Beast: A Story of Love and Revenge – Lisa Jensen

Beast: A Story of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen is a retelling of a the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Lucie is sent to Château Beaumont with the hope that she will be able to get a job there to keep her away from her Step-Father. After becoming a maid for the Château she quickly finds herself enchanted with the breathtakingly beautiful Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, the ruler of the Château and the lands around it. After he rapes her Lucie is set on revenge, finding a witch in the woods who hears her plight and tells her to wait. The witch arrives at the castle and curses Jean-Loup turning him into a hideous beast, who will only be able to return to his previous form if he find someone who will marry him for who he is. Lucie is transformed into a candlestick where she watches the Beast suffer in his loneliness. However, Lucie finds that the Beast acts completely different than Jean-Loup and finds herself conflicted as to if Jean-Loup and the Beast are truly the same person. Rose arrives at the Château and Lucie soon finds herself obsessed with getting Rose to leave afraid that the Beast will turn back into his cruel original self if he succeeded in getting Rose to marry him. Does Lucie get her way or will Jean-Loup return and continue to torment her?

Beast: A Story of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen is a book that I truly wanted to like. Especially when seeing a large amount of the negative feedback about the book stemming from a rape scene early on in the book, with several people not finishing the book because of this. But it ended up being a boring read for me. I liked the changes that were done to the original fairy tale, but I was just incredibly bored. My dislike of the book mostly stemmed from this fact though there were a few other things that bothered me.

When Lucie starts trying to find a way to get Rose to leave to keep Jean-Loup from returning I spent the majority of the time wondering if she was doing this out of jealousy instead of for to good of the Beast. It just came off as her trying to keep the Beast for herself, instead of doing it because she didn’t want the Beast to turn back into his cruel formerself. There was no reason to believe that if the Beast does get Rose to marry him that he wouldn’t keep the Beast’s personality when he turned back into a human and because of this it just made it seem like Lucie was jealous and that she wanted the Beast to marry her instead.

I’ve seen some criticism of this book stem from the rape scene that occurs early in the story. I personally did not have a problem with this. I didn’t find it to be overly explicit or graphic. Lords often raped their servants during the time period this is set in as well. Lucie reacts understandably to the fact that she’s been raped. She thinks that everyone will know her shame and without her virginity intact she will never be able to marry and will remain poor and perhaps die in the gutters somewhere. As time goes on she begins to think that she is pregnant and continues to have suicidal thoughts and eventually tries to go through with it. This is a common thing to happen among rape victims and so I did not find this to be exaggerated or unreasonable.

However, as the novel progressed I began to wonder if Lucie was starting to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. A condition where someone forms emotional ties with their captor as a survival tactic. I had a hard time separating Jean-Loup and the Beast, so when Lucie starts to fall in love with the Beast I found her to be falling in love with her rapist. Though, Belle, in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, can also arguably have Stockholm Syndrome so I can see where this is just how Jensen wants the novel to go.

I do appreciate that Jensen puts an emphasis on the fact that Lucie’s value is is not diminished because her rape and subsequent loss of her virginity. Even to this day it is pushed upon young children that it important to save themselves for marriage or for the “right person. When the value that is placed on this aspect harms a rape victim’s self-worth adding more guilt on top of the shame that they feel from their rape. It is an important thing to tell women that their value does not become less just because they were unable to follow the societal norm because of someone else’s decision to force such a violent act upon them.

I would not consider reading this book again as I wondered why I didn’t stop reading it long before I got to the end. I was just over all bored and uninterested in the plot and characters. It’s a cute romance when taken at face value but there were things lurking beneath the surface that left me with a lot of questions by the end.

Born Scared – Kevin Brooks

I recieved an e-Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for a fair review. Many Thanks to Candlewick Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to do so. 

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks follows Elliot, a boy who from childhood has suffered from severe, paralyzing anxiety. Right before Christmas there’s a mix-up at the Pharmacy and Elliot is given the wrong medication. Knowing that the Pharmacy will be closed for several days for Christmas Elliot’s Mother sets out during a massive blizzard to get the correct medication for him. When his mother doesn’t return Elliot is forced to overcome his own monsters to find out what happened to her.

