By Natasha Yim
Goosebottom Books, 32 pages, $18.95
The 21st century has its share of “Bad Girls.” They are the celebrities and stars who show up in magazines as part of scandals, affairs and courtroom dramas. But who are the “Bad Girls” of history? Which women would have been on the cover of tabloids of the time?
Six female authors have each picked one historical femme fatale to write about in the new series The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames.
Peter Malone illustrates all six books. The white font used on a dark background is straining on the eyes. Fortunately Malone’s pictures make up for that. The tantalizing tales of deceit, drama, and danger are accompanied by reproductions of paintings, actual photographs, copies of historical documents, and drawings. Malone also provides historical context for each story by highlighting the fashion, food, currency, maps, geography, and culture of the time.
Author Janie Havemeyer writes about Catherine de Medici in The Black Queen. As Queen of France, Catherine did what she could to keep the Medici family and the throne. She was rumored to have people killed using poison, black magic, and old fashioned methods like drowning and beheading.
Author Gretchen Maurer’s Bloody Mary is about Mary Tudor. Liz Hockinson’s Madame Deficit focuses on Marie Antoinette. And Natasha Yim’s book The Dragon Empress follows the life of CIXI.
Shirin Yim Bridges writes about Agrippina in Atrocious and Ferocious. Learn how this Roman empress made enemies as she fought to sit on the throne. Molone’s illustrations of what she ate, her transportation, and her home make this tale complete.
Mary Fisk Pack introduces readers to the dastardly Cleopatra in Serpent of the Nile. What made Cleopatra the most powerful woman in the world? Geography and cultural references are critical to paint the entire picture. Pack and Malone’s combined efforts are successful.
The target audience is ages 9-13. Anyone interested in women’s history will also find these books entertaining. This is an expensive series to collect. Each book is $18.95. But it would be a great addition to personal and school libraries.
The point of the series is to explore how these dastardly dames have threatened society throughout history. But on closer inspection, readers should ask themselves if these dames were really so horrible. Did they truly commit dastardly deeds? If not, then where did they pick up their nick-names (i.e. “Bloody Mary” and “The Black Queen”)?
The challenge left to readers is to read the stories, look at the illustrations, and decide on their own whether the accusations and rumors were true. Were these women guilty or innocent? And should the title of the series be changed to something that celebrates female power rather than vilifies it?