If you haven’t, you need to run out and get it. Get it now. BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING AWESOME. Or rather, IT IS FUCKING RAD. And I’m sorry for dropping f-bombs on a post about a children’s book, but let’s be honest here. It’s not just a children’s book. Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl have put together this collection of mini biographies of influential American women “for kids – and their parents, teachers, and cool grown-up friends,” and it is exceptional. Some of the women included are women you’ve heard of, some you probably haven’t heard of (THANKS, OTPBS!), but all are, indeed, rad. Even better, it is intersectional, inclusive, and incredibly interesting. The alliterative awesomeness, Smarties. I can hardly contain myself!
In your standard alphabet format, Rad American Women introduces the reader to influential American women throughout United States history. M is for Maya Lin, C is for Carol Burnett, W is for Wilma Mankiller. And as each woman is introduced, we get a brief overview of the history of her influence. At the top of each page of text, the reader is presented with the full name of the Rad American Woman, followed by why she’s so important. “Virginia Apgar: Whose invention saves lives every single day” or “Ella Baker: Who shaped the Civil Rights movement from behind the scenes.” Following that, there’s a brief, bolded blurb (I can’t stop with the alliteration!) that introduces each woman. Following that, the mini biography of each woman, explaining why she’s significant and how her influence has impacted us all.
Part of what makes this book so fantastic is that it really is good for everyone. The pictures are bold and graphic, making them exciting for tiny eyes. The alphabet aspect provides learning opportunities for toddlers and preschool-aged kids. The brief, bolded blurb is great for reading to toddlers, who may not be able to sit through the longer parts of text. And the longer pages of text are excellent for preschool-aged kids or older. Like me. I am 36 years old, and I learned from this book.
And let me tell you something, this book is good for girls, boys, women, men, transgender folks, kids, adults, parents, grandparents… we can all learn a little something from this book. The group of women included is beautifully diverse and features women from all walks of life: activists, scientists, dancers, artists, architects, singers, pilots, comedians, authors, Native American Tribal chiefs, inventors, and more. The reader meets women of color, women with special needs, women of varying sexual orientations, old women, young women, women who knew exactly what they were doing, and women who had no idea the reach their influence would eventually have. It is a beautiful book, not only visually and in content, but in the ways that it is so warmly inclusive of all of us. All of us.
Still, at the end of the book, Schatz and Klein Stahl acknowledge that they’ve only been able to include women for each of the 26 letters. They then invite the reader in with a call to action -- an invitation for readers to write their own book or seek more information about women like those featured in the book. They even provide 26 ways (alphabetical, of course!) that readers can change the world around them and be rad themselves (Jokes! Protect! Respect! Zero tolerance!).
I mean. Clearly these women are Smarties already and should be our best friends. Amirite?
So, listen. If you’ve never heard of this book and/or never seen it, you’re in for a treat, my friends. Please, do yourself a solid and go pick this book up. Buy one for yourself and for your friends. Bring it to the next kid’s birthday party or baby shower you need a gift for. Show the world that these kinds of books are vital. Show the world that we care about women and we know that they are essential contributors to our society. And enjoy it, too, because it is a damn good book. Trust us. We know what’s up. We’re Smarty Mommies.