Very often there are books that claim to reinvent a fairy tale – tales of princesses in distress and saved by the kiss of their courageous prince charming. And of course, they would all live happily every after.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is also a fairy tale. Except that there are no fairies, no fairy princesses and no kiss of life. It’s the tale of achievers who have toiled, activists who have raised against oppression, women who stood out in the ages when women were confined to cooking and raising kids, scientists who have struggled hard to live their dreams, even pirates and spies who defied the stereotypes of the delicate feminine and set an example for future generations.

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Elena Favilli (a former journalist) and Francesca Cavallo (a stage director and playwright) originally got the book funded by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign after they decided to publish a book that would help break gender stereotypes.

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From Cleopatra of First Century BC to 21 year old Ann Makosinski who won the Google Science Fair in 2013 by inventing a way to light up a flashlight with just the energy from body heat, the book is a treasure trove of inspiring stories of women achievers.

Elena and Francesca have adopted a unique style of writing which would appeal every one across every age. Every story starts with a fairy-tale style “Once upon a time” and narrates a simple-to-read 1 page story with subtle yet strong descriptions of the hardships the women faced and how they succeeded by their superpower of sheer grit and determination.

The Guardian published a statistic based on research by Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth College who reported that out of 5600 published in the 20th Century in the US, Male characters were central in 57% of children’s books, and only 17.5% of titles referred to a female character. This is the kind of metric that prompted Elena and Francesca to publish a book that aims to break the shackles of gender discrimination.

Every rebel girl’s story is accompanied by a colorful illustration by a women artist along with an inspiring quote by that rebel girl. The authors have taken meticulous care to ensure the quotes are as inspiring as the respective stories. Take these for instance,

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful
– Malala Yousafzai

I tell you what Freedom is to me. No Fear.
– Nina Simone

You start with the genius of Ada Lovelace and soon are gripped by the adventurous Amelia Earhart, your heart will sink into its softest emotion with Coy Mathis, get motivated by young Ann Makosinski, you’ll wonder at Lozen and the fearless Queen Lakshmi Bai and finally are treated to the unparalleled elegance of Zaha Hadid.

Towards the end of the book, the authors provide two blank pages – one for the rebel reader to write their own story and the other for the reader to draw their own self-portrait, symbolically motivating the reader to dream big so they would become just another rebel girl in the book.

For every young girl of today, the stories are sure to make them stay awake to stretch their dreams beyond what they could have fathomed until then. Like the authors write in the story of Hillary Clinton “There was a time when only boys could be whatever they wanted”. No more. And no less.

This book is for all ages and all genders.

Young boys reading this would be encouraged to grow up believing that men and women are equals and equally respectable in all matters of life or professions.

For adults, there is a lot to learn. It would be a surprise if many of us have even heard about many of the women in the book – women who have helped shape the history we’ve lived through and the world we are living in.

And if your little girl talks of walking on Mars or changing the world after reading this book, then you better stay on your toes. For, the rebel that she’d soon grow up to be, she might actually do!

If you love “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women”, then we think you might like these as well.


Vidhya Narayanan is a Mom, Entrepreneur, Photographer, Lifestyle Blogger, and a Yoga Enthusiast. She’s the founder of Oviyam (@theoviyam). You can follow her instagram feed where she posts “Vidhya’s 30 Second Review” of books, toys, games and other products.