________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 38. . . . June 1, 2018


5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls.

Sarah Howden. Illustrated by Nick Craine.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2018.
169 pp., hardcover, $17.99.
ISBN 978-1-44345-536-7.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4


5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls is a collective biography for younger readers featuring a dozen accounts of the lives of females who became famous for a wide variety of reasons. Of these figures, three are Canadian: Viola Desmond, Tanya Tagaq and Hayley Wickenheiser.

     There are two stories that stand out as likely to be most appealing to the intended audience. One is that of J.K. Rowling and the rocky road she followed on the way to creating the Harry Potter books. Her unorthodox way of writing, because she was short of money and had a small child, is described this way:

Magic Rule #1:
You never know where magic will happen. It hides in the
places you least think to look – in dusty corners of bookshops,
and the darkness of the night sky, in your room on a rainy
day and in a bit of soil in the back garden.

If you’d walked into Nicolson’s Café in Edinburgh, Scotland,
in the early 1990’s and seen Joanne Rowling frantically
scribbling away, with her baby in a stroller by her side,
you almost certainly would have thought nothing of it.
That’s the way it’s meant to be.
If you could see it coming, it wouldn’t be magic.

     Then there is Princess Diana of Britain who became noted for her philanthropic work. This is a description of her visit to a children’s hospital ward from the point of view of one of the young patients:

There was something unreal about seeing her [Diana] in person.
Almost as if there was a glow around her, a softness.
She was taller than Stevie had thought, and her smile was
even more dazzling.

“I hear she never wears hats when she visits kids,” Stevie ‘mother whispered to her, “because she says ‘you can’t cuddle child in a hat.’”

     Some of the 12 short chapters of the book take a single episode as a microcosm of the contribution the person being written about made. Some feature a child who has had an encounter with someone famous or feature the biographical subject as a youngster dreaming of her future. The narratives are straightforward and appealing and include a good deal of imagined dialogue.

     The artwork, done by Nick Craine who also illustrated 5-Minute Hockey Stories, is accomplished in light washes, and the movement created in the layout of many spreads is reminiscent of a graphic novel. Unfortunately, the human figures are somewhat awkward, and there is an unfinished quality to some of the pictures.

     5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls would be useful in a classroom setting or with a club or church discussion group to spark thoughts on how different talents can bring fame and the amount of effort that is required to achieve success. It is probably not a volume many young readers would pick up on their own. I do think the use of the term “Fearless” in the title is a bit of marketing excess as many of the subjects of the accounts did not set out to conquer anything or in trepidation but rather to follow a passion or talent to see where it would lead. Because of a somewhat limited audience, 5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls is...

Recommended with Reservations.

Ellen Heaney, a retired children’s librarian, lives in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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