fairytales · Feminist/Gender Equality

Review: Forgotten Fairy Tales Of Brave And Brilliant Girls (various authors and illustrators).

Review: Forgotten Fairy Tales Of Brave And Brilliant Girls (various authors and illustrators).

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Fairy tales fire our imaginations and they shape our understanding and expectations for our lives. So says Kate Pankhurst in her introduction, which explains how some fairy tales were told less often than others, and so became lesser-known or forgotten. As stories die, Pankhurst says, so do their messages. And why should there only be one version of a tale, when braver, bolder characters can tell us the things which make sense in our lives? 

It is a fantastic foreword to a book that aims to change the narrative on female heroines. Why should the princesses sit around waiting to be rescued when they could ride out into the night and take on the darkness themselves? 

This image, incidentally, comes from my favourite fairy tale. In Tam Lin, included here as Fearless Fiona And The Spellbound Knight, the heroine rides out at midnight to confront an evil faerie queen and prevent a young man from being given as tribute to hell. I came to this story through folk music and something about it felt different from the same-old-same-old stories which I knew from repeated tellings. There was something about Tam Lin which, even in my teens, I was unable to explain. 

And of course, that image says it all. The heroine was brave. Not the wimpy, waiting around without complaint brave, but the kind where she took things into her own hands, faced her fears and remained resolute in her position. She had guts. She had authority as a character. 

Forgotten Fairy Tales Of Brave And Brilliant Girls offers young readers this very thing. Girls need to see themselves at the centre of the action from an early age to believe that their strength and intelligence is equal to that of a boy.

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The stories are retold in a way that is suitable for younger readers. The writing is strong and rich in detail and the book could very definitely grow with the reader and remain a favourite. In fact, these would be lovely to read aloud as a group or to reenact together. Tales included are English, Scottish and European but vary from the best-known stories. This would be a lovely book to help readers think more broadly about fairy tales and folklore and to give them a hunger for more tales. 

The illustrations are bold and colourful and bring the stories to life. I especially love the towering, waving nettles in the illustrations of The Nettle Princess, and the picture of Tam Lin with his armour wrapped in flowers. 

It is always encouraging to see anthologies which aim to challenge outdated narratives. A lovely introduction to the diversity and richness which stories can offer. 

 

Thanks to Usborne Publishing and Rontaler Events for my copy. Opinions my own.

Feminist/Gender Equality · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Ladybird Tales Of Adventurous Girls

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Review: Ladybird Tales Of Adventurous Girls

Stories retold by – Julia Bruce 

Illustrators – Olga Baumert, Molley May, Kerry Hyndman, Hannah Tolson, Hannah Peck and Holly Hatam, 

 

Once upon a time there was a girl … 

Join six girls from around the world, in six separate stories, as they set off on an adventure and use their courage, strength, and intelligence to return safely home. 

This collection of bedtime stories features familiar tales, such as the Snow Queen, but the stories are told with a difference. Every story has a girl at the centre. Hansel and Gretel? Try Gretel and Hansel. It was Gretel who pushed the witch in the oven and saved her brother. Without spelling it out, the stories show readers that girls can be intelligent, brave and resourceful. 

It also features girls from around the world. It is so important for young readers to see that people from different cultures can encounter the same feelings and demonstrate the same skills. 

The book is a beautiful collection of fairy tales. It would make a lovely present for a younger child or a less-confident reader – the stories are short enough that nobody will lose patience and there is a full-colour illustration on every other page. 

A different illustrator was chosen to work on each story. This adds to the experience because without reading a single word each story has a unique feel. Every story has a decorative title spread and beautiful full-page illustrations. 

Not only is this a wonderful collection of fairy tales, it puts girls at the centre and shows how much they can do. This would be a wonderful book to keep on a bedside table or to share with a class in KS1/Lower KS2. 

 

Thanks to Ladybird Books for my copy of Ladybird Tales Of Adventurous Girls. Opinions my own.

 

Feminist/Gender Equality · Non-Fiction

Review: Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls 2

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Once upon a time there was a girl … and she did great things. Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls is the internationally successful hit of 2017. To date a million copies have been sold. Here’s the second volume, in all its glory! Turns out there were more great women that one book could hold. 

img_4894Stories of real women are told in a fairytale tone. Every story follows the same formula: once upon a time there was a girl … and one day something happened to spark her interest … and she became … If you have read John Yorke, you will know all stories follow a similar structure. The effect of writing about real women in this way is extraordinary. You don’t need to know the history or the geography to get into their tales. It is possible to get into every single story without prior knowledge. The best way into a subject can be to relate to a character or an event. 

Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls 2 may introduce readers to new interests. 

The second effect of narrating the stories as a fairytale is empathy. A factfile of dates and events could not have told me that Yeonmi Park grew up believing Kim Jong-Il could read her mind. It could not have given me that insight into life under a dictatorship. 

img_4893Illustrators from around the world have contributed to make this extra-special. I love the variety of art-work. The different styles keep things interesting, and I would buy this book for the illustrations alone. They remind me of vintage posters. Ones you might actually put on your walls. Alongside the illustrations there is a motivational quote from the women. It would be possible to flick through the book and read the quotes when you are in need of motivation. 

img_4895Words highlighted in red are defined in a glossary, and a contents page lists women with their field of excellence next to their names. I was delighted that neither the book nor the contents page is divided by field. There is no sense of one field being pushed over another, no suggestion that one destiny is more likely. Children’s content sometimes makes this mistake, pushing STEM and law over arts-subjects, and anything over stories of adventure. These real-life stories disprove this approach. Every one of these women achieved something great, and every one started by finding:

  • what she was best at 
  • an opportunity or a situation which turned her interest into action. 

The foreword is addressed to children and adults, in response to the phenomenal readership established by Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls. Whoever you are, whatever your situation, it encourages you to REBEL – to find your interests or causes and strive to make something of them. I have never read a book which speaks so directly to so many people. This is our history, our world. These are our stories. Read and rebel. 

Louise Nettleton

Big thanks to Riot Comms for my copy of Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls 2. Opinions my own.