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Children's LiteratureThe subtitle, "Forty Daring American Women Who Were Second to None," explains it all. The author has chosen the forty, each of whom achieved a significant American "first," purely for their inspiration and special meaning to her. They come from many fields—art, literature, business, social work, science, sport, music—and from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. Each woman is allotted a full-page photograph (the earliest, like Phyllis Wheatley and Sacagawea, are represented by paintings) and a three-page biography highlighting her achievements. Some, like Georgia O'Keefe, Martha Graham, and Marian Anderson, are well known, but young readers will probably find the careers of others a revelation. What about beautiful Harriet Quimby, the first woman to earn a pilot's license, who fell to her death from her plane in 1912? Or socialite Fanny Bullock Workman, who in 1899 climbed, in full skirts, to the summit of Kashmir's Pinnacle Peak? The photographs are especially striking and will bear much poring over; for example, one of rebellious poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in her demure dress, surrounded by magnolia blossoms, or of businesswoman Madam C. J. Walker with her luminous eyes and delicate jewelry, or tiny Lynn Hill, clinging to a rock as she free climbs the Nose at Yosemite. Unfortunately the pedestrian, often awkward, text does not live up to the quality of the photos or of National Geographic's usual standards. Still, these women's stories are fascinating; their courage and fortitude should prove inspiring for young adults of both sexes. 2006, National Geographic, Ages 10 up.
—Barbara L. Talcroft