Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo talk about writing and publishing their non-fiction children's book about extraordinary women from around the world, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
How did you originally come up with the idea for this book?
Elena: We originally came up with the idea of the title. We like the idea of having the word "rebel" with "good night stories". Rebel is usually considered a negative word in many different cultures and languages especially when its associated with women or young girls, so we thought it was cool to put these words together.
What kind of projects were you working on before the book?
Francesca: We created the first iPad magazine for children in the world: Timbuktu Magazine, which got a lot of traction and we won a lot of awards for the design. Timbuktu Magazine was a news magazine for children. So we started with the idea from the very beginning that we would just tell real stories because children are citizens of the present, not citizens of the future and the aim of our company has always been to promote imagination as a tool to know the world, so we’ve always had this mix of reality and in a way also story telling.
And did you feel that there was a gap in the market for this kind of book?
Elena: We felt that there was a gap in the market, because of course, working in children’s media, we’ve witnessed how children’s books and children’s media in general are so packed with gender stereotypes.
How did you go about creating the book?
Francesca: We wanted to feature as many countries as possible in the book. And we wanted to feature as many fields as possible. So part of it was research made based on that balance. We specifically looked at countries which are not usually represented in children’s media and looked for notable women in those countries. When we realised that we had too many writers for example, or too many ballerinas, we looked for specific stories for women in a particular field. So by having very focused research we were able to find stories that are not mainstream – yet.
A lot of the women in the book are still alive today. Have you had any responses from the women you included?
Francesca: We are in touch with Eufrosina Cruz and with Ann Makosinski and Amna Al Haddad. We hope to be in touch soon with Serena Williams.
Elena: And Hillary Clinton!
Francesca: Yeah, we are in touch with Hillary Clinton. She wrote us a beautiful letter.
Are there some women you wanted to included that didn’t make it into the book?
Elena: Yes, we started from a list of more than 200 women and then we selected those whose stories were more interesting for children. So that was the main criteria.
Francesca: But there were many more women that we want to include in the future.
How has creating the book affected you and what impact do you hope it will have on the wider world?
Elena: We always say that the experience of writing this book about these incredible women was empowering in itself because spending time with them and then researching their stories and finding their voice, it was an incredible experience and it was made in such a short amount of time that it really felt inspiring and empowering. What we hope that this book will allow, especially for girls, is a quote from one of the women in the book, Chinese astronomer Wang Zhenyi. She says in one of her poems – because she was also a poet – that “daughters can also be heroic”, which is something that we love very much.
Francesca: It’s a message that we want to be part of the life of as many families as possible.
Elena: Exactly, you don’t have to be a boy to make extraordinary things or adventurous things. You can be adventurous enough on your own.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is published by Particular Books.