One look at our cruel world and you wonder what everyone was reading when they were children.
One look at our cruel world and you wonder what everyone was reading when they were children.And what toys they were given. Raging debates, led by feminists, over fluffy pink things for girls, and things with triggers and wheels for boys have thankfully led to greater awareness about the sensitisation of kids through cultural artefact. Children today are perhaps reading a greater variety of literature that is not geared towards raising them in gendered boxes. Lovingly put together by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, founders of Timbuktu Labs, a children’s media innovation company that seeks to build a community of progressive parents and children, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a step further in that direction. It brings together stories of 100 women and girls, from all over the world, who believed that the obstacles placed in their paths as women and girls were not insurmountable, who followed the songs on their lips and the dreams in their hearts to realise their potential. Warrior queens and partisans, leaders and activists, surfers and scientists, writers and musicians, and even a handful of fiery pirates people these pages. Each tells a story of a woman’s fight for survival in a gender-divided society, the pushing of boundaries, the will to be free in an unfree world. Many portraits in this delightful volume do not have an easy fit with the history of ‘great men and women’, many are virtually unknown, and yet each of them has the potential to inspire a modern reader, child or adult.
Each vignette is but two pages, with one life lived with passion explained through a core event on one page and an illustration on the other. Sixty women have illustrated the book, each with a distinctive style. Coy Mathis, the transgender child, the Mirabal sisters who made dictators run scared, Rosa Parks, who said a simple ‘no’ to racism, and Jacquotte Delahaye, the fiery pirate, are my favourites. One does wonder, however, if living their lives as individuals must be enough for our rebel girls, or should their sense of responsibility also help them recognise that gender oppresssion is systemic, not directed at particular girls and women. This is also why we do wonder why Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher (or for that matter, Catherine of Russia) find a place in this volume. While they may have individually fought againt odds as women, they held up gender divides through their political positions on war and evisceration of welfare systems, in turn affecting lives of scores of real girls and women in their countries.
Even so, I spent several delightful hours reading these stories aloud to my four month- old nephew, who was mesmerised by the illustrations. We want to start early, you see. Without doubt, this book is a wonderful step towards inspiring our rebel girls (and nice rebel boys too) to change the world.