Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip (Sarah Glenn Marsh)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip, written by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

From when Alice Ramsey was a little girl, she loved to go fast. Graduating from horses to the relatively-new invention of automobiles in her adulthood, she surprised many by becoming a skilled driver and racer, eventually being approached by an auto manufacturer. They had an offer: drive across the United States in one of their cars, to show that they were so easy to operate, “even a lady could do it”. Alice agreed, bringing three friends along for the nearly-4000 mile journey. Using mostly-unpaved roads and pathways in a vehicle lacking all modern convenience, the four girls rattled from New York to San Francisco over the course of two months, learning how to solve problems, whether storms, and rely on each other to keep the little car going.

Interesting! Alice’s story is certainly one I wasn’t aware of and, despite it’s mildly sexist impetus, was a pretty exciting tale of female fortitude, ingenuity, and friendship. Each spread gives an account of challenges the four ladies faced along the way, from broken or overheated parts, flooded rivers, bedbug-ridden hotels, and escaped criminals, making the reader feel like they are right beside the women on their exciting journey. Alice herself is portrayed as level-headed and no-nonsense, and she makes for a strong central figure. The folk-art style illustrations capture the scenic drive from city to mountains to redwoods forests beautifully, though the human characters occasionally sport unusual features or facial expressions. The length would be best for elementary-aged bookworms, but JJ enjoyed the ride. A warm and enjoyable girl-power tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure (Eva Chen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto, second in the pair’s series of girl-power fashion fantasies.

Picking up where Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes left off, we meet precocious fashionista Juno. In school, she learns that the next day will be picture day, and her teacher advises the class to wear something that makes them feel magical. But while her classmates all have special outfits in mind, Juno isn’t sure. Her friends and family have ideas, but none of them feel right. But when little brother Finn takes off into her closet – and disappears down the magical portal hidden there from the last book – Juno will have to race off to retrieve him. Along the way, she’ll meet fabulous feminist icons like Maya Lin and Josephine Baker, and listen to their advice for both catching Finn and solving her fashion conundrum. But can Juno make it back in time for picture day… and what will she wear?!

Delightful. While the premise is a little far out – and a little more exposition may have been helpful for readers who haven’t read the first book in the series – the tone and message of the book are both wonderful: fashion should make you feel your best, no matter what it looks like. Juno ends up with a mismatched outfit of Grace O’Malley’s pirate hat (“It’ll give you gumption!”), Grace Jones’ shoulder pads (“They’ll make you feel fierce!”), Michelle Obama’s ICONIC Balenciaga glitter boots (“I’m extra confident in them”), and more. Her parents momentarily balk, but Juno is celebrated for her unique style at school, and for the confidence it gives her. The illustrations, a cartoonish style with mixed-media elements deftly woven in, are charming, and feature real-life heroines of diverse races (though some different body types would also have been nice to see). The length was perfect, and JJ and I enjoyed the adventure. A fun tale for blossoming feminist fashionistas that shows it’s the person wearing the clothes that make an outfit fabulous. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Make Herstory (Giavanna Grein)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Make Herstory, written by Giavanna Grein and illustrated by Stephanie O’Donnell, a book of girl-power affirmations for young readers.

Welcome to the world, girl! It’s full of endless possibilities for you, even if you may have to fight sometimes to achieve them. See, oftentimes you will be told that, as a girl, you can’t – but don’t you believe it. Girls can do anything, from excelling in science and technology, creating beautiful pieces of art and music, being victorious athletes, lifesaving first responders, bold lawyers, or world-changing activists. So don’t be afraid to work hard, raise your voice, and chase your dreams; every girl has the power to make HERstory.

Readers will know that we love a book with a strong feminist message, and this one has decent concept. As the rhyming texts describes the many occupations and areas of expertise that girls can make their mark in – a healthy mix of science, government, the arts, athletics, and more – a single, red-haired young women is shown in one of the roles mentioned on the adjacent page. It’s a good concept, illustrating that each girl has the potential within her to be great in any number of things. However, this limited character focus is unfortunately to the book’s detriment as well: since a sole white character is the focus, the very few women of color depicted in the illustrations are limited to the background, and even then, they are noticeably scarce. Even in crowd scenes, such as the protest march shown both on the cover and within the book, it’s difficult to find a person of color in a sea of white faces. As intersectionality is still very much an issue in the current feminist movement, this lack of diversity is disappointing, especially in such otherwise visually dynamic artwork. The text also reads very well, despite a few rhythmic missteps. The length was fine, and JJ did enjoy being able to explore the various professions. This is a solid effort with a strong message and, despite its fumbles, worth a look for young feminists and their caregivers. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

The Princess Knight (Cornelia Funke)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Princess Knight, written by Cornelia Funke and illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, a classic tale of girl-power.

When Princess Violetta’s mother dies in childbirth, her father knows no other way to raise his daughter than just the same as her three older brothers; the princess is trained to fight, joust, and ride a horse. Vi is smaller than her brothers and struggles with the physical demands, much to her macho brothers’ amusement (and teasing). So the determined princess sneaks out at knight, practicing endlessly and learning how to adapt the skills to her own strengths, speed and agility. Her fierceness and capability earns her the admiration of her brothers, until her father declares that a jousting tournament will be held on her 16th birthday… with her hand in marriage as prize! Vi is furious, and concocts a plan to ensure that if anyone is going to win her hand, it’s HER.

Awesome. A perfect twist on the classic fairytale storyline that gives the beautiful princess agency over her own happily-ever-after. In particular, I like that none of the characters in the story are truly villains, only uninformed – until Vi proves them wrong, at which point they realize their mistakes and become allies. It also encourages princesses to find their own strengths and lean into them; they may not always be the biggest, but they CAN be the fastest or cleverest. The dainty illustrations fit the storybook setting perfectly, while still allowing for personalities to shine. One note: Vi’s mother’s death in childbirth is depicted, with the infant Vi being held next to her late mother; it’s not scary or gruesome, but may be tough to explain to younger readers. Otherwise, the length was great, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

We Toot! (Ashley Wheelock & Arwen Evans)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Toot!, written by Ashley Wheelock and Arwen Evans, and illustrated by Sandie Sonke, a wonderfully empowering tale… about farting.

The sleepover has been a major hit: after playing games, singing songs, eating treats, and a good night’s sleep, the girls all wake up smiling – that is, until a loud sound cuts through the group, and a certain… pungent odor is smelled. The girls guess at what the sound and smell might be (an elephant? broccoli? a skunk?) until one girl exclaims the obvious: it was a fart. Another girl is scandalized – girls shouldn’t fart! It’s not ladylike or proper! But a third, redheaded girl laughs at this, claiming the gas as her own, and sets her friends straight: farting is completely natural, and nothing to be ashamed of. The girl points out that our bodies make lots of different sounds and smells, just like everyone else’s. In solidarity, the other girls admit that they all fart, burp, and have tummy rumbles as well! The redhead encourages her friends (and the reader) to love the body they have “just because”.

Silly and marvelous. Underneath a delightfully whimsical story that pokes fun at the stinky smells and funny sounds of passing gas lies an important message about the ridiculous standards girls and women are held to, down to their unavoidable natural functions. The message joyfully dispels the myth that there’s something wrong about girls’ bodies behaving like anyone else’s, and gives little readers permission to own their bodies (and bodily functions) with pride and a healthy sense of humor. It elevates a simple book about farting – a timeless element of kid humor – into an empowering feminist parable, and was a blast (har-har) to read. JJ loved the repeated catchphrase of “We/I Toot!” And the bright, carefree illustrations. The length is perfect, and we definitely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the authors in exchange for an honest review.)