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

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,035 ratings  ·  269 reviews
From Jezebel to Catherine the Great, from Cleopatra to Mae West, from Mata Hari to Bonnie Parker, strong women have been a problem for historians, storytellers, and readers. Strong females smack of the unfeminine. They have been called wicked, wanton, and willful. Sometimes that is a just designation, but just as often it is not. "Well-behaved women seldom make history," i ...more
Hardcover, 164 pages
Published February 1st 2013 by Charlesbridge Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,035 ratings  ·  269 reviews

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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Society has long looked at tough, smart, ambitious women and written them off as bad. But whether it's a criminal act or a moral lapse, wrongdoing needs to be viewed within the context it occured. Then again, bathing in blood, poisoning pesky husbands, and axe-murdering your parents doesn't usually win a girl any fans!

You would think with my reading tastes I would have been all over this book. It's written in short chapters that just gloss over the woman in history's story though and at the en
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of those nonfiction books that has a lot of very short chapters, all related to central theme. Here, it's history's "bad girls". Each woman gets a brief (5-10 page) overview of their personal history, written in a conversational, accessible way. It's a pretty decent selection. There are women that most readers would have heard something about (Cleopatra, Lizzie Borden), women that may have crossed the radars of some (Calamity Jane, Mary Read), and women that will almost certainly be ...more
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought the comics at the end of each chapter were contrived and self-indulgent of the writers. I like the idea of exploring both the research process and the context of the women's lives, but I did not like the way the authors presented it. The "bad girls" were fascinating, and I liked the illustrations of them. Also, they cited Wikipedia as a source plenty if times. While I imagine they verified the info they found on that site, I don't trust the facts now.
LynnDee (The Library Lush)
I've read better history books, and the little side comics in between each chapter that featured the author and her daughter discussing the previous "bad girl" were dumb. I get that they were trying to promote discussion and that these "bad girls" may really not have been all that bad, but I just didn't like them. The only thing I liked about this book was the artwork.
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book thinking it might be interesting to take on school visits to booktalk, but was disappointed right away. I only read the first few chapters. They were extremely short and not very informative, and when I got to the death of Cleopatra, I was surprised that the authors relied on the much-theorized death by asp. I have read other books about Cleopatra which delved into other possibilities for her death. For example:

From the website
Although Cl
Pack children
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: jesse
This is the strangest book. I took it home expecting it to read much like "How They Croaked" by Georgia Bragg..and it is similar- 2-3 page retellings of why each of these women throughout history was seen as such a bad girl..from Cleopatra to Bonnie and Clyde's Bonnie, etc.

The tales are great and fun to read..but then between each woman's condensed life story there's a page of graphic novel style interactions between Jane Yolen and her page they're going shoe shopping and talking
I loved this so much!!! Honestly I'm kind of shocked by all the low reviews on here for this one. Tthis was exactly what I needed because I've read a lot of these books that feature more 'good' or 'inspiring' women, but it's nice to see some definite bad girls as well. The book does go out of its way to say that some of these women might not necessarily have been as bad as they are remembered now in popular culture, but some of them are definitely inexcusable. I mean Typhoid Mary was probably re ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Hailee Christman
Yolen, J., & Stemple, H. (2013). Bad girls: Sirens, jezebels, murderesses, thieves and other female villains. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Selection process: Booklist, starred review, February, 2013. Retrieved from

In Bad Girls, mother and daughter team Yolen and Stemple collect a biography of some of history’s most notorious female villains. Starting the collection in Biblical times with Delilah in 110 BCE and Salome in 17 CE among them and continu
I've been intrigued by this book ever since I laid eyes on it's gorgeous cover. Who doesn't want to be seen reading a book with this bad girl on the cover? I felt instantly cool, just by association. Prolific and popular Jane Yolen teams up with her daughter to enlighten and inform a new generation of readers about the escapades and lives of some of history's most notorious bad girls, from Cleopatra to Bonnie (of Clyde fame). I like the range of characters they explore and the two or three pages ...more
This would be great for an introduction to any one of the 26 infamous women in these pages, but my biggest complaint is simply that it left me wanting So. Much. More. Each chapter on a woman is alternated with a short graphic page with author commentary in which Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple debate the relative goodness/badness of their subjects and hint at tantalizing research journeys. I wanted more on the women, and I wanted more author commentary. I thought both pieces of this bo ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
The summaries of each "bad girl" in the book were awesomely written, and Guay's portraits of each were exquisite. I was less thrilled about the didactic and corny comics of the authors discussing the women's relative guilt. I think the ideas they presented were great, I just didn't understand the need to put it in graphic format. We're they afraid that young readers would be put off if those thoughts were in essay form? Great summation of those ideas at the end - in a thoughtful essay at that. A ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: graduate-school
This book was quick and fun. The tone was entertaining, though I question the 9 and up age level I saw for it on Amazon. I wanted more from each chapter. However, I did like the graphic pages at the end where the authors debate whether these women were "bad" and brought up points about the historical and cultural contexts.
Pia Kristjansen
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Quick easy read meant for young adults. The most basic outlines on the stories of "bad" women through history. Stumbled across this on my ebooks looking for something else. It made for a good subway read since each story is so short.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Seemed like an interesting premise, but I quickly realized that trying to fit people into the label of 'bad' or 'good' just doesn't appeal to me.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Fun book for tweens, but very introductory. Still, gave me some ideas for historical figures I'd like to do further reading on!
Nora Peevy
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This young adult graphic novel is the perfect introduction to gender studies, feminism, and the interpretation of history or should I say, herstory. For indeed, if women like Salome and Delilah were around today, their stories might be told very differently. As pointed out in the conclusion, gender roles throughout time have changed greatly. What might have been considered unacceptable for a woman in earlier times, might not be as bad today. We might look at a woman's motive and circumstances di ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh wow! This book is something else. It is refreshing on tired eyes. You are able to sit back and enjoy the stories of "bad girls" throughout history. Lovely Illustrations. I just don't like the graphic novel part so I skipped over it....oops!!!
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reading level seemed middle grade, though the subject matter often seemed more appropriate for YA or older. The writing style is amusing, but the bios could have been a bit longer and more diverse.

