Friday, November 9, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "Fantastic People Who Dared to Fail" by Luke Reynolds (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week this week was very nearly completely overlooked by us but we do have a good reason for that...
If 2018 can be summarised by one particular type of book, it's those "Fantastically Marvellous Amazing People Who You (especially girls) can be like if you try really really hard!" books which have saturated the Non Fiction market in many different forms this year.

Though many have made "Book of the Week" we got to a point where we would happily live the rest of our lives in blissful ignorance of any new books in the same mould as "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" and its myriad successors.

So I think it's fair to offer Luke Reynolds a huge apology. First because this book sat in our review pile for quite some time before we picked it up. Secondly because it's actually an utterly brilliant take on the genre from a perspective that quite a few more non-fic books could do with adopting.

You see Luke isn't really just blurting out yet another long list of hallowed luminaries and their various glories here. He's showing kids the nitty gritty of what it was actually like to be these people, and how not everything in their lives was a roaring success right out of the gate.

"Fantastic people Who Dared to Fail" shows that the path to glory is often littered with dog poo, and even some of the most brilliant and amazing people to have lived, or that are still living, have had to cope with a huge amount of dismal failure, rejection, and in some cases some pretty awful character flaws before they were recognised as the pioneering revolutionaries in their chosen fields or pursuits.

The core message Luke gets across so effectively with a series of factual accounts and anecdotes is that by their very nature, these setbacks and failures also help define us.

Some of the folk on Luke's roster are very familiar to kids, like J. K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Sonia Sotomayor, Vincent Van Gogh, Julia Child, Steven Spielberg, and Betsy Johnson.

Others are more obscure (for example there's a truly brilliant chapter on Charles S. Dutton, the big burly black actor most famous for his role in Alien 3. His story begins with infamy for being able to survive having rocks thrown at his head as a child, through spells in prison and trouble with the law before he became a successful actor.

The book certainly doesn't cotton-wool-coat the message that not everyone you may end up looking up to has had a lilywhite and truly blessed existence from the moment they popped out of their mums.

As well as covering the personalities and historical figures behind some truly groundbreaking work, Luke also describes amazing inventions and life-saving discoveries that came about purely by accident, again a strong message that sometimes even the folk responsible for life saving vaccines or revolutionary life-enhancing gadgets made their greatest discoveries by complete accident and happenstance.

Both of us were absolutely glued to this from the moment we dug in (in fact we've been fighting over it ever since). So here then is a truly brilliant example of how to take a genre that people are (let's be honest) absolutely sick to death of, turning it into something TRULY inspirational, funny, bittersweet and utterly unmissable. Well done Luke, this is absolutely fantastic indeed!

"Fantastic People Who Dared to Fail" by Luke Reynolds is out on 14th November 2018, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 

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