Cover of Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi E Y Stemple

Bad Girls


With Heidi E Y Stemple
Illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Charlesbridge 2013
ISBN-10: 1580891853
ISBN-13: 978-1580891851

I was on the phone with my editor talking about a follow-up book to Sea Queens which had just come out. Somehow we got on the subject of bad girl shoes, you know—high, high heels in wicked colors, or patterns, black boots with high heels and hung about with various bits of chain. Those kind of shoes. Both the editor and my daughter Heidi were aficionados of such shoes. Not me. I like my shoes to be extremely comfortable and low.

But I said—as I often do—“Hmmm, there may be a book there.” And the editor said, “Where?” “A book about bad girls of history.” And then she said the magic words: “Tell. Me. More.”

So I did. I sent her a one page proposal. She loved the idea, I got Heidi to work on it with me. We had already published about fifteen books together at that point, we both love history and research, and this was right up her alley. After all, she had a background in criminal justice, had been a probation and parole officer after school, went to the police academy, had become a private detective for a while. . .

And so it began.


  • Won the 2015 Magnolia Book Award, grades 6-8, given by the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • Bad Girls was a nominee for the 2013 YA nonfiction Cybils Award.
  • Quick Picks nomination
  • The audio version is A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014

Around the web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “Girls gone wild! The mother-daughter team of Yolen and Stemple have rounded up some of the meanest (or perhaps just misguided) group of gals history has known. And they’ve wrapped them in an attractive package that makes reading about them even more enjoyable.” —Booklist (starred review)
  • “Entertaining and eye-opening.”—Kirkus
  • “[Yolen and Stemple’s] enthusiasm for their subjects is contagious, abetted by playful language that makes Bad Girls a snap-crackling read. Alliteration, rhyme, short sentences, and a conversational tone combine with sometimes-challenging vocabulary to make this book quick but by no means dumbed-down. A hearty bibliography will give a girl a leg up on the further reading that she is sure to want to do. Feminist, intelligent, and open-ended, this book respects its readers as much as it does its subjects.”––School Library Journal
  • “Beloved children’s author Jane Yolen and co-author Heidi Stemple introduce readers to the more infamous women of history in this collection of bios. Twenty-six notorious women are profiled, from Tituba to Mata Hari. Readers are encouraged to consider these women in the context of their times before passing judgment on their dastardly deeds, and at the end of each chapter, the authors appear in comic format to discuss the guilt or innocence of each alleged villain.”–CHICAGO PARENT/CBS CHICAGO/CHICAGO MOMS
  • “Mother/daughter team Yolen and Stemple ponder the question of just what makes a bad girl bad. Bad press? Bad breaks? Bad boyfriends? Bad, bad nature? The misdeeds of two dozen notorious dames from throughout history are the fodder for these brief, breezy prose bios, each of which is followed by a one-page dialogue between the authors, rendered in comic-book format. Yolen and Stemple make an honest effort to lay out the life stories in as neutral terms as possible, saving their analysis of what went wrong for the interlude pieces, intergenerational conversations that are set in a place or during an occasion that hearkens to the subject’s story. They chat about Anne Boleyn’s affairs while enjoying tea near the Tower of London, discuss Countess Bathory’s blood-soaked quest for youth during pedicures and brow waxing at a day spa, debate the Wild West felonies of Belle Starr while shopping for boots (yes, Heidi, definitely the over-the-knee lace-ups with studded heels!). Yolen tends to favor the more broad-minded, charitable view of the ladies’ motivations, while Stemple generally takes a more censorious stand. Readers may find themselves aligning with one of the authors, but they won’t be able to easily dismiss the opposing argument offhand. Guay’s comics are key to developing the intellectual workout offered by the authors’ conversations, and her glamorous full-page portraits of the bad girls opening each chapter capture the mystique that keeps the women in the spotlight over decades, or even millennia. An index is included, and short bibliographies are appended for each chapter, with enough material readily accessible online to guide teens who want to know more.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
  • “With humorous biographies, graphic novel asides that are interesting and amusing, and splendid illustrations, this is a book that every girl should read.”–Looking Glass Review of Books
  • “The authors probe further into motivations and situations. The merit of the book is that it is quirky, offbeat, and plain interesting.”—Jewish Book Council