In this sometimes gory, sometimes hilarious, always engaging graphic novel, Pénélope Bagieu brings 29 stories of fascinating women throughout history and around the world to life in her signature style. Is it good?
Bagieu brings her signature line work, bold colors, and biographical storytelling to bring to life each woman and what them interesting. Each story (mostly single woman but a couple cover groups) starts from birth and follows the women through their lives, not exclusively on what made them famous or their story unique. The comic strip style starts with a portrait, followed by a series of panels detailing events in the woman’s life.
For Clémentine Delait, the first woman featured in the book and famous for her glorious beard, Bagieu lets you know why her story is here, but doesn’t let that overshadow the rest of her life.
Her writing is concise and playful, the words and images working perfectly together to tell the story. The simple pen and ink drawings are highlighted with strategic color, keeping the reader’s attention focused on the specific part of the story each panel is telling.
The book is aimed at readers aged 14-18, and Bagieu is not afraid to tackle the parts of stories that are adult, but handles them in a totally appropriate way for many age groups.
At the end of each story is a gorgeous double spread end paper, with a graphical concept from the story. Leymah Gbowee’s is particularly striking, though Delait’s is delightful and beautifully colored.
Though the book says it’s aimed at high school age readers, I think this is appropriate for middle grade as well, and it was a delightful read for grown up me. It’s nice to see such a diverse collection of women, many of whom I had never heard of before now, outside traditional “important” people. Each story has enough detail to tell their story, but is also tantalizing to make you want to seek out more. This is a great book both for school/library collections and regular readers.