Tag Archives: women

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. November 20, 2018. Doubleday Books, 226 p. ISBN: 9780385544238.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Domestic abuses

 

Book Trailer

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Ayoola is beautiful, charismatic, and popular, everything her long-suffering older sister, Korede, is not. Ayoola is also a killer, and Korede is growing used to literally cleaning up her messes when Ayoola ends her relationships with their father’s ceremonial knife. Korede’s life has few pleasures, but she looks forward to her nursing shifts at the hospital where she can be near the handsome Dr. Tade Otumu. Then Tade meets Ayoola and falls under her spell. Braithwaite’s debut is written in quick, economical chapters that brilliantly render the setting: the crowded streets of Lagos, St. Peter’s hospital, the languid heat on Korede and Ayoola’s family estate. This is a darkly, darkly funny novel—​for example, Ayoola invites Tade over to play Cluedo just weeks after the sisters were bleaching bathroom tiles and dumping a body in the river. It strips away the romanticism of the complicated sisterly relationship but perfectly illustrates its complicated contradictions: Korede cannot stand Ayoola, but she would do anything for her.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
From the hospital rooms and living spaces of Lagos, Nigeria, comes a dryly funny and wickedly crafty exercise in psychological suspense. Introverted, sensitive Korede is a nurse, a very good one from what we see of her at work. She feels such a connection with her patients that she finds herself taking a coma victim named Muhtar into her confidence. There’s one secret in particular that pours out of Korede like scalding liquid: Her flamboyantly beautiful younger sister, Ayoola, has this habit of killing the men she dates. (Three, so far.) She hasn’t been caught yet because Korede cleans up after her. They both disposed of the most recent victim, a poet named Femi, so efficiently that nobody in his family or with the police know his whereabouts. So that, as Korede is concerned, is that; except there’s this single good-looking doctor named Tade at the hospital where she works who has his eye on Ayoola—even though Korede has tried her best to win Tade’s attention. Now she tries to warn Tade that her sister’s relationships “tend to end, badly.” His response: “Oh…guys can be jerks.” (Yes, they certainly can.) As Tade and Ayoola begin their romance, Korede’s the one who has to answer questions about Femi’s disappearance, and, seemingly out of nowhere, Ayoola acquires yet another suitor named Gboyega, prompting both Korede and the reader to wonder which of these unwary gentlemen Ayoola will favor and what will happen to him. Generations of gothic mystery aficionados have attended these uneasy and insidious events before. But besides the setting, what makes Braithwaite’s first novel stand out from others in this genre is the unobtrusively sly approach she takes to the conventions of “black widow” storytelling and the appealing deadpan voice of the jittery yet world-weary Korede. Along the way, there are scattered glimpses of life in Lagos, most acidly when Korede deals with the routine corruption involved in a traffic stop. Even your most extravagant speculations about what’s really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.

About the Author

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo, a Nigerian publishing house, and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Her website is writeratworkng.com

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Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. September 4, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 330 p. ISBN: 9780062696724.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, this poignant novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tells the timely story of one girl who was taken from her home in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Includes an afterword by award-winning journalist Viviana Mazza.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Rape, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 8-12. The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped girls from the country’s villages in the early to mid-2010s and kept them captive as slaves or wives in the forest. Based on interviews with some of the girls who were taken, this story follows one such girl in a fictionalized account of real-life events. Never named, the narrator reveals her life leading up to her capture—one marked by relatable experiences, such as harboring crushes and watching movies with friends, and a bright future—which makes the abduction all the more heart-wrenching. Nwaubani uses short chapters, ranging from a few sentences to no more than two pages, to emphasize the youth and innocence of the narrator and the terrible acts she and the other kidnapped girls must endure. It is, unsurprisingly, a difficult read that elicits great sympathy and horror, but it is a necessary story to educate readers on what can happen in the world. Nwaubani’s novel is an excellent choice for classroom reading and for those who don’t wish to turn a blind eye to injustice. A substantial afterword by journalist Viviana Mazza shares actual stories of some of the victims, along with more detailed information on the Boko Haram kidnappings. Poignant and powerful, this is a story that will be hard for any reader to forget.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2018)
The unnamed young Nigerian narrator of this novel, with a loving family and academic aspirations, is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with many other girls and women from her village. On the day the terrorists came and destroyed her village, they murdered her father and brothers, sparing only the one brother young enough to be taught their way of life. The story chronicles her cheerful, promising life before her abduction as well as the suffering and abuse she endures after being forced to part with her dreams of getting a university scholarship, becoming a teacher, and having her own family. It traverses the girl’s life from dutiful Christian daughter and loyal friend to becoming a slave under her kidnappers’ radical rule—and pays tribute to the fortitude and grace it takes to not only survive such an ordeal, but to escape it. Nigerian author Nwaubani (I Do Not Come to You by Chance, 2009, etc.) smoothly pulls readers into this narrative. Her words paint beautiful portraits of the joy, hope, and traditions experienced by this girl, her friends, and family with the same masterful strokes as the ones depicting the dreadful agony, loss, and grief they endure. A heavy but necessary story based on the horrendous 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 Chibok girls, described in an afterword by Italian journalist Mazza. A worthy piece of work that superbly and empathetically tells a heartbreaking tale. (afterword, references, resources) (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a Nigerian writer and journalist. The author of the award-winning novel I Do Not Come to You by Chance, Adaobi has had her writing featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the New Yorker.

