CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004
This book has passed one of the most difficult of reviewers' tests. It was read and then set aside to accommodate not only a move and a vacation, but also the insanity that is the summer reading club at our library. Even with all these distractions, my thoughts kept coming back to the stories of the eight exciting and spirited women profiled in this very good collection of biographies, and I wanted to read it again.
All of the women were born before or just after the turn of the 20th century, and all have some connection to Canada. Kupecek gives some background to the period for today's readers (the target audience for this series is grade 7 and up) we are told that women living 100 years ago did not have the same opportunities as women today.
The range of experiences of the eight women in this book is truly amazing allowing this book to live up to its series title, "Amazing Stories." Nell Shipman's acting and producing exploits are followed by the story of Georgina Binnie-Clark's move from England to Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, where she became a single woman farming on the prairies. Binnie-Clark, a gentlewoman before she changed careers, wrote travel journals and books about her experiences.
Isobel Gunn, the "oldest" of the "Rebel Women" (1780-1861), came to Canada from Scotland disguised as a man in order to work alongside her lover. Caroline Fulham, a Calgary fixture, raised pigs downtown. She had a loud voice, an "outrageous vocabulary" and a habit of drinking with the boys. We also meet Georgia Englehard, a well-to-do mountain climber at a time when women in anything other than dresses or skirts was shocking. Katherine Stinson fought to become an aviator and barnstormed her way across western Canada. Then there's Mary Percy Jackson, who moved from England to take on the challenges of practising medicine in remote northern Alberta. Lastly, we meet Winnifred Eaton, a writer with a fascinating story who still claims a cult following today.
The writing in each of the stories is clear and fast paced, making this book an ideal read for reluctant readers. Kupecek clearly admires her subjects, and her enthusiastic tone keeps things exciting. She includes a bibliography for interested readers who want to learn more about these interesting women.
There are a few illustrations that range from photographs to reproductions of film posters. The black and white photographs tend to be grainy, and one assumes that this is more to do with the age of the photographs themselves than of the quality of print of the book, which is otherwise very good.
This title would make a good addition to classroom, school, and public library's biography collections.
Grace Sheppard is a Children's Librarian with the Ottawa Public Library in Ottawa, Ontario, when she is not training to be an aviator or a doctor in remote Northern Alberta.
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