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Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains
From Jezebel to Catherine the Great, from Cleopatra to Mae West, from Mata Hari to Bonnie Parker, strong women have been a problem for historians, storytellers, and readers. Strong females smack of the unfeminine. They have been called wicked, wanton, and willful. Sometimes that is a just designation, but just as often it is not. "Well-behaved women seldom make history," is the frequently quoted statement by historian and feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. But what makes these misbehaving women "bad"? Are we idolizing the wicked or salvaging the strong?
In Bad Girls, readers meet twenty-six of history’s most notorious women, each with a rotten reputation. But authors Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple remind us that there are two sides to every story. Was Delilah a harlot or hero? Was Catherine the Great a great ruler, or just plain ruthless? At the end of each chapter, Yolen and Stemple appear as themselves in comic panels as they debate each girl’s badness—Heidi as the prosecution, Jane for context.
This unique and sassy examination of famed, female historical figures will engage readers with its unusual presentation of the subject matter. Heidi and Jane’s strong arguments for the innocence and guilt of each bad girl promotes the practice of critical thinking as well as the idea that history is subjective. Rebecca Guay’s detailed illustrations provide a rich, stylized portrait of each woman, while the inclusion of comic panels will resonate with fans of graphic novels.
This book is good for your brain because:
Nonfiction, biography, promotes critical thinking, women's history
With a conversational style, the mother-daughter team of Yolen and Stemple recap the crimes and misdeeds of 26 women and a few girls in this jaunty collective biography. After each two-to-four-page biographical sketch and accompanying illustration of the woman, a one-page comic strip shows the authors arguing about the woman's guilt. The comic-strip Stemple typically comes down on the side of "guilty" or, in the case of Cleopatra marrying her brother, "icky." Yolen tends toward moral relativism, suggesting the women acted according to the norms of their times or that they were driven to crime by circumstances such as poverty or lack of women's rights. Thus, strip-teasing Salome, who may have been only 10, was manipulated by her mother into asking for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Outlaw Belle Starr was "a good Southern girl raised during difficult times." While the comic strips grow repetitive, the narrative portraits, arranged chronologically, offer intriguing facts--and in some cases, speculation--about an array of colorful figures, many of whom won't be known to readers.
Entertaining and eye-opening.
Mother/daughter team Yolen and Stemple ponder the question of just what makes a bad girl bad. Bad press? Bad breaks? Bad boyfriends? Bad, bad nature? The misdeeds of two dozen notorious dames from throughout history are the fodder for these brief, breezy prose bios, each of which is followed by a one-page dialogue between the authors, rendered in comic-book format. Yolen and Stemple make an honest effort to lay out the life stories in as neutral terms as possible, saving their analysis of what went wrong for the interlude pieces, intergenerational conversations that are set in a place or during an occasion that hearkens to the subject's story. They chat about Anne Boleyn's affairs while enjoying tea near the Tower of London, discuss Countess Bathory's blood-soaked quest for youth during pedicures and brow waxing at a day spa, debate the Wild West felonies of Belle Starr while shopping for boots (yes, Heidi, definitely the over-the-knee lace-ups with studded heels!). Yolen tends to favor the more broad-minded, charitable view of the ladies' motivations, while Stemple generally takes a more censorious stand. Readers may find themselves aligning with one of the authors, but they won't be able to easily dismiss the opposing argument offhand. Guay's comics are key to developing the intellectual workout offered by the authors' conversations, and her glamorous full-page portraits of the bad girls opening each chapter capture the mystique that keeps the women in the spotlight over decades, or even millennia. An index is included, and short bibliographies are appended for each chapter, with enough material readily accessible online to guide teens who want to know more.
Girls gone wild! The mother-daughter team of Yolen and Stemple have rounded up some of the meanest (or perhaps just misguided) groups of gals history has known. And they have wrapped them in an attractive package that makes reading about their exploits even more enjoyable. The list begins with the biblical Delilah (sorry, Sampson), introduces Cleopatra, stops in England to say hello to Anne Boleyn and (bloody) Queen Mary, and then heads over to America to visit with Tituba, Calamity Jane, and Typhoid Mary. And that's just a few of the 26 spies, sirens, and female felons the duo takes on. Each subject gets a jauntily written page or so, prefaced by one of illustrator Guay's terrific full-page portraits and back-ended with a comic book-style page featuring the authors discussing whether the woman was exactly was she seemed. In fact, both an introduction and afterword focus on how history changes its opinion on people's actions, the way history's winners get the glory, and whether circumstances shape events more than personalities do. The thick paper, graphic novel-style typeface, and delightful artwork executed in ink and brush and dabbed with digital color will draw readers. The bibliography will lead kids to more about these gals.
- By authors: Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple Illustrated by: Rebecca Guay
- ISBN: 978-1-58089-185-1
- Binding Information: Hardcover
- Ages: 10 - 13