Fierce, Fearless and Free by Lari Don

Illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon.

Published by Bloomsbury Education, 2020.

Fierce, Fearless and Free is a collection of 13 short stories with strong, female leads. The tales originate from all around the world. There are myths from Greece, Mexico and Sumer (now Iraq); and legends from Lithuania, Nigeria and Siberia. It’s such a richly diverse book. There are also fairy tales and folk tales from across the globe, from Scotland to Ecuador, the Solomon Islands and China. (On the Bloomsbury Education website there’s a lovely map you can download which links the stories to their country of origin.)

The girls in these stories are smart, capable and brave. They don’t need a prince or a knight in shining armour to rescue them. In fact, they’ll be the ones doing the rescuing thank you very much. Neringa saves the villagers from the sea dragon; Altyn Aryg frees soldiers and tribespeople from the belly of a giant snake, and Riina defeats the cannibals and rescues their prisoners.

Girls use their words, cunning and magic to save themselves. Medea uses Talos’s vanity against him. Kandek tricks the werewolf. Nana Miriam shows she’s more than mastered her father’s magic. Traditional gender roles are cast off: women are warriors, giants, and sword-fighters. Kindness and sisterhood are valued. Time and again girls outwit their enemies.

My favourite story in the collection is the Italian fairy tale about Petrosinella because the first half reunites me with a story that I’d known and loved as a child but had since forgotten about. The second half is a re-working of Rapunzel – something I always really enjoy too. Petrosinella uses her own ingenuity to escape from the tower and, once free, turns down the prince’s offer to accompany him to his palace. Instead the girl who grew up in a tower opts to go off to discover the world, each year sending the prince a postcard about her adventures!

What I particularly liked about this collection is that these stories are all genuine traditional tales with girls as the stars of their own stories. As Lari explains, she has “not taken a story about a boy doing something amazing, then stuck a girl in the lead role instead, just to make a point.” Girls have starred in stories for as long as stories have been told. The only difference is that, up until recently, the boys’ stories have had far more press.

I really enjoyed these empowering and inspiring stories about girls in control of their own destiny.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 7+

Thank you to Bloomsbury Education for sending me this book to review. I reviewed it as part of the Fierce, Fearless and Free blog tour.

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