The Book

Tillie the Terrible Swede

When Tillie Anderson came to America, all she had was a needle. So she got herself a job in a tailor shop and waited for a dream to find her. One day, a man sped by on a bicycle. She was told “bicycles aren’t for ladies,” but from then on, Tillie dreamed of riding—not graceful figure eights, but speedy, scorching, racy riding! And she knew that couldn’t be done in a fancy lady’s dress… With arduous training and her (shocking!) new clothes, Tillie became the women’s bicycle-riding champion of the world.

Sue Stauffacher’s lively text and Sarah McMenemy’s charming illustrations capture the energy of America’s bicycle craze and tell the story of one woman who wouldn’t let society’s expectations stop her from achieving her dream.

Tillie’s Gotten Some Great Reviews:

A ‘star’ from Publisher’s Weekly:

*Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History
Sue Stauffacher, illus. by Sarah McMenemy, Knopf, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-84442-3
Reaching back more than a century, Stauffacher and McMenemy resurrect the story of pioneering woman cyclist Tillie Anderson–and make Lance Armstrong feel like yesterday’s news. Racing in a self-created aerodynamic outfit (hence the needle reference in the title), Anderson both scandalized and thrilled 1890s America as she shattered records for speed and endurance, leaving competitors and conventional wisdom in the dust. At first, McMenemy’s (The Busiest Street in Town) doll-like characterizations and pert settings seem too dainty to serve the story of an athletic heroine and her frenzied times, but within a few pages Anderson’s unstoppable determination and energy read loud and clear–in fact, McMenemy proves that the diminutive can also be indomitable. Stauffacher’s (Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson) writing is as sprightly and heartfelt as ever, and to her credit, she connects Tillie’s accomplishments to the building women’s rights movement. An excellent afterword, tucked on the inside back cover, provides fascinating historical context for Anderson’s story. Worthy of taking its place beside You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! and other top-notch junior histories. Ages 5–8. (Jan.)

From Kirkus:

TILLIE THE TERRIBLE SWEDE
How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History
Author: Stauffacher, Sue
Illustrator: McMenemy, Sarah

Modern bike-riding kids do not realize that for women at the turn of the 20th century bicycles equaled freedom. For Tillie Anderson, it was the ticket out of her job in a tailor shop and into the world of racing and fame. In Tillie’s day, women cycled in long dresses, gracefully navigating figure eights or circles around a ladylike maypole, never being seen with “bicycle face.” With her trusty needle and thread, Tillie sewed a close-fitting, scandalous suit for riding, allowing her to enter real bike races. Loose, dainty watercolors employ an old-timey palette and give this historic tale the right touch of humor. Tillie is always surrounded by white, making her easy to find in the race scenes. Each spread is full of movement, with circles and ovals playing their proper role in this tale of athleticism, women’s rights and freedom. The endpapers extend the story—the opening shows women’s fashions and the closing recounts the highlights of Tillie’s life in racing. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

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