Her website is www.adaobitricia.com

Teacher Resources

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Common Sense Media

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Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Amazon

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Barnes and Noble

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Goodreads

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree Publisher Page

Taking Cover by Nioucha Homayoomfar

Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up during the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homeyoomfar. January 1, 2019. National Geographic Society, 160 p. ISBN: 9781426333675.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the true story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran’s history.

When five-year-old Nioucha Homayoonfar moves from the U.S. to Iran in 1979, its open society means a life with dancing, women’s rights, and other freedoms. But soon the revolution erupts and the rules of life in Iran change. Religion classes become mandatory. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Opinions at school are not welcome. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in the midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who wants to play with her friends, please her parents, listen to pop music, and, eventually, have a boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new culture? Can she break the rules without consequences? Nioucha’s story sheds light on the timely conversation about religious, political, and social freedom, publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Use of the word “whore”

 

About the Author

An international citizen from a young age, Nioucha Homayoonfar was born in Brussels to an Iranian father and French mother, spent her earliest years in Pittsburgh, and became a teenager in Tehran. Homayoonfar grew up caught between two worlds: a free and Western life lived indoors, and a repressive life lived outside the confines of the family home. The family finally left Iran when Nioucha was nearly 17 years old. In the U.S., she studied art history and Spanish at the University of Pittsburgh. She now lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, author and journalist Stew Magnuson, and their two children.

Around the Web

Taking Cover on Amazon

Taking Cover on Barnes and Noble

Taking Cover on Goodreads

Taking Cover Publisher Page

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson. October 23, 2018. Simon Schuster, 336 p. ISBN: 9781501194368.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

Evelyn set aside her career to marry, late, and motherhood never became her. Her daughter Laura felt this acutely and wants desperately to marry, but she soon discovers her husband Gabe to be a man who expects too much of everyone in his life, especially his musician son. Grace has moved out from Laura and Gabe’s house, but can’t seem to live up to her potential—whatever that might be.

