Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls has been sitting on my shelf for a while, (terrible, I know.) In my defense I had a book to finish, short stories to hand in and a workshop to plan. But once I had finished relaunching my website, it was the first book I reached for. To sum up my thoughts – it’s just magical.
This gorgeous illustrated hardcover book features one hundred bedtime stories about brave and brilliant women from the past and present. From political activists, pirates and pilots to first ladies, filmmakers and fashion designers, each women is as extraordinary and inspiring as the last.
Each bite size bedtime story is accompanied by a beautiful illustration by a female artist, of which a total of sixty contributed.
It’s a revolutionary idea. Why tell little girls (and even boys for that matter) stories about made-up princesses when there are hundreds of real-life heroines to be inspired by? The demand for these stories is evidenced by the fact that this book was entirely crowdfunded and another is being released this year. (I hope JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Mary Shelley make an appearance).
I was familiar with many of the women featured in this book, including the obvious role models like the Bronte sisters, Virginia Woolf, Michelle Obama, Serena and Venus Williams, Miriam Makeba and Malala Yousafzai, as well as lesser known figures like inventor Ada Lovelace, journalist Nellie Bly, aviator Amelia Earhart and paleontologist Mary Anning, who I encountered in Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Others were new discoveries, like tattoo artist Maud Stevens Wagner, the philosopher Hypatia and fearsome female pirates Grace O’ Malley and Jacquotte Delahaye, both of whom I’m sure many young girls will be dreaming about after reading these stories.
Some women are known by their work, but not what led up to that point. Isabel Allende, for example, discovered her talent for writing when she wrote a letter to her dying grandfather. The letter ultimately became the novel The House of Spirits. Famous chef Julia Child began her cooking career whipping up shark repellent for the US navy during World War Two.
Crucially, these pages contain some of the heroines who fought for the freedoms we have today, such as the suffragette Kate Sheppard, Harriet Tubman, the Mirabel sisters, and a few, like Malala Yousafzai who fight on to this day.
Each one-page biography is written in typical “once upon a time” fairy-tale style and includes the obstacles the subject faced on their journey to success, whether it was public scrutiny, violence and even imprisonment. Before Alek Wek was discovered by a talent scout and became a supermodel, her family had to flee a warzone. Elizabeth I spent most of her life in prison before she was crowned Queen of England.
These stories illustrate that hard work and determination pay off, but more importantly, if you dare to try you can achieve anything.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is a wonderfully inspiring and feel-good book that leaves you feeling like you can reach your dreams. If I felt empowered after reading it imagine the effect it would have on a young girl.
I love this opening quote:
To the rebel girls of the world:
And, when in doubt, remember
You are right.