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Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History
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Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  192 ratings  ·  63 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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"In the old days, most girls came to America with a dream, but all Tillie Anderson had was a needle. So she got herself a job in a tailor's shop and waited for a dream to come and find her. One fine day it rolled right by her window."

So begins this charming story of Swedish immigrant Tillie Anderson and her love of cycling. And how that love of cycling made her break many of the rules that "proper young ladies" had to follow back in the late 1800s. I so admired her zest for life, her determinati...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Tillie Anderson appeared to be a typical hard-working immigrant girl, laboring in a tailor shop. But when a man on a bicycle rides by the shop, she begins saving up her money to buy one of the new-fangled contraptions, despite warnings from her mother that bicycles aren't for ladies.

Tillie wasn't interested in riding gracefully around a maypole, like other girls; she started training to get strong enough to ride fast, really fast. But there was a problem--her 19th century dresses. Soon Tillie d...more
Mrs. Tongate
*Great read during Women's History Month. **A remarkable woman who would not let society's expectations stop her from achieving her dream.

Tillie came to America with a needle and a dream. Her first job was in a tailor's shop. One day a man rode by on a bicycle and her dream of riding began.

Tillie trained everyday after work riding, lifting dumbbells,and swinging Indian clubs over her head.

Tillie designed her own bike riding gear. Her mother was horrified. Folks were mortified and some stopped sp...more
Tillie Anderson, an immigrant to the United States, waited for her American dream to find her. She decided to begin racing bicycles, designing new outfits and exercising to build her strength. Tillie becomes such a competitive force that she is nicknamed Tillie the Terrible Swede. As I read, I wondered what the conclusion of this short children's nonfiction work would be; *spoiler* Tillie discovers the automobile!

I didn't find this story to be particularly inspiring, which you could probably dis...more
This story of a woman who defies society's expectations for women by training and fashioning nonrestrictive clothing so she can ride a bicycle competitively is inspiring. Although some of the neighbors back in the 1890s were so shocked that they quit speaking to Tillie Anderson, the press and women's rights advocates adored her. Clearly, we've come a long way from those days when men feared that too much strenuous exercise was unhealthy for women, and this book serves as a reminder of the progre...more
Ccl Children's
Tillie Anderson made history in the late 1800's and early 1900's by becoming the fastest woman on a bike! From when she first began to dream of riding, she knew she wasn't interested pedaling slowly and demurely--she wanted to go fast! In her first century (100 mile) race she broke the women's record by 18 minutes, and at a time many people still didn't approve of women racing--or even riding!--she continued to compete and break records for years to come. Along the way, she scandalized her mothe...more
Glorious story! Vibrant art!

Sadly, I finished this delicious book wanting just a little more.

Readers like me could benefit from a more prominent biographical paragraph about the real-life Tillie Anderson, who I was not familiar with before perusing this title. There is a little more information in the seven-point-type acknowledgments, but I would have preferred to see a 50 to 100 word paragraph with the back endpaper that feature highlights of her racing career. In other words, a great story fo...more
Abby Johnson
Born in 1875 in Sweden and emigrated to the United States in 1889, Tillie was a girl without an American Dream... until she spied some people riding bicycles and she longed to be out there riding with them. In Tillie's day it wasn't proper for a woman to compete in athletic competitions, but Tillie couldn't be stopped. She went on to set numerous bike racing records, despite the odds stacked against her.

Bright art in yellows, reds, and blues compliments this upbeat story of a strong woman who w...more
Debra Mccracken
Humerous and enjoyable picture book of Tillie Anderson, an immigrant from Sweden who came to America in 1889 in search of a better life. She became a tailor, and was soon entranced with a new fad, bicylce riding; and not demure and slow riding as befitted proper young ladies of the time, but exciting speed riding that did NOT lend itself to long, Victorian dresses. She scandalized many by designing her own attire, exercised to build up her strength, and went on to become a record-breaking racer....more
This is another picture book that falls into the biography genre. I choose to read this book because it is about a women. It is important that we include literary works in our classrooms that have women as the main characters so the girls in our classroom have another reason to relate to literature. This is the story of Tillie Anderson who through cycling opened up doors for women in the lat 1800's. The art is very simple, and not that attractive. At the end of the story is a timeline of Tillie'...more
Who says that a woman must do something that is anything to do with needles or clothes. The book tells a real story about Tillie. She was brave to chase the goal she wanted. I impress that because I know it is impossible to let women do some man stuff things such as votes, build, or fighting. But she let the thing happen and makes all the things possible. Before she had desire to ride a bike for racing, she was not allowed to do that because she is a woman. She was not defeat. Then she still par...more
Isn't it great when a book you are looking forward to reading is as good as you hope it will be? Now that my husband is a bicycle mechanic, I've been reading more about cycling and its history so when I saw this book reviewed a while back, I ordered it for the library's collection. Tillie Anderson was awesome. Born in Sweden in 1875, Tillie emigrated to the U.S. in 1891. It wasn't too long after that she began riding a bicycle. She shocked people when she started wearing a cycling outfit which i...more
Maggie Burgess
Great story to empower young girls! Another true story I never knew, but wish I had! I would have loved this as a young girl! Another to add to my classroom library!
Nancy Breinholt
Such a great story for my fearless bike riding girl! We have had a lot of discussions about societal expectations and following your dream.
Shonna Froebel
This picture book is about an immigrant girl who came to the United States with a dream. When she arrived she found a job in a tailor shop and waited. One day, she saw a man ride past the shop on a bicycle and knew she wanted to ride one too. But women didn't ride bikes back then (the 1890s), it wasn't considered a ladylike thing to do. She persisted and began racing, and winning races too.
This is the story of the sudden expansion in popularity of bicycling at the time, and of women's rights, an...more
Cute biography in picture book format about Tillie Anderson, who became a bicycle racing champion and a sensation in the 1890's, when it was still rare and scandalous for women to ride bikes. Tillie made her own bicycling clothing, so that she didn't have to wear a skirt on a bike, and raced in speed and endurance competitions against other women worldwide. I liked the humorous nature of the story, how Tillie was contrary to her family, and the illustrations are detailed and stylized like ninete...more
Fun story about a woman that took up bicycle racing in the 1890s. Reminds me of an aunt of mine that started competing in bike racing when she was in her 40s.
Diane Bell
During the late 1800s, “bicycles aren’t for ladies,” was all Tilly was told when she asked to ride one. Prone to give up on a dream, she decided to secretly teach herself to ride! Falling in love with cycling, Tillie knew she could not ride fast in a dress. She pulled out her needle and thread and created a new, shocking skin tight biking suit. What will her mother and friends think especially when Tillie is determined to enter bicycle races?

