Review: Rise Up by Amanda Li. Illustrated by Amy Blackwell.
From pilots to musicians. Chess players to campaigners. Read the stories of children and young adults who have risen to the top of their field, and think about ways to learn from their stories.
Books of inspirational stories have become popular in recent years. At times I wonder if the meaning of the word has been lost. In the media at least, the world inspirational is brought out without thought to what it truly means – that we can learn from these people. That before their names were known, they were ordinary people who put in extraordinary effort and dedication.
Rise Up acknowledges this. Rather than reading like a list of impossibly heroic figures, it recognises the journeys each of its subjects took and suggests starting points for young readers who want to develop their own understanding of a particular field.
The book features modern-day heroes like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai alongside historical figures such as Frida Kahlo and Louis Braille. The subjects represent a vast range of talents and areas, and it is lovely to see artists and musicians alongside the usual public speakers and activists. What these subjects have in common is the sheer number of hours they have put into their passion. Recognising the hard work and skill of artists has never been more important because some politicians behave as if arts are only hobbies.
The stories are told in a narrative, taking a moment in each subject’s life to represent their wider tale. After each story, activities and fact files encourage the reader to explore an area for themselves. This layout encourages dipping in and makes the book perfect to read in little windows of time. It would be perfect for a classroom or library display, as well as for readers who enjoy real-life tales.
Amy Blackwell’s illustrations bring the tales to life. They are bold and full of energy, and exactly the sort of pictures which make a reader curious.
This book stands out because it is aware of its readers. People who read a book of inspiring stories want to feel they could make an impression too. Rise Up doesn’t pretend that doing so is easy, but it does suggest it is possible. It strikes exactly the right balance and will inspire lots of young people to find their own passions.
Thanks to Buster Books for my gifted copy of Rise Up. Opinions my own.