What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Amelia Earhart to Michelle Obama. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.
Needless to say, this book is absolutely special. One hundred female personalities, from the past and present, who deserve to be heard and read about, presented in a fairytale-ish style with illustrations from female artists. This idea alone deserves to be celebrated.
The foreword made me emotional already. You can tell how much passion and enthusiasm is behind this book, and I am so glad it exists! I was not aware of its history as a kickstarter project, but that speaks even more of the genuine interest of everyone involved and other than a few typos, there are no ‘physical’ flaws that would hint at this rather unusual background.
On the contrary. The book itself feels absolutely amazing, it’ is quite heavy like one of the old adventure-stories volumes you had as a child. I also love the cover, precisely because it is not pink and glittery but dark blue with bold lettering. Around it are names of famous women in a paler blue, like stars in a dark night sky. The cover challenges gender norms (pink books for girls, blue ones for boys) but is at the same time wonderfully neutral, so that every child could get excited about it and adults can gift it to boys and girls alike without ‘worries’.
Inside, every woman (or girl) is presented on a double page. On the left you have her name, birth dates and country enclosing the actual story. These texts are neither merely biographical nor anecdotal, but vary in those degrees depending on the respective personality. The right page are portraits of them, each created by a different female artist.
Having read this as an adult, coming straight from university where we analysed some of these women closely, I had a few issues with some representations and on what aspect the texts focused (for example presenting Elisabeth I as a kind and well-beloved queen or Jane Austen as the stay-at-home-writer who did not care about the outside world). Arguably, there are some women I would not have included, and others I would have wished to see instead, but that is of course a subjective issue that could be argued about forever. And anyway, I genuinely enjoyed reading these stories and loved learning about so many exceptional women that I sadly have not heard about before.
As someone who is lost with most art, it means a lot that even I could appreciate the illustrations. Literally every single portrait is different, and while some of the styles were not for me, it was incredibly interesting to see how each artist perceived and presented these different women. The diversity among them was wonderfully balanced, there were so many countries and ethnicities represented, and their accomplishments were in every area you can think of, from science to music to literature and everything in between.
I could not evaluate first-hand how a child would react to the stories, the style and the illustrations, but would judge it as appropriate and understandable if the reader is willing to explain some concepts that might be unknown to children. As an adult, I felt inspired and empowered by reading about women who persisted and fought for their accomplishments, even though their societies were throwing stones and boulders in their way. It is definitely an important collection and I hope it not only redirects the public focus and memory, but also inspires more works of this kind. Now, I will take up the idea of Books and Peonies and read one story every morning, which will be a fantastic and motivating start to each day!
The concept of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is amazing and unique, the illustrations are beautiful, the chosen representations diverse and the stories are well-written and, most of the time, accurate. I can wholeheartedly recommend this to readers of every age-group and gender.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls | Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo | Hardcover: 212 pages | Published 2016 by Timbuktu Labs
My rating: ★★★★☆
Thanks to Lovelybooks and Penguin UK for providing me with this review copy!