In A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Evelyn, Laura, and Grace are the glue that binds their family together. Tethered to their small Midwestern town—by choice or chance—Jean Thompson seamlessly weaves together the stories of the Wise women with humanity and elegance, through their heartbreaks, setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
With low-key yet piercing humor, caustic observations balanced with compassion, and entrancing storytelling mojo, Thompson (She Poured Out Her Heart​, 2016) masterfully uncovers the contrary emotions surging beneath the flat, orderly landscapes and tidy homes of the Midwest. Grace, the youngest of three narrators who propel this college-town tale of duty and regret, muses on her “legacy of unhappy women,” and she doesn’t know the half of it. Both her grandmother, Evelyn, who is dying, and Grace’s mother, Laura, have kept secrets about why they married men they did not love. As conflicts escalate among Laura; her angry, hard-drinking husband; and their drug-addicted musician son, Grace works in a health-food store and tries to be helpful while keeping her distance. As storms, gardens, and trees punctuate and embody the richly reverberating family drama Thompson so astutely orchestrates, she unflinchingly examines desire and resignation, death and inheritance, while tracing women’s generational struggles for genuine independence. As Evelyn tells Grace approvingly, “You’re not the suffering type.” Like those of Jane Hamilton and Antonya Nelson, Thompson’s embracing domestic novel invites reflection and discussion.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Thompson (She Poured out Her Heart, 2016, etc.) constructs her latest novel around the parallel themes and variations in the unhappy lives of three generations of women in an unnamed Midwestern college town. Pillar-of-the-community Evelyn, her frazzled, overstretched daughter, Laura, and Laura’s independent-minded daughter, Grace, appear to have little in common, but when scrutinized in separate sections, their lives follow an alarmingly similar pattern of deferring dreams for disappointing men. As a young woman, Evelyn has serious academic ambitions and is working toward a Ph.D. when World War II ends. Then she falls into a love affair with Rusty, a veteran who’s attending college on the GI Bill but has no interest in academia. He’s left town to return to farming before Evelyn realizes she’s pregnant. In desperation she quickly manipulates straight-laced and clueless Andrew, a smitten law professor, into marrying her. Ironically, she miscarries. She considers leaving Andrew but doesn’t, for reasons left unexplained. Instead, she commits to her marriage and eventual children but never quite overcomes her unrealized academic aspirations. Laura, who considers Evelyn “detached,” lacks her mother’s career ambitions and is perhaps too attached. She loves her computer-whiz husband, Gabe, but early in their marriage, his off-putting behavior alienates her friends. In her loneliness, she carries on a short, passionate affair with her brother’s former high school friend Bob, a car mechanic. Grace is the result. As Laura trudges on in her marriage, she carries the weight of care for the dying Evelyn, increasingly alcoholic Gabe, and Grace’s younger brother, Michael, a talented musician with addiction issues. By the time family crises turn tragic, Grace has not yet defined her career or romantic ambitions. She falls into an affair with an inappropriate man who, unlike Bob or Rusty, is genuinely creepy; fortunately, 25-year-old Grace avoids pregnancy. She also stumbles upon family secrets and begins to imagine a future with possibilities. Thompson, who wrote movingly about another Midwestern family in The Year We left Home (2011), here creates a plot and characters that feel more diagrammed than lived.

About the Author

Jean Thompson is a novelist and short story writer. Her works include the novels A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, She Poured Out Her Heart, The Humanity Project, The Year We Left Home, City Boy, Wide Blue Yonder, The Woman Driver, and My Wisdom and the short story collections The Witch and Other Tales ReTold, Do Not Deny Me, Throw Like a Girl, Who Do You Love (a National Book Award finalist), Little Face and Other Stories, and The Gasoline Wars. 

Thompson’s short fiction has been published in many magazines and journals, including the New Yorker, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Thompson has been the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, among other accolades, and has taught creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, Northwestern University, and other colleges and universities.

She lives in Urbana, Illinois. Her website is www.jeanthompsononline.com/

Around the Web

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl on Amazon

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl on Barnes and Noble

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl on Goodreads

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl Publisher Page

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad. July 24, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780316477000.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad smashed barriers as the first American to compete wearing hijab, and made history as the first Muslim-American woman to medal. But it wasn’t an easy road–in a sport most popular among wealthy white people, Ibtihaj often felt out of place. Ibtihaj was fast, hardworking, and devoted to her faith, but rivals and teammates (as well as coaches and officials) pointed out her differences, insisting she would never succeed. Yet Ibtihaj powered on. Her inspiring journey from a young outsider to an Olympic hero is a relatable, memorable, and uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and self-reliance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Author Video

