.

— Covered in Flour

This picture book for young readers is a terrific jumping-off point for people of any age to learn about two iconic 19th century Americans famous for their unceasing activism.

— New Mexico Review of Books

Beautifully written in a perceptive, parallel structure, with Sean Qualls and Selina Alko’s vibrant illustrations incorporating text and image, ‘Two Friends’ offers a unique perspective on Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass and their friendship. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.

— Orange Marmalade Books

Text is an intrinsic and important part of the art: Ideas percolate in the tea and rise into the air. Beliefs become an integral part of clothing and are worn for all to view.

— Reading Style Guide

Exceptional nonfiction book for kids. A fascinating glimpse of two activists who are both fighting for their rights—one for women and one for African Americans.

— Imagination Soup

Awesome nonfiction book for kids: This is a great introduction for the youngest readers, and the care with which it was illustrated is very evident. A beautiful book.

— Literary Hoots

An excellent entry point to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Stunning artwork…a great addition to any collection.

— Miss Print

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About me

I’m a children’s author who lives with my family in Madison, Wisconsin. Ever since I was a boy, and throughout my career as a journalist, I’ve idolized real-life heroes. My picture books are about people like Frederick Douglass, who fought to end slavery; Susan B. Anthony, who championed women’s rights; Alice Paul, who strove to get women the right to vote; and Margaret Hamilton, who broke barriers for women in science. Read more»