Timbuktu Labs, marketer of the Rebel Girls publishing and media franchise, is expanding its brand, launching a Rebel Girls imprint and a chapter book series. The brand is best known for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, volumes 1 and 2, and more recently its podcast.
The chapter book series will expand on the concept of the Good Night Stories titles, which feature page-long biographies of interesting historical and contemporary women. Elena Favilli, Timbuktu’s CEO, said the company surveyed its most loyal fans about what they wanted to read next, and the results showed a strong desire for chapter books.
“We wanted the opportunity to tell in-depth stories and share the full lives of some of the women that have appeared in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls,” Favilli said. “Our audience is growing, and we wanted to give them something with more meat to it.”
The first two titles, Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business, about a woman whose hair-care company turned her into the country’s first female self-made millionaire, and Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code, about the creator of the world’s first programming language, will launch on November 12. Each book will contain full-page illustrations, combining the facts of the subject’s life with a positive tone and discussions of challenging topics.
The books will also feature an activity related to the content, developed with outside organizations that have expertise in the topic. “We really wanted our young fans to be inspired to pursue these careers and to follow their dreams,” Favilli said.
The women profiled will have careers aligned with five key content areas: STEM, entrepreneurship, creativity, athleticism, and activism. The third and fourth books of the series, set for publication in spring and fall 2020, will center on Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist and the first female African Nobel Prize winner; and Junko Tabei, a Japanese mountaineer who was the first woman to reach Mount Everest’s summit.
Favilli believes the Rebel Girls chapter books will stand out in a crowded market of aspirational biographies, due to their distinctive illustrations, their international outlook, and their connection with outside experts. “Rebel Girls kind of started this trend of nonfiction featuring strong women,” Favilli said. “That was one of the hopes, that there would be more publishing of this kind.”
The Rebel Girls imprint, meanwhile, will encompass nonfiction and especially fiction written by female-identifying and non-binary authors, all focusing on strong and diverse female characters and often tackling tough subjects in an age-appropriate manner. The venture will include juvenile formats from board, picture, and chapter books, to middle grade and young adult readers, to graphic novels.
While the new chapter book series will fall under the imprint, the emphasis will be on acquiring manuscripts from outside authors. “Our goal has always been to use Rebel Girls as a platform to give voice to female writers and illustrators and allow them to offer unique and new perspectives,” Favilli said.
Rebel Girls recently signed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster to expand its retail footprint.