Short Biography via ESPN

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 6-12. “Black but Muslim. Muslim but American. A hijab-wearing athlete.” Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic medalist in fencing and the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in international competition, explores identity, her path to the 2016 Olympics, and their intersection in this eye-opening memoir adapted for young readers. Muhammad was always competitive, especially when it came to sports. Wearing a hijab and coming from a large family, she realized that fencing allowed her an easier way to maintain her faith than in other sports and work toward a scholarship for college. And it turned out she was excellent! More difficult than the rigorous physical and mental training, however, was trying to fit into a predominantly white, male sport. Muhammad describes her struggles with classmates, teammates, referees, and even the public at large, who only saw her as an outsider. She also relates how finding a community of fencers of color, supportive family and trainers, perseverance, and, above all, her faith helped her overcome adversity. As she succeeded and gained media attention, she recognized that she could be a role model for other young women, young Muslims, and young people of color. Indeed, Muhammad’s story is an inspiring one that will encourage readers to question what it means to be American.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Muhammad, Olympic medalist for the U.S. fencing team, presents a memoir emphasizing the role of sports in her life. Muhammad, a black, Muslim American who grew up in New Jersey, was raised by loving, supportive parents in a stable home. Her parents had many expectations of her and her siblings, one of which was that they would always participate in a sport. Some readers know the general story of how Muhammad finally picked and stayed with fencing—a sport in which she could wear the team uniform without compromising the modest attire required of her faith—but there are surprises in the details. Muhammad’s experiences in schools, in sports, in social situations, and in national and international competitions include moments of joy and exhilaration as well as many periods of isolation and self-doubt. The honesty in her writing makes it easy to connect with her journey, so that even readers who are not interested in the details of fencing will want to keep going to see how she made it all the way. Her dedication is impressive, and the many other people populating the pages of her memoir create a portrait of what it takes to make a champion. Readers who are already fans of Muhammad will love her even more, and all readers will gain much inspiration from this heartfelt memoir of a true American hero. Like Muhammad herself, this book is a timely gift to us all. (glossary, interview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Ibtihaj is a 3-time All American from Duke University, with a dual degree in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring affordable modest fashion to the United States market.

Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list, Ibtihaj is an important figure in a larger global discussion on equality and the importance of sport. Her voice continues to unite both the sports and non-sports world

Her website is www.ibtihajmuhammad.com/

Around the Web

Proud on Amazon

Proud on Barnes and Noble

Proud on Goodreads

Proud Publisher Page

Camino a las Estrellas by Sylvia Acevedo

Camino a las estrellas: mi recorrido de Girl Scout a ingeniera astronáutica (Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist) by Sylvia Acevedo. September 4, 2018. Clarion Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781328534811.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The inspiring memoir for young readers about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by joining the Girl Scouts and who currently serves as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.

With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Spanish translation of Path to the Stars.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racial insensitivity, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Acevedo debuts with an inspirational autobiography detailing how she bucked expectations while growing up in 1960s New Mexico. Though born in faraway South Dakota, where her father was completing his service in the U.S. Army, Sylvia grew up in the southern New Mexico town of Las Cruces. Growing up in a tightknit community of extended family, church family, and fellow Mexican-Americans, Sylvia soon discovered that her interests did not align with many of her peers’. While the cultural expectation for young women, especially Mexican-American women, was to marry and stay home to raise a family, Sylvia longed for adventures. She found a community and home away from home with the like-minded girls within her Girl Scout troop. The skills she acquired selling cookies and earning badges gave her confidence and self-efficacy as she moved through school taking honors courses, refusing home ec, playing drums in the band, and ultimately pursuing higher education in engineering. Acevedo’s narration is frequently repetitive, and she breezes past the many instances of racism and sexism she experienced both within and outside of her home in a matter-of-fact tone. All’s well that ends well, she seems to say. Though the redundancies cause hiccups in the narrative flow, and at times it feels like a long-form advertisement for Scouting, those seeking stories of female STEM trailblazers will find much to love here. Encouraging and uplifting. (Memoir. 8-12)

School Library Journal (September 1, 2018)
Gr 5 Up-A gem of an autobiography. As a girl growing up in New Mexico in the 1950’s, Acevedo recognized and confronted bias in many forms. She fought against the notions that girls should only become wives and mothers, and she strived to be a success in all aspects in her life: a focused student, a successful Girl Scout, a talented musician, and, above all, a young woman who never believed that her future was already written by someone else. Particularly touching is Acevedo’s recollection of her mother’s determination and dedication to her family: she acted as an advocate for her daughter’s success even as she and Sylvia faced domestic abuse. The text is accessible, and the story of Acevedo’s life touches upon a number of salient points for readers including racism, gender roles, and educational inequality. The importance of the Girl Scouts and of always being prepared resonates throughout. The author’s experiences working as a rocket scientist are fascinating, though these recollections come at the very end of the book.

About the Author

Sylvia Acevedo is a rocket scientist and award-winning entrepreneur who served on the White House Commission for Educational Excellence for Hispanics and is currently the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the US.

