Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World
Penelope Bagieu (cartoonist and writer)
First Second Books
March 6, 2018
I took this book from my friend after five minutes of looking at it. In that little of time, I knew that Brazen was something special. Created by the French cartoonist Penelope Bagieu, Brazen is a bewitching book that chronicles the lives of amazing women. From Josephine Baker to Temple Grandin, Bagieu’s fantastic illustrations are perfect for illustrating the wonderful lives and contributions of these ladies.
The art in Brazen is enchanting. The line work is fun and playful while her use of color really brings a sense of fun and intrigue to each section. What really stands out to me are the splash pages at the end of each biography. Each Bagieu does in a different style that complements the woman she is drawing. Every one of them is gorgeous and a fitting end to the wonderful profiles; Josephine Baker’s splash page stands out in my mind as one of my favorites. She is standing on stage, long, languid lines forming her regal curves as she stands next to her famous cheetah Chiquita—both with their heads up high. Bagieu uses her line work to have them mirror each other’s majestic poses. Bathing in a pink spotlight, the figures are both draped in glorious spots as their outstretched shadows meld into the black surrounding their light. It is a gorgeous illustration among the many others in Brazen.
I could talk all day about those splash pages, but they would be a footnote in the amazing research Penelope also did in order to create this massive anthology. Twenty-nine biographies, each covering their entire lives, from birth to death. Bagieu’s passion for this book shows on every page. Each and every one of these profiles had funny bits, inspiring sections, and a wonderful sense of story and history. What I loved most about this book was its focus. A lot of these women featured I had not heard of or knew their stories. Women like Katia Krafft the volcanologist, Nellie Bly the journalist, and Betty Davis the singer and songwriter. I gained a whole new insight on these women and the battles they fought to make a mark on the world they lived In.
I highly enjoyed every moment of reading Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. I read through it twice in one week, savoring every drawing and every splash page. Penelope Bagieu, like the women in her book, truly rocked the world by creating such a diverse, and unabashed look into history and telling the stories many history books are too scared to print on their pages. Brazen not only is a beautifully illustrated book full of lovely cartoons, it is a truly great history book. It tells the story of badass women who fought against corrupt governments, racism, gender identity, and for their rights to be themselves in a world where women are often pressured to conform to societal norms. Read this book, give it to your friends and family [Hand them Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women if they’re a little young yet for Bagieu! —Ed.], and revel in the glory of amazing women.