BOOK REVIEW: Three Cheers for Women! by Marcia Williams

BOOK REVIEW: Three Cheers for Women! by Marcia Williams

Walker Books Ltd
February 2018
Hardcover, $27.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children & Teenagers / Children’s Non-Fiction


Hip hip hooray. In Marcia Williams’ latest picture book she offers up lots of joyful jubilation for over 70 famous women from history. This book is a fine idea that is rendered in a bright and vivacious comic book style. This style will appeal to some readers but others might find it a tad too cluttered and overwhelming for its own good at times.

“What’s this book about, Dot?”
“Amazing, fantastic girls, Abe!”
“Boys do amazing, fantastic things too!”
“Of course they do. But there are lots of books about them already!”

The story features a small boy and girl named Abe and Dot and follows them as they traverse through different periods to learn about some inspirational and amazing women. There are 16 double page spreads that include in-depth looks at the likes of Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I, Cathy Freeman and Mary Wollstonecraft, to name a few, as well as some additional pages summarising a few other important women at the end.

When Jane’s father died, Jane [Austen] and her sister and mother moved to a cottage on their brother’s estate. And in 1811, her first book – Sense & Sensibility – was finally published! Jane published three more during her lifetime, all anonymously. It wasn’t considered “proper” for ladies to have jobs – or even to have their own opinions! When Jane died aged 41, Henry revealed that she had written the books. Jane’s books were very popular during her lifetime and they’re even more popular now. She is one of the world’s best-loved novelists.

The stories are told in a comic book style where a lot of text is presented to the reader and it gets a bit confusing to follow, especially when you consider that each spread has at least four separate parts. These include: the plot of the story, the dialogue as told by the figures in the boxes of the comic strip, extra little facts and additional asides near the margins of the page and dialogue from Abe and Dot at the bottom that often adds very little to the overall proceedings:

“Why did Joan [of Arc] dress as a boy?”
“Her voices told her to.”
“She was incredibly brave.”
“Braver than I would have been.”
“And loads braver than me!”

Marcia Williams is a former nursery school teacher. She has previously written and illustrated numerous children’s books where she retells famous stories for kids (like Shakespeare, Greek Myths and Jane Austen, to name a few.) Her illustrations are bright, colourful and eye-catching and these will appeal to the book’s target audience of readers aged seven and up. The same cannot always be said about some of the language used in the text, particularly in some of the facts where an adult will have to explain what some of the larger words and concepts mean, like in the following:

“Joan led her men into battle brandishing her banner instead of a sword.”
“Marie [Curie] named polonium in honour of her homeland, Poland.”
“Pakistan means “Land of the Pure” in Urdu and Persian.”

Those readers who enjoyed Williams’ distinctive style in her previous works will find Three Cheers for Women! an enjoyable and entertaining read. The concept itself is a fabulous one that should be applauded because it can potentially introduce younger readers to some important women from history. But for those readers who are unfamiliar with Williams’ work and who are more accustomed to simpler and more minimally-styled kids’ books, Three Cheers for Women! may prove a tad too busy and distracting from its true point.

BOOK REVIEW: Three Cheers for Women! by Marcia Williams

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