illustrated · Memoir Reviews · Non-Fiction

Review: Ada Lovelace Cracks The Code and Madam C.J. Walker Builds A Business (Rebel Girls).

Review: Ada Lovelace Cracks The Code and Madam C.J. Walker Builds A Business (Rebel Girls).

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Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls shook the world and made readers everywhere demand more stories about girls and women. Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls 2 was met with equal applause. Now the stories of individual Rebel Girls have been published for the first time. 

Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, has a keen mind but she feels stiffled by a string of boring governesses. Then Miss Stamp arrives and introduces Ada to engineering and mathematics. Her mind comes to life with the amazing possibilities and she sets to work making wings of her own. She is opposed by her mother who believes that all this flying stuff is a load of nonsense and that girls should remain in their places. Other influences persuade Ada that she can have both a marriage and an intellectual life and slowly Ada finds the confidence to continue her work. 

Sarah Breedlove (aka Madam CJ Walker) is her family’s hope. She is the first of her family not to be born into slavery and that means she can attend school. However, life is still hard for Sarah because she has to work in the house where she is staying as well as washing for money and picking cotton. Her hair becomes crunchy and itchy and falls out. Years later she invents a product to help it better than any shampoo she has tried. She starts to sell her product and demand grows so quickly that she is able to set up a manufacturing company. 

Two inspiring stories set in different times and places prove that women can do extraordinary things even in the most difficult of circumstances. 

It is lovely to see books that go deeper into the life stories of women from around the world who have done extraordinary things. These stories prove that extraordinary isn’t something people are born with but a combination of effort and daring and hope. 

The new format fits nicely on a shelf with chapter books and the stories are short enough for younger readers, but pitched nicely so that they might still be of interest to teenagers and adults. 

The illustration and design is as striking as the two Rebel Girls anthologies and each book has patterns and a colour-scheme to make each story feel unique when it is placed among the others. 

Perfect for bookshelves, libraries and rebel stockings everywhere. 

 

Thanks to Riot Comms. and Rebel Girls for my books. Opinions my own.

Memoir Reviews

Review: Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

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Do you spend most of your time indoors? Feel unsettled when your reading time is disturbed? Would you be happy to live your life in the pages of books? All these are signs you might be a bookworm. The happy news is you’re not alone.

Lucy spent her childhood reading, aided by her Dad and chided by her Mum. Here she runs chronologically through her childhood reading, giving us information about books she remembers, reflections of reading and hilarious anecdotes about how people reacted to her book addiction.

 A warm and witty memoir, Bookworm will make you desperate to curl up with a pile of old paperbacks and read. If you needed an excuse, that is …birdMy hobbies include:

  • Reading
  • Amassing books
  • Browsing second hand bookshops
  • Talking about books with my equally bookish friend Christina over afternoon tea/bookshop shelves/Twitter as possible. 

Bookworm is a treat wrapped up in a delight. As a teenager, Lucy Mangan’s column in the Guardian weekend magazine assured me I was not the only person who would rather hide with a second-hand Puffin than socialise. I loved the recurring anecdotes about Lucy’s bookish behaviour, and about her very Northern extended family.

Bookworm works for me on three levels:

  • Discussion of favourite books
  • Memoir
  • Reflections on reading

There is no snobbery. Sometimes these memoirs feel more like a run through of the schools and libraries 100 most approved books than a reflection on genuine childhood reading. As a 9 year-old, for example, I read The Hobbit, and the first part of Lord-of-the-Rings. To say this alone exaggerates my childhood literary tastes, because yes I read Tolkien fairy early, but I went through my Sleepover Club stage the same year. Bookworm shows that young readers enjoy a range of books at different times, and that is healthy.

The memoir is well written. As well as painting a vivid picture of her family, it situates Lucy’s childhood reading in the context of the 1980s. What state was her local library service in? Her school library? Given recent cuts to libraries and school library budgets, these discussions need to be opened, and the first place to start is with how people benefited from them in the past.

Lucy’s reflections stem from her memories, but go deeper into what reading means at different times in our lifes. Reading for solace. Reading to recognise ourselves. To experience adventure, to binge on words and to think more deeply about the world. This is what non-bookworms fail to understand – reading is about so much more than holding a book.

I enjoyed Bookworm because I related to it, and for the wide selection of children’s books discussed. It is an enjoyable memoir, and I hope it will give other people the urge to amass books. 

 

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

March 2018

Square Peg – Penguin Random House

 

Huge thanks to Square Peg for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.