From time to time at CCB we ask a guest to curate a book list, and this March, inspired by International Women’s Day, the centenary of the suffragette movement and a recent boom in positive reading matter for girls, we asked Sally Nicholls to choose some of her favourite feminist titles.
Princess Smartypants | Babette Cole
Princess Smartypants doesn’t want to get married – she wants to ride around on her motorbike doing whatever she wants and stay a Ms forever. Feminist fairytale retellings are rather old hat now, but this was one of the first, and one of the best.
Little People, Big Dreams | Eng Gee Fan, Isabel Sanchez Vegara and others
Series of picture books documenting the lives women such as Frida Kahlo, Agatha Christie, Maya Angelou and Ella Fitzgerald. A nice mix of well-documented and more unusual names, with very simple storytelling making these accessible to young readers.
Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls | Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo
Potted biographies of lots of great women – not just rebels (although many of them are), but scientists, writers, artists, politicians, etc. A great ethnic and historical mix too, and lots of women who did great things as children and teenagers.
Pippi Longstocking | Astrid Lingren
Apparently, Sweden has more female MPs than anywhere except Rwanda, and they think it’s down to Pippi. She’s the strongest girl in the world: as brave as a lion, as rich as a nine-year-old with an enormous chest of gold and as eccentric as… Well, let’s be honest, there’s really no one else like Pippi, is there? I have never wanted to be anyone as much as nine-year-old me wanted to be Pippi Longstocking.
Things A Bright Girl Can Do | Sally Nicholls
The year is 1914. The World Stands on the edge of change. But women still have no vote. Three very different girls experience life and love while fighting for freedom during the suffrage movement. A timely book for young adults and women of any age.
Make More Noise | M.G. Leonard, Emma Carroll, Katherine Woodfine, Sally Nicholls and others
Publisher Nosy Crow put together this anthology to recognise the importance of being able to vote, and commemorate the women who made it happen. Nosy Crow MD Karen Wilson says ‘Some of the stories are inspired by real events, like Sally Nicholls’s re imagining of the night of the 1911 census, others entirely made up, like Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s magical parable of a world flooded by tears. All celebrate girls and women at the centre of their own stories.’
The Princess and the Suffragette | Holly Webb
Sequels can be tricky things, especially sequels to much loved stories, taken up by new authors. Will they get the characters right, and keep the essence of the original tale alive? So it’s with relief that The Princess and the Suffragette does just that, picking up nine years after Sara left the orphanage. A book about the power of friendship and female empowerment.
The Bloody Chamber | Angela Carter
Bloody, fantastical re imaginings of fairy tales, which are, let’s face it, bloody and fantastical, Angela’s stories challenge the way women are represented in fairy tales. Published in 1979 and winning the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize the same year, this anthology has become a cult classic.
Are Women People | Alice Duer Miller
A book also celebrating its (more than) centenary, Are Women People was written in 1915, however, you’d be forgiven in thinking much of its theme contemporary. The poems are taken from Alice Duer Miller’s New York Tribune column, which ran from 1914 – 1917 (when suffrage succeeded). An astute political commentator of the day, Alice’s rhymes were witty, outshone her male contemporaries and were hugely popular. And are just as good to chuckle (or despair) over today.
The Yellow Wallpaper | Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A short story set in late 19th century America, about a women’s descent into madness (or elevation into freedom) when, trapped in a room she has been told to rest in for the sake of her mental health, she becomes fixated with the yellow wallpaper. The story is considered to be an early work of feminist literature, and illustrates attitudes at the time towards women’s mental, emotional and physical health and supposed delicate nature.
The Handmaid’s Tale | Margaret Atwood
The award winning dystopian classic, set in the not too distant future, where women are either jezebels, servants or wives. Offred’s story, set in the chilling present she finds herself in and pieced together through flashbacks, is dark, with only a few chinks of light to break the bleakness, and yet she endures.
Sally writes Young Adult fiction, winning the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2008 for Ways to Live Forever. In 2017 she published Things A Bright Girl Can Do which tells the story of three girls and their fight for freedom as the Great War looms. Sally also features in recent anthology Make More Noise, a short story collection published by Nosy Crow to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. After sending us a slew of great titles, we tackled Sally’s list and got it down to 10 books (or thereabouts), as we’ve only that much room on our table. The resulting collection is rich, immensely readable and utterly inspiring!
All books from Sally’s International Women’s Day booklist are available at the bookshop, or can be ordered with us if you live further afield for a small postage fee. We’ve the delivery speeds of an internet giant, yet the social conscience of a social enterprise!