BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames | Njinga: “The Warrior Queen” by Janie Havemeyer, illustrated by Peter Malone

Dastardly Dames NjingaThose Dastardly Dames are increasing their fold (yippeee!), this time to welcome a 16th-century West African queen named Njinga, meaning “twist,” because she was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck! She certainly found her fighting spirit early on: as the eldest daughter of a king and a slave woman, Njinga was trained by her father “to think like a ruler and fight like a warrior” even though she couldn’t inherit the throne merely because of her gender.

Traditions aside, when her incompetent half-brother loses their kingdom to the Portuguese who are thriving on an ever-growing, gruesome slave trade, Njinga quickly  realizes “her kingdom needed her” and proves to be a skillful negotiator – with and without weapons. Little impedes her progress toward reclaiming and establishing her kingdom: murder, intrigue, slavery, human sacrifices, even conversion to Catholicism (!) become de rigueur in establishing her power. If you wanted to survive, you did as you were told!

Inspiringly girl-powered Goosebottom Books once again introduces readers to another fascinating, frightening historical figure. As in each installment of The Thinking Girl’s Treasuries of Dastardly Dames, the implicit question looms, ‘what price power?’ ‘Twisted’ Njinga surely had her share of challenging options and seems to have made some of the more grislier choices.

What, indeed, might each of us have done …? Here’s one thing for sure: Goosebottom’s gooses surely are channeling 1991 Pulitzer Prize winner, Harvard history professor (and Mormon!) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich‘s oft-quoted book title, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Amen to that!

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2012


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