CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Girls Can Do Anything: From Sports to Innovation, Art to Politics, Meet Over 200 Women Who Got There First.
Richmond, ON: Firefly Books, 2016.
316 pp., hardcover, $20.95.
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Within these colorful and informative pages, there is something for everyone – a little bit of round-the-world record-breaking here, some major history changers there… But mostly, this book is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to hear about the making of the world around us, and to listen to the female voices – so often silenced by history books and social norms – that spoke so much of the world’s wisdom.
In Girls Can Do Anything, Caitlin Doyle gives readers a whirlwind tour of the lives of more than 200 women who have contributed to today’s world. In this collection of stories of important women from Sappho in Ancient Greece to Hillary Clinton in modern-day America, Doyle explores their achievements in a multitude of areas: “From sports to innovation, art to politics.”
The book is made up of sections describing the achievements of women in four key areas: Arts & Literature, Politics & World-Building, Science & Innovation, and Sports & Endurance. There are also several interesting women examined in the Epilogue as well as the “Sea Change: Waves of Feminism” section. The Glossary provides very limited information, and the Bibliography is made up of exclusively online sources with a heavy reliance on the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, History.com and Biography.com. For readers who want to do further research, there is little detailed information to pursue here.
The text is combined with a colourful mixture of graphics and visuals. Each individual section has a brief introduction giving details about the individual, including: name, major achievement, birth date, death date and nationality. Then the writer examines the life and achievements of the woman in a short one or two-page layout which includes visuals, concise text, and other features such as “Fabulous Firsts,” captions, quotations. There is no effort to shy away from the controversial aspects of particular women’s lives. Doyle discusses Virginia Woolf’s suicide as well as Marilyn Monroe’s questionable cause of death.
Sidebars focus on particular groups of women who achieved greatness in areas such as photography and comedy. Sometimes, the writer uses a sidebar to focus on imaginary women who have become an important part of popular culture. In the “Fairy Tale Characters” section, the writer discusses memorable strong female characters, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. It is interesting that these characters are being revived in modern fairy tale retellings such as Tangled and Ella Enchanted.
Although Girls Can Do Anything does include historical and international women’s achievements, its contents are heavily weighted towards American women and their accomplishments. The listing of famous female inventors at the beginning of the “Science and Innovation” section is exclusively American with only two exceptions. Clara Hughes is the only Canadian woman examined in detail in this book! This is rather alarming because the writer does stories on the Mona Lisa, the Girl Guides and the Ford Dagenham Plant Sewing Machinists, but can only find one Canadian woman worthy of being in this book about women’s achievements!
It is obvious that this book was written in preparation for the election of the first female President of the United States. However, Hillary Clinton did not win the election of 2016. Her two-page spread, and the heavy emphasis on American women’s achievements, would have made this book particularly relevant after her election. Although the writer has given readers a good overview of women’s achievements through the ages, the title Girls Can Do Anything is a bit ironic in light of the fact that girls cannot yet become President of the United States!
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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