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Ladybird Tales of Adventurous Girls

Authored by Julia Bruce
Illustrated by Olga Baumert, Holly Hatam, Kerry Hyndman, Molley May, Hannah Peck and Hannah Tolson
Published by Ladybird

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Following in the footsteps of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, Ladybird Tales of Adventurous Girls retells six classic folktales, illustrated by six female artists.

There is an introduction from Dame Jacqueline Wilson, reiterating the need for strong female protagonists in children’s literature to counteract the damsels in distress who are easily fooled and need rescuing all the time. The chosen tales come from all over the world (Europe, Zanzibar, India, Japan and China) and feature strong, smart girls who save the day.

Each story is written in a lucid and straightforward style that works well as a read-aloud but can also be enjoyed by children independently. The full-page illustrations add charm and further depth to the stories; while they each feature a different artist, the use of bold colour in a similar palette creates cohesion throughout the book.

The renaming of Hansel and Gretel to Gretel and Hansel is particularly interesting and could prompt discussions with a class. Gretel was always the heroine of the story, pushing the witch into the oven to ensure their escape from certain death (and her name even comes first alphabetically), yet she traditionally receives second billing.

By far, my favourite story is Chandra and the Elephants, a story from India in which a young girl outwits the greedy Rajah. It’s a variation on a well-known tale (which usually features a male travelling sage outwitting Krishna) and is perfect to use in a Maths lesson on exponential sequences. After healing the Rajah’s precious elephants, Chandra is allowed to name what she would like as a prize. Humbly, she requests only a few grains of rice arranged on a chequerboard, with one grain on the first square, two on the second, four on the next square and eight on the square after that, with the amount of rice doubling with each square. As there are 64 squares on the board, Chandra would end up with over 18 quintillion grains of rice, more than enough to feed her whole village for many years! The maths behind this story is fascinating and would be an excellent investigation for an upper junior class.

Ladybird Tales of Adventurous Girls is a good addition to any classroom looking for diversity in their collection of traditional tales.

You may also be interested to read this review: Favourite Stories of Courageous Girls