Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Women Daredevils: Thrill, Chills, and Frills

Women Daredevils: Thrill, Chills, and Frills

Julie Cummins
Illustrator:   Cheryl Harness 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Penguin, 2008   ISBN: 978-0525479482

For hundreds of years it has been popular to go and watch people do amazing feats of valor and great strength. Men, women and children have watched men fight with bears, lift great weights, and more. Since the 1970's women ddare to show the world that they too could do amazing things. These women did not care that society frowned on their behavior. They did not mind that they were considered immoral and unladylike. These women wanted to do things that were dangerous, unique, and for them, fun. In this book we celebrate the lives and achievements of fourteen women who, from 1880 to 1929,  shocked and delighted the world with their escapades.

Zazel was one of these women. Her real name was Rose Richter and she was the daughter of a circus and dramatic agent. Rose spent much of her childhood performing in one way or another. Then, when she was in her teens, she began to perform as a human cannonball in a circus. Fearlessly she climbed into a long cannon from which she was shot' into the air traveling seventy-five feet before she landed in a net.

Another young lady who thrilled circus goers was Mlle. d'Zizi. Born in France, d'Zizi rode her bicycle in an Evel Knievel type act in the Walter Main Circus. Using a bowed ramp to give her momentum, d'Zizi would fly across a row of elephants to land on the other side of the pachyderm lineup.

Isabelle Butler and the La Racue Sisters went one step further. Instead of using bicycles, these daredevil ladies drove little cars on specially constructed wooden runways, loopying-the-loop and flying through the air in their simple little machines. Their stunts were highly dangerous and after 1909 Barnum and Bailey ceased to offer "loop acts" for the entertainment of their audiences because they could not risk one of the performers being killed.

Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick got her thrills by getting off the ground in planes and balloons. Her act was to jump out of these airborne machines with a parachute strapped to her back. Tiny was the first person to parachute from a hot-air balloon and the first woman to parachute from a plane. Not satisfied with this, Tiny also became the first person to make a free fall.

Readers who thought that daredevil acts were strictly the purview of men will be astonished to read the stories about these extraordinary and fascinating women. Carefully researched and written with great enthusiasm and obvious admiration, the text in this book is wonderfully complimented by Cheryl Harness' lively, colorful, and entertaining artwork. Anyone who thought that women are too fearful or delicate to do stunts will have to rethink their opinion after they read this book.