________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006

Remarkable Women Writers. (The Women’s Hall of Fame Series).

Heather Ball.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2006.
120 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 1-897187-08-4.

Subject Heading:
Women authors-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4



Many readers wonder about the lives of the authors of the books that they read. Heather Ball, author of Remarkable Women Writers, states that both as a young reader and a prospective writer, she has always been interested in the lives of the people who wrote the books that she read. She wondered, "What compelled them to write?"

Sometimes, a writer's ideas come from her own experiences. She writes about her family, friends, her home, and how she feels about things that go on around her . . . Sometimes, a writer wants to protest an injustice or express a strong opinion. . . And then sometimes, a writer is compelled to write suddenly, as if she's received a gift.


Certainly, the women profiled in this collection wrote for very different reasons. Ball has selected 10 remarkable women writers whose lives and works range over 200 years: Jane Austen, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Toni Morrison, Joy Kogawa, Judy Blume, Margaret Atwood, and J. K. Rowling. Three are British, four are Americans, and three are Canadians, and all faced a variety of challenges - personal, social, and professional - as they pursued their goals and dreams. Each ten-page chapter features a black and white portrait of the writer, followed by a description of her life and career. Black and white photos are provided for late nineteenth-century and twentieth century writers, and each chapter contains interesting little sidebars. For example, readers of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables novels, remembering Anne's insistence that her name be spelled with an "e", will understand Lucy Maud's insistence on being called "Maud" without an "e" (and never, "Lucy.")

     Mindful of her readers' age and experience, Ball provides some necessary historical context for writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, giving her readers a sense of just how society has changed. Young women of the twenty-first century might find it hard to believe that "women didn't often have careers" when Harriet Beecher Stowe was a young woman, or that Mary Ann Evans (better known as George Eliot) and her partner, Henry Lewes, who lived together for years without being married, endured all manner of gossip, criticism, and shunning, because at the time, people considered such a relationship to be "extremely scandalous."

      Remarkable Women Writers will be a useful addition to middle school biography collections, and will serve as an interesting and useful source for assignments about women writers or as a general introduction to any of the women profiled. Both a source list and a listing of photo credits conclude the book, and I was pleased to see that the source list was judicious in limiting the number of web-sites listed. A few small things bothered me: inexplicably, Toni Morrison's first name was listed as "Tony" in the Table of Contents, and I wondered why a type-writer was featured on the front cover, as well as a frame for each page number. While many of these writers would have used a trusty old Underwood or Royal, I think it's a rather anachronistic choice for the intended audience. However, these are minor quibbles in an otherwise quite solid collection of biographical profiles.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.