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biographies

Author Interview: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Author Interviews, Books We Love

This past January, one of my students came into school clutching Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Telling bedtime stories of inspirational women throughout history, this book re-invents the definition of a fairy tale. The stories and illustrations leapt off the page, bringing history alive for young readers.

I was amazed to learn the backstory behind the book itself. In 2016, the book topped one million dollars in a crowdfunding campaign and went on to sell more than 500,000 copies. Now, the authors are back with Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2, due out later this year, as well as a Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls podcast! The Kickstarter campaign for the new projects has already raised over $417,000.

There are so many things that make this book a must-read for students. So many of the stories readers encounter in this book aren’t being taught in history class. In Rebel Girls, students can learn about Ada Lovelace, the Brontë sisters, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou, and more. Any child can find a role model within the pages of this book.

To celebrate the success of Rebel Girls and the release of Rebel Girls 2, I interviewed authorsElena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. I knew they would have lots to say about the impact these stories can have on the world!

 

With so many incredible stories out there, how do you decide which ones to include in your books?
 

The first women we researched were Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh who lived long before Cleopatra and nobody has ever heard of, and Maria Sibylla Merian, the German scientist who discovered the metamorphosis of butterflies. These are the first two stories that we tested with our Timbuktu newsletter, in the months leading up to our crowdfunding campaign. We are particularly fond of them not only because they are wonderful, unknown stories, but also because they helped us understand we were onto something really big. Our readers responded enthusiastically to those stories, asking for more.

We wanted to feature women from as many countries as possible, because children’s media productions don’t just lack diversity in terms of gender, but also in terms of race, sexual orientation, religious background… We also wanted to feature women in as many careers as possible: we wanted to have trombonists, marine biologists, judges, Presidents, spies, chefs, surfers, poets, rock singers. Finally, we selected women whose personal stories had something that could be particularly interesting for a child, for example the fact that the famous chef, Julia Child, started her career as a spy, cooking shark-repellent cakes during WW2.

 
In an interview with The Bookseller, Francesca said that “children are citizens of the present.” Instead of waiting until they are adults, how can kids begin to change the world today?
 

There are so many ways that kids can change the world now without waiting until they get older.  We get messages from kids and their families about different things they are doing to change the world already. Some are helping to start Rebel Girls clubs to promote these strong women and help others learn about them. Others are using the book as inspiration to write their own Rebel Girls stories-about their lives or about the lives of others and share it with their families and friends. Outside of the book, we hear about readers volunteering their time, raising money for great causes, or working to be inclusive to classmates at school. We’re also proud and excited to hear about the positive things kids are doing.

 
 
What makes 2017 the perfect time for Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2?
 

The position of women has significantly improved over time in our society, but there is definitely still lots to do. Especially because no accomplishment, no matter how big, can ever be given for granted.

In 2017, Children’s books are still packed with gender stereotypes. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls features 100 stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. These are stories about real women, which is different than a lot of goodnight stories about fictional characters. We wanted to feature painters, scientists, dancers, chefs, astronauts, jazz singers, pharaohs, boxers, writers, and political leaders-rebel girls whose actions have changed the course of history.

How do you think adding Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls to family bookshelves can change the experiences of young girls?
 

Stories are what humans are made of. As kids, we understand ourselves and the world around us through stories. The stories we have told girls so far offered them a very narrow representation of who they can be. The illustrations accompanying those stories have offered them an even narrower representation of the way they should look like. This reflects in a lot of self-doubt and the feeling of being constantly wrong, which plagues girls in school first, and later in the workplace. Studies show that girls start having less self-confidence than boys in first grade, despite having better grades on average! We feel the time has come to start changing the narrative around femininity, this is what Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is about.


For more on Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, you can check out the Rebel Girls website.

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

Friday Five

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There are so many exciting books coming out in 2016! Four of these are children’s books, and one takes me back to my childhood. From an inventive scientist to a beloved children’s book author, the subjects of these books are sure to captivate children and adults alike.


Ada Twist, Scientist
by Andrea Beaty

Andrea Beaty is one of my favorite authors of all time. My third graders are always commenting on my love of Rosie Revere, EngineerWe have probably read the book 5 times in my class this year, and students often chose to re-read it during independent reading. I even dressed up as Rosie for halloween this year! Long story short: If you haven’t read Rosie Revere, Engineer yet, get on it! My class also loves Iggy Peck, Architect: another story from Beaty that addresses the same themes of perseverance and scientific discovery. My whole class can’t wait to hear about the next student from Lila Greer’s classroom at Blue River Creek: Ada Twist, Scientist! The book will be released on September 6th, and yes, I already preordered it.

 

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

When I was a kid, I loved reading biographies. Although fiction was my first love, I also enjoyed reading about real people and the real, incredible things they accomplished. E.B. White accomplished some incredible things, and I can’t wait to see his story come to life in this new book from Melissa Sweet. I recently read this interview with Melissa Sweet about her research and writing, and it sounds like she this biography is going to be cherished by all who loved White’s books. (Not to mention, in researching this title, I discovered that Melissa Sweet has the coolest website ever. I mean, THIS quote on the front page is amazing!) Some Writer! will be released in October 2016.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony
by Ellen Potter

Last summer I got my hands on the first two books in the Piper Green series by Ellen Potter. I reviewed Piper Green and the Fairy Tree on the blog, and the sequel completely lived up to the first book. Piper Green is a spunky young girl who children can relate to. I can just tell that she is going to be a favorite of young readers (girls and boys!) for a long time to come. I can’t wait for her next adventure to be shared with us on August 16th!

What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst

Okay, so  What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? was already released in February… but since I haven’t picked up a copy to read yet, I’m including it with the books I’m looking forward to! From the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, this book of poems addresses the different emotions that children go through. I love this teaser: “Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside? Does life taste like ice cream and cake? Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died And your insides are one great big ache?” I also love the fact that the book is in memory of Elaine Konigsburg. <3

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II
by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

I feel like this one just goes without saying. I grew up in the Harry Potter generation, and as an educator, I see the effect the stories are having on a new group of young readers. So many of my friends hated reading until they picked up a Harry Potter book, and I think it’s because of the incredible world J.K. Rowling was able to create. Although I’m trying to keep my expectations low to avoid the disappointment that inevitably comes with sequels and continuations, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Harry Potter universe.


Are there any 2016 releases you can’t wait to read? Feel free to share in the comments below!