Review: Girls Are Best, by Sandi Toksvig

Finally, Holly and I have got round to reviewing Girls Are Best, by Sandi Toksvig. I say finally because I wanted us to read this a little while ago, when Holly came out with a corker that stunned me – that airline pilots had to be men not women. To  be fair, she said she had this impression because, whenever we’ve flown, we’ve never had a woman at the helm. But I thought it was time to at least introduce her to some of the amazing things women have done and continue to do and some of our lovely fellow bloggers suggested we try this book.

Image courtesy of


What it’s about: (taken from back blurb) Girls have been around just as long as boys, haven’t they? Yes! So why don’t we hear more about great women from the past? Just because lots of them haven’t gone down in the history books doesn’t mean they haven’t achieved amazing things, come up with wonderful inventions or won battles! Read on to find out why GIRLS ARE BEST!

Holly and Sam – conversation

Today we’re going to do something different. Rather than a typical review, I’ll reproduce some of the conversation we had about this book as I think it might be more interesting and enlightening. I pulled it out of the bookshelf as we were having a conversation at dinnertime about monarchies and communism and why weren’t there many women presidents or prime ministers in the country? (This makes us sound terribly intellectual – we’re not! We just like throwing ideas around!) I flicked through the pages and Holly kept stopping me to ask me to read the little vignettes of information. The book isn’t solid text – it has photos, pictures, fact and of course snippets of info so you can dip in and out – perfect for learning a lot or a little at a time.

Holly: I remember seeing that book before.

Sam: I bought it a while back when you made a rather startling comment about women not being airline pilots when you were playing with your friend.

Holly: I didn’t mean it! I just meant that I have never had a woman pilot on any plane I’ve been on.

Sam: Fair enough. So, do you think this is an important book for girls to read?

Holly: Yes! So they can read about what women have done in the past.

Sam: What was the coolest thing you found out?

Holly: That bit about the woman who was the first person in the world to do a triple somersault on the trapeze. It’s great that she did that before a man did! (This was Lena Jordan, a Latvian who achieved this feat in 1897, 12 years before a man managed to do so.)

Sam: What was the most shocking thing you found out?

Holly: That loads of women did many things and men took the credit, and women weren’t allowed to. (We read about Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser, both of whom helped found the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 but weren’t allowed to be in the same portrait as the men who were also responsible, and also about Catherine Littlefield Greene, who helped Eli Whitney perfect the Cotton Gin machine in the USA – she suggested he use wire instead of wooden teeth as his design wasn’t working. Thanks to her input, this became the model upon which all cotton gins were designed, yet she got none of the credit!)

Sam: It asks here what percentage of senior business management positions are held by women. What do you think?

Holly: 50 per cent.

Sam: Two per cent (based on figures released in 2008).

Holly: NO WAY!

Sam: It also says here that boys are stronger than girls but girls are fitter generally.

Holly: Is that because boys stuff their faces at lunchtime? (Does imitation of boy stuffing his face.)

Sam: What do you think of the pink colour? Is it too girly for a book that is meant to talk about girls’ strength?

Holly: No. I think it helps to attract girls to read it. They are likely to pick it up if it’s pink and then they will look on the inside and like it. Plus it puts boys off. That’s good!


That was our discussion, and it was fun! I’d recommend this book because it does help spark conversation on women’s achievements throughout history (therefore, meeting curriculum requirements – PSHCE or whatever it’s called plus history in one go) and can act as a prompt for talking about dreams and aspirations. Interestingly, I asked Holly who her biggest heroine would be and she promptly replied Rosa Parks (she actually said Rose of Parks – I thought she meant Joan of Arc) because of the huge influence she had on the American Civil Rights movement. They’ve been learning about that at school recently and she was amazed at how profound Ms Parks’ contribution not only to racial equality but also as a woman.

Rosa Parks, image courtesy of


Who are your heroines? Please share! We’re always looking for inspirational women!





  1. Great to read your thoughts on this book. When I read it (at the time of our initial conversation on twitter) I was disappointed that the book didn’t contain good references and bibliography – it makes lots of startling claims, but all you’ve got to go on is Sandi Toksvig’s word. I want to believe her (and I love a lot of what she does), but I felt the book would have been more powerful if when I read/shared a comment that made me and my daughters feel surprised I could have easily gone to the source, or been pointed to a good reference. As it was, I felt it was more like what we’d call a good “loo book” (good for dipping in and out of, quite light hearted) rather than one that was really useful.


    • Thanks Zoe for your reply – I was trying to find your feedback when I wrote this post but couldn’t so I am pleased you’ve taken the time to write. I agree with you that it’s a shame there was no bibliography or index – we tried to look someone up and couldn’t find her. It would have been more helpful to have that in there definitely.


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