#WomenReadWomen2019 Adult Award-Winning Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Nonfiction Reading Themes Warrior Women and Social Justice Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Monday Reading] Once Upon A Time There Were Rebel Girls From Around The World

Favilli and Cavallo's Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Volumes 1 and 2).

IMWAYR

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

I have been meaning to read these two books for awhile now. Our current theme has given me the perfect excuse to do just that.


Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls: 100 Tales Of Extraordinary Women

Written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Published by Timbuktu Labs (2016)
ISBN: 0997895810 (ISBN13: 9780997895810). Literary Award: Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2017). Daughter was given a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

As a whole, I like the general concept behind this series. Each full page spread contains a brief biography of a rebel woman on the left hand side with the words Once Upon A Time to begin the narrative.

A portrait of the featured female with a brief quote can then be found on the right hand side of the page drawn by a variety of female illustrators from around the world. In the Preface of the book, Cavallo and Favilli expressed their gratitude to people from over 70 countries who have provided their support to make this book come about via their crowdfunding initiative.

Similar to the critique I have shared of the other biographies that we have already featured, the first thing I did was to check whether there were any women coming from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam: zilch. At 100 women, though, there were attempts at providing some kind of representation; in fact, the photos I am sharing here show that. Fadumo Dayib, a politician, is from Somalia as seen in the above image. There is also Balkissa Chaibou, an activist from Niger as can be seen below.

It is pretty startling, however, how practically all of the biographies we have been reading and featuring fail to highlight women coming from my part of the world: there is Corazon Aquino from the Philippines; Ann Elizabeth Wee, the founding mother of social work in Singapore – just to cite a few. I am also surprised that I haven’t found Benazir Bhutto in any of the biography compilations I have been reading.

The usual suspects are still here, though, with Malala Yousafzai, Ada Lovelace, Frida Kahlo, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai – just to cite a few. Hence, it does serve as a good primer for young readers who may not be familiar with these historical figures.

However, I just feel that it would be good if there was a book that highlighted little-known females from around the world, with a concerted effort to conduct a thorough investigation into legendary historical figures from Southeast Asia, countries in Africa and the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia – just to cite a few countries/areas that have not been as adequately represented.

The representation in both volumes of this rebel girl collection is more skewed towards the US, UK, Canada and a few countries in Europe. Regardless, I still appreciated reading the shortened version of their life story narratives. Those who are familiar with the longer version, however, may feel that there are details that seem to be missing or lacking in the narrative, but I suppose the idea is to encourage young readers to read up on their own if they wish to get more information.

I would have appreciated also seeing an extensive list of References/Bibliography Section at the end of the book for readers who would like to know more about each of these women. It will also serve to highlight how the Once upon a Time narrative is actually grounded on reality and factual information.


Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls 2

Written by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli
Published by Timbuktu Labs (2017)
ISBN: 0997895829 (ISBN13: 9780997895827). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

For some reason, I loved this volume more than the first one. Maybe because there were more familiar names found in the first volume – desensitizing me to the point of saturation: how often can I read about Frida Kahlo and Malala Yousafzai really, without wanting to move beyond what I have already read in other biographies.

Given the explosion of publications on biographies of legendary women, I understand how this could be somewhat of a challenge. The authors also need to contend with the fact that there are also biographies written about Celia Cruz (see my review here), Katherine Johnson (see Fats’ review here), Joan Procter (see my review here) that are more detailed, beautifully illustrated, with a cadence to the narration packaged beautifully in picturebook format.

Hence, the authors need to be able to get the reader sufficiently invested in the narrative, without overwhelming them, yet also providing something new that make it a notch different from all the other biographies published about this rebel woman.

Another issue that I also contended with in these two books is the design and layout – particularly the portrait page. I just feel that more could have been done to make the typography fit more seamlessly into each woman’s image. There were occasions when it was difficult to read the name of the illustrator or even the quote attributed to the featured rebel female.

I think it would also have been nice if the authors included in their Introduction what they meant exactly by “rebel girls” and what their criteria for inclusion in this collection is. Evidently, these are women representing a variety of disciplines and coming from a variety of cultural background. As an academic, I am intrigued as to how they arrived at these 100 names – fascinating as they all are.

That being said, I know that I am only able to pick all these things apart, mainly because there are so many books of this nature published over the recent years. This should not detract from the fact, however, that these are valuable resources for all young readers who, undoubtedly, would enjoy reading these life story narratives before going to bed.


#WomenReadWomen2019: While both Favilli and Cavallo grew up in Italy, they are now based in United States of America.

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12 comments on “[Monday Reading] Once Upon A Time There Were Rebel Girls From Around The World

  1. I haven’t read either of these so it’s good to read your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    I will probably not read either of these, but my granddaughter (4th grade) has read at least one because her classroom has it. She said she liked it, but it feels like the picture books coming out may be more enticing and add more about the lives. For me, I wish they had included different people from around the world, as you wrote, but for a young girl who knows few of them, it probably works for a great beginning. Thanks, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you on so many points – I sometimes feel like these biographies really simplify complex women’s lives to a point where they sometimes become more like storybook characters than real people.I also really appreciated your point on what exactly makes for a “rebel” girl – sometimes to really understand an act of rebellion you need more information on an individual’s environment – a simple act that a person in one culture might not even notice might be a huge act of rebellion for someone from another culture or period in history. And you’re right, I keep seeing the same women included over and over in books about strong women. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate and value these kinds of compilation books, I just wish they would broaden their sights a bit and start looking around the world more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read both of these and while I liked them well enough, and am happy that they are around as introductions to young readers, I too wish they were more diverse, but they are a great starting off point. Last week while reading Lights! Camera! Alice! to groups and talking about the importance of IWD, many girls talked about reading these different kinds of collections. They are more important that we can imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jana Eschner

    These look like terrific nonfiction resources for all bookshelves. Thanks for sharing and have a terrific week!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for all you’ve shared about the Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls books. And I completely agree with what you said about wishing for a References section at the conclusion of the book. Seems like something that would normally be included on such a project. Thanks for all the shares, Myra, and have a wonderful reading week!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good night Stories for Rebel Girls sounds good in a lot of ways, but yes it sounds like it needs more representation from Asia in general, and some of the areas you mention in particular! Glad that it’s a good resource though for those who may not be as versed in some of these historical figures. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sarah Sammis

    I think you need to pitch a book or it will just be the same 100 over and over again. My weekly updates

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love these books as starting points to get to know more about these amazing women.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There is some incremental improvement with representation with every new decade of publishing, so hopefully the trend will continue upwards! Biographies are not a genre I’ve ever gravitated towards, especially as a young reader, but these might have captured my attention with the illustrations, the story format, and the emphasis on women doing interesting things in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This looks really great! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The book looks beautiful. And seems to be going in the right direction for representation though it does seem like there is room for growth.
    Happy reading this week:-)

    Liked by 1 person

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