Women Daredevils: Thrills, Chills, and Frills

Julie Cummins, Author, Cheryl Harness, Illustrator
Julie Cummins, Author, Cheryl Harness, Illustrator , illus. by Cheryl Harness. Dutton $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-525-47948-2
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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.)

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