I stumbled across the book Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World when I was having a mummy and daughter afternoon with Sofia. I snapped it up straight away and we had a look through over hot chocolate in our favourite cafe. I later noticed that the author’s name was Kate Pankhurst – a google search has confirmed that she is a distant relative of the leading Suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst.
The book tells the life stories of 13 incredible women from history, including the artist Frida Kahlo, the diarist Anne Frank and civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks. I knew most of the women featured but there were a couple I was less familiar with such as Marie Christine Chilver (a World War 2 secret agent) and Gertrude Ederle (the first woman to swim the English Channel aged 19).
Each person’s story is told over a double page spread. I really like how the text is in very child friendly bite sized chunks rather than long paragraphs. Each story is told in a really exciting and compelling way. My daughter is 8 and a keen reader. She found the language fairly easy to understand. There were a few words here and there that she needed some help with. I think this book would be appropriate for children of around 7 or 8 and above. Younger might find some of the concepts a bit too grown up for them (although it obviously is very variable what kids will understand at what age). I have looked through with my 4 year old twin boys and they liked the pictures but didn’t have a long enough concentration span to get through too much of the text! (sitting still doesn’t really come natural to them at the best of times).
The text of this book is mixed in with really colourful, gorgeous and quirky illustrations. Each person has a different feel to their pages. The Marie Curie pages are glowing green and fit in with the explanation of her discovery of radioactive elements and their uses. Amelia Earhart’s pages are set out like a map and tell the story of her being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Coco Channel’s pages are very stylish and monochrome with flashes of red.
The thing I especially love about this book is the conversations that it sparked off with my daughter. After reading the pages about Emmeline Pankhurst she wanted to understand how voting in our elections worked and we talked about how crazy it was that women were not allowed to vote. We also figured out how old Sofia would be when she first gets to vote in a UK general election.
The stories show how people did great things by following their dreams, persevering and daring to be different. I think it is helpful that it shows that you do great things through your own effort and ideas. There is a lovely page at the back of the book where each woman gives some little words of encouragement like Rosa Parks saying “Stand up for what you believe” and Mary Seacole saying “Anything is possible”.
I would massively recommend this book, it is a great buy for your daughters. It is designed to appeal to girls although I think boys would also find the information interesting too. Sexism is sadly still something that a lot of us have experienced and there were moments during the recent US presidential debate when sexist views were shouted from the rooftops. Against this back drop it was so wonderful to find a book proudly celebrating how utterly fantastic women are! Sofia and I thought this book was gorgeous, informative and inspiring. My daughter loves it and has gone back to it lots of times since we bought it. I had to retrieve it from under her pillow to write this review!
The final thought of the book asks the reader “How will you change the World?” It such a great thought to plant in the minds of our daughters!