Book review: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Montana Kane

Bagieu, Pénélope. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. Trans. by Montana Kane. First Second, 2018. $17.99. 296p. ISBN 978-1-62672-869-0. Ages 13+. P8Q10

These short graphic biographies about 30 spirited females from many places and times begin with a “portrait,” followed by nine cartoon panels on each page and finished off with a grand two-page spread collaging their achievements. The lack of chronological order keeps the reader wondering about the next entry, as does the shifts in geographical locations. Some of the choices were overshadowed by historical information about males such as Lozen, a Chiricahua warrior whose brother Victorio was more recognized as an Apache chief. Some of my favorites whose drive led them to overcome adversity—i.e., Temple Grandin, Peggy Guggenheim, and Annette Kellerman—are introduced to younger readers through Bagieu’s book.

Verdict: Quirky colorful drawings and playful comedic comments highlight the politics, love, and sometimes sensuous joy of these women. Diverse choices of subjects, including some lesser celebrated women, help make this book a delight. The energy of the book may lead readers to look into more background on them, and Bagieu has also listed “Thirty More Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World.” Parts of the book were originally published on Bagieu’s blog, “Culottees” about “audacious women” who decide to take charge of their own destiny.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer

Pimentel, Annette Bay. Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon. Illus. by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-101-99668-3. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Seventy years after the inception of the Boston Marathon, women were still prevented from participation. When 23-year-old Roberta Louise “Bobbi” Gibb applied to take part, she received a letter stating that “women are not physiologically able to run twenty-six miles and furthermore the rules do not allow it.” She had already spent years training and would not allow herself to be refused. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she jumped out of the bushes at the beginning and began the first woman to run the race. Archer’s illustrations of oil paint and collage with tissue paper and hand-stamped patterned papers show Gibb’s hard work as she literally ran across the country, her perseverance running in six Boston marathons before receiving official sanction, the speed of the runners, and encouragement from competitors and observers once they discover that a girl is running the race. The information in the book comes from Gibb, now an artist.

Verdict: Girl Running is a welcome companion to last year’s The Girl Who Ran by Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti, illustrated by Susanna Chapman because of its emphasis on the joy of running and details such as her shoes. Also of interest is the mile markers and elevation indications that demonstrate the runners’ struggles, especially at Heartbreak Hill. Heartwarming and inspirational.

January/February 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World, by Susan Hood, illustrated by 13 women

Hood, Susan. Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Illus. by 13 women. Harper, 2018. $18.99. 40p. ISBN 978-0-06-269945-9. Ages 6-9. P8Q10

Highlighted on these pages with poetry, a full-page illustration, and a brief biography are women in age from a fire-fighter in the 1780s to a black six-year-old girl who integrated a white New Orleans school in New Orleans. Two-thirds of the subjects are from the U.S., and the 13 adults cover a wide range of fields: paleontology, librarianship, secret agents, astronaut, architecture, journalism, anti-hunger activism, education activist, etc. Varied media for illustrations including collage, watercolors and paintings. The artists are Shadra Strickland, Hadley Hooper, Lisa Brown, Emily Winfield Martin, Sara Palacios, Erin K. Robinson, Sophie Blackall, Melissa Sweet, Oge Mora, Isabel Roxas, Julie Morstad, LeUyen Pham, and Selina Alko. Notes at the end for each of the subjects include sources and resources.

Verdict: The impressive compendium in this picture book exhibits extensive research and a love for the subject. Highly recommended.

January/February 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: More Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Ada Lovelace to Misty Copeland, by Michelle Roehm McCann

McCann, Michelle Roehm. More Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Ada Lovelace to Misty Copeland. Aladdin, 2017. $11.99. 309p. ISBN 978-1-58270-641-2. Ages 11-15. P6Q7

Using the same format as Girls Who Rocked the World (2012), these 45 short biographies are of young women who became important before they were 20 years old.

Verdict: Although a bit simple at times, for example describing Ada Byron Lovelace as a “computer programmer” instead of a mathematician, the book is an easy read. Some of the information is guessing as in “survivor” Naya Nuki, a Shoshone who was marched with Sacagawea when the 11-year-olds were captured by a rival Native American tribe. Cartoon graphics introducing the chapters and boxes with additional information enhance the accessibility of the book.

January/February 2018 book review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Favilli, Elena and Francesca Cavallo. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. Timbuktu Labs, 2016. $35.00. 212p. ISBN 978-0-7798958-1-0. Ages 8-10. P8 Q9

Heroic women of all seven continents from the past four millennia are celebrated in two-page spreads that include a charming narrative about each woman and a full-page colorful illustration in a variety of artistic styles depending on the subject. Each description includes a short descriptor of the “girl,” birth/death dates, and country of origin.  Names of the 60 women providing the artwork are listed in the back. Selection of these pioneers varies from ten-year-old transgender Coy Mathis, brave enough to fight to use the bathroom of her gender identity, to Hillary Clinton, strong enough to survive sexist attacks in her campaign for U.S. president. In feminist tradition, the alphabetical order uses the women’s first names. Through crowdfunding, 20,025 backers from over 70 countries provided more than $1 million for the book published by a children’s media innovation lab.

Verdict: Advertised as “bedtime stories,” these brief accounts of the subject’s life and adventures should whet the appetite of readers who will want to know more about them, inspiring further research. Some of the women included are famous, but others are everyday women who managed to accomplish “extraordinary” things. This is recommended for all collections for youth and as gifts for all young girls.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans, by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Patricia Castelao

Calkhoven, Laurie. Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans. Il. Patricia Castelao. Scholastic,. 2015. $8.99. 96p. Ages 8-12. P4Q5

calkhoven-women-who-changed-the-worldThe recent emphasis on the importance of women has resulted in a large variety of books with brief biographical information and drawings. This paperback lists several of these women. Calkhoven has adopted a traditional list with no unusual additions to make this book stand out, and many of Castelao’s drawings are not particularly attractive. This book could be used in libraries with extremely large collections.

Fall 2016 review by Nel Ward.