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No Girls Allowed    by Susan Hughes & Willow Dawson order for
No Girls Allowed
by Susan Hughes
Order:  USA  Can
Kids Can, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure, written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Willow Dawson, brings history to life in a unique way. These seven tales visually depict stories of mostly unknown women who went beyond their era's and culture's bounds and dressed as men to better their own or others' lives.

These seven vastly different women are connected only by the fact that they dressed as men to obtain something unavailable to their sex. Hatshepsut dressed as a man so that she could succeed her father as pharaoh and rule Egypt. Mu Lan disguised herself as a boy so that she could fight in the place of her aging father. Tired of being sheltered by her Viking parents, Alfhid ran away (dressed as a boy) and sailed the seas. Put down as both a woman and a Jew in Catholic France, Esther Brandeau disguised herself as a Catholic man. James Barry did such a good job of becoming a man (so she could attend medical school) that no one is 100% sure what her real name was. Ellen Craft disguised herself as a white man so that she and her husband could escape North to freedom. Finally, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman wanted to help support her family, so she disguised herself and eventually died fighting in the Civil War.

No Girls Allowed offers more than seven small history lessons. Hughes and Dawson wanted to give young girls the knowledge that they can do whatever they want to do, despite what society tells them. This positive message is reinforced by the fact that the struggle for equal rights has come a long way (evidenced by the latest story in the book having happened over a hundred years ago). Plus, this is a quick and fun read, making it a pleasure to learn from.

Something else interesting that helps add to the message is the format that Hughes and Dawson used for No Girls Allowed a graphic novel. For many years, comics were thought of as boys' books, but recently, more and more have been aimed at girls, and girls are reading them. This is just another area where girls are showing that they can do what has been traditionally reserved for boys.

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