Pénélope Bagieu's comics. California Dreamin' and Exquisite Corpse were two of my favorite graphic novels in recent years, and I feel that her artwork is ethereal and gorgeous to behold. So when I got the review copy of this book I was very excited to read it. I am pleased not only to report that it did not disappoint, but that I loved this book, and it gets my highest recommendation.
Brazen is a one-person anthology of stories about strong, impactful women from across history and cultures. It is a hefty volume containing 29 mini-biographies that range in length from 2 to 10 pages, via 9 panel grids. One thing I loved about it was that I could read it a few stories at a clip or simply laze over one and then come back to the book later. The stories themselves are condensed, colorfully illustrated, and very substantive. They are also told in a simultaneously respectful and cheeky manner that I found extremely engaging and informative. This book is the best combination of art and education, and I found I learned much from it while also being quite enchanted while reading.
Nellie Bly and Wicked Witch of the West actress Margaret Hamilton, to the more obscure (at least to me) like Giorgina Reid and Angolan Queen Nzinga. What I appreciated, even with the ones I knew something about, was that she included lots of detail about their accomplishments and contributions to society across history. Some folks know that Hedy Lamarr was a famous actress, but they do not know perhaps that she was also an important scientific inventor.
All of the reviews I have read about this book have been glowing, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Rachel Cooke wrote, "This book already feels like a classic, one to be loved by every girl who reads it from now until the end of time." Michael Cavna wrote "that it belongs in most every girl’s — and boy’s — hands by middle school." Rosemary at Mom Read It called it a "a must-add to your collections." Oliver Sava highlighted the lovely representative spread that follows each entry, stating, "After the waves of information in the preceding strips, these clever,
bold illustrations give the reader moments to meditate on what they’ve
just read, enriching each individual history."
Brazen was published by First Second, and they have more information and a reading guide for it here.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.