I had a hard time with this novel. I found it to be fairly boring for the most part. The reason why Elliot’s mom didn’t come back was really out there and highly improbable and while improbable things happen all the time it just ended up annoying me that it was what was picked for a reason. Secondly, the perspectives of Gordon, Jenner and Dake seemed out of place. I would have much rather followed Elliot the entire time until the end. I think this would have made the book more suspenseful as you would have no idea where his mom was the entire time instead of finding out halfway through the book because of these perspectives.

I was a little confused about Ellamay. It’s said early on that she is his imaginary friend from when he was little. However, the line between having an imaginary friend and having auditory/visual hallucinations gets blurred now that he’s older. I wasn’t clear as to if it was meant to be this way or if it was something that was there because it allowed for Elliot to have dialogue when there was no one around.  

The end of this book gets a little confusing. Elliot ends up waking up in the hospital. With the way that this is written it made me wonder if everything that happened to him after he finds his mom actually happened or if he’s just having withdrawal from his medication or something like a fever dream. I wish that this clarified and spread out as I think the main reason this ended up being confusing was because it felt really rushed. To go with this I wish the the effects of withdrawal from his medicine was talked about more, not just with “The Monster” coming back but also with things like headaches, nausea. Dissociation may have happened but again with how the ending is it’s unclear.  

This book wasn’t quite what I was looking for. For the most part I just wished the ending was done a little bit better and I think that this would have helped with my overall enjoyment of it.

Maid – Stephanie Land

I received an e-Advanced Reader copy in exchange for a for a fair review. Many thanks to Hachette Book Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to do so.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive documents Stephanie Land’s struggles as a single mom. Land finds herself and her daughter homeless after she leaves her abusive boyfriend. As the title suggests she works as a maid while she struggles to get out of a homeless shelter and provide for herself and her young daughter. Even when she does manage to get out of the homeless shelter life keeps knocking her down. Beaten and bruised from what life throws at her Land continues to get up and slug through, using the hope that things will get better to keep herself from giving up.

This memoir is distressing while also being inspirational at the same time. Not only does it show how people treat people when they poor, but also the struggle that they go through trying to crawl out of the incredibly deep hole of poverty. Land talks about many different situations but the two that stuck out to me the most where when Land uses SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to buy food at the supermarket. While checking out man tells her “you’re welcome” because in his mind he is the one who is helping her pay for her food with his contribution to taxes.  How sad it was for someone to remark on her struggles without knowing anything about her. Another incident that stood out to me was her daughter, Mia, continuously get sick because of their living conditions. The only apartment that she can afford is a home that is damp, cold and teeming with black mold. The nurse, after Land tells her a bit about their apartment, tells her to try harder for her daughter. Even though Land frequently forgos food to feed her daughter, works a maid service job while taking more cleaning and landscaping jobs on the side. Not to mention how even earning a little bit more money will keep her from receiving some of her benefits that help her pay for Mia’s childcare while she works. Even with these hardships she manages to make it through, working to provide the best that she can for herself and Mia.

There are a few things that did bother me about this memoir. I wish that the timeline was more pronounced. Often I found myself confused as to if the time line was linear or not. I wish that years were mentioned more. Months were given but not mentioning the year every once in a while made it hard for me follow. The next thing that bothered me I am excluding from my overall dislike of the memoir until the final copy is out because I hope that it gets fixed before it’s publish next year. It has to do with using commas to separate nonessential phrases and clauses. Land with use this grammar rule twice in a sentence which can make it difficult to understand the sentence without reading it more than once taking out one phrase or clause at a time. This happens mostly in the first half of the book. So hopefully this just has to do with it not being a final copy. Finally, every once in a while there would be a paragraph that didn’t seem to relate to the what was going on in the paragraph before and after. While they gave important information it just seemed out of place.

I did like reading about Land’s hardship and struggles. It puts poverty into a perspective that allows for it to be understood. Showing the the judgement of her situation and her struggle to overcome it. I’m not sure if I want to pick up a final copy of this book, but I did enjoy the memoir.

Heretics Anonymous – Katie Henry

All page notations are from the 2018 hardcover edition from Katherine Tegen Books.

