Looking for a chapter book series for girls? Rebel Girls has an amazing collection perfect for young readers.
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.
An Unusual Chapter Book Series for Girls
I grew up reading historical fiction biographies of famous Americans. You may remember the books, too. They had black-and-white illustrations, relatively big print, and orange or tan hardcovers. By the time they reached me, the dust jackets had disappeared). Out of the dozens I read (I could read on in an afternoon), I can only remember two about a famous female. Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross joined the ranks of dozens of famous men.
As an adult, I realized those books belonged in the fiction section, not the biography section. Kit Carson wasn’t such a great guy (read Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West). George Washington didn’t cut down a cherry tree, and Daniel Boone wasn’t as legendary as Paul Bunyan.
Rebel Girls offers a chapter book series for girls about little-known women who should be famous. The series will inspire a new generation of girls in ways the old series I read as a child never inspired me.
By Rebel Girls, January 2023, 128 pages, 7-12 years old.
Sarah Breedlove, the last child in a large family, was the first born after the end of slavery and the first child to attend school. But her dreams of education end when Louisiana shuts down the school for Black children after just three months. When Sarah’s parents die unexpectedly, she moves in with her sister and unkind brother-in-law.
Despite hardships, Sarah’s hope for a better future stays within her. She marries a kind man, and they have a daughter together. When white men lynch her husband, Moses, Sarah travels north with her toddler and figures out a way to survive by doing laundry.
Finally, when her daughter Lelia goes away to college, Sarah returns to school and learns all about math, reading, and bookkeeping. She also volunteers at an organization dedicated to helping poor Black people, where she discovers her powers of business and fundraising.
When a saleswoman and entrepreneur, Annie Turnbo, knocks on her door offering to sell her a special shampoo, Sarah feels skeptical. But Annie offers to use the product on Sarah right then and there. For the first time, Sarah experiences a product designed for a person like her—a Black woman with kinky hair. Annie’s product eventually heals Sarah’s scalp and produces soft hair.
Sarah joins Annie’s hair-product business and eventually decides to branch out independently. When she moved to Colorado, Sarah spent hundreds of hours perfecting her own hair-care product. She also creates a business plan to start her own business. Her dreams and hard work eventually come together to help her build a hair-care empire and make her the first Black woman millionaire.
Why I Loved this Book
Along the way, Sarah faces plenty of adversity—from society, an unkind brother-in-law, a former employer, a President of the United States, and even the famous Booker T. Washington. Readers will cheer for Sarah as she keeps her dignity while fighting against injustices. During her short life, Sarah Breedlove Walker does more to uplift Black women than any other individual during her lifetime.
Girls will enjoy the story of a strong woman who uses her talents to help those around her—even if it means rebelling against societal expectations. Bright illustrations keep readers’ attention, and the back of the book contains resources for budding entrepreneurs.
Librarians, teachers, parents, and grandparents will want to add this book to their collections for younger readers.
By Rebel Girls, 128 pages, suitable for readers 8-12
Ada grew up near London, England, in the 19th century, when most girls’ educations consisted of reading, painting, dancing, deportment, music, and perhaps a language such as French. She prefers more engaging pursuits—reading, learning languages, inventing, and maybe even doing math.
Ada has a famous poet for her father, but she’s never met him. Her mother insists that Ada study math and science—the subjects furthest from poetry. But as Ada grows up, she decides math has its own sense of poetry.
Her mother wants Ada to get married and have children, but Ada can’t envision a world without studying math and thinking of poetical ways to apply the knowledge to the world around her. It would take a rare man to understand Ada’s mind and heart and allow her to pursue both work and motherhood in an era where people measured a woman’s highest achievement as their household and offspring.
Fortunately, she meets and falls in love with a man secure enough to support Ada in her passion for knowledge and her love of motherhood. As she studies and helps an inventor friend, Ada realizes the possibility of using machines to solve mathematical problems. Her designs and calculations form the basis for modern-day coding and computing.
Why I Loved This Book
While classified as historical fiction, Rebel Girls does a wonderful job of inviting young readers into the life and times of a little-known pioneer in computing. The Rebel Girls Chapter Book Series reminds me of the ‘biographies’ (today, we’d classify them as historical fiction) of famous Americans I read back in the 70s. Only these books have colorful artwork and highlight little-known but incredibly important women from history.
Parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents, and students will love this book and the others in the series.