Who Was Nellie Bly? – by Margaret Gurevich, illustrated by Laurie A. Conley

    Who Was Nellie Bly? – by Margaret Gurevich, illustrated by Laurie A. Conley. Penguin Workshop, 2020. 9781524787547 

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 Genre: biography

 What did you like about the book? The life of trailblazing female journalist Nellie Bly is covered comprehensively in this Who Was… book.  Born in 1864 in Pennsylvania, raised by a single mother along with many siblings, Elizabeth Cochran grew up with a passion for reading and a sense of justice and fairness for women and the working class.  She wrote her first newspaper piece anonymously in 1885 for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, but was soon discovered and hired by the editor of that paper, who gave her her famous pen name based on a popular Stephen Foster song.  Her career took off from there, spanning nearly 4 decades and including undercover work in factories and hospitals and her famous 72 day around the world trip which began in 1889.  Through it all, she put the needs of her mother and siblings at the forefront, sharing her earnings and homes with any family member who was in need.  She also adamantly refused to be relegated to the ‘women’s pages’ of the papers she worked for, insisting on being involved in political and social issues of the times, and her work often brought about important changes in working and living conditions for the people about whom she wrote.  In later years she worked as a war correspondent, a columnist, and a lecturer.

An interesting treatment of a less well-known historical figure (though very famous in her time), Who Was Nellie Bly? will appeal to fans of the series and young historians.  It provides a great deal of insight into the time in which Bly lived and worked, post Civil War and during the Industrial Revolution, particularly as it reflects the changing role of women in society in the late 19th century and how far we have come since then as well.  Sidebars are included on related topics such as the telegraph, World War I, and notable contemporaries like Jules Verne and Susan B. Anthony. A timeline of Nellie Bly’s life is opposite a ‘Timeline of the World’ from 1864 to 1922, and a bibliography is included as well.

Anything you did not like about the book? no

 To whom would you recommend this book? Students who have biography projects to do who wish to learn about someone they’ve never heard of, or want to read about a strong female role model, or perhaps aspiring journalists who will appreciate the lesson in perseverance. There are children in grades 3 and up who will read any book in this series whether they’re familiar with the subject or not.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 12/11/2020

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