Books & Literature

Book Review: Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet, by Kate Pankhurst

PICTURE BOOK: For ages 7+. A smart, informative, inclusive and accessible book about trail-blazing women who strove to protect our environment.

A treasure trove of fascinating facts and wonderful illustrations on how we can all be involved in saving the planet.

Another fabulous book in the series of Great Women by very talented writer and illustrator Kate Pankhurst. She is continuing the great work of her illustrious ancestor, Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, by drawing attention to the amazing talent, achievements and history of women working for the environment across the world. Previous books in the series are Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World; Fantastically Great Women Who Made History; and Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders.

This book has stories about women from around the world who have worked to improve their environment, often against stiff opposition. The book includes women who were activists before caring for the natural world and the environment was acknowledged as necessary. As a college student in 1885 Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey was horrified by the wanton killing of wild birds to provide feathers for fashionable hats. Because she wrote books to educate people on watching wild birds, the double page dedicated to her features images of pages from books, pictures of birds and tools for bird watching – including Florence looking askance at a poster of women in feathered hats with binoculars!

While the book features well known women such as Jane Goodall and Anita Roddick, there is a wealth of others we may never have heard of – women like Wangari Maathai from Kenya who returned to her homeland after studying in America, only to find massive deforestation was occurring to make space for cash crops such as coffee. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and almost a million women have ‘sown the seeds of change’ with more than 51 million trees being planted in Kenya. Maathai’s amazing work was recognised when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Pankhurst has included the story of local Indigenous women Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield who were instrumental in the fight to stop a nuclear waste dump at Woomera. The double page spread is a beautiful gold and orange map of Australia, surrounded by the blue/green ocean. Superimposed on the map are drawings of native animals, representations of the thousands of miles the women travelled, including to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and charming sketches of the two Eileens. The final sketch shows them speaking sternly to a federal politician – ‘HEY! Whitefella, you need to LISTEN!’ The fight will no doubt continue following the announcement of a nuclear dump to be established on Eyre Peninsula.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: March 2020
RRP: $14.99

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