by Richard Davies
Never mind John Grisham, Paula Hawkins, Stephen King or any of the other stars of literature bringing out books in 2017, the most influential and talked about book of the year is easily Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli.
This isn't a title from one of the publishing giants. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a crowdfunded book, backed by campaigns on Kickstarter and IndieGogo that raised a staggering $1 million.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls contains 100 profiles of extraordinary women from the past up until the present day. By using powerful but simple storytelling, the book is designed to convince young girls that great things are possible.
Artist Frida Kahlo, scientist Marie Curie, Russia's Catherine the Great, England's Queen Elizabeth I, tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks, chef Julia Child, fashion designer Coco Chanel, aviator Amelia Earhart, and Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai are among the notable people to be profiled. The book is designed to be read by "rebels who are 4 to 101 years old."
Each profile is written in upbeat style and accompanied by a color illustration that jumps off the page. Sport, politics, science, the arts and numerous other topics are covered by the achievements of these girls and women. Strangely, JK Rowling - the most dominant woman in popular culture of the past 20 years - is not included.
Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli moved to the United States from Italy in 2011, and formed a children's media company called Timbuktu Labs. Elena had been a journalist while Francesca was a stage director and playwright. Now, they work full-time on developing the Rebel Girls phenomenon, which now also includes posters of the profiled women.
Their website says:
Because we are girls. Our entrepreneurial journey made us understand how important it is for girls to grow up surrounded by female role models. It helps them to be more confident and set bigger goals. We realized that 95% of the books and TV shows we grew up with, lacked girls in prominent positions. We did some research and discovered that this didn't change much over the past 20 years, so we decided to do something about it.
Their original plan was to print a thousand copies of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, but the book has gone beyond being a small business venture and become an international phenomenon.
The Rebel Girls' Facebook video - featuring a mother and a daughter combing through a bookshelf for books featuring female characters, female characters that speak and female characters with aspirations - has 27 million views.
Translations are now being prepared in Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and German, and the book is expected to gather further momentum.