Thursday, March 8, 2012

A letter from Shirin Yim Bridges about her press, Goosebottom Books.

March is Women's History Month, and in honor of this celebration of women I asked Shirin Yim Bridges to tell me about the two new series that Goosebottom Books has released.

Dear TTLG:

About four years ago, my niece Tiegan went through a Disney Princess craze. At that time I had written two books: Ruby’s Wish about a girl who grows up in China at a time when girls were not taught how to read or write, but who wants to go to university like her brothers; and, The Umbrella Queen about a girl from a village in Thailand where everyone has been painting umbrellas in exactly the same way for hundreds of years. Of course, our heroine wants to paint hers differently. So, from the books I’d written you may be able to guess my reaction to an obsession with fairytale princesses. I said, “Tiegan, did you know that there are many real princesses who did not sit around waiting for a prince, but went out and changed not only their own lives but history?”

She didn’t know, but she was very interested. So, we went looking in bookstores and libraries for these stories. I knew the princesses were out there, because I’m a history nerd, but I was surprised to find that these tales were not being told for children. I decided that I would have to tell them.

At first, I was just going to write the books. Then I realized how important it was to me how the stories were told. I’d been a creative director in advertising for...longer than I’m going to confess…and I wanted to have creative control of these books. I wanted the main stories to be as lyrical as any storybook, but I wanted this narrative supported by lots of little details that bring the story to life. So, in our books you’ll always find a map showing you where our woman from history lived. There’s always a section on what she wore. There’s also a fun section on what she ate. And, in addition to the main illustrations of the story, every page is covered with artifacts and historical images that add to the text. Even the backgrounds and colors of each book have something to do with the period of history we’re talking about.

It was also important to me that these books were launched as series. So far we’ve launched two series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses, and The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. Each series appeared with six titles when they were launched. (We’re adding to both series in 2012—as well as publishing a vastly different book, The Augmented Reality Book of Horrible Hauntings—and launching a new Thinking Girl’s series in 2013.)

To me, six real princesses appearing all at once tells a very different story from one real princess...and then maybe another...and another, over time. It says that you’re looking at a pattern, not an isolated incidence. And whether good or bad (because yes, some of the dastardly dames were bad), the pattern is that women have been an important part of history throughout time. Women have, against greater odds than we can imagine, asserted themselves and made their mark in different countries, different cultures, and different periods of history. And this fact is simply not reflected on our bookshelves.

Goosebottom Books aims to change that, and aims to make the discovery of these women fun.

Happy Women’s History Month.
Here’s to a future full of thinking girls and even more women making history!
And, thank you for your interest in Goosebottom Books.

Shirin Yim Bridges

The Thinking Girls Treasury of Dastardly Dames has been selected as a "Top Ten Nonfiction Series for Youth" and will be featured in the April 1st Series Nonfiction Issue of Booklist!

The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses won a medal at the 2011 IPPY Awards for Multicultural Non-fiction/Juvenile. Two books in the series, Hatshepsut of Egypt and Isabella of Castile, have been named on the Amelia Bloomer Project 2012 List of Recommended Feminist Books for Youth.

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