REVIEW: The Encyclopedia Lumberjanica Will Entertain Hardcore Lady Types Everywhere

The Cover to the Encyclopedia Lumberjanica, featuring flowers, animals, and several of the volume's characters in a wreath shape

The Encyclopedia Lumberjanica will delight information-hungry young lady types, but doesn’t contain any new info at all about the comics themselves.

The Encyclopedia Lumberjanica

Brooklyn Allen (Spot Illos); Kanesha C. Bryant (pencils), Susan Coiner-Collier (writer), DozerDraws (SpotIllos); Kati Infante (pencils), Kat Leyh and Chelsea Roberts (cover and spot illos); Alexia Khodanian (pencils), Julia Madrigal (pencils), Ayme Sotuyo (spot illos)
October 28th, 2020

The Cover to the Encyclopedia Lumberjanica, featuring flowers, animals, and several of the volume's characters in a wreath shape

With the holiday season approaching and Lumberjanes set to receive a HBOMax series some time in 2022, this is the perfect time to teach your little scouts about the women who came before them. Girls roughly 6 to 15 will likely be enchanted by The Encylopedia Lumberjanica, and even adults and older fans of the series will likely have fun paging through its lessons about women’s history. But beware, buyer: there’s nothing new about the campers themselves between these pages.

Mainly consisting of biographical pieces featuring a variety of important female figures in history, readers will delight in learning more about various pioneers. From Juliette Gordon Lowe, founder of The Girl Scouts, to activist bell hooks, to paleontologist Mary Anning and even pirate Ching Shih, a whole host of women innovators are featured. STEM pioneers, musicians, weightlifters, swimmers, rebels and anthropologists all share room in this volume.

Of particular note among the many biographical sketches – all of which generally stay off the beaten path when it comes to paying tribute to fascinating “lady types” – is a lovely tribute to Academy Award-winning actress Anne Bancroft, who’s lifted from the pages and brought to life in a brief biographical sketch that highlights her successes and failures with equal aplomb. That they selected Ms. Bancroft – whose career is interesting as is her life as wife and muse of Mel Brooks – shows the depth of imagination this volume contains.

A profile on Sister Rosetta Tharpe, mother of rock and roll, is a particular delight as well, with an excellent dive into what she meant for the music world and how her work pioneered for everyone from Elvis to Amy Winehouse, and how she survived the racist climate of the 1950s music industry. Children will be encouraged to look up Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, who suffered similar issues with a segregated America during their careers. Children may be especially interested in the life story of a peer of theirs: Sarah McBride, a politician whose story was previously unknown to me. Her battle for the rights of transgender individuals to live their lives free of harassment is inspiring.

All of the sketches are rounded out with brief factoids that examine everything from how apes hunt for termites using bamboo straws to Octavia Butler’s guidelines for becoming a successful writer. Readers will likely find these little factoids interesting and will be encouraged by the bibliography to look up even more information.

A page from the encyclopedia lumberjanica, featuring the beginning of the story of Juliette Gordon Lowe, with an illustration of the Lumberjanes in old fashioned girlscout uniforms


On the other hand, the book, with its lovely biographical sketches and factoids, really doesn’t have anything to do with the Lumberjanes themselves directly. If you weren’t aware of Mal and the others before this, you won’t come away at all enlightened about the girls, their camp, and their long summer of self-discovery won’t learn anything at all about them. The linking material comes from the simple fact that many of the Lumberjanes adore and respect , and they have been namedropped during the course of the book’s run. Ergo, The Encyclopedia Lumberjanica is more of an encyclopedia for curious tweens who want to be like the Lumberjanes versus tweens who want to learn about the Lumberjanes.

The place where the Lumberjanes themselves are most prominently visible are within the illustration work weaved throughout the volume, which is indeed lovely. Infante, Madrigal, and Bryant’s styles blending beautifully together, providing us wonderful shots of the Lumberjanes performing various antics like lifting weights, attending plays, and scouting. Spot illustrations that plump out the page count are pretty and show off wavy foliage and sandy shores.

The Encyclopedia Lumberjanica is going to make a lot of kids happy this year, and considering the time we’ve all had, that’s what’s going to matter. Parents should snag it and let their kids’ minds expand, and be satisfied that they’ve enriched their lives, even though it doesn’t offer piercing insight into the comics’ canon.