Monday, March 31, 2014

Bossy Girls: Dare the Wind

There’s been a lot of talk recently about “banning” the word “bossy” when it refers to girls and women, taking away the negative stereotypes that dog women who are assertive leaders.

Was she bossy or just a gal with executive leadership skills? 
Tracey Fern’s newest picture book Dare the Wind (FSG 2014), illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, takes us back to the mid-1800s and an improbably successful and assertive female leader.

“She dreamed of living her life at sea and catching her share of adventure.” That’s how Fern introduces Eleanor “Ellen” Prentiss of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her father being a sailor, Ellen learns to sail. But beyond learning how to “hoist a sail and spice a rope,” she also learns to navigate.

How did people get around at sea before GPS? Well, if they were born in Prentiss’s era, they navigated using a sextant and the sun and complicated calculations.

After growing up and marrying a captain, Ellen goes to sea. She takes care of the navigation, while her husband runs the ship. All goes well until the couple takes over a new clipper ship, built for speed.

Ellen dares the wind a little too much. Maybe you could call her bossy. Maybe you’d just say she has “executive leadership skills” that wind does not respond to.

Either way, she manages to  keep her head and guide the clipper around Cape Horn on a voyage from New York to San Francisco, depositing passenger just in time to take part in the Gold Rush.

The journey and Ellen’s courageous role in it are given life through McCully’s illustrations. The best images show Ellen and her ship darting across page spreads, leading us all forward across the seas.


  1. Here's a great follow-up: Mary Ann Scheuer's interview at Great Kid Books

  2. So glad you added the marvelous interview with Tracey at Great Kid Books. Fascinating!