BAD GIRLS: SIRENS, JEZEBELS, MURDERESSES, THIEVES & OTHER FEMALE VILLIANS by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple with illustrations by Rebecca Guay (Charlesbridge, 2013)

20 Nov

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GENRE: Historical Nonfiction/Graphic Novel

HONORS: None Known

REVIEW: What do Delilah, Ma Barker, and Catherine the Great have in common? According to this book, they are all the bad girls of history, the women who stood out for their misdeeds, whether real or reinterpreted. Using a clever structure of short historical chapters interspersed with the mother/daughter authors in comic book form discussing their perceptions of each woman, Bad Girls starts conversation about how history interprets strong women. As the author’s ask in the last chapter, would we still consider these women bad today? Or would we consider them victims of bad circumstances?

OPINION: Although this book probably skews to a bit of a younger audience, it is still a deceptively simple approach to examining women’s stereotypical roles throughout history—the “bitch,” the “siren,” the “seductress.” By setting up the crux and circumstances of each woman’s story and having the cartoon version authors engage in a quick debate on the historical female’s “badness,” they are slyly setting up a reader’s own examination of feminism, gender roles, and historical context. Although the cartoon versions are a little corny and contrived a times (did they have to make it about looking pretty and shoes?) this is still an interesting and compelling way to look at history through another lens.

IDEAS: This is a must-read for teens, especially girls, as they begin to find their own place in the world. Reading this book in conjunction with full biographies of any of the women examined would give a broader scoop and understanding of women’s issues throughout history.    

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