The publication of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls in 2016 caused quite a stir in the children’s book industry and popularized the vogue of collective biographies written for children, a trend initiated by the Rad Women series. Many jumped on the bandwagon and soon the children’s book market offered young readers biographies of women scientists, women in STEM, famous sportspersons, or rulers of yore. Over the years, this trend has developed into a genre. Most of the books—like Aparna Jain’s Like a Girl published in 2018—have short biographies of about 600-800 words, focus on a selection of women and men achievers, especially those who are not celebrity or Page 3 material and attempt to move beyond the ideas and selections of the gatekeepers of the world. Those in charge of producing the book ensure the collection is fairly inclusive, encompassing a range of professions, ethnicities, religious and caste identities.
Aparna Jain—a leadership coach who works to ensure there is diversity and inclusion in workplaces—has winnowed the vast amount of material available to her in interesting ways. Each of the 45 biographies begins by featuring the character as a child, along with his passions and preoccupations. The tale then moves chronologically to arrive at an understanding of their supreme achievement. She concludes each telling with a significant quote from the person in question that serves to sum up a couple of the noteworthy traits, attitudes or ideas she has highlighted.
Jain’s choice of celebrities to write about is eclectic and ranges from scientists to soldiers from writers to doctors, from musicians to environmentalists. There’s a surprising absence of cricketers although stars of other sports such as football, chess, badminton, shooting and snookers are in the limelight.