Review: Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

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This book is a collection of short biographies of 40 inspiring women which the author began as a project during Black History Month. It celebrates the incredible achievements of a diversely talented group of women who had to overcome the dual disadvantages of being both female and black in order to fulfil their dreams. Vashti Harrison states in the introduction that she hopes “readers from every background find these stories compelling and inspiring” whilst recognising from her own childhood experience how important it is for children to see that people who look like them can be role models in any profession.

Each profile is a single page in length and written for a Key Stage 2 audience, with an accompanying full-page illustration exhibiting Vashti Harrison’s artistic talent. They are arranged in chronological order, starting with Mary Prince the author and abolitionist, born circa 1788, and finishing with Lorna Simpson, American photographer born in 1960. Readers will probably be familiar with some of the women featured in these profiles: Oprah Winfrey, Katherine Johnson, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks and Ella Fitzgerald for example. Others will be entirely new discoveries for many readers, but all share the ability to inspire and amaze with their achievements. I was particularly astonished by the story of Mary Bowser, a spy for the North during the American Civil War, who worked undercover as a slave in the home of the Confederate President.

At the end of the book there are short paragraphs about a further twelve women, with the challenge to link their stories to the women who paved the way for them in the previous profiles.

Overall, this is a wonderfully inspiring collection of stories of brave and talented women who would not be defined by convention, but act as role models for future generations. An essential addition to any classroom or school library to be enjoyed by all.

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