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Children's Nonfiction Girls & Women

The Girl Who Rode a Shark

And Other Stories of Daring Women

by (author) Ailsa Ross

illustrated by Amy Blackwell

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Girls & Women, Women, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
Recommended Age
8 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 7
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Discussion Guide

Where to buy it


An inspiring biographical collection celebrating the adventurousness and ingenuity of girls and women around the world.

Now more than ever, the world is recognizing how strong women and girls are. How strong? In the early 1920s, Inuit expeditioner Ada Blackjack survived for two years as a castaway on an uninhabited island in the Arctic Ocean before she was finally rescued. And she’s just one example.

The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women is a rousing collection of biographies focused on women and girls who have written, explored, or otherwise plunged headfirst into the pages of history. Undaunted by expectations, they made their mark by persevering in pursuit of their passions. The tales come from a huge variety of times and places, from a Canadian astronaut to an Indian secret agent to a Balkan pirate queen who stood up to Ancient Rome.

Author and activist Ailsa Ross gives readers a fun, informative piece of nonfiction that emphasizes the boundless potential of a new generation of women.


About the authors

Ailsa Ross is an author, illustrator and fact-checker. Born in Scotland, she studied law with a focus on women’s and human rights. Her work on the topic of inspirational women began on social media before expanding into the world of books. She lives in Alberta’s Jasper National Park with her family.


Ailsa Ross' profile page

Amy Blackwell is a freelance artist based in Nottingham, England. She works in several media including painting, printmaking, and clothing design. Her art has appeared in a variety of physical and digital settings, from magazines to Instagram. Her voracious passion for her craft is often fuelled by her fondness for pancakes.


Amy Blackwell's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Spring selection
  • Commended, USBBY Outstanding International Books List selection
  • Commended, CBC Books "12 books for kids and young adults to read this fall" selection

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women

2020 USBBY Outstanding International Books List selection

2020 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Spring selection

2019 CBC Books "12 books for kids and young adults to read this fall" selection

★ STARRED REVIEW "Brief biographies of 52 intrepid women, spanning the globe and all centuries, are flanked by large, full-color illustrations and by maps that show the women's adventuring sites....The artwork, reminiscent of art deco travel posters, is a gorgeous complement to the eclectic curation....An exciting labor of love—for kids of all gender identities."—Kirkus Starred Review

“The subjects are fascinating, and the women come from a variety of time periods, geographic regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnicities and include women with disabilities. Yet they all shared common characteristics: the need for adventure and a desire to learn. The book also contains portraits of the women, a glossary, and information about Indigenous peoples and the world’s ever-changing political boundaries. VERDICT This colorful, delightful book is highly recommended for all history and women’s history collections.”—School Library Journal

"Brightly colored digital-media portraits face each page of text, and double-page maps pinpoint each subject's country of origin. Truly international in scope and ranging across centuries...this attractive collection should spark inquiry for further research."—Booklist

“The title of this new nonfiction text is enough to catch any readers’ attention, but this is only one of many qualities of this book that will keep readers engaged....The diversity of the women featured allow readers of all backgrounds to find a little bit of themselves in these stories....The colors, cultural aspects, maps, and quotes in the illustrations amplify Ross’ exquisite writing. This would be a strong addition to any middle grade or middle school collection.”—School Library Connection

“A really fascinating and fantastic book that travels both the globe and history....Something that I really like about the book too, is after we learn about someone, there are two other women mentioned that have done the same thing...By doing this, if a particular story hooks in the reader there is now more people to check out for further research! I really love books that can have this kind of knowledge extension, and taking a global approach to this with a heavy dose of social justice makes for an excellent book to spend an afternoon reading.”—The Tiny Activist

"Ailsa Ross' The Girl Who Rode a Shark & Other Stories of Daring Women is a comprehensive work of middle grade nonfiction....[A] useful resource for school-aged studies on topics such as women's rights, female historical figures or biographies. The book is diverse both culturally and geographically, and the easy to navigate layout and bright engaging illustrations will quickly draw readers in....Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine

“This one-of-a-kind celebration of fierce and fearless female adventurers…Written in age-appropriate text chock-full of fascinating facts and figures…this spirited collection of stories is a must for every classroom and home library, fillings its readers with a palpable sense of wonder, inspiring them to aim high, dream big and blaze new trials, carving their own indelible mark on history.”—Canadian Children’s Book News

"Rating: G...The biographies are short but give a good idea of what these women did to make them outstanding in their place and time. They could lead to further research by students who have a particular interest in some of the women highlighted."—Resource Links

“Many of the subjects are not well-known and represent a diversity of cultures....Each chapter begins with a double-page map showing where the women in that category achieved their accomplishments. The collective biography would be useful for browsing or preparing reports.”—Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

"The Girl Who Rode a Shark, by Ailsa Ross (who lives in Alberta!) and Amy Blackwell, has managed to live up to my expectations. My favourite bit is the Canadian content...The women profiled in the book come from places all over the world, include many women of colour, and also women with disabilities....A few of these figures are familiar, but more are new to us, and their stories are made vivid and compelling through the book's beautiful artwork and smart and engaging prose."—Pickle Me This

"What an incredible compilation of fearless females who are sure to inspire anyone who reads of their bravery, strength, intelligence, and persistence....THE GIRL WHO RODE A SHARK will serve as inspiration to all readers, especially female, empowering them to be their best selves and follow their hearts no matter how daunting the road—or ocean—might be."—Christina Ammirati

“[A] must have for all kids to discover real examples of courage and perseverance....These extraordinary women will surely inspire the next generation of young readers, or readers of any age to be more brave and take action.”—Mighty Village

“Conversational in tone, and with lovely artwork throughout, this book is full of tales that are sure to inform and entertain. Every one of the women here were looking for adventure and wanting to learn more about the world and the time in which they lived….Inspirational, it will surely encourage readers looking for more information.”—Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Of particular standout is the fact that The Girl Who Rode a Shark gives more space to feature arguably less-publicly known (and more present-day) individuals than it does to well-known icons....The array of fifty-two women is awe-inspiring and staggering!...[This book] would be an invaluable resource in school libraries, public library children’s non-fiction collections, as well as an uplifting book for kids to read at their own leisure.”—Fab Book Reviews

“[These] women come from all over the world and make a difference, not only to their own lives, but often to the world around them as well.”—Book Time

“It's fascinating to learn about fearless women in history….There are 52 stories in the book about daring women, each accompanied by beautiful illustrations….I highly recommend this book for children of all ages...”—YA Books Central

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