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March 2022 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Here’s another brilliantly presented and engaging book from Kate Pankhurst. Typically accessible and readable, Fantastically Great Women Artists introduces eight inspiring women artists plus one culture-changing female collector (Peggy Guggenheim). They lived at different times and came from different countries and backgrounds, but all these women were talented and ready to stand up to those who told them they shouldn’t or couldn’t be artists. Young readers may have come across Frida Kahlo, one of the greats included, but are much less likely to have heard of Amrita Sher-Gil, Elisabeth Le Brun, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Faith Ringgold, Kathe Kollwitz or Dame Laura Knight. Pankhurst tells their stories through lively text, fully integrated with illustrations which carry even more information and insight, so that readers get a very vivid sense both of the lives of these women and of the art they produced or, in Guggenheim’s case, promoted. We understand the worlds they lived in, just how much hostility they faced, and why it mattered to them to create the work they did. This is so much more than a book about the women featured, it’s about history and art and women’s rights – everyone should buy a copy.
This eye-catching book is a compendium of inspiring women who dared to stand up for what mattered to them and to do things that those around them said they shouldn’t or couldn’t. In words and pictures - equally lively and informative – Kate Pankhurst tells fifty true-life stories of artists, writers, doctors, scientists, champions and campaigners. To put them in chronological order (and a handy timeline at the end does just that), she features great women from Hatshepsut, Egyptian Pharoah in 1479 BCE, to NASA scientist Katherine Johnson, who died just last year. Each has a double page to themselves, cleverly laid out to be visually appealing while delivering large amounts of information. Bringing together Pankhurst’s individual volumes but adding new faces too, this is a must read for every young person, and will fascinate their parents too.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Animal lover, Suffragette, favourite of Queen Victoria, lifelong campaigner – Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was a truly remarkable person and Bali Rai brings her wonderfully to life in this short, but action-packed biography. He writes it in Sophia’s voice as first-person narrative and readers will absolutely feel they are there in the different moments described and will fully understand Sophia’s sense of being caught halfway between two words – the British aristocracy and her Indian homeland. Everyone should know her story and I’d press this into the hands of all young people to inspire them with the sense that you can make a difference to the world, and to let them see through the eyes of this extraordinary woman. Published by Dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke, this is super-readable to all.
Written and illustrated with infectious verve, Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories puts paid to any notion that women’s role in science has been peripheral. In fact, despite huge impediments, and thanks to their intellect and tenacity, this inspiring book shows how women have been at the heart of many major discoveries - from finding the cure for malaria, to spearheading revolutionary DNA research, to making monumental advances in the fields of volcanology, astronomy, botany and chemistry (and more). Through an engaging blend of text, comic strips, fact boxes and diagrams, the book explores eight life-changing scientific innovators in detail. The fact that most of the scientists aren’t household names tells you everything you need to know about the importance of this book - these are innovators whose names should be known. Take Tu Youyou, for example, the Chinese chemist who spent months on a remote island researching traditional medicines in order to discover a cure for malaria, testing potentially dangerous preparations on herself - and all this against the precarious backdrop of the Cultural Revolution that saw her separated from her family and sworn to secrecy. Then there’s out-of-this-world Mae Jemison, an astoundingly multi-talented woman who grew up watching the first space missions during the Civil Rights Movement and went on to become the first African-American woman astronaut in 1992. Informative, inspiring and presented with passion and clarity, this is children’s non-fiction at its finest.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A mysterious and deeply touching story woven through with serious themes, The Shark Caller is packed-full of adventure, old magic and, above all, friendship. Vividly set in Papua New Guinea with its landscape of sea, sun and beach it gives a glimpse into a way of life dominated by the natural environment. Blue Wing lives in a hut on a sandy beach. She has little formal learning but she knows the ways of the sea and, because she lives with the local shark caller, the ways of the sharks which swim off shore in particular. When a plane arrives with visitors, an American academic purporting to investigating coral in the region and his daughter Maple, Blue Wing’s life is turned upside down. Initially full of hostility towards each other, the two girls quickly discover that they are as alike inside as their lives are different outside. Forging a strong friendship they unravel the mystery of what Maple’s father is really looking for and, in doing so, help Blue Wing uncover her own mystery. A gripping and inspiring read.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough. Find out more about the YA Book Prize including all the shortlisted titles.
Ada Lovelace: Rebel. Genius. Visionary | At once a passionate portrait of a scientifically seminal young woman, and a fascinating account of the lives of well-to-women in the early 19th-century, I Ada lays bare the many faces of Ada Lovelace. Ada the inquisitive. Ada the adventuress. Ada the visionary genius who defied convention to become the world’s first computer programmer, the seeds of which are sown in this portrayal of her early life. Driven by drama and a spirit of affection, this is as lively as it is informative. Fathered by flamboyant, notorious Lord Byron, it’s perhaps no wonder how easily Ada slips “into the unbordered realms of the imagination” as a child living on her grandparents’ country estate. Ada thinks of him often, and wonders why her mother speaks little of him. But then, Ada’s relationship with her strict, distant mother is often strained. Ada’s flighty tendencies jar with Lady Byron’s more rigid intellectual outlook. But they’re both inspired by their Grand Tour of Europe - Lady Byron seizes an opportunity to research ideas for her progressive school, while Ada’s mind is opened to a world of possibilities. Back in England, Ada’s desires are constrained by societal conventions, though female thinkers and mathematicians are among her circle, and then she meets a revolutionary inventor whose work chimes with her own innovative scientific ideas…
“It was October 1917 when my life truly changed.” So begins this heartfelt true story of unsung heroines and family life during WWI. Though the war was horrific and “the future…looked bleak for most of us” narrator Hettie notes that for girls and women, “in many ways, it was the making of us. For us, it was a new beginning.” Indeed, it kicked-off the ground-breaking events recounted in this top of the league tale, which itself kicks-off a series. Hettie is a self-professed “gangly fifteen-year-old with frizzy hair and barely a sensible thought in my head”. Her slightly older brother (“lovely, gentle Freddie”) has already gone to war, and now it’s her turn to do her bit working in the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory. Hettie’s apprehension as she starts work is palpable, as are the details of factory life - the roar and hiss of the machines, the dangers, the banter. In its presentation of social history Kicking Off is brilliantly evocative, and it packs hearty punch as a personal story too. After a tough start at work, Hettie perks up when her colleagues talk of forming a ladies’ football team, though her dad’s gruff warning rings loud in her ears (“Don’t you keep playing that game, Hettie. It’s unladylike. It’s unfitting”). But her new friend Grace is a determined, inspiring ally and, soon enough, “the start of something wonderful happens” when a match against the men’s team is arranged. The story’s a game of two halves, though, with plenty of twists, turns and metaphoric goalmouth scrambles as the pioneering young women persist in establishing their right to play. Female friendship and tenacity. Family love and conflict. Wartime realities that stir social revolutions - what a pitch-perfect story this, and told in a clear, readable style that could hook reluctant readers.
‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
Become a leader like | Not only does this lively, smartly designed book tell readers lots about Michelle Obama’s story, it also conveys brilliantly her attitude to life and work, making it thoroughly inspiring reading. Beginning with a description of her schooldays, it lists the family members, people and events that shaped her early life, and the path that led to her becoming a top lawyer and influential First Lady of the United States. Her story reinforces her message that you can do whatever you want if you’re determined, focussed and confident in who you are and what you believe. A fascinating book with something to say to all readers.
October 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.