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Thunder of Freedom Part II

As I said in Part 1 of this blog, a large number of books have been published to coincide with the centenary of (partial) female suffrage. Last time I looked mainly at fiction so now I’m focusing on some excellent non-fiction which has a wider perspective beyond the events leading up to 1918.

First, a work of 'faction', Mona Golabek’s The Children of Willesden Lane (Franklin Watts). Based on the childhood experience of her mother Lisa, Jura Golabek and her co-writer Lee Cohen tell how in 1938, 14-year-old Lisa Jura was a musical prodigy in Vienna who hoped to become a concert pianist. Her dreams were interrupted when Hitler’s armies advanced, forcing her parents to make the difficult decision to secure safe passage to London aboard the Kindertransport - but for only one of their three daughters. They chose to send Lisa, believing her talent would give her strength and could help reunite them one day. There, in a hostel on Willesden Lane, Lisa’s music became a beacon of hope for her, as well as other displaced children. Lisa’s story is a powerful reminder of how war disrupts and destroys families, and how especially hard it is for girls and women in wartime. They suffer in a different but an equally as dreadful way as the men. A lot more information about Lisa, with photos, music and teaching materials can be found at: Those who visit Liverpool Street Station in London can find one of two poignant memorials to the Kindertransport at the entrance by McDonalds on Hope Square.

In Part 1 of my blog I mentioned Rebel Voices, an eye-catching book specifically about women who fought for political suffrage. It was as a result of that ongoing fight that International Women’s Day was born just over a century ago, and women in the UK and elsewhere are painfully aware that it is just as relevant today as it was then. I looked at Emmeline Pankhurst, just one title in the excellent Frances Lincoln series Little People, BIG DREAMS. There isn’t a great deal of well-written, attractive and approachable non-fiction out there for Key Stage 1, so this is a series which is particularly valuable in many ways. And all the subjects of these mini biographies are WOMEN! Bright, stylized illustrations, just the right amount of information in the main text, and greater detail and photos as an appendix to the main work makes for a winning series - whose writers are also all WOMEN. Each volume in this empowering series tells how a girl overcame a childhood challenged by their environment, home circumstances, gender or disability to become a household name. At present the series celebrates a wide variety of women who contributed to very different spheres of life: in addition to Emmeline Pankhurst, there’s Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace, Agatha Christie, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou - and there’s plenty more inspirational women that I hope will be added.

There are some areas of life where women have traditionally been overlooked. Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science: Fifty Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World, published by Wren & Rook in 2017, has been recently followed by a companion volume, Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes who Played to Win. Rachel writes and illustrates her books, combining pages packed with information about her subjects with very distinctive full-page illustrations, each in a dramatically limited palette of two

or three colours. Each facing page of text is also surrounded by small drawings and further snippets of information. An excellent resource for Key Stage 2 readers, this mine of information is enhanced by appendices of sources (more online at and and an excellent index. These are world-wide surveys of women in sport and science, but there are UK names amongst them!

Now, a name to conjure with: Kate Pankhurst! Yes, she is related to the famous Emmeline, but she didn’t know that she was until quite recently. After her Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World, nominated for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards 2018, Bloomsbury have just published her great book on Fantastically Great Women who Made History. These are visually highly inviting and textually highly informative - both of which are designed to be very attractive to Key Stage 1 and younger Key Stage 2 readers. Pankhurst’s art is lively, funny (somewhat in the style of comics), bright and bubbly – quite literally, as each page, as well as differently styled paragraphs of

information, contains several speech bubbles emerging from the subject’s mouth repeating key points in a pithy manner! Again, more teaching materials are available at . Kate includes women right across history from Hatshepsut, an Egyptian woman pharaoh, to cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkovava, via many others including Boudicca, Harriet Tubman, Flora Drummond (a militant suffragette) and Josephine Baker. As an appendix, a visual bookshelf briefly reminds readers of the achievements of each, while a glossary of ‘fantastically great words’ adds detail to some of the more complex textual references. A great pair of books to inspire girls (and boys!).

Finally in this round-up of just a few of the good books out there that celebrate women’s achievements, we come to a KS2 resource: author Sandra Lawrence and illustrator Nathan Collins’ Anthology of Amazing Women: Trailblazers who Dared to be Different. This collection tells the awe-inspiring stories of 50 women who have pushed the boundaries of human excellence and endeavour. Divided into sections according to type of achievement, it features familiar icons like Elizabeth I and Malala Yousafzai, Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg and Mary Anning, while introducing hidden figures like Chien-Shiung Wu and Aud the Deep-Minded – bet you’ve never heard of her! Sarah’s detailed text for each has a full-page image facing, and extra snippets of information surround the quirky, colourful portraits. Complete with a glossary and an epilogue to inspire today’s young women to reach for the sky, this is an excellent addition to a rich supply of books which have appeared in time to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

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