Girls CAN! Smash Stereotypes, Defy Expectations and Make History by Marissa Sebastian, Tora Shae Pruden and Page Towler, 143 pp, RL 4

 

Girls CAN! 
Smash Stereotypes, Defy Expectations and Make History 
by Marissa Sebastian, Tora Shae Pruden and Page Towler
Review Copy from National Geographic Kids
While it still depresses me that stereotypes and expectations for girls are still so prevalent that we need a book like this to inspire girls to think outside of the box and extend their reach, I'm glad that there is a book as comprehensive and eye-catching as Girls CAN! to inspire young readers. The five chapters cover Leadership, Sports and Adventure, Literature and the Arts, Science and Math and Changing the World. Authors Sebastian, Pruden and Towler bring a diverse mix of historical and contemporary women to the page, interspersed with features that present stereotypes and the women who have smashed them and boxes that suggest ways readers can tackle problems like the women in this book. 

With the colorful, slightly chaotic style that employs chunky fact boxes to get a variety of information on the page that National Geographic Kids is known for, Girls CAN! is invites readers to pick it up anytime and read, a little or a lot. Having read many, many biographies for young readers of all ages, I want to call attention to the women featured in Girls CAN! who are stand-outs, both for accomplishments and contributions, and relatively new to the pages of children's biographies. 

Chapter 1: Alongside Cleopatra, Nancy Pelosi and Benzair Bhutto, leaders like Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and Yaa Asantewaa are featured, as well as interviews with Ellen Pao and Kristine Tompkins.

Chapter 2: Features on Serena Williams, Simone Bile and Alex Morgan bookend bios on adventurers like Bessie Coleman, National Geographic Explorer Marina Elliott, runners Tegla Loroupe and Caster Semenya, who was not allowed to compete for a year while forced to submit to gender tests,  ruthless public scrutiny and mocking by the media because of her talents. Included here is an interesting, invaluable two-page spread that asks the question, "Is beauty really important?" and features women who are fighting the "feminine beauty ideal." 

Chapter 3: Busting myths like "There are more famous male authors, so men must be better at writing," and "Women only write about romance and romance is boring," creatives like Nina Simone and Ellen Degeneres are featured alongside Zaha Hadid, Marjane Satrapi, Edmonia Lewis, Phillis Wheatley, Maria Tallchief, Erika Larsen and Oprah. Interviews with Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and Roxane Gay round out the chapter.

Chapter 4: Mythbusting girls and math, this chapter kicks off with inventor and business woman Madame C.J. Walker, before featuring Katherine Johnson, Fe Villanueva Del Mundo, Jennifer Doudna, Asha De Vos and Gitanjali Rao, who, at the age of 12 created an innovate method of testing for lead in water as a response to the Flint, MI water crisis.

Chapter 5: Myths busted include, "Women's rights are not a priority," and "Women are already equal." Alongside Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth are features on Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, alongside spreads on women working to clean up that planet, protect the environment, and save animals as well as   interviews with Amani Ballour, Tarana Burke, Alicia Garza and Tara Houska.

Back matter: Boys can, too! This section tells readers that, "for women to change the world, they have to smash tons of stereotypes and destroy gender biases." A few myths about boys, including "boys can't cry," are tackled. Questions for discussion and an index follow.




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