Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and Other Female Villains Hardcover – 10 Mar 2013
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About the Author
Jane Yolen is the award-winning author of nearly three hundred children's books, including SEA QUEENS; LAST LAUGHS; SNOW, SNOW: WINTER POEMS (Boyds Mills), and THE ROGUES (Philomel). She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of the Americas. Jane lives in Western Massachusetts and Scotland. Heidi E. Y. Stemple is the author of more than a dozen children's books, several co-authored with her mother, Jane Yolen. Recent titles include PRETTY PRINCESS PIG and NOT ALL PRINCESSES DRESS IN PINK. Heidi lives in western Massachusetts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Recommended for grades 6+
I was reading this the other day when my friend poked the cover and said: "Jane Yolen, as in Owl Moon?" It goes without saying (though I'm saying it anyway), Jane Yolen can't be pigeonholed. In this interesting creation Yolen and her daughter team up to explore some 26 Bad Girls from around the world. 2011's How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley shares a similar format with Bad Girls. Both books have short nonfiction (with pizazz) chapters on particular historical figures. Both books share the not so glamorous sides of those public figures, and both books are incredibly fun to read!
Each chapter is dedicated to one or two bad girls, and what follows is a short comic depicting mother Yolen and daughter Yolen debating the accused bad girl of her guilt or innocence, though it's never as clear as one or the other.
My only qualm about rating this book so highly is that I don't think it truly delves deeply into any one of the bad girls' lives. I knew a lot more about some of these women than others, and because of that some chapters interested and informed me, while others made me want to say, wait a minute, there's more to this story!
This book, a combination history book / graphic novel written with Yolen's daughter Heidi, though not quite as fantastic as I recall that fantasy novel being, was still a pretty fun time for what it was -- a book geared toward YA or possibly older middle grade readers to encourage them to pick up more books on these strong women throughout history (each woman featured here only gets a 1-2 page bio, so definitely only meant as an intro to their stories). The writing is pretty simplistic & straightforward, so to adult readers I say don't go in with super high expectations here. But I will note that I found the writing to have a slight feminist lean to it -- though not really surprising given the subject matter ;-)
That being said, it does act as a good sampler read for getting to know these historical figures and the fun, light-hearted format makes it a breeze to read. The graphic novel-like portions are made up of comic panels illustrating Yolen & Semple sharing their own personal viewpoints on each historical woman's life. While at times cute and funny, other times the humor can come off a little forced. I did laugh but eye-roll a bit at the line describing Lizzie Borden as "one whacky woman". Speaking of the panels bit, I thought it was cute how at the end they included scenes of cartoon Jane & Heidi signing copies of this exact book :-)
I chuckled at the Ghostbusters reference in the opening line of the section regarding Madame Alexe Popova, who ran a business of killing off the abusive husbands of battered women (over the course of 30 years, she ends up taking out 300+ wife beaters via poison!)
For parents of middle-grade readers, I might suggest giving this one a once-over yourselves before handing it off to your young bookworms if you are particular about the kind of subject matter they are exposed to or at what age they should know of certain topics. The lives of some of these women do get a wee bit risque in parts for young eyes. One notable being the story of Salome, her section opening with the image of her stripping in front of a room full of men and then later the line, "Most scholars agree she may have been only ten or eleven years old and manipulated by cleverer adults." Just a heads up for parents who have certain age guidelines set for their children about when to have certain topics discussed.