Her website is sylviaacevedo.org

Around the Web

Camino a las Estrellas on Amazon

Camino a las Estrellas on Barnes & Noble

Camino a las Estrellas on Goodreads

Camino a las Estrellas Publisher Page

Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu. March 6, 2018. First Second, 304 p. ISBN: 9781626728684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Step aside Susan B. Anthony and Joan of Arc! French graphic novelist Bagieu’s (California Dreamin’, 2017) latest turns standard feminist anthology fare on its head, introducing 29 lesser-known ladies of various backgrounds, time periods, skin colors, and sexualities. Kicking off with Clémentine Delait, a beloved bearded lady in early twentieth-century France, and concluding with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, Bagieu’s vivacious collection spotlights rebels such as Las Mariposas (revolutionary sisters!), Sonita Alizadeh (Afghan rapper!), and Nobel Peace Prize–winning Leymah Gbowee (Liberian activist!) along the way. Bagieu’s writing is clever and concise, and panels brim with sly subtleties; Bagieu delivers laugh-out-loud one-liners in bitsy speech bubbles, and summons tragedy with no words at all, and her fine-lined figures are by turns playfully expressive, fierce, and reverent. Additionally, each profile employs its own distinct color palette; Bagieu’s segment on Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, for example, heavily features the bold blues, greens, yellows, and reds of Jansson’s signature Moomin comics. Bagieu’s dedication to Syrian activist Naziq al-Abid folds in the colors of the country’s flag. This dynamic paean to women’s flair for fearless resistance will have readers happily sifting through history—and tackling the future with renewed verve. Rock on, ladies.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2018)
This French graphic novel offers a satisfying collection of minibiographies about bold women—some contemporary, others from centuries ago—who overcame fearsome odds to achieve a variety of goals, becoming the first black woman in space, a rapper in Afghanistan, a pioneering volcanologist, and more.The lives of 33 women of varying geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds are highlighted in about 10 pages each of colorful, expressive, and often humorous cartoon panels—enough to serve as a catalyst for learning more. Some names are relatively recognizable, such as Temple Grandin and Nellie Bly, while others may be less so, such as Las Mariposas, Dominican sisters who became revolutionaries and human rights activists; Naziq al-Abid, a Syrian humanitarian and feminist; Agnodice, a fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian who disguised herself as a man in order to practice gynecology; and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian social worker who escaped an abusive marriage and assisted other female survivors of violence. Bagieu delivers a pièce de résistance that succinctly summarizes the obstacles and victories of these daring women. Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today have been shared—and overcome—by many others. (Graphic collective biography. 14-18)

About the Author

Pénélope Bagieu, (born 22 January 1982 Paris), is a French illustrator and comic designer.

Pénélope Bagieu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social studies, she spent a year at ESAT Paris, then at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris and then at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Multimedia and entertainment, where she graduated in December 2006.

Her website is www.penelope-jolicoeur.com.

Around the Web

Brazen on Amazon

Brazen on Goodreads

Brazen Publisher Page

Rising Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman

Rise Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman. February 20, 2018. Philomel Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9780399547478.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 1070.

Behold the power of women! These are the inspirational real-life stories of female superstar athletes Serena and Venus Williams, Simone Biles, Carli Lloyd, and more — role models all. For sports fans, aspiring athletes and readers of sports biographies. 

Growing up in a crime-plagued, gang-infested neighborhood, Venus and Serena Williams were led to believe their environment was not a place where dreams could come true. It took a relentless determination, a burning desire to be the best, and a willingness to conquer racial barriers for them to emerge as tennis legends. Simone Biles was raised by a single mother with addiction issues, forcing her grandparents to intervene. But Simone soon discovered balance beams and gymnastics mats, setting her on a path toward Olympic greatness. Carli Lloyd, meanwhile, believed her youth soccer career was really starting to take off, only to be cut from her team. Instead of quitting the sport she loved, Carli rebuilt her confidence from the ground up, ultimately becoming one of the leaders on the World Cup Champion US Women’s Soccer team.

The athletes featured in this book met earth-shaking challenges head on, and through hard work and perseverance, went on to conquer the sports world. This collection of mini biographies, complete with first-hand content drawn from interviews, is a source of inspiration and self-empowerment for kids and sports fans of all ages.