Katie Henry’s Heretics Anonymous starts out with the introduction of Michael, who is just starting at a Catholic High School after moving for the fourth time in his life. There’s only one problem though. He’s Atheist. He expects the school to be full of die hard Catholics but finds that the school is diverse in its beliefs gaining  friends who are anywhere from Jewish to Celtic Reconstruction Polytheism. Lucy brings him to Heretics Anonymous, a group that she and three others formed together and offers him a chance to join. A chance that he happily takes. Together they go public, anonymously pointing out the inconsistencies in their school education though videos and newspapers. But Michael, in a fit of rage, takes a mission too far and puts the whole group in jeopardy. Who does he choose: saving his friends or himself?    

A Divine Comedy indeed. Heretics Anonymous is hilarious. Michael in particular makes jokes constantly throughout, calling the Catholic version of Communion as the “calmest cannibalization ritual I’ve ever seen.”(pg. 37) Other times irony in Catholicism is pointed out, for instance that Saint Lawrence, who was roasted alive on a spit, is the Patron Saint of Cooks. Henry does a wonderful job of using humor to lighten the mood while still being able to hold a serious conversation about real life issues including, but not limited to, Homophobia, Sexism and Xenophobia. If you can’t take someone poking fun at what you believe in then this definitely isn’t the book for you.

Heretics Anonymous does a great job of allowing for religious discussion without making it ever feel like a conversion story. At no point did I feel like I was being pushed to believe what the characters did. Lucy is one of the main people who explains why she follows Catholicism despite all of the things that that come with it that she disagrees with, particularly with anti-feminism passages in the Bible. However, despite her faith she is willing to speak out against what she thinks is wrong with it and willing to listen and have a discussion about it. This is a quality that I think is valuable to show. It is possible to follow your own religious faith without being unwilling to hear what other people have to say about their own religion or yours.

I really enjoyed this novel, but I wish that the characters were developed a bit better. For instance you know that Lucy’s father isn’t around very much but it is never stated why. Does he have to work a lot to support his children or is he just a deadbeat dad? Aside from their personality traits you don’t know much about Lucy, Max, Eden, and Avi. You learn more about Michael to a degree but there is still room for growth and this is what I found to be the most disappointing thing about this novel.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It was a lot of fun to read despite the lack of character development. This novel made me laugh out loud many times and it made for a light read that had some discussion on more adult topics.

I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me – Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hall Straus

All page notations are from the 2010 paperback edition from Perigee Books.

I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D and Hall Straus is a great educational tool for anyone who has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) or for someone who has a loved one with BPD. While one book cannot explain how BPD affects everyone because as with any mental illness everyone experiences it differently I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me does a remarkable job showing how it affects several different people throughout the book. As it is an educational book it covers many topics from the history of BPD to classifications to therapies and their effectiveness, and how BPD affects a person and the people around them. This makes the book very comprehensive for the reader.

One thing that I really appreciated about this book is that it is very reader friendly. Medical jargon is used sparingly, often times it is used when it is the proper name for something or a classification, which is then explained in a more layman’s term. For example when they are talking about medications they talk about a class of drugs called “neuroleptics” and then add the more common term “antipsychotics” afterwards. Doing this made it really easy to understand and absorb without being overwhelmed with new terms.

I have seen a few complaints about this book one of them being that it is outdated and another being that it stigmatizes people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I did read the updated version from 2010, and it could use another revision and it references the DSM-IV-TR, but the DSM V is out now. The authors state in the beginning of the book that they will be using the term “borderline(s)” for the sake of clarity, with the agreement that it is being used as a shorthand for “human being(s) who exhibit(s) symptoms consistent with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)”(Note To Reader, XVI) and that they will be alternating pronouns for this purpose as well. This removes the stigmatization that can be seen through the usage of “borderline(s)” and is important to note for this reason. While it is an edition behind in the DSM it is a great start when it comes to learning about the disorder and a good tool for the diagnosed and their friends and family as well.

I learned a lot from reading this book and while it did get taxing to read at times because of all of the new information it was worth it in the end. It’s worth reading if you have an interest in mental health, Psychology, BPD or if you or a family member/friend has BPD and you want to understand the disorder more.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads – Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

All notations are from the 2018 hardcover version from Crown Publishing Group.

