Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

New Book Portrays History’s Bad Girls with a Modern Twist

Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female VillainsDelilah. Cleopatra. Anne Bonney. Catherine the Great. Mata Hari. Bonnie Parker. Just a few of history’s bad girls. Or are they? Might they just be misunderstood girls? Smart, strong, outspoken girls? Or girls who are victims of bad circumstance?

In their new book, Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains (Charlesbridge, 2013), authors Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple present two dozen female felons to their court of readers. Starting with ancient bad girls, Delilah, Jezebel, and Cleopatra, the book moves through history and around the world to include Bloody Mary, Tituba, and Madame Popova, and ends in the 20th century with gangster Virginia Hill. Each entry includes a portrait drawn in vintage hues and a crisply written short story about the bad girl’s dangerous life, offering up information, perspective, and context so readers can judge accordingly…

Interludes between Yolen and Stemple, who are mother and daughter in real life, are portrayed in Rebecca Guay’s comic book illustration and add another dimension of opinion. Their on-going dialogue and debate about each girl is carried out in witty episodes as mother and daughter seek to uncover the truth behind these lawless ladies.

A concluding chapter on “Modern Times and Changing Gender Roles” discusses women’s rights and responsibilities and how changing times have changed the definition of the word “bad.” In the end, mother and daughter synch up, agreeing that every bad girl has a good side, and that sometimes it’s all about the shoes!

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains: Written by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple and illustrated by Rebecca Guay. Published by Charlesbridge, 2013.  146 pages   ISBN: 978-1-58089-85-1

*Jane Yolen, one of our local treasures, has been hailed as America’s Hans Christian Anderson and the Aesop of the twentieth century. She has authored more than 300 books from picture books and poetry to fantasy and science fiction. You can find more about her and her work at


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

One Comment on “Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains

  1. This book looks like fun! Can’t wait to read it! we love this kind of book with several short bios…there is another series we love:
    “Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa” by Michelle Roehm McCann

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: