The divas of derring-do featured in this roster of late-19th- and early-20th-century female boundary-breakers and record-setters will probably be unknown to readers, but their feats will awe even the X Games crowd. Cummins (Tomboy of the Air ) profiles 14 women made famous by their dangerous stunts from the late 1800s through the Roaring Twenties. From May Wirth (hailed as the world's greatest bareback rider for her ability to perform back flips atop a galloping horse) to Zazel ("Human Cannonball in Pink Tights"), each legendary lady receives two double spreads bordered in racy red (a few women who undertook similar exploits share a layout, like wing walkers Gladys Roy and Gladys Ingle). Cummins embeds her animated prose with tidbits that rank high on the wow meter, e.g., the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63, not 43 as she claimed at the time--and she could not swim. A full-page illustration accompanies each chapter and depicts the astonishing stunts, e.g., Sonora Carver diving into a small pool from 40 feet up while on horseback (she inspired the film Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken ); vignettes and other smaller art further enliven the text. A concluding chronology sets these women's accomplishments within the context of other, more commonly acknowledged female firsts and the path toward equal rights. Ages 8-up. (Jan.)[Page 51]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-5-- This fascinating book is likely to capture readers' imaginations. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's quote, "Well-behaved women rarely make history," is invoked by the author in her introduction and perfectly sums up the tone of this romp through women's history. Ten brief biographies, covering 14 different individuals, are included. The events took place around the turn of the 20th century or shortly after; some of the women are well known, while others are more obscure. For instance, kids might be familiar with Sonora Webster Brown, thanks to the Disney film Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken . However, Mademoiselle D'Zizi, who jumped over six elephants on a bike in 1899, may be a new name to them. The whimsical, full-color illustrations have a classic, old-time feel, which suits the subject matter well. Cummins describes the daredevil acts so well that children will feel as if they've watched archival films of them. The time line is exceptional because it lists not only the stunts of each woman in the book, but also other amazing accomplishments by women of the day, such as Genevra Mudge, the first woman to drive a car in America, in 1898. The source notes are thorough and interesting in and of themselves. Put this book on display--the cover illustration of Zazel being shot from a cannon will dare browsers to take a peek inside.--Laura Lutz, Queens Borough Public Library, NY[Page 103]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.