Review: Ada Lovelace Cracks The Code and Madam C.J. Walker Builds A Business (Rebel Girls).
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.
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.
Review: When Sue Found Sue by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka
Sue Hendrickson was born to find things. From the moment she was a little girl, she was on the lookout for curious objects to take home and study. The shy, intelligent child grew into an explorer, and in 1990 Sue Hendrickson found a whole T-Rex skeleton in the cliffs of South Dakota. Her team decided that the fossil should be named after Sue.
A real-life story about a woman who lived her passions.
The first thing I loved about When Sue Found Sue was it didn’t push the inspirational narrative. Recently there have been such a number of books about inspirational lives that the phrase has lost all meaning. When Sue Found Sue begins with a shy, studious kid who found a way to follow her interests as an adult. I prefer these authentic life stories because the whole reason to tell them is to show that great things start with passion and drive.
The illustrations hint at Sue’s love for the outdoors. Even when she is inside, there are trees and birds visible through the windows, and when she is outdoors she appears to be part of the great sweeping landscapes and underwater worlds. A double spread picture of the fossil brings to live the enormity of what Sue Hendrickson found.
A note at the back puts the story into context and discusses the ethical questions raised by the fossil’s ‘discovery’. My favourite quote says simply that, at one point, only Sue Hendrickson didn’t believe she owned Sue [the fossil]. Regardless of how other people behaved, Sue Hendrickson respected the world’s treasures.
A wonderful introduction to Sue’s story and the kind of book which makes readers want to get up and follow their own passion.
Thanks to Abrams Books for my gifted copy of When Sue Found Sue. Opinions my own.
Review: Little Guides To Great Lives (Anne Frank and Ferdinand Magellan)
Stories about inspirational lives are enjoying a moment of popularity. The outcome is we have beautiful books like the Little Guides To Great Lives series, and a format to suit every reader.
These books are a perfect size. Almost like a Ladybird Book, but a little wider. As a child, I was drawn to books in a small format, almost like there could be no doubt they were meant for me. They also fit nicely in small rucksacks and in the pockets on the back of a car seat, making them perfect for young readers on the go.
As well as introducing us to a person, the books set the context of that person’s time. This is especially important, and something which is too often missing from books about famous lives. The tone is just right for the target audience, something which is especially clear in the book about Anne Frank where the political background is explained without giving information which might frighten the target audience.
The book about Ferdinand Magellan (who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the world) begins with childhood too, making the subject more relatable to a young audience. Both books explain their subjects’ personalities and interests, the adversities they faced, the geography they saw and the people and objects which formed part of their day to day lives.
They give an overview of their subjects’ lives and not a word is out of place.
The design is exceptional, with textured covers and a limited range of colours in each book leading to a retro feel. The books would look wonderful together on a shelf and it would be easy to pick out one book from another.
The books are little gems, which would sit beautifully at the front of any bookcase.
Thanks to Laurence King Publishing for gifted copies of the books in this feature. Opinions my own.
Review: Work It, Girl Boss The Bestseller List Like J.K. Rowling and Work It Girl RunThe Show Like CEO Oprah Winfrey
Introducing a new series of biographies about modern women who have risen to the top of their game and demonstrated admirable qualities and mindsets.
These books do not cherry pick the best of their subjects’ lives. The title about J.K. Rowling (Referred to as Jom) speaks about how she didn’t always focus on her schoolwork, and how her attitude towards other jobs wasn’t always positive. The book then shows how with more positive approaches, Jo Rowling worked away at the thing she has always wanted to achieve until she found success. Books about successful people too often paint an unrealistic narrative. By understanding that they were up against the same human failings as the rest of us, it is easier to picture ourselves emulating their hard work and achievement.
This focus on mindset sets the books apart from other recent books about successful women.
Oprah’s life story focuses on rising above challenges and seeing opportunities even when they appear not to exist. Jo Rowling’s story looks at determination and single-mindedness and knowing that we can make things happen which seem impossible. If the biographies are correct, neither woman defined herself by her circumstances even when life appeared not to be working out.
The books follow the subjects’ lives in chronological order, in chapters which are two or three pages long. These short chapters make it easier to dip in and out of the books. They would be lovely additions to a classroom book corner because the chapters can be read in five or ten minutes bursts.
Inspirational quotes and captions are picked out and decorated so beautifully they could be made into posters. With the rise and rise of motivational quotes online, these books have found a format which is relevant and interesting to the latest generation of readers. This is the other thing which stands out about the series. It is right up to date and appealing to today’s young readers.
These attractive books challenge the reader to look at their own dreams with a different mindset. They are excellent additions to the canon of life stories about successful women.
Thanks to Quarto Children’s Books for gifting the books reviewed in this feature. Opinions my own.