Reviews for The nerviest girl in the world (J/Book)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A spunky preteen girl goes from ostrich rancher to stunt performer in turn-of-the-20th-century moving pictures. Pearl doesn’t think about much beyond her family’s ranch until Mr. Corrigan, a movie director, brings his Flying Q Film Company to Lemon Springs, California. First he hires Pearl’s older brothers—cowboys all—to act in his silent moving pictures, but when he sees the stunts the 11-year-old can perform, he’s quick to sign on this “nervy” girl. Pearl narrates in short, action-filled chapters, packing in descriptions of caring for ill-tempered ostriches, her risky performances, and plenty of details about the craft of silent filmmaking (including why the film industry moved out west). While stunts are second nature to Pearl, she wonders what it means to act. It comes easily to her nemesis and on-set sister, town gal Mary Mason; their jealous-turned-respectful interactions also drive the plot. Expressive, black line drawings depict some of Pearl’s feats as well as an apparently all-white cast. (The Irish-immigrant cameraman does acknowledge the theft of Native lands by white settlers during filming). An author’s note provides more information about the industry, early stuntwoman Pearl White (the inspiration for Wiley’s protagonist), and La Mesa (the inspiration for Lemon Springs) and its history of filmmaking—and ostrich farming! For another look at a girl in silent movies, this time on the East Coast, pair with Anne Nesbet’s Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen (2020). Plucky fun. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.