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Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! Hardcover – July 8, 2014

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—McCully expertly brings to life the story of a unique and determined woman in this well-written and thoroughly researched biography, filled with numerous and pertinent photographs. She places Tarbell's story into historical context, detailing how the country was just discovering the hidden wealth of oil and all the opportunities that came with it and how certain individuals were making shrewd business deals to guarantee large incomes. All of the corruption and secret machinations affected many citizens. Tarbell went where no one had gone before, becoming an investigative reporter for a top magazine. Though women were little respected at the time, she dove right into a man's world, exposing the somewhat shady side of John D. Rockefeller, head of the powerful Standard Oil Trust. As Tarbell's articles stirred public emotions, she grew more and more famous for her outspokenness and perseverance. Readers will not only get a feel for Tarbell, but they'll also get a sense of the changing world she inhabited.—Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Born before the Civil War, Ida M. Tarbell had the intelligence, drive, and personality to carve out a career for herself in a man’s world, writing hard-hitting articles for McClure’s Magazine and becoming a pioneer in the field of investigative journalism. Having grown up in a Pennsylvania community that rose with the oil boom and suffered as a result of price fixing and other underhanded tactics, Tarbell understood the social costs of unsavory business practices. After a thorough investigation, she wrote a series of articles on the rise of Standard Oil and their devious methods of stifling competition. Her writing swayed public opinion and prompted public officials to act. In her first book for young adults, Caldecott medalist McCully shows a fine ability to organize material and present it in a lively, readable way. She deals head-on with the thorny topic of Tarbell’s opposition to women’s suffrage, perhaps one reason this intriguing, historically significant woman has been overlooked by other biographers for young people. McCully also places information about Tarbell within the broader context of her upbringing as well as the social norms and political forces that informed her choices. Illustrated with many period photos, this informative title brings Tarbell and her times into sharper focus for readers today. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547290926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547290928
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Emily Arnold McCully was born left-handed in Galesburg, Illinois. She was a dare-devil tree-climber and ball-player who loved to write stories and illustrate them. Her family moved to New York City and then to a suburb, where she attended school. After college at Brown University, she earned a Master's degree at Columbia University in art history. She worked as a freelance illustrator for magazines, advertisements and book publishers until a radio station commissioned a series of posters showing children playing. The first appeared in subway cars, where it was seen by a children's book editor. It launched a long career, first as an illustrator, then as author/illustrator of picture books. McCully won a Caldecott Medal in 1993. She has two grown sons, one grandson and lives in New York City and Columbia County, N.Y., where she grows flowers and vegetables.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on June 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading Emily McCully's delightful biography of Ida Tarbell is an example of an extremely fortuitous circumstance. Had I realized that it was designed for a "young adult" audience, I might have passed on it; but as it turns out, this very factor enhanced my reading pleasure immensely. The format of the book, with its "open", slightly larger typeface and copious illustrations make it visually pleasing, but it is by no means lacking in depth and substance.

The subtitle, "The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - and Won" is absolutely apropos and is of course what makes it clear that this is an extremely timely narrative despite the fact that present-day circumstances suggest that much of what Tarbell accomplished has been undone. Indeed, I was tempted to start this review with the statement, "It's STILL about the oil, stupid!" The Koch brothers may have replaced the Rockefellers as the major players whose vast oil fortune has become the main purchaser of political advantage, but the scenario is none-the-less eerily familiar.

Besides being very timely, McCully's biography is also detailed, sensitive and exceptionally engaging. Since the advance reading copy I received lacks the source notes and Bibliography as well as the photo credits that will enhance the published edition, I am unable to comment on these, but given the overall quality of the material as presented, I have no doubt that the book will be of great value to the serious student as well as enjoyable to the casual reader as I found it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on May 23, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I was fascinated by Tarbell in Ron Chernow's Titan (a biography of Rockefeller) and have been looking for a good biography since. Unfortunately, it's not clear that this is a book intended for children/young adults. From the fonts to the simple narrative, this was not what I was hoping for.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting book with a slightly misleading name. It is the biography of a woman named Ida M. Tarbell, a woman who lived from 1857 to 1944, and it is written for grades 7 and up. I am way past any grade level but the book easily held my attention and I felt I learned a lot from it. It covers an interesting time period...although Ida lived from mid 19th to mid 20th century, most of the interesting stuff is from the 1860s to around the turn of the 20th century and that time period isn't that long ago, really. It's a weird in-between time in some ways, but also the start of a lot of big businesses and big ideas in this country.

We start out learning about Ida's parents, with details like what an oil boom town was like and how her father took a train one way and, not having the fare to go back the other way, had to walk over 1000 miles to get back home. Details like this really make you feel what the time was like. In fact, all sorts of details make this book really great, telling us about a woman who chose to live her life a certain way and make certain choices and sacrifices in order to live that life. She is the right person, in the right place, at the right time, to make a big difference and do a lot of interesting things and define a period in time. At least until about 1906. That's when she quits the McClure Company and also seems to be when she quits being quite so relevant.

Time marches on and finally, after being on the forefront of things for so long, Ida seems to lag behind and the story starts to lag as well and just has more a feeling of "okay, let's just finish this up, shall we?" That's the last quarter of the book.

Now, as to the sub-title of the book, "The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - And Won!" I don't even really...
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By Kindred VINE VOICE on August 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ida Tarbell is one of those women whose name might show up as someone ahead of their time, meaning, a woman who worked in a man’s world, in some lists of such women. Before picking up this book all I knew was that she was one of the first women journalists who covered ‘hard news’. According to this book she was one of the original muckrakers, digging up dirt as they say. Of course one man’s dirt is another man’s truth. Tarbell at the turn of the century was in the right place and with the right education to dig into the Rockefeller story and the gas industry to great acclaim.

It became apparent soon enough that this was written as a young adult book because the explanation of Tarbell’s early years read a little like one of the biographies I so loved in elementary school. But I don’t know that the description means that it’s successful as a young adult entry. It was strangely simplistic with a few big words thrown in. I appreciate the attempt to make it more accessible to teens but maybe the story itself is too complicated for the genre. Not that teens can’t follow the story, but that this telling of it seemed a bit light on the hard details concerning the stories she covered and how difficult it may have been for a woman to be taken seriously at the time.

It was also disconcerting to read of Tarbell’s dislike of the suffrage movement when we could have assumed she would be in favor of women’s rights- I wasn’t satisfied with the small attempts to convey her problems with suffrage or why she felt that way.

It’s a serviceable book. And if it sparks interest in the era and the readers feel the desire to delve more deeply into that history and look for more challenging tomes, then all the better.
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Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won!
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