Monday, September 3, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth

I purchased this for the library because it had an attractive cover and my biography section is really, really, really outdated. It hasn't circulated a lot, but it's gone out a few times. I finally got around to reading it, and found it interesting - as much for what it includes as what it doesn't.

My own experience with girl scouts was pretty much limited to reading about them in old British school girl stories. I think I might have noticed a few selling cookies at Walmart once in a while, but that's it. So I came to this book with a completely open mind.

The first half of this book is a biography of Juliette Gordon Low, the woman who brought Girl Scouts to the United States. It begins with her parents early life and marriage and continues to Juliette's experiences in the Civil War as a young child, her education in a boarding school in New York, marriage into the English aristocracy, experiences in two world wars, involvement in the Spanish-American War, and many years of unhappy marriage cumulating in her husband's death and a lawsuit to regain his inheritance from his mistress. She was also partially deaf as a result of an illness and experimental medical procedure. It was not until she was in her early fifties that she became involved in the birth and growth of the Girl Scouts, first in England, as the Girl Guides, and then bringing them to America.

Ginger Wadsworth brings in a myriad of interesting facts and historical context surrounding the life of Juliette Gordon Low and the beginnings of the Girl Scouts. She focuses on Low's exuberant personality and, while touching lightly on her failings, gives an optimistic picture of a woman who embraced new experiences and ideas, triumphed over difficulties, and had a genuine love for her family, friends, and the many girls she influenced.

Verdict: From what I've observed, interest in Girl Scouts declines rapidly once girls hit about fifth grade. It's definitely not considered "cool." However, there are lots of younger girls involved in the organization and this is an interesting book not only for the biographical aspects, but of the rapid changes in history at the time. It does have a bit of an odd shape - it's a thick square - but I think parents and kids will pick it up. Biographies don't generally have a high circulation at my library, but this one I think will gather momentum.

ISBN: 9780547243948; Published 2012 by Clarion; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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