“To this day I do not know how to respond and be polite. No, I want to scream, it’s not like the Holocaust. Or the killing fields in Cambodia. Or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. There’s no catchall term the prove that you understand. There’s no label to peel and stick that absolves you, shows you’ve done your duty, you’ve completed the moral project of remembering. This—Rwanda, my life—is a different, specific, personal tragedy, and inside all those tidily labeled boxes are 6 million, or 1.7 million or 100,000 or 100 billion lives destroyed. You cannot line up atrocities like a matching set. You cannot bear witness with a single word.” pg 93-94 

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil is a non-fiction book that follows Wamariya’s life from the age of six when the Rwandan Genocide began in 1994. From April 7, 1994 to mid July of 1994 it is estimated that 500,000 to 1,000,000 people were murdered. The majority of them being Tutsi, an Ethnic group in Rwanda, Burundi and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire.) It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of the Tutsi population in Rwanda were exterminated during this time period. For Wamariya and many others this meant that they became refugees in the surrounding countries to avoid the certain death that would await them if they stayed in Rwanda. Wamariya and her sister, Claire, fled Rwanda leaving their family behind, hoping that one day they would be reunited with each other. From here they became refugees staying in several different refugee camps and in cities located surrounding countries from Zaire(DRC) to South Africa. Eventually the two find their way to the United States. Claire by then is married with kids, Wamariya is placed into the home of Mrs. Tomas which allowed for her to attend school, eventually going on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in comparative literature from Yale University.

Going into this book I knew a little bit about the Rwandan Genocide, most of my knowledge coming from charity groups that visited my high school from time to time. With my limited knowledge I learned many things that I did not know before from the conditions the refugees insured to what caused the genocide to happen in the first place. I had no idea that it stemmed from the Bulgarians and their issuing of identification cards that marked someone as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa. These cards were handed out solely physical appearances like the circumference of one’s head, for example. How crazy it is to think that something that happened after World War I could cause such an extreme movement to happen almost a century later. Wamariya’s memoir focuses very little on politics, most likely because she was only 6 when the Genocide started.

At times the switch between the past and the present can be a little jaring and left me wondering how things came to be. However, by the end, all of my questions were answered, making this construction work for me for the majority of the time. When it didn’t it was very minor things that overall held small importance in the overall narrative.

Watamari’s beautiful language choices lead some passages to invoke philosophical ideas. Such as when she talks briefly about the Kinyarwanda word for rape, “konona” or being ruined. Expressing the overemphasis that is put on keeping one’s virginity in her culture. A woman is valuable for her body, and that value can be taken at any point and without it your family cannot get anything for you when you marry. No land. No animals. And there is no way to go back. Wamariya says that she works “everyday now to erase that language of ruin, to destroy it, and replace it with a language of my own.”(pg. 61) Having to change her own philosophy on how she was brought up to feel. Ending with “my body is destroyed and my body is sacred. I will not live in that story of ruin and shame.” (pg. 61)

Wamariya proves that our past does not have to define us, out of conflict she rose to become a strong and educated woman. Someone who could easily be a role model. Yes, war did have an effect on her life, she does not shy away from this fact at any point during her story. Poignantly saying, “when you’re traumatized, your sense of self, your individuality, is beaten up. Your skin color, your background, your pain, your home, your gender, your faith, it’s all defiled. Those essential pieces of yourself are stolen. You, as a person, are emptied and flattened, and that violence, that theft, keeps you from embodying a life that feels like your own.”(pg. 220) But her struggles allowed her to become who she is, meeting Oprah, Elie Wiesel, and becoming a humanitarian speaker. She further proves her point when talking about a story that her childhood nanny, Mukamana, told her. The story in which this book’s namesake is: The Girl Who Smiled Beads. Mukamana always started the story the same but when she reached a certain point she would ask Wamariya what she thought would happen next. Here Wamariya would make up her own story, molding it to be whatever she wanted it to be. The past is always going to be set in stone, but the future, the future can be what you chose to make it.

Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate’s historical fiction novel Before We Were Yours follows two families, one in the present day and one in 1939. In 1939, the Foss family lives on a shantyboat moving along the Mississippi River, until the mother is forced to be brought to the hospital by their father in Memphis, Tennessee leaving their five children behind. The eldest child Rill is left in charge of taking care of the others until their shantyboat is raided by the police and they are brought to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. Here they are promised that they will be returned to their family, but they soon find that there was never had any intention of returning them. Rill fights to keep her family together in the nightmare conditions of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. During the present day Avery Stafford moves back to Aiken, South Carolina. Her father is a Senator and she has a successful career as a lawyer. During a visit to a nursing home Avery meets an elderly woman when she grabs onto her and calls her by a name she has never heard before. Is the woman just calling her Fern because of dementia or is there truth behind her confusion?

Before We Were Yours is a gripping novel filled with mystery. I forgot that it was historical fiction until I was about a third of the way through. Finding this out made it even better, it when from a mystery/horror to a novel based off of real events. While the novel is mostly fiction drawing its tales from the survivors of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society it doesn’t seem implausible like historical fiction tends to be. Really the most implausible thing that happens is that Avery just happens to run into May. There is some romance in the book but it was a little strange and unnecessary to the plot.

I was stunned to learn about this part of American history. It’s appalling that Georgia Tann would kidnap children off the streets and even from their own yards. She had paperwork given to women just coming out of anesthesia, saything that it was just routine paperwork when really they were surrendering their children to her. Children who she took to the orphanage to sell to wealthy and influential families, but only after giving them new names and pasts to make them more appealing to their potential families. How sad it is that some of these kids either were too young to even know their family before or were old enough to remember but never saw their biological family again. There may have been cases were kid were taken from families who truely did not want them, but it’s hard to know how often this happened due to the paperwork being destroyed or hard to follow for a number of reasons.

Before We Were Yours is a great historical fiction novel for those who are looking for a good mystery along with those who are looking to see what people are willing to do for money. All in all, this book was a quick and wonderful read, that once I started I didn’t want to put down.

What the Night Sings – Vesper Stamper

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper is a Young Adult novel that follows Gerta Rausch after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. The novel starts right before the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, offering the reader only glimpses of Gerta’s life there and her life before then. After the Liberation she finds, like many others, that she has no family left and nowhere to go. Her house has been taken by the Germans and her father died during the Holocaust. Gerta’s only possessions are her father’s Viola and a few precious photographs. She finds herself relocated to Palestine, having to build herself a new life after the harrowing events of the Holocaust. She is aided by Lev Goldszmit and Michah Gottlieb throughout her journey.

This novel was a bit of a let down for me. I was excited to see a novel, especially a YA book that was about what the Jews did after the Holocaust. This is a topic that isn’t generally covered even in adult books, the majority focused on the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is shocking how much time survivors spent in the camps after they were liberated and how difficult it was to find them places to live.

The art in this book is lovely. It was cool to see a Young Adult novel that had illustrations as it is uncommon to see in anything that isn’t a children’s book. I would not suggest using an audiobook for this one, as the illustrations do add to the narrative and make worth sitting down too enjoy. The author used ink wash, white gouache and graphite and then toned digitally. I found myself looking at some of these paintings for extended periods of time, going back to them even after I had finished the novel.

The characters weren’t really developed, this could have been helped by making it a little bit longer. The novel while it was 248 pages, the illustrations took up a quarter of the page to two full pages which shortens the actual written content down. Gerta’s personality is focused around music, Lev, around Judaism and Michah is a mystery of a person who is trying to recruit people to go to Palestine. Gerta and Lev in particular suffer from their obsessions with music and religion respectively. It often gets in the way of adding emotion and depth.

Some parts of this book were particularly frustrating to me. I think in some ways I am getting tired of Holocaust/World War II fiction having happy endings. Gerta, by the end of the novel almost seems unaffected by what happened to her. It is possible that some people did find happiness and peace afterwards, from the Non-fiction I have read from this event I have a feeling that it did not happen as quickly as it does in this novel, if at all.

This novel wasn’t terrible, but it fell flat. I really only had a few things that bothered me about the novel but they were enough to knock it down from a four to a three. If you aren’t bothered by happy endings, which was my main frustration, you will probably enjoy this novel significantly more than I did.

The Eddy – Joe Paatalo

I do have a personal connection to this author, but I have done my best to remove any bias this brought into my enjoyment of the novel.

