Women, girls, animals, and a few “Daring Dudes” from the dawn of history to the present are feted with short biographies and colorful art.
A dizzying array of people (and animals) designated female by birth—historical, mythological, and fictional—are classified as heroines, with no discussion of why that term is used rather than “hero.” (The concurrent publication of The Book of Heroes may explain that.) The introduction lists seven qualities common to most heroines, including selflessness, bravery, and perseverance, noting that each female in the book began as an ordinary girl until “the choice that changed them from ordinary to extraordinary.” From Antigone to Malala Yousafzai to Ruth Wakefield (inventor of the chocolate-chip cookie), glib language conveys information that often speaks more to sensationalism, hype, and commercialism than to the text’s own definition of heroism. Space is given, appropriately, both to women who managed to succeed in spite of male dominance and to those whose achievements were co-opted by men. However, it subverts its purpose by including patronizing examples besides Ruth Wakefield—such as Henrietta Lacks, a woman who never knew her cancerous tumor had been used for scientific research. As is typical of a National Geographic book, the layout, art, and photography are generally exceptional even if the accessible text is shallow. Heroes offers a great centerfold: “How to Change the World.” Sadly, Heroines has a centerfold of Wonder Woman.
This may be a springboard for discussing values if nothing else. (introduction, afterword, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)