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.

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Non-Fiction

Review: Rise Up by Amanda Li. Illustrated by Amy Blackwell.

Review: Rise Up by Amanda Li. Illustrated by Amy Blackwell.

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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.