I was given access to Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls – The Chapter Book Collection by the Rebel Girls Group through NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. This collection aimed at 8-12 year olds contains five chapter books that each follow a woman through their formative years up to the amazing achievements that they managed in their lives. Each book comes in at 128 pages, with the collection totalling 640 pages, and at the end of each book there are some activity pages to be filled in to get the reader to actively think about the struggles that each of these women had to face and how they would have responded to the same situations.
I really like how the women chosen for this collection come from so many different parts of the world: the US, the UK, Japan, Cuba, and Kenya. They also come from various social classes, and look at very different “achievements” from science, to mountain climbing, to ballet, which should all combine together to show the young people reading these books that you can be a success in whatever you do. So often these sorts of motivational books for kids focus on a more science and maths based result, and I love that this collection branches out from that and looks at a wider variety of careers and paths by which someone can be successful.
Each book in this collection is a biography of the woman’s life, going through the facts of their struggles and successes. The books are, however, written in a very “storytelling” manner which keeps the reader engaged and interested in the arc of the story and this combination, as I know well from my childhood, can work wonders at getting somebody interested in non-fiction works!
Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code by Corinne Purtill follows Lord Byron’s daughter from a young age as her mother encourages her to focus on maths in order to not be like her poet father. This develops into love for Ada who is able to imagine possibilities that nearly 200 years later inspire the digital age we’re so familiar with today. This biography summarises Ada’s long life into just enough to give the reader a taste for it and to make them want to go and research more!
Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business by Denene Millner follows America’s first female self made millionaire. A Black woman who was the first in her family in the US to not be born enslaved, she is always working, and when she works she has her hair wrapped up. One day she notices that her hair is starting to fall out, she finds the right products for her, and then she invents something better. Marketing this product to Black women all over the US she goes on to build a booming business. I adore how this shows the hard work and dedication put in by Sarah Breedlove (Madam Walker) as well as how it focuses on haircare, a stereotypically “silly” thing to focus on. But in reality? Look what can happen if you do!
Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains by Nancy Ohlin celebrates the life of the first female climber to summit Mount Everest. With a supportive husband who was happy to be the stay at home parent, as well as trials along the way, not just in the shape of a big mountain! Tabei’s story is one of perseverance in the face of blatant sexism and testing the limits of human endurance. Junko’s lack of natural athletic ability shows what you can achieve even if you’re not naturally gifted at something the first time you try it, something I could do to learn!
Dr. Wangari Ma’athai Plants a Forest by Corinne Purtill follows Wangari growing up in rural Kenya, living as one with nature, to the negative influence from the corrupt government which results in the degradation of the land and the suffering of those who live off of it. She faces active resistance from the leaders of the Kenyan government, as well as sexism and racism on an international scale. Dr Ma’athai’s story, however, shows that a simple seed of an idea can replenish the soil of an entire country.
Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage by Nancy Ohlin tells us about a young Cuban girl who struggled against her parents to follow her dreams and become a renowned ballerina on the New York stage. This all appears to fall apart though when Alicia starts to lose her eyesight and over time becomes completely blind. Despite this massive, seemingly limiting turn of events, Alicia doesn’t give up on her passion and still pursues her dancing goals. Within this book Ohlin describes some of the different ways in which Alicia navigated the stage and her classroom in order to perform and to teach her students.
Overall I gave each of these books 3 stars, with my favourites being Madame C.J. Walker, Dr Wangari Ma’athai and Alicia Alonso. This definitely isn’t a low rating for me, for a book to get 3 stars I have to have enjoyed the reading process and find the book worthwhile. The reason these books didn’t rate higher is because I personally would’ve wanted either more story or more facts. We get the basics but they got me interested in these women and now I need to know more! But I do believe that the intended audience would really love these books and treasure them. I know they would be so nostalgic for me if I’d read them as a child.
If you’re looking to buy a book (or a collection of books!) for a kid between 8-12 (middle grade for US readers) or anyone who is able and willing to read from that age bracket, then these are a great pick. Interesting, unique, and focusing on amazing women from so many different cultures, these books are a great addition to any library.
Have you read anything from the Rebel Girls publications before? Let me know what you thought of them!