Rebel girls, good girls, ambitious girls, rebel boys, creative boys, nonconformist mothers and feminist fathers: this book is for all of them. It is one of those books I wish I’d owned when I was little. Actually, everyone should just read this inspirational book, because this is not just a book about women, but one hundred stories put together of people who have done amazing, and unbelievable things with their lives.
It is a compilation of one hundred life stories of women who succeeded at something unexpected. You will find stories of female artists, monarchs, teenage inventors, deaf motorcyclists and heroic soldiers. No two stories are alike and all women have their own field of excellence. Some are still alive nowadays and some have been dead for over centuries: apparently, the greatness of women is timeless. However, these are all women defying the odds, not just because they are women, but because they’ve achieved something no one has achieved before. From Cleopatra to Ashley Fiolek, from Florence Nightingale to Maya Angelou and from Nancy Wake to Mary Kom: a very diverse collection of women from all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, disabilities and passions. Some are rebellious, some are intelligent, some are stubborn, some are loving and most are all of those qualities combined.
Now, I wanted to start off this review with making clear that these women are heroes, not just because of their womanhood, but because of their deeds. This is very important to me personally, for this book is not just a product of feminists for women only. But in loads of these stories, being a woman made life just a little bit harder for them and expectations just a bit lower: they conquered it all. These are the kinds of stories that all little girls need to read, because the truth simply is that we still live in a world where women often are at a disadvantage and are not expected to be able to do a ‘man’s job’. These are the kinds of stories all little boys should read to fuel a next generation where men and women can have equal opportunities. The message of this book is simply that women are amazing.
Each story is only a page long, but every one of them has a message. Often this is an inspirational or motivating message, which leaves you with a sense of hope that you can achieve anything! But what I liked best about these stories, is that they’re not only biographical, but also told as though they are fairytales. Very simplistic and with a sort of ‘once upon a time’-feel to it. It really does read like a good night story, but the princess doesn’t need saving in this one. She saves herself. And the best thing is, these fairytales actually all came true. What could provide better role-models?
Another cool thing about this book is the artwork. Each story comes with a portrait of the woman concerned and these are all made in different styles, each matching this woman perfectly, created by sixty extraordinary female artists. These portraits finish the book beautifully. Also, the idea for this book came from two women, who wanted to give little girls someone to look up to and motivate them in their own quests in life. As a movement, women of all countries joined them and helped finish this book. This really is a product by and for women.
One portrait in particular I’d like to talk about is that of Margaret Thatcher. Ofcourse, there’s been quite a lot of controversy surrounding her, but she was one tough lady, no one can deny that. Therefor I was very pleased that she was in this book, but I was even more pleased to read that the authors didn’t avoid the subject of controversy. As I mentioned, these stories are written as though they are fairytales, but they didn’t turn her into a hero, loved by all. That wouldn’t have done her justice, but more importantly, they don’t try to sugarcoat history, just because it’s a book for children. Let me illustrate this with a quote from the book:
‘When she took free milk away from primary school children, the people disliked her. When she won the war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands, people admired her strength and determination. (…) Sometimes people tried to pressure her into making decisions she did not agree with, but she never bowed. That’s why she became known as The Iron Lady.’
Through the stories of women, this book encourages all children to fight just a little bit harder, aim higher, believe in yourself, trust your own instincts, work harder and, most of all, believe you deserve everything you’ve worked for. So:
Here’s to the strong women.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.
Newborn Necessity Award, because no child should grow up without being read this book to
Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Italy, 2016)