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.
Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year 2012 (ages 5-9)
NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
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. –Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)
“‘In the old days, most girls came to America with a dream, but all Tillie Anderson had was a needle,’ begins this winning account of a Swedish immigrant who desires to cycle and to pedal fast — ‘the speedy, scorchy, racy kind of riding.’ Anderson, who went on to become the women’s racing champion of the world, is a figure fit for admiration, and her story, set against the bicycle craze of the 1890s — and matched with superb illustrations — will rivet readers.” –New York Times
“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.” –Kirkus Reviews
“The opening endpapers feature spot art of traditional dress, while the closing ones sport a racecourse of Tillie’s records (and include an author’s note unfortunately hidden beneath the flap). Constant curves in McMenemy’s cheery gouache, ink, and paper collage art convey a sense of motion; on one spread, posters and newspapers touting Tillie’s physical accomplishments are depicted in a serene blue palette, illustrating the tension between being a “dignified” lady and an active woman. Emphasizing sport over societal issues, the text is paced like a race, opening slowly and moving to a fast finish.” –Horn Book Magazine
“While this biography offers broad-stroke information on Anderson and the state of women’s issues at the time, the endpapers provide annual statistics from 1896 to 1901 regarding her “Record Breakers” as well as her “Cycling Victories.” The whimsical gouache and hand-painted paper collage illustrations add to the turn-of-the-century flavor of the book, while the uniform color palette of each spread adds cohesion to the layout. A great addition to the growing number of biographies of daring women.” –School Library Journal
The Tillie Ride!
For one week in May 2011 (5/16-5/20), children’s book author Sue Stauffacher–accompanied by her husband, experienced cyclist Bob Johnson, media gal Sara Schneider, and various groups of schoolchildren along the way–rode from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Chicago, Illinois (254 miles), to deliver donated copies of her recently released picture book, Tillie the Terrible Swede (Knopf, January 2011) to the Chicago Public Library. In Chicago, they stopped at the Swedish American History Museum and the Sulzer branch of the library. Along the way, they visited schools that have not had a children’s book author visit within the last five years.
Sue would like to thank the following talented team for making the above video possible. Alyson-Caillaud Jones and Suzanne Zack for capturing footage; Bob Hazen and Thom Bell for filming the interviews; Jordan Peasley and Michael Johnson for editing the film; Alice Olson Roepke and Terry Roepke for use of archival photographs; Bob Johnson, Sam Johnson and Roger Gilles for technical assistance; and Sara Schneider for social media. Thank you all so much!
Want to learn more about this adventure? Please visit The Tillie Ride website to see the lessons Sue used to help herself train for a 250+ mile bike ride in honor of the publication of Tillie’s book. In particular, kids will learn about resiliency and fortitude in this section.
Learn more about Tillie Anderson on her official website: www.tillieanderson.com