Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, the 'most crowdfunded book in history’, is consistently ace.
My oldest is almost eight. Her staples are Harry Potter, Roald Dahl, or a candy flavoured fairy series. There is little room for non-fiction – educational books never make it beyond homework. Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls stands apart as it is able to live between those two worlds. It is strictly speaking non-fiction, but it is rich enough in mystery, inspiration, and adventure that it can compete with the fiction.
The book itself is easy to pick up and read, we usually do two or three stories in the evening. It’s a simple format: the spreads are an abridged life story of the character on the left and a rich full-bleed portrait with an accompanying quote on the right.
Our rebels are introduced with some basic background, which quickly gives way to a narrative. The reoccurring themes between the pages are of girls who have found the strength, guile, skill, or compassion to stand up for what they believed in and in the process overcome significant challenges. Not all have a fairy tale ending of course, and that is important too.
Honestly, I’m learning. Some of the Rebels I knew: Joan Jett, and Aung San Suu Kyi. Others I thought I knew but released I really didn’t: Coco Chanel and Serena and Venus. Some were completely new to me: Lella Lombardi and Grace O’Malley The book also prompted some explanations for my daughter and became a catalyst for sincere discussions. We talked about different abilities (Ashley Fiolek), faith (Amna Al Haddad), World War 2 (Irena Sendlerowa), disease (Frida Kahlo), slavery (Harriet Tubman), and gender (Coy Mathis).
At this point, the phrasing of the book should be commended. It is factual and appropriate without ever being explicit. A delicate tension that means there is no sugar coating but I have never felt the need to censor. The positive outcome of discussing the unusually weighty subject matter was talking about our own freedom, awareness of others, and how we can apply empathy in our daily lives.
My daughter is enthralled hearing about these different characters throughout history, but the lovely thing is, she did not have a clear sense that all these stories are about women. I had to prompt her into that realisation. And I mean that in the most positive way, the delivery of words and illustration is effortless, and the learnings and inspirational messages transcend the immediate theme of the book. These are not just good night stories for girls; these are great stories for boys and parents.
Originally published in Dads and Design.