Mightier Than The Sword: Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries Who Changed The World Through Writing is a quick and fun read that beautifully balances education and entertainment. This children’s/middle grade book is a compilation of biographies from 40 people who used the power of words to change the world. It also includes smaller sections within each chapter that highlights additional writers and world changers, bringing the number of people it covers closer to 100 in total. 

What sets this biographical collection apart from others is its unique format, which combines written word and illustrations, by artist Melina Ontiveros, to tell the stories of these incredible people from our past. At the beginning of each chapter, readers will find a caricature of the individual the chapter focuses on, along with their name, lifespan dates, what they were known for and the name(s) of their specific work. Also listed are the words ‘Write To’, followed by what compelled that person to write. 

Each chapter is broken into distinctive parts. The first, in typical biographical fashion, covers the individual’s life and accomplishments. Following this information are additional headings labeled Write To KnowWrite Now and Write To Create.


In this section, author Rochelle Melander expounds upon an element of the biography section that a young reader might need a bit more information on to understand. For example, in the Write To Know section of naturalist and scientific illustrator Maria Merian’s biography, Melander includes an explanation of what a research diary or field journal is and what types of notes scientists usually include in them.


This section provides the reader with a writing exercise based on the biography of each individual. For example, from the biography of poet and activist Phillis Wheatley, we learn she wrote many of her poems in the form of an elegy. In Wheatley’s corresponding Write Now section, Melander encourages readers to do as Wheatley did and write an elegy for a cause they are passionate about.


This section provides an additional activity for readers, also based on the biography of each individual. For example, from the biography section for educator Mary McLeod Bethune, readers learn she was passionate about leaving behind a legacy of living and serving. In Bethune’s corresponding Write To Create section, Melander encourages readers to create a sign or t-shirt that shares their own life philosophy or legacy they would like to leave for future generations. 


At the back of the book, Melander also includes additional resources for reading, including ways to beat writer’s block, revising tips, writing advice and further reading resources.


Writer’s block is the bane of every writer’s existence. To help young writers get past it, Melander provides some tips to gets the words and ideas flowing. Such tips include creating a mind map, list writing, free writing and more.


After writers finally get the words out on paper, they need to revise what they’ve written. In this section, Melander provides sone tips to polish up written work. Such tips include asking questions of your writing, getting outside feedback from friends and family, refining your content and more.


When in doubt, turn to the greats. In this section, Melander provides bits of writing advice from the writers and world changers included in her book. From funny, to serious, to helpful, these quotes will get you out of your writing slump!


The saying is true, good writers read! Not only do they read widely (books both in and outside of their writing genre and interests), they also read books on the craft of writing. Don’t know where to begin? Check out this section of Mightier Than The Pen for a list of books on writing to get you started! 


Mightier Than The Sword is written in a casual, accessible manner perfect for a younger audience. Equal parts informative and entertaining, this biographical compilation can also be enjoyed by older readers looking for some base knowledge on the different individuals presented in the book. 

I appreciated the way author Rochelle Melander used a broad definition of ‘write’ and ‘writing’ when it came to who she included in the biography. This allowed her to highlight writers of various genres as well as those of algorithms, letters, articles, speeches, diaries and more, forcing readers to expand their own definition of what ‘writing’ is. The way she further engages her audience with writing prompts and activities helps to reinforce this notion.

As a whole, Mightier Than The Sword beautifully illustrates the power of the written word and importance of leveraging words for good. Perhaps even more significant, it displays the universal truth that anyone can wield words and change the world. As Melander puts it in her introduction to Mightier Than The Sword, “The minute you put pen to paper, you change. When you share your writing, it changes others. Your words have the power to transform you and your world.” All you have to do is “take up your pen and write!”

-Emily VanderBent
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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