“‘We carry the weight of what we’ve been taught and not taught from an early age. …And sometimes we spend a lifetime trying to recover from it.’” pg. 240

 
Joe Paatalo’s novel The Eddy follows Toby Casper after he survives a suicidal motorcycle ride in to a Kansas twister. After his attempt he ends up going from a well off school outside of Kansas City, Missouri to a school in the inner city of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St.Paul,) Minnesota. In this school he meets Mitchell James an eccentric English teacher with his own demons. The two strike up a friendship and by the end of Toby’s high school career the two have become unlikely friends. The two then go on a fly fishing trip across the west, starting in Minnesota and ending in Oregon, where Toby has decided to go to college. While this trip, for Toby, starts out as a time to learn to fly fish and enjoy his summer before college it becomes being as much about fishing as it is about self discovery and coming to terms with his own dark past.
I loved this novel. I wasn’t sure if I would get lost in the fly fishing jargon but knowing what it looks like to fly fish helped me with those parts, imagining what it looked like to fly fish even when I didn’t know what “mending” a line was or what certain types of flies looked like. Perhaps, it was that I imagined this novel from from a third person view instead of first person like the book is written it. Watching what was happening from the bank instead on being the one actually fishing.
I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like this novel at all because I don’t enjoy fishing, it’s boring for me. While the second part of the novel where all of the fishing happens, I found the descriptions that Paatalo used, not only in explaining fly fishing but the areas around the river, the fish and the river itself to hold my interest. Not only that but the conversations between James and Toby had such a wide variety from humorous, sad and at times deeply thought provoking.
James and Toby are easy to imagine as real people. At one point they go to a bar to watch the Minnesota Twins play on TV. James playfully bashes Toby for liking the Kansas City Royals who, at the time this book was written, had not won the World Series since 1985. Toby agrees that they aren’t very good but “once you’re blue you’re always true.” (pg. 161) They both go on to talk about the Cubs, who like the Royals had not won a World Series title since 1908. I imagine I had a stupid grin on my face this whole time as both of these teams have won since this book came out, 2015 and 2017 respectively. I found myself wondering what they would have to say about this, and it was relieving to get a chuckle out of something that I actually know about and enjoy. At this point in the book I felt more like I was sitting at the table with them rather than standing on the bank.
Paatalo starts the book out in a high school environment, this allows for the growth of Toby to be easy to see. He starts out having no idea what he wants to do after school, only staying because he knew that a G.E.D wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He is very angry, getting in a fights both at his old school and his new one and as the suicidal attempt would suggest, depressed. He becomes a different person by the end of the novel an it is beautiful to watch this transformation happen through traveling and fishing.
The Eddy is a wonderful read, for those who do and don’t love fly fishing. Paatalo beautifully crafts this novel using descriptions of the environment, character interaction with each other and with the environment. Philosophy is interwoven in the writing which caused me to pause every once in a while to ponder things that were said by the characters. I really suggest that anyone picks up a copy of this book and reads it.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo is a collection of stories about women throughout time and all over the world. They chose a large variety of people from well known people like Harriet Tubman, Hillary Clinton and Cleopatra to people that a lot of people don’t know about like Jingu, Tamara De Lempicka and Fadumo Dayib.

I really, really wanted to like Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. As I’m writing about it I’m still conflicted about how to rate it. I loved how all everyone talked about in this book are woman. I loved how inclusive it was by having women from all around the globe and from different time periods. I loved the variance in the artwork types. I loved that these are short enough to hold a younger child’s attention, though I also wish at the same time that they were two pages long instead on just one. Finally, I loved that I only knew about 15 of the 100 people mentioned so even if an older person is reading this to their kids they’ll run into people that the don’t know and will learn along with their child/children.

There’s just one fatal flaw. Some of the illustrations have made the people they are depicted look like they are white when they are not. I this with Sonita Alizadeh first and then paging back through I saw others who didn’t seem to match their nationalities so I looked for photographs of them when possible and noticed that they did not match. This was incredibly frustrating to me, there’s no reason to whitewash in a book that is otherwise so inclusive and why would it be done to some people and not to others. I know that the illustrations in this book are from several different artists and not from the authors themselves, but it was still the authors’ choice to put these illustrations in. After noticing this it makes it very hard for me to recommend this book to read.