The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women Reviews

Kirkus Reviews ★ Starred Review

Cover: The Girl Who Rode A Shark: And Other True Stories of Daring Women Author: Ailsa Ross Illustrator: Amy Blackwell Publisher: Pajama Press“Brief biographies of 52 intrepid women, spanning the globe and all centuries, are flanked by large, full-color illustrations and by maps that show the women’s adventuring sites….The artwork, reminiscent of art deco travel posters, is a gorgeous complement to the eclectic curation. The biographies are written in a conversational style, often including a short quote from the subject….An exciting labor of love—for kids of all gender identities. (Collective biography. 8-12)”

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School Library Journal

“The subjects are fascinating, and the women come from a variety of time periods, geographic regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnicities and include women with disabilities. Yet they all shared common characteristics: the need for adventure and a desire to learn. The book also contains portraits of the women, a glossary, and information about Indigenous peoples and the world’s ever-changing political boundaries. VERDICT This colorful, delightful book is highly recommended for all history and women’s history collections.
—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel

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“This collection presents single-page but surprisingly detailed accounts of more than 50 notable women….The essays are engaging, and in addition to providing basic biographical information, effectively connect each woman with her designated category. Brightly colored digital-media portraits face each page of text, and double-page maps pinpoint each subject’s country of origin. Truly international in scope and ranging across centuries…this attractive collection should spark inquiry for further research.”
— Kathleen McBroom

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School Library Connection

“The title of this new nonfiction text is enough to catch any readers’ attention, but this is only one of many qualities of this book that will keep readers engaged….The diversity of the women featured allow readers of all backgrounds to find a little bit of themselves in these stories. Additionally, Ross employs language from world cultures and varies her sentence structures; the book even has a glossary at the end. Also worthy of mention are the incredible illustrations provided by Amy Blackwell….The colors, cultural aspects, maps, and quotes in the illustrations amplify Ross’ exquisite writing. This would be a strong addition to any middle grade or middle school collection.”
—Caitlin Bennett, Librarian, Londonderry (New Hampshire) Middle School

Read the full review in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of School Library Connection

The Tiny Activist

“This is a really fascinating and fantastic book that travels both the globe and history. When going through the pages, readers are treated to a large colorful illustration that compliments a page-long summary of an amazing girl.

We learn about some well-known greats like Amelia Earhart and Maria Merian, but also some lesser-known badasses like dancer-turned-scientist Nalini Nadkarni, the amputee athlete that climbed Mt. Everest Arunima Sinha, and education activist Shannen Koostachin. Something that I really like about the book too, is after we learn about someone, there are two other women mentioned that have done the same thing….By doing this, if a particular story hooks in the reader there is now more people to check out for further research! I really love books that can have this kind of knowledge extension, and taking a global approach to this with a heavy dose of social justice makes for an excellent book to spend an afternoon reading.”

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CM Magazine

“Ailsa Ross’ The Girl Who Rode a Shark & Other Stories of Daring Women is a comprehensive work of middle grade nonfiction. The book is broken up into six sections, and each section includes anywhere from 7 to 10 women of historical significance. A former travel writer and student of law and women’s rights, Ross selected 50 female ‘adventurers’ to showcase, spanning the centuries from 231 BC to modern day. The final pages include a glossary of terms, such as ‘activism’, ‘emancipation’ and ‘colonialism’, as well as a listing of indigenous peoples and their geographic locations and a disclaimer about how geographical names change over time….

Ross’s book would be a useful resource for school-aged studies on topics such as women’s rights, female historical figures or biographies. The book is diverse both culturally and geographically, and the easy to navigate layout and bright engaging illustrations will quickly draw readers in. The inclusion of maps and a glossary make this book a good fit for school libraries and classroom collections. An alphabetical index by name would have been an added bonus for students looking to quickly find a particular person. The Girl Who Rode a Shark & Other Stories of Daring Women would work well coupled with Lisa Dalrymple’s book Fierce Women Who Shaped Canada to inspire and motivate young females as the two books are similar in format and scope and feature some of the same women.

Highly Recommended.
Cate Carlyle, an author and former elementary teacher, currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.

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Resource Links

“Rating: G…This book would appeal mainly to girls in the upper elementary and junior high grades who have an interest in women and the accomplishments they have achieved throughout history. The biographies are short but give a good idea of what these women did to make them outstanding in their place and time. They could lead to further research by students who have a particular interest in some of the women highlighted.

