Title: Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nelly Bly
Author: Deborah Noyes
Recommended for: Grade 5 or 6 and up
Call Number/Link: J B Bly, N.
Synopsis: Daring? Turbulent? Madwoman? When a book’s title includes those words, readers are bound to be inspired to open it. When the book is as well done as this one is, readers will stay through the last page. About half of the narrative is devoted to the 10 days that journalist Nellie Bly spent undercover in an asylum for mentally ill women (and women who were put there unjustly by their families). Given the high drama of these real-life events, the author’s matter-of-fact writing style keeps the narrative from veering toward sensationalism. Passages from Bly’s newspaper article about the experience are threaded into the narrative, thereby keeping her vibrant viewpoint as the dramatic center. The rest of the volume covers Bly’s other exploits, personal and professional: her venture around the world in a record-breaking 72 days, her interview with imprisoned anarchist Emma Goldman, and her own marriage at 31 to septuagenarian millionaire Robert Seaman. The illustrations are a mix of straightforward archival photos and surreal retouched photos à la Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Quirk, 2011). Because the former are captioned with historical facts and the latter are not captioned at all, it is easy to tell the difference between the actual images and the fanciful. Noyes makes history accessible and irresistible in this thrilling account of women’s lives, flagrant abuse, scandal, courage, and tenacity. The source notes are extensive, and the research is impeccable. VERDICT This excellent work is a natural fit for units on history, biography, and social studies.
I really loved this book. I’ve started on a quest to find awesome biographies to recommend a this is a great one. The title caught my attention but the writing and the story kept it. Few (if any) kids today have even heard the name Nelly Bly. Which is sad considering what a trailblazer she was for women and how much her stories influenced the world at the time. The treatment of those in the asylum and of women in general would probably be shocking to a young person today. If we ever get a middle schooler who needs a biography (and hasn’t already picked one) this is a great one to recommend.