Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heroes and Heroines

The Book of Heroes: Tales of History's Most Daring Guys
by Crispin Boyer
National Geographic Kids, 2016, 176 pages, age 8+
I've been thinking a lot about heroes and heroines these days. After all, these are the people we look up to, people who have accomplished great thing, led great events, or are or were great leaders, folks who inspire us for one reason or another to be better than we are. Just look at our 44th president. As his term comes to an end, he leaves with the same grace, integrity, intelligence, and class with which he began his presidency back in 2009. Small wonder it is his picture that introduces all the heroes in this book:

Obama isn't your hero? Not to worry, this book is packed with real life heroes in all walks of life. Men who have done the right thing, who are courageous and have even risked everything to do what they did. From Sitting Bull, who fought for the rights and freedom of native peoples, to Nelson Mandala, who spent 27 years in prison for challenging South Africa's discriminatory laws and then, when freed, became it's president, to the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center attacks, to Captain Sully Sullenberger, who saved the lives of a plane full of passengers when he has to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River after two birds crashed into the plane's engines. After exploring the idea of what makes a hero, the book is divided into eight chapters as follows:
1- Leading Men
2- Legendary Lads
3- Game Changers
4- Heroes for Hire
5- Peace Heroes
6- Action Heroes
7- Inspiring Minds
8- Outstanding Animals
There are copious color and black and white photographs, as well as drawings and other illustrations to accompany each hero. And the variety of heroes included in this book range from world leaders, to sports figures, to literary characters (yes, Harry Potter in included, after all, he fought the evil Voldemort), people who spent their lives working for equality and human rights, scientists who have made our lives better and healthier, spies, warriors, and even some very heroic animals. And it isn't just about men. There are inserts entitled Gutsy Gals that introduce some of the women who are every bit as heroic as the men. The Book of Heroes is an excellent beginning guide for young readers to discover interesting information about people they admire as well as those they are not familiar with. The heroic figures covered in this book are sure to inspire, and to that end, there is a section about how even young readers can be everyday heroes.
The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals
By Stephanie Warren Drimmer
National Geographic Kids, 2016, 176 pages, age 8+
Here is a very relevant book for today's world. As we have learned with the release of the book and movie Hidden Figures, there are a lot of heroic women out there that we just don't know anything about. Well, here is a book that can help remedy that. Following the same format as it's companion book about, this one introduces the reader to a variety of brave women who managed to accomplish so much despite the gender, race, and religious constraints they had to deal with and who were so often erased from history. One of my favorites heroines is Billy Jean King, who not only played and won the famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973, but ultimately did so much for women's sports. Malala Yousafzai, who despite being shot by the Taliban for her outspoken opinions about women's right to an education at age 15, has continued to champion for this right. Inspiring people are so important for kids to learn about.  I was also happy to see that two of my heroines that have been so since I was a girl and first read about them are included in this book:

Each person entry is accompanied by either a color or black and while photograph or other form of illustration and drawing, and there is an abundance of them. After an Introduction covering the seven most common traits that make a heroine, the book is divided
into eight chapters as follows:
1- Leading Ladies
2- Gritty Girls
3- Heroines on the Job
4- Legendary Ladies
5- Daring Dames
6- Peace Heroines
7- Ladies in Lab Coats
8- Outstanding Animals
There are a wide variety of women included in this book - reporters who worked on the front lines, women who worked helped break codes in WWII at Bletchley Park, others who helped the poor, the sick and animals who need champions to save them. I liked that Emma Watson was included not because she played Hermione Granger, the smartest student at Hogwarts, but for her work as Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. And there is a nice two page spread about Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave, escaped and spent her life helping other slaves escape to freedom. This book is a nice starting point for kids who want to discover inspiring women. This book also ends with a section on how young readers can also become everyday heroines and the very first suggestion is to find more heroines. Let me suggest three women who were not in the book, but who certainly deserve the title inspiring heroines:
Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, the three African American female NASA mathematicians, hidden and segregated despite their contributions.

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a weekly celebration of 
nonfiction books hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy 


  1. Over these recent weeks, there have been amazing National Geographic books shared and here are two more! These look terrific, Alex. I've done a unit about heroes and heroines in the past when I taught, and these would have been so helpful to examine who and why chosen. Love that President Obama leads that pack! Thanks!

  2. These look very interesting and it's so important for our students to read about heroes and heroines! Thanks for including both!

  3. I got copies of these as well and reviewed them a while back. Awesome, right? Good to see them still getting some blogger love!


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