Also included in the book: Wilma Rudolph (track and field), Mo’ne Davis (Little League baseball), Swin Cash (basketball), Elena Delle Donne (basketball), Bethany Hamilton (surfing), Ronda Rousey (mixed martial arts), and Kerri Strug (gymnastics).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Drugs, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 3-7. In this companion to Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars (2016), the authors turn their attention to 11 more athletes, this time all woman, who also rose above adversity to become standouts in their fields. With the exception of Wilma Rudolph, the featured women are current or recent stars. Numerous quotes from interviews and primary sources lend a conversational tone to the quick, easy-to-read profiles. As students read about Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who was raised by loving grandparents after her addict mother lost custody; Grand Slam tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams, who learned to play amid gunshots in their rough Los Angeles neighborhood; and pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm at age 13 to a shark attack, they’ll discover that even stars have suffered from gender inequality, poverty, racism, body shaming, bulimia, bullying, self-doubt, and other relatable problems. What will inspire athletes of any ability or gender is how these women turned to help when needed and learned to accept themselves inside and out.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A reader does not have to be a sports fan to be inspired by these compelling minibiographies of athletes who conquered considerable adversities to realize great achievements.Neglected by a single mother with alcohol and drug addictions, Simone Biles went to live with her grandparents and discovered balance beams and gymnastics mats, which set her on the path to Olympic glory. Serena and Venus Williams overcame racial barriers to become tennis legends. Elena Delle Donne battled Lyme disease while working to become a star WNBA player. Bethany Hamilton continued her career as a professional surfer after losing her left arm in a shark attack. The Zuckermans close with the dramatic story of gymnast Kerri Strug, who, despite a severe injury, executed a gold medal–winning performance in the 1996 Olympics that made her a national sports hero. Other athletes profiled include Mo’ne Davis, Carli Lloyd, Wilma Rudolph, Ronda Rousey, and Swin Cash. Whether it was racism, humiliation for their unique body types, or serious medical issues, all the athletes profiled overcame their imposing obstacles through fierce determination and, the Zuckermans are careful to note, with the help of coaches, counselors, mentors, and therapists. They all refused to blame others for their difficulties and accepted responsibility for their successes and setbacks, a lesson that is delivered firmly and naturally. An inspiring, empowering collection of true stories of perseverance and resolve. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Gregory Zuckerman is a senior writer at the Wall Street Journal, where he has been a reporter for twelve years. He pens the widely read “Heard on the Street” column and writes about hedge funds, investing, and other Wall Street topics. He is a two-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for coverage of the credit crisis, the demise of WorldCom, and the collapse of hedge fund Amaranth Advisors.

His website is www.gregoryzuckerman.com.

Around the Web

Rising Above on Amazon

Rising Above on Goodreads

Rising Above Publisher Page

Notorious RGB Young Reader’s Edition by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Cameron & Shana Knizhnik. November 28, 2017. HarperCollins, 208 p. ISBN: 9780062748539.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 1030.

The New York Times bestselling biography Notorious RBG—whose concept originated with a Tumblr page of the same name—is now available in a vibrant, full-color young readers’ edition.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon to millions. Her tireless fight for equality and women’s rights has inspired not only great strides in the workforce but has impacted the law of the land. And now, perfect for a younger generation, comes an accessible biography of this fierce woman, detailing her searing dissents and powerful jurisprudence.

This entertaining and insightful young readers’ edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A tribute to the indefatigable Supreme Court justice—the only member of that esteemed bench ever to become a meme.Admiringly observing that “you don’t want to mess with her,” the authors open with Ginsburg’s devastating dissent following the court’s 2013 “gutting” of the Voting Rights Act, then look back over her childhood, education, and stellar legal career. This last is done with particular reference to the obstacles she had to overcome as a woman in the profession and to her work promoting women’s rights. The authors cast bright sidelights on her close relationships with her husband and with her great frenemy, Antonin Scalia, as well as on her legendary work habits and exercise routines. They also point to significant influences (notably African-American civil rights attorney Pauli Murray) as they describe how she became not just an inspirational figure, but a pop-culture icon. Collages of fans in RBG Halloween costume, of editorial cartoons, and even of needlepoint projects are interspersed with more-conventional photos of Ginsburg at various ages, images of documents and doodles, and inset featurettes with titles such as “The Jabot,” and “How to Be Like RBG.” This shaved-down version of the adult title shows signs of hasty preparation, from uncaptioned and misplaced photos to a partial list of “Things Women Couldn’t Do in the 1930s and 1940s” that includes “Become an astronaut.” It also ends abruptly with a generic 2017 quote (presumably) in response to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the court. Still, the prose is as trim and lively as its subject, and it makes a solid case for regarding the titular moniker, initially a joke, as truly just. A bit patchy productionwise, but vivacious and well-argued. (timeline, glossary, source list, index) (Biography. 10-14)

