100 tales of extraordinary women

Children’s nonfiction books about women’s lives are long overdue, and this empowering, resolutely “anti-princess” storybook is a very welcome addition. Initially funded by a $1m Kickstarter campaign, the authors wrote it in response to the gender stereotyping they found across children’s books and media.

One hundred extraordinary women are profiled in mini biographies alongside striking full-page portraits by female artists. Countries from across the globe are represented, though a third of the women are from the USA.

From ancient philosophers to modern sports stars there is real richness to the nationalities, ethnicities and professions of these inspirational role models. Much of the charm is in the juxtapositions: queens sit alongside activists, ballerinas with lawyers, pirates and computer scientists, weight lifters and inventors, creating a thrilling sense of possibility. The biographies share a lyrical, fairy-tale lilt. “There was a time when only boys could be whatever they wanted,” in Hillary Clinton’s case. The stories are not sugar-coated, and the emphasis is on overcoming obstacles and persevering, the book’s dedication page urging readers to “dream bigger, aim higher, fight harder”.

Beautiful production makes this a book to keep, treasure and read again, and the end pages are a call to action: space for readers to write their own story and draw their own portrait. Essential reading for girls and indeed boys; children who read this at bedtime are guaranteed some big and inspirational dreams.

My only disappointment is with the use of the term ‘rebel girls’ in the title. How does it sit with you?

Published by Penguin Books and available for about $25.