Right now, dystopias full of characters fighting against regimes are hot in the YA world. But what about the real-life rebels? The fifty powerful men and women in Rockin’ the Boat made a huge impact on our world. They were born into worlds where something was wrong, whether it be unfair voting rights or oppressive rulers. No matter what the cost, they decided that they would start a revolution. Some ended up being hated (see Fidel Castro), but others became icons of peace (thank you, Gandhi!). A few names will jump out at readers, like good old George Washington and spiritual warrior Joan of Arc. But a few less familiar faces join the crew, with appearances by Vercingetorix and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. No matter how famous they are today, every chapter is worth reading. After all, where would the world be without rebels to stir things up?
As a history buff, I loved Rockin’ the Boat! The book is divided into fifty three to five page chapters, one for every revolutionary. I was unsure of how much information I would really get out of such few pages, but I was impressed by how wide the scope was. Fleischer was able to get from cradle to grave (or present, in Castro’s case) and convince the reader that the person was truly revolutionary. Little side notes provide fun facts, and pictures or paintings show the reader what the famous figures looked like. It would have been nice for the pictures to be in color and not black and white, but that’s just a personal preference.
The people highlighted in this easy-to-read book come from all over the world – the United States and Great Britain to Russia and Turkey. It gives readers a good, rounded perspective about revolutions. I was also pleased to see that women also made the cut! Harriet Tubman, Boudica, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (one of may favorite icons) all make an appearance.
The author makes sure to banish any stereotypes or misconceptions about the people, and does his best to set the record straight. For example, William Wallace of Braveheart fame definitely didn’t wear a kilt, but he was actually beheaded and quartered.
After reading Rockin’ the Boat, scholars young and old will want to check out a few more books about the intriguing characters. I know that I want to find out more about New Zealand feminist Kate Sheppard and Catholic zealot Guy Fawkes. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy learning about amazingly insane, kind, or brave men and women who did not fear change.