Bad Girls

Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains

Cleopatra, Jezebel, and Bloody Mary...were they really bad queens? And what about Elizabeth Bathory, Mata Hari, and Virginia Hill? Were these women really bad girls or misunderstood, misinterpreted, and sometimes even heroines?

For example, was Elizabeth Bathory really bad or was she a victim of the times? Left by her husband soon after marriage, she became involved in the occult. After all, what is a young, lonely divorcee of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century to do?

Well, the lonely Elizabeth, not wanting to age (like any woman, really) had hundreds of people killed so that she could bathe in their blood with the belief that it would “make her young!” I guess that gives new meaning to the phrase blood bath!

Covering twenty-six notoriously bad women from 110 BCE, starting with Delilah, through the 1960s, and ending with Virginia Hill, the mother-daughter author team of Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple provide unique and fun insights about these strong women. Concluding each chapter is a comic illustration by Rebecca Guay which stars the authors as they debate the innocence or guilt of each woman’s badness.

Readers ages ten to thirteen will enjoy reading the short chapters featuring the bad girls of this book. I must confess that I found this book a great read for adults as well. I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about these wonderfully bad women. “Bad Girls” would be perfect for a long flight or a quick weekend getaway read.

Book Blurb for Bad Girls

“When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.”

—Mae West in I’m No Angel

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.

Night Owl Reviews Sep, 2013 5.00