Though this is a biography picture book, it is fun, in...more
Only thing missing was an author's note.
I love reading stories like this! In this fascinating picture-book biography, Tillie Anderson takes the world by speed! After seeing a man ride by on his bicycle, Swedish emigrant Tillie could dream of nothing but riding. Tillie broke social norm after social norm and broke record after record. She was a sensation and helped paved the way for women bicyclists. Included on the back cover flap is a list of Tillie's record breaking times.
With lively illustrations and text and such a riveting story...more
Tania Orozco
I really enjoyed reading this book. Its is an interesting story about Tillie a female in the early days. In the times of Tillie, woman had no rights and could not do anything males did. Tillie worked in a sewing store where she made dress. One day she saw a guy ride a bike and from day on she wanted to ride bikes. Tillie began training and before no time she was in bike riding contests. Tillie changed history with her passion for biking. The illustrations are great in the book and it is a fun bo...more
Sep 16, 2011 Deborah marked it as picture-books
I've been reading about women and bicycles lately--and how influential bicycles were in women's changing roles in the last few centuries. This book fits with those as it tells of a immigrant who came to America without a dream but found one here when she decided to not just ride bicycles but race them--and sewed a costume to help her (one that was well outside societal norms). It's a book about dreams finding you and determination to follow them. The illustrations feel French to me (if that make...more
Courtney Angelo
Absolutely loved this book! I didn't know of Tillie until deciding to read this book, but I am sure glad that I did! What an amazing obstacle to overcome in that time period, and she did it with an exclamation point. Breaking records, shocking the world - talk about encouraging children to follow their dreams! This biography is simple to bring into a children's classroom, but it is an eye opener to our history and the strides women have made along the way. I will definitely use this in my classr...more
Jessica Buck
Here is a powerful and encouraging story about the first female bicyclist. Tillie Anderson in a period where woman were demanding respect and equal rights, she earned hers by proving her self as a great bicyclist and along the way helps pave the way to equal rights among men and women.
I’d recommend this for young children between the 2nd -3rd grade levels for reading out load, individual read and discussion purposes. It goes well with discussing the period when women rights where being pursued....more
While this book provides several great lessons, I was bored with the story. Certainly learning about Tillie Anderson was very interesting, and the book is a great aid in teaching about woman's capabilities and the women's rights movement, but for me the story and illustrations were flat. Sometimes it is difficult to know when you are rating the author and when you are rating the story-Tillie Anderson wins again, but Sue Stauffacher and Sarah McMenemy are not at their best.
Historical Fiction/Nonfiction Text Set. This book is another great one, proving to inspire women. I love, again, that Tillie didn't care what was expected of her because her dream made HER happy. (This reminds me of Despereaux.) Tillie pushed the envelope just like some of my women idols. It provides an amazing story in history and would be great to use for teaching timelines. I recommend this book. Fourth and fifth graders could even use it when researching for a project.
This one was my favorite of the books we checked out. I've never been a particular fan of this style of illustration, but I thought it worked well for this story. It also did a good job of explaining bike racing.
E Smith
Ms Stauffacher has prose that sounds nice and familiar, but, unlike most kid's books, particularly biographies of upstanding citizens, she is neither cloying or ingratiating. Her praise is sincere, her moral lessons are clear without being overly sappy. She picks complex subjects and presents them with much of the grit of real life left on them, and that is indeed praiseworthy of a biographer for children.
This title is "terribly" misleading! Tillie Anderson was a girl who lived in the old days. She wanted to do what men did - ride a bike. She was a tailor. Tillie figured out how to sew herself an outfit to wear why riding her bike (so it wouldn't get tangled up in the wheels & such), then rode her way into history, despite many obstacles. A great book for children to hear how much things have changed for women.
Morgan Swank
Nonfiction Picture Book
I thought this was a very inspiring/empowering book! I love the fact that Tillie would ride her bike and not wear dresses like the other women. I think that definitely helped towards the women's right movement. This book makes me want to stand up for women's rights even more and prove we're just as good as men. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially girls!
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