What do Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Asma Khan, Carmen Miranda, Rihanna, and Madeleine Albright have in common? All have existed in different contexts and times, yet all have lived, or are living, extraordinary lives. They dared to be what they wanted to be. The “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” book series tells their stories and inspires millions of girls to dream of becoming what they want to be, as these extraordinary women did or do.
Before writing the first book in the series, its authors, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, co-founded Timbuktu Labs. They launched an original and entertaining children’s magazine that used images and sounds to capture kids’ attention. It was successful but not profitable enough. One of the main lessons learned from this experience was how difficult it was for women to win the support of investors in Silicon Valley. Elena decided that her battle would be for gender equity in that moment of pain. She researched the representation of males and females in children’s books and saw that the protagonists were male for the most part. Female roles were secondary – the supportive sister or the rescued princess. She decided to change that and put women at the center of the narrative, making them heroines by telling the stories of real women in all kinds of roles. Her vision was to represent the feminine in a diverse, inclusive, and global way.
As if it were an experiment, this adventure began by writing a weekly newsletter telling a single story, initially distributed to twenty-five people, mainly friends. The first story was about Maria Sybilla Merian, who discovered the metamorphosis of butterflies, but no one believed her. So, she traveled to Suriname with her daughter to study insects and document the transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. She published her study, gaining acceptance for her theory upon her return. Thus, the bulletin mixed women from a diversity of professions, who lived in different times. She intended for this mailing list to expand organically. When they had four thousand people signed up for the newsletter, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, planning to raise forty thousand dollars. They ended up raising one million two hundred thousand dollars. Then, they collaborated with fifty illustrators worldwide to publish the first book. It became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than forty languages. We could say that the stars aligned because, according to Elena, the timing was right and her project captured the imagination of a society, which was beginning to become more aware that the role of women transcended that of traditional spaces.
If they had intended to publish a book, they could have done so with a publishing house, but their vision was always to create a media company like they have today. Cavallo and Favilli revolutionized nighttime stories for girls and now want to expand this community of Rebel Girls of all ages to all kinds of places and inspire them to work for their communities.
Today, in addition to having a collection of Rebel Girls books, they are developing toys. They have a podcast with stories narrated by environmentalists, artists, athletes, and prominent figures like Melinda Gates. In addition, each new book is developed with the girls’ participation as they listen attentively and incorporate their comments. The first book in the series is “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” It’s about women’s diverse voices being heard in both a literal and figurative sense. Book 2 of the same title continues in the vein of the first and includes historical figures such as Nefertiti and contemporary women such as Beyoncé. Book 3: “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Migrant Women Who Changed the World” spans the lives of 100 women who left their home countries. It features migrant women who became prominent politicians such as Madeleine Albright, chefs such as Asma Khan, and artists such as Carmen Miranda and Rihanna. You can find the collection HERE. As the “Rebel Girls” series expands, “It seems like bedtime just keeps getting better and better,” as the Huffington Post’s Taylor Pittman puts it.
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