Thematic Links: Women in History”
—Victoria Pennell

Read the full review on page 37 in the October 2019 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s Book News

The Girl Who Rode a Shark is a standout biographical journey of the lives of 52 women history-makers around the world. This one-of-a-kind celebration of fierce and fearless female adventurers is ideal for those who enjoyed Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

Written in age-appropriate text chock-full of fascinating facts and figures, activist author Ailsa Ross shares eye-opening stories of women from circa 231 BC to today who’ve made the world a better place by smashing barriers, speaking their minds, defying expectations, stepping out, fighting injustice and exploring new ground….Amy Blackwell’s vibrant full-page portraits of each woman add dimension and striking visual impact, bringing each heroine to life. Complete with an introduction, a glossary, and hand-drawn maps, this spirited collection of stories is a must for every classroom and home library, fillings its readers with a palpable sense of wonder, inspiring them to aim high, dream big and blaze new trials, carving their own indelible mark on history.”
—Jennifer D. Foster

Read the full review in the Winter 2019 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

“Many of the subjects are not well-known and represent a diversity of cultures. The introduction points out that every human on earth is connected through ‘Mitochondrial Eve,’ one of the first modern humans who lived 200,000 years ago in Africa. Each chapter begins with a double-page map showing where the women in that category achieved their accomplishments. The collective biography would be useful for browsing or preparing reports.”
—Nel Ward

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Pickle Me This

The Girl Who Rode a Shark, by Ailsa Ross (who lives in Alberta!) and Amy Blackwell, has managed to live up to my expectations. My favourite bit is the Canadian content—we’re almost at the Roberta Bondar essay. And Indigenous hero Shannen Koostachin is included in ‘The Activists’ chapter.

The women profiled in the book come from places all over the world, include many women of colour, and also women with disabilities. Even better—while many of the profiles are of historical figures, just as many are contemporary, young women who are out there doing brave and groundbreaking things as we’re reading. A few of these figures are familiar, but more are new to us, and their stories are made vivid and compelling through the book’s beautiful artwork and smart and engaging prose.”

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Christina Ammirtai

“What an incredible compilation of fearless females who are sure to inspire anyone who reads of their bravery, strength, intelligence, and persistence. THE GIRL WHO RODE A SHARK had me in awe, not just for each of the 52 courageous, impactful stories, but also for the beautiful images and organization of the collection….THE GIRL WHO RODE A SHARK will serve as inspiration to all readers, especially female, empowering them to be their best selves and follow their hearts no matter how daunting the road—or ocean—might be.”

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Mighty Village

The Girl Who Rode a Shark & other Stories of Daring Women is an inspiring and informative collection of biographies from around the world. From artists, to pioneers, scientists, activists, athletes and seekers, this book is a must have for all kids to discover real examples of courage and perseverance….These extraordinary women will surely inspire the next generation of young readers, or readers of any age to be more brave and take action.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Conversational in tone, and with lovely artwork throughout, this book is full of tales that are sure to inform and entertain. Every one of the women here were looking for adventure and wanting to learn more about the world and the time in which they lived.

The maps are a welcome addition, as is the beneficial glossary. Inspirational, it will surely encourage readers looking for more information.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“It has been encouraging and truly satisfying to see what I would argue is a recent boom in children’s non-fiction about groundbreaking women…The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women is a strong entry and addition to the mix, featuring an impressively lengthy list of incredible women in history- and representing various fields of specialization or focus….

Of particular standout is the fact that A Girl Who Rode a Shark gives more space to feature arguably less-publicly known (and more present-day) individuals than it does to well-known icons. Readers get to learn about famous figures such as Joan of Arc, Sacagewea, Amelia Earhart, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sylvia Earle alongside individuals such as photographer Miheala Noroc, astronaut Roberta Bondar, and eagle hunter Aisholpan Nurgaiv. The array of fifty-two women is awe-inspiring and staggering! Have you read about the work of activists Shannen Koostachin or Naomi Wadler? What about endurance runner Mira Rai from Nepal?…The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women would be an invaluable resource (and jumping off point for further investigation!) in school libraries, public library children’s non-fiction collections, as well as an uplifting book for kids (and teens and adults!) to read at their own leisure.”

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Book Time

“In this book by Ailsa Ross and illustrated by Amy Blackwell, we learn about women and the amazing things they have done. Each double page spread features a full-page illustration of the woman and the page beside it provides the details about who she is and her journey to get there. There are a different categories including artists, pioneers, scientists, activists, athletes and seekers. The woman come from all over the world and make a difference, not only to their own lives, but often to the world around them as well. We learn about Bolortsetseg Minjin, born in 1973 in Mongolia, who is making dinosaur studies accessibility to everyone. She also helped the U.S. and Mongolian governments return more than 30 stolen dinosaur specimens. Then there is Josephine Baker, a cabaret performer who worked for the French Resistance during the Second World War as a spy and who helped set up a fake passport network to hep Jewish refugees to South America. So many great stories of so many fascinating women.”

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