That said, the illustrations are beautiful.
The full title of this book is Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains, and it's a collection of short biographies of, well, female villains of history.

It's fairly standard as far as biographees go. Jezebel, Mata Hari, Catherine the Great, Cleopatra, Delilah, etc (though there were a few surprises; I wasn't expecting Virginia Hill or Tituba). The biographies are five to ten pages long, nice bite-sized pieces for a middle-grade reader, and the illustrations (by Rebecca
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Bad Girls, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Charlesbridge, 2013
164 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

I was reading this the other day when my friend poked the cover and said: "Jane Yolen, as in Owl Moon?" It goes without saying (though I'm saying it anyway), Jane Yolen can't be pigeonholed. In this interesting creation Yolen and her daughter team up to explore some 26 Bad Girls from around the world. 2011's How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famou
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, history, ebooks
Features the "usual suspects" (Cleopatra, Queen Mary I of England, Catherine the Great, and Elizabeth Bathory) with a few new ones who are relative unknowns unless you have a passing interest in the late 19th century American or 1940s-1950s mafia history. Geared towards a young adult audience, the chapters are relatively short and poses the moral question at the end of whether or not we should consider these women villianous based on their circumstance. Hard to tell in some cases in the way the ...more
Dov Zeller
This was a fun and interesting book about rebellious women of history and legend. The cast of characters is a motley crew of women who have make their presence known by breaking many rules and perhaps not a small number of bones. I think Yolen and Stemple do a great job of introducing readers to some important and wacky (and terrifying) historical figures, and to the processes of researching, writing and collaboration.

My main issue with the book was the comics that came after each chapter. Some
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Despite finding this is the Young Adult section, this book caters to a Middle Grade/ Upper Elementary audience.

This accounts for 24 "bad girls" from BC to mid 1900's, from Cleopatra to Bloody Mary to Bonnie Parker (Clyde's girl) to Lizzie Bordon. Summaries of the different women are kept extremely short and just give the bare overview of their infamy. After each section there are single page length comics of the authors discussing the lady (whoever the section was about) in casual settings. I s
Ms. Yingling
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Infamous women from history: are they bad, or just not adhering to the social mores of their times? This is the question that Jane Yolen and her daughter ask about a variety of women through history. Some are well known (Cleopatra, Typhoid Mary) and some are rather obscure (Popova?), but all get a nice short treatment and interesting illustrations. I think that students interested in graphic novel treatments of nonfiction will be drawn to this, but I think they will be disappointed that the inte ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains is a wonderful book written my Yolen and her daughter. They tell the tales of women in history that are considered villains. You determine if they had cause for what they did or did they really commit a heinous crime. Villians range from Jezebel, Ma Barker, Bonnie Clyde, Bloody Mary, and Virginia Hill to name a few. Some of the crimes committed where horrible and were not glamorized in the story. It is an account of what history ...more
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book wasn't what I expected! First of all, it's a nice book, aesthetically. It's got shiny pages and pretty pictures (Rebecca Guay's art, as always, is stunning). Every section is about a separate 'bad girl' from history, and after the two or three page sections there's a one page comic of the authors (mother and daughter!) discussing whether they think the girl is 'bad' or 'good'. It's cute. The book has big print and is targeted probably towards a middle school audience. My major problem ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think maybe I wanted a little more from this... but then I studied women's history in college and this is a book for tweens, so maybe that's unreasonable. I think it's a great little intro to some famous (and not-so-famous) women of history, as well as to the concept that there are multiple perspectives on historical figures. And that people, especially women, maybe have been operating within a limited framework when they made their options.

I also liked the comic versions of Jane Yolen and her
Feb 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is a horrible book that portrays women in a bad light. Not only is it badly written the authors go out of their way to make these women seem bad for the stupidest reason which in many cases is historically incorrect. This was another book I picked to read with my daughter thinking it will be nice to introduce her to females from history. According to the author Jezebel was bad because she was spoiled, was different, and made bad choices. Elisabeth Bathory murdered people because she was vai ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
I would have given this a 3.5, because the summation of the Bad Girls was well done and the illustrations were lovely. But the authors - a mother daughter team - inserted a comic panel of themselves "discussing" the relative badness of each girl after every story, and not only were the panels jarring and lacking, they failed at what I believe the goal was - to get readers thinking about relativity. Halfway through the book I started skipping those panels and I found the experience much more plea ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
2/5 stars
Overall I thought that with the limited amount of pages given that they managed to get a lot of information out. I thought that the small graphic/comic page at the end of each story was very irrelevant and sometimes silly, it would've been a lot better if they left that part out. The story was interesting and it was something I've never read before, though sometimes boring it was still an okay read
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Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachuset ...more