CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 7 . . . . December 1, 2000
Julie AndrewsThe "Women in Profile" Series, published by Crabtree, provides younger readers with biographies of women who had been prominent in every field, some in spite of traditional social pressures. The individuals covered range from those currently in the news to women who were pioneers for others. To date, there are 12 books in the series, and the present titles demonstrate the range that the series covers. On the whole, the books are informative and can be used to demonstrate to young girls that, with hard work and determination, they can succeed in any area.
The books are organized in a standard, reader-friendly manner. The table of contents includes a picture of each individual, as well as the list, "More Women in Profile" (shorter bios), offered at the end of the book. There is also a glossary, suggested reading list and index at the end of each volume. Each book begins with a general two-page explanation of the topic. Each individual's biography is divided into sections: Early Years, Developing Skills, and Accomplishments. Sidebars give related and supplementary information, important dates and quotations about the person. Photographs of the individual throughout their life are found on each page.
The language is appropriate for upper elementary students, and the content is generally informative and tries to be non-judgmental. Adults who read the books may notice some information that may be in dispute. For example, in the biography of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey (Rebels), the Irish Civil Rights activist, the "Backgrounder" sidebar states that the Birmingham Six were released because the men had been jailed "without proper evidence." However, others suggest evidence had been withheld that would have exonerated the accused. The definitions offered in the glossary do not often thoroughly explain the word. For example, in Athletes, a professional is described as "a person who makes money from doing something that other people do for fun." If young children accept this definition, they might wonder if anyone practices law or installs plumbing devices all day "for fun." Similarly, a Muslim is described as "a person who practices the Islamic religion" without any elaboration on Islam. Different books in the series offer slightly different definitions of the same word, such as those provided for "communism" and "socialism."
The books try to be deal with controversy that surrounds some of the individuals but skirt some issues that are well known. Martha Stewart's messy fight with her husband over her empire is missed, as is Princess Diana's selection as a bride because of her royal birth. Prince Charles' relationship with another woman, a well-known factor in turning Diana into a bulemic and ruining their marriage, is not dealt with. Madonna's effect on the attitudes of young people through her songs and way of dressing are explained as follows:
Madonna poked fun at stereotypes, traditions and attitudes in ways that some people find shocking. She believes in free expression and refused to be silenced, even in the face of criticism. (Visual & Performing Artists)The nature of the criticisms is not explained nor is the contradictory statement that she makes in the quotation box about her style of dress.
In general, these books will provide students with information about a large number of individuals who are both known and unknown but who have made a mark in society. Books about these individuals alone would not get much use in a school setting, but, collectively, they can be used as interest reading and for project work.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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