A new type of story: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

This book is not found in book shops. And it is not just one story. It brings the stories we may not have heard, but really should. This is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls!

The Story

The idea started when Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, two entrepreneurs, saw how few children’s books contain stories about girls. According to a study (2011) 100% of books contain male characters. Whereas only 75% of books contain female characters.

And when you look at the aspirations of these characters, the difference becomes even greater. In children’s media only 19.5% of female characters have jobs or have career aspirations. Meanwhile, 80.5% of male characters do.

So they wanted to create a book that would inspire children. And be one that they would have wanted when they were growing up. Their aim is that it will inspire young girls and boys to reach the extraordinary; become astronauts, architects, mathematicians and athletes. Showing boys and girls the amazing jobs and actions women can do.

They describe their book as:

“a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present”

Which is pretty awesome.

The Book

And the book really is exquisite. Every double page has an illustration of the inspirational woman on the right, with a beautiful glimpse of the woman’s life on the left.

The wonderful women include people from the past including Ada Lovelace, Frida Kahlo and the Bronte sisters. As well as people who are making history now, like Simone Biles, Serena Williams and Malala Yousafzai.

And it’s not just about the women in the book. The illustrations were created by 60 female artists from around the world too. So children get to not only read about amazing women, but see the wide diversity of their artwork too.

The book has received almost entirely positive praise.

Waterstones and The Book People both give it a 5/5! And it totally deserves this.

They say “If you can see it, you can be it”, and what better than 100 different people to see!

Things to Note

We should say that there are some women in the book that some people don’t agree with. Personally, I think including a transgender girl can be good, though I feel someone like Laverne Cox would have been better suited. There’s also two pirates, who probably don’t have the most admirable professions. However they do show a full range of what women can do.

There also may be a few people who you wish were in the book but aren’t. But that opens up a great opportunity! Let your children know these people. Let them create their own book of amazing women. I’d include Ronda Rousey, Miranda Hart and Rachel Bloom (because of how they inspire me) but there are so many women out there who’s stories deserve to be heard. And if children hear them, you never know, it might be the thing that raises their aspirations.

Additional

If you want to find out more, or have a look at the plans for the sequel, go to rebelgirls.co

For our reviewed books about inspirational girls, have a look at the Karate Princess, about a unconventional girl and her great skill.

 

Why a Karate Princess is a great role model

Firstly, let me share with you a little thing about me. When I was 18 I got a black belt in karate, and it was one the proudest moments of my life. It’s the first the thing I come to whenever I think I haven’t accomplished anything (which happens a lot more than I should let it). I started when I was 11, when I saw that there would be an instructor teaching it at a nearby school. And from the first session I was completely hooked.

For me, it was a rare place in my world where being pretty and smiley and friendly didn’t matter. I could be me 100%. Instead of being judged on what I looked like, or how I behaved, I was rewarded for my skill. This was so important to me and, I feel, to every little girl.

So maybe I’m a little biased in recommending this book, The Karate Princess by Jeremy Strong. However it is great to have a story about a strong little girl. There are plenty of books, and films, about princesses who don’t do very much, and even more stories about little boys who do. So I think it’s nice, and refreshing, to have one about a princess who does a lot. Especially when that is defeating bad guys.

The story is about a princess, Belinda, who’s father thinks she won’t marry a prince (and therefore amount to anything) because she isn’t pretty. So her mother sets out to find an instructor who will teach her, so that she doesn’t need to be pretty. She finds a karate instructor. Seven years later, with her years of karate experience, Belinda ends up on a mission which, if she succeeds, will let her marry a particular prince. The ending is superb, as is how she tackles the many ups and downs of her mission. Making the book a great one for courageous young girls, and boys.

Here are my reasons why I think Belinda the Karate Princess, created by Jeremy Strong, is a fantastic role model.

Front cover of The Karate Princess showing a girl with curly black her joyfully kicking a pillar, while an exhausted guard looks on

1 She’s not only good at karate, she’s kind too

When she comes across the Bogle, a monster she has been told to capture, she could have just over-powered him but she doesn’t. She listens to him and empathises with him. It can be all well and good being powerful enough that you can bring harm to anyone, but it is a much greater thing knowing when to use it. And an even better thing being kind. Many heroes focus on their physical strength and power as the thing that makes them heroic, but what I think makes Belinda so good is that she is also kind and supportive. A great thing to teach children.

Belinda is holding the hairy bogles head in her hands.

2 She doesn’t let other people’s opinions of her define the way she looks at herself

In the book other people believe her to be unworthy because she isn’t pretty like the other princesses. However not once in the book does she seem to care. Magazines and films are constantly telling us that we need to be good-looking in order to get anywhere, and it can be difficult not believing them. So I think it is a great to show that you should take no notice of these negative ideas. And that it doesn’t matter if you’re pretty or not, you are amazing anyway.

A picture of a page in the book where a rival princess is kissing a kings hand

3 She’s assertive

Whenever she comes across people who want something different to what she wants, she calmly outlines her point of view. Assertiveness is a key skill where you put forward your needs in a clear and logical manner. However it can be so hard to actually do. Sometimes we’d rather apologise for wanting something or just sit silent and complain later. Belinda does none of that. When she believes she has been wronged she says so, not in an accusatory way but just by stating the facts. This is a great skill to have and one that I believe all children should grow to learn. Especially in this day-and-age, where when they grow up  they could find other people won’t have their best interests at heart.

Belinda, the karate princess, stands knee deep in a swamp and shouts into the fog

4 Belinda is looked down on for not being pretty but ultimately wins using skill

Most of the book revolves around Belinda’s worth being defined by her lack of being pretty. This is a message that often crops up in society both for boys and girls, and fuels the rise in mental disorders like anorexia. I think it is therefore so important that at the age where studies show girls have a drop in self-esteem, they see characters who defy this. Seeing a character who believes in herself and defeats all the opposition, even when other people didn’t believe she would, can only hope to raise children’s confidence.
A page in the book where Belinda is sympathising with the bogle. A monster she was told to defeat.

 

Now I know all children won’t consciously pick up on all these things. However they will see an awesome girl being, well, quite frankly awesome, which really is all that you could need.

Additional Opportunites
  • Take them to a martial arts class. They’ll learn discipline and fitness as well as increasing their self-confidence
  • Write the story from the Bogle’s point of view