School Library Journal Xpress (February 1, 2018)
Gr 5-8-A tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that does more than catalog her achievements; it conveys her spirit, one that will leave readers in awe. Widely viewed as a champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg is quick to correct that she battles for “women’s and men’s liberation,” as best illustrated in the case of Stephen Wiesenfeld, who was prevented from collecting his dead wife’s social security due to his gender. Ginsburg accepted the case to argue that equality under the law benefits both sexes, and shrewdly, to set a precedent. Not only are her professional triumphs lauded, and our justice system explained, the authors do an excellent job of rounding out her rich life: wife in an egalitarian marriage, mother, and close friends with her polar opposite on the bench, Justice Scalia. The one misstep is the clumsy handling of the justice’s cancer, introduced as “her struggle.” Young readers may need more clarification. However, the book’s strengths far overshadow this stumble. This version shares the same knockout formatting as the adult edition: a plethora of photographs and images leaving nary a page unadorned, and slim informational inserts, such as “How to be like RBG” and “RBG’s workout,” that lend this serious subject a lighthearted tone. VERDICT Just as Ginsburg’s (sometimes) frilly jabot belies the quiet revolutionary, this lively biography of this esteemed justice whose influence straddles two centuries is to be taken seriously. Highly recommended.-Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

About the Authors

Irin Carmon is an Israeli-American journalist and commentator. She is a national reporter at MSNBC, covering women, politics, and culture for the website and on air. She is a Visiting Fellow in the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School.

In 2011, she was named one of Forbes‘ “30 under 30” in media and featured in New York Magazine as a face of young feminism. She received the November 2011 Sidney award from The Sidney Hillman Foundation recognizing her reporting on the Mississippi Personhood Initiative for Salon. Mediaite named her among four in its award for Best TV pundit of 2014.

Her website is irincarmon.com

Shana Knizhnik is a civil rights attorney. While a student at NYU law school, she created the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr, a feminist website dedicated to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her lifelong fight for equality and social justice.

 

Around the Web

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition on Amazon

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition on Goodreads

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition Publisher Page

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. January 1, 2018. Groundwood Books, 80 p. ISBN: 9781773061634.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3.

This beautiful graphic-novel adaptation of The Breadwinner animated film tells the story of eleven-year-old Parvana who must disguise herself as a boy to support her family during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for having forbidden books, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

Readers will want to linger over this powerful graphic novel with its striking art and inspiring story.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Misogyny

 

Movie/Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A graphic-novel adaptation of Ellis’ heartwarming story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan who cuts her hair and dresses as a boy to earn money for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban.Adding a layer of remove from the original, this graphic novel is an adaptation of the upcoming film version, and it varies significantly from the original book. Notable deviations include the absence of helpful Mrs. Weera, who provides so much support to Parvana and her family in the original book, and two new details: a grudging former student who tattles on Parvana’s father and Parvana’s solo visit to rescue her imprisoned father. Much story is lost as a result of the numerous deviations, which also sadly promote Western views of Afghanistan, such as rampant corruption and violent men. Even as a stand-alone title for readers not familiar with the book, the storyline is bumpy, moving in fits and starts. At one point, Parvana’s mother decides to abandon Parvana and leave for the neighboring village but then changes her mind midway. Another disappointment is the book cover, which shows Parvana selling chai, something she does not do in either story (although her friend does). The only redeeming factor is the beautiful artwork, stills from the film, with its vivid use of colors to display context, such as use of red for war and black for the Taliban rule. A rather unsatisfying graphic novel, sure to disappoint fans of Ellis’ book. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Deborah Ellis has achieved international acclaim with her courageous and dramatic books that give Western readers a glimpse into the plight of children in developing countries.

She has won the Governor General’s Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California’s Middle East Book Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award.

A long-time feminist and anti-war activist, she is best known for The Breadwinner Trilogy, which has been published around the world in seventeen languages, with more than a million dollars in royalties donated to Street Kids International and to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan. In 2006, Deb was named to the Order of Ontario.

Her website is www.deborahellis.com

Around the Web

The Breadwinner on Amazon

The Breadwinner on Goodreads

The Breadwinner Publisher Page