Two Friends by Dean Robbins Book Review

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins
Illustrations by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko
Publisher: Orchard Books
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, often get together for tea and conversations. They talk about friends and family and their fight to win rights for women and African Americans. Although their struggles seem different, the two build a friendship based on a mutual fight for rights.

I am always a bit iffy on biographies that take liberties with what a character said if there is no actual record that they said it. We know that Anthony and Douglass were in fact friends, a plaque portraying them having tea together in Rochester, NY being the inspiration of this book. However, we don't know what those conversations entailed. One would assume they discussed civil rights and their own personal struggles against a system that seemed against them. The two met while Douglass was on a speaking tour and became friends before either was particularly famous. And their friendship wasn't without its drama, since Douglass did not necessarily agree with Anthony concerning women's suffrage. There are definitely plenty of sources, letters and quotes concerning their friendship and ideals and it isn't hard to imagine what the two would have talked about. So I understand why the author decided to fictionalize their conversation and I think in this instance it works, but by being a children's picture book biography it also simplifies the friendship a great deal and the truth is, none of us will ever know what it is they talked about when they were alone.