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Review of Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nellie Bly

noyes_ten days a madwomanTen Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nellie Bly
by Deborah Noyes
Middle School   Viking   135 pp.
2/16   978-0-803-74017-4   $18.99   g

With a title ripped from the headlines of Joseph Pulitzer’s late-nineteenth-century New York World, Noyes invites readers into the life and times of legendary journalist Nellie Bly. When Bly arrives in New York in 1887, she’s unprepared for sexist rejection at the major papers. Determined to make her journalistic mark and desperate for money, she accepts an assignment at the World to go undercover inside the “lunatic asylum” on Blackwell’s Island and subsequently report on conditions there. Noyes smartly uses this hook to engage readers, enriching this and other Bly experiences (such as her famous around-the-world race) with well-placed sidebars that explore the social conditions of poor women, the early years of big newspapers, and flashbacks to Bly’s childhood. Clips from her articles give readers a glimpse of Bly’s direct writing style, her ways of engaging an audience, her personal involvement, and her straightforward vocabulary (which contrasts dramatically with the purple prose of the articles’ headlines). More than a stunt reporter, Bly was later in life able to effect change on behalf of the working poor through her own business ventures. Part chronological, part expository, the narrative, in its selection and placement of incidents, allows readers to become investigators, to form opinions and then discover more information that may support or contradict their previous ideas about this complicated woman. This strong biography concludes with an author’s note, source notes, a web- and bibliography, further reading recommendations, and (unseen) picture credits and index.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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