Rad Women: 4 Books for book club

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Rad American Women A to Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History … and Our Future!
by Kate Schatz
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Ohhh my book club hated on this book so much. Mostly on the art – all the women were portrayed horrendously – but also on the writing. They thought the typeface was hard to read and the text levels were all over the place from sentence to sentence. (One book clubber just doesn’t like alphabet books in general because they are too limiting, but I digress.) I didn’t hate it quite as much as they did, and actually thought they did a great job including women who made strides in a wide variety of fields. I could have used just a few more facts, like, I don’t know, birth and death dates. I guess you could say I have a thing about context.

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Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl Reporter” Nellie Bly
by Deborah Noyes
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

The book club liked this one much better, though on the whole we found the one-page sidebars mid-chapter distracting. Maybe that’s a generational thing, though, and would keep the attention of the ADD generation? Overall, Nellie’s story is engaging and satisfying, especially the part where she gets committed to the insane asylum and manages to expose the horrific treatment of inmates there.

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Elizabeth Started All the Trouble
by Doreen Rappaport
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

We liked this one a lot too, especially the illustrations. The perspectives were used to great effect (men towering over women, comically large and small to emphasize the power disparity) and the scenes were just very detailed but would still make a great read-aloud – especially, we agreed, at the beginning of a biography unit, to give kids a little bit of information about a lot of women to whet their appetites.

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Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted a Million Trees
by Franck Prevot
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Book club also contains an artist who is able to give us her professional opinion of the art in the books we choose. After listening to my colleagues go on about how much they loved the illustrations, I asked them to say specifically why (because I didn’t care for them myself). Maura obliged and quietly instructed me in the finer points of African art themes. I remain unconvinced, especially since Wangari Maathai is suddenly all over the children’s picture book biography market, but the book clubbers seemed to think this was the best one.

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