Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History ... and Our Future!

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History ... and Our Future! Book Poster Image
Artful profiles of groundbreakers are fresh, inspiring.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of information about the women profiled and the times in which they lived. Abolitionist, suffragist, labor, civil rights, women's rights, and anti-war movements are touched on. Helps kids understand the progress women have made. Explanation of what "rad" and "radical" mean.

Positive Messages

You can make a difference, even though you're only one person. Anything is possible. Women can and do make history. Even women whose stories we don't know may be heroes for doing something as simple (or hard) as supporting their families. A list at the back of the book suggests "26 Things That You Can Do to Be Rad," such as "Dare to be the only one," "Give more than you take," "Inspire others," and "Stand up for what you believe, and for people who can't stand up for themselves."

Violence & Scariness

Mention that the Ku Klux Klan "bombed the homes of black families." Reference to the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago that "turned violent."

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kate Schatz's Rad American Women A-Z profiles game-changing, mold-breaking women from the 18th century to the present -- one for every letter of the alphabet (except X, which represents the untold stories of women from the past and those yet to come). The eclectic choices range from the well known, such as comedian Carol Burnett, tennis great Billie Jean King, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to the more obscure, such as Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, and transgender author/artist Kate Bornstein. The diverse capsule biographies are lively and succinct, the illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl dynamic and graphically bold. It's an inspiring, accessible collection that adds to kids' understanding of American history.

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What's the story?

RAD AMERICAN WOMEN A-Z offers mini-biographies of 25 diverse U.S. women from the 18th through the 21st centuries who broke barriers, accomplished great things, and paved the way for girls and women who came after them. Each bio (usually five to six paragraphs long) is accompanied by a strong graphic portrait of the woman featured, except X, which stands for "the women whose stories we haven't learned about yet, and the women whose stories we will never read." In the mix, political activist and teacher Angela Davis and rock star Patti Smith shine alongside visionary dancer Isadora Duncan, labor activist Dolores Huerta, and sculptor Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Is it any good?

Besides the dazzling visual presentation, what also makes Rad American Women A-Z special is the fresh selection of women profiled. It's not a fusty, dusty history book. There are women from a wide variety of fields, from sports and entertainment to politics, literature, science, law, medicine, and more -- and many of them are still living.

With striking art and lively, engaging storytelling, Rad American Women A-Z is both inspiring and accessible. Kids may be moved to positive action in their own communities by the list at the back titled "26 Things That You Can Do to Be Rad." A great choice for the home library or classroom.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how women's lives and opportunities have changed since the 18th century. Who among the women profiled seems as if she made the boldest move for her time? 

  • Which of the women in the book had you heard of? Do you think what they achieved was important? Do you think it had any effect on your life today?

  • Who isn't in the book that you think is a rad woman? Explain why she's a hero to you.

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