Bedtime stories redux: looking for short histories of famous women
April 30, 2015 10:59 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is 8 and she loves her bedtime stories, but she doesn't want to be read to, she would rather we recite a story out loud while sitting in the dark. Well yesterday my imagination ran out so I told her the story of Mata Hari as best I knew it and she loved it!

So, I am looking for some easy to read and understand accounts of famous (or infamous) women throughout history that I can use as material for bedtime stories. Obviously wikipedia is one place to start but the formatting is very factual and not necessarily simple to turn into a narrative.
posted by Vindaloo to Education (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like Rejected Princesses was made for this. Some may be a little too dark for an 8-year-old, though.
posted by athenasbanquet at 11:04 AM on April 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

It's not quite what you're looking for but I absolutely loved the American Girl series when I was 8. I loathe the doll franchise but find the actual books interesting and historically accurate, even if the characters are fictional. Even if you don't want to read those stories, perhaps the characters could give you inspiration for your own tales?
posted by smorgasbord at 11:04 AM on April 30, 2015

This is a bit off topic for what you asked for, but I like these awesome women, including Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Jane Goodall, as Disney princesses.
posted by puddledork at 11:11 AM on April 30, 2015

A Mighty Girl has several anthologies of biographies, as well as lots of individual biographies (and they have good fiction lists, too).
posted by wintersweet at 11:13 AM on April 30, 2015

This seems like an ideal question for your local childrens' librarian. When I was a kid, my dad and I read the ValueTales books obsessively - they were fictionalized bios of lots of famous people. They might not be available - seems they're out of print - but your local library should definitely have some suggestions for replacements.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:15 AM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you watched Drunk History? Two seasons are on Amazon. There are several good ones you can watch once and easily retell, although obviously with less cursing and liver damage. Among them:

Sybil Luddington
Mary Ellen Pleasant
Mary Dyer
Nellie Bly

I had a teacher once spend an hour telling the story of the wives of Henry VIII and I was completely enraptured.
posted by mochapickle at 11:22 AM on April 30, 2015

Scholastic has a Who Was/Is series of bios.
posted by brujita at 11:23 AM on April 30, 2015

Stories for Free Children, which is out of print but not hard to find, has a section of stories about real women in (US, or mostly US) history, including my favorite, the story of Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson.
posted by mskyle at 11:24 AM on April 30, 2015

This brainpickings article on picture book biographies (a number of women are included, including Jane Goodall, who seems like someone you could feature) may give you some ideas on people to tell stories about, you may even want to get some of the books from the library.
posted by gudrun at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2015

I also had the ValueTales books as a kid and really liked them. They're fictionalized pretty liberally (as I recall, in most stories the protagonist has a magical companion -- e.g. Rocket Richard has a hockey stick that talks to him and encourages him).

Robert Munsch has recordings of many of his stories on his web site. They're not biographies, but since all his stories are first told out loud before writing, they're very suitable for being recounted out loud.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2015

Beryl Markham. Her memoir West With The Night is a quick read and very good.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:50 AM on April 30, 2015

What about looking into Stuff You Missed in History Class for ideas? There are a lot of short biographical podcasts, about 20 minutes, and a lot of them are about really cool women in history as well as other interesting historical events. You could maybe even listen to one of the podcasts together.
posted by sciatrix at 1:54 PM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My daughter was just gifted a copy of Rad American Women: A to Z, by another MeFite, upon a MeFi recommendation. I think it would work, as long as American is ok. Each woman has a single page description of her life.
posted by freezer cake at 2:29 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

These might be too short and simple, but the History for Kids website has historical tales in the forms of simple poems, including:

Florence Nightingale
Lady Godiva (!)

(Also - please record these so I too can have bedtime stories of amazing women to listen to in the dark. Kthxbye.)
posted by penguin pie at 4:38 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came in to recommend Lives of Extraordinary Women, so seconding carrioncomfort on that.

Also, check out your library: I pulled up Lives of Extraordinary Women in my library's catalog and clicked the Subject links, which also found

Women Who Led Nations / Joan Axelrod-Contrada
Extraordinary Women In Politics / by Charles Gulotta.

and then searching the library catalog using the keywords

women biography juvenile

turns up children's books about Harriet Tubman, Zora Neale Hurston, women heroes of World War II, Sacagawea, Sojourner Truth, Frida Kahlo, Wilma Mankiller, Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, and dozens of other women.

You could check out books like this, give them a quick read to learn the story, and then tell your daughter what you remember at bedtime.

Actually, that one book sounds like it might be a great source for stories for your daughter:

Women heroes of World War II : 26 stories of espionage, sabotage, resistance, and rescue / Kathryn J Atwood

and also

Amelia to Zora : twenty-six women who changed the world / Cynthia Chin-Lee
posted by kristi at 1:14 PM on May 1, 2015

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