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.
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.
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.