Saturday, March 11, 2017

Whenever I say Grrrrl I Pretend To Be Daniel Tiger From Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. In My Head. (I've never been cool.)

Recently a friend sent me this video:

And I was all, "Dude, man! It's like Herstory but with more pictures? I'm totally in! Who wants my money!?" (Note: this website does)

But, after the "I bought a new book euphoria*" began to subside, I got to thinking more about the video. Specifically, what books were on the shelves in the video? Time posted their list of 100 best children's books of all time here, and I'm assuming those are the books the video is stocked with. Now, truthfully, there are some really really good books on Time's list! Books I own! (51 out of 100, specifically) Books I've read to my children! (72 out of 100) But, if we look at the idea behind the video, which is the lack of strong female characters in children's literature-they might have a point. Which, really wasn't a problem in the years before Katie could read, as I routinely changed character's genders to suit my agenda. *gasp* But, come on, I mean, who can tell if the little kid from Blueberries for Sal is a boy or a girl, or the kid following the farm animals in Just Me. Or the sheep from Sheep in a Jeep. They're sheep, let's face it, they could go either way! And it worked beautifully. Girls loved trucks! Girls loved trains! Any personificated inanimate object immediately became female. I felt like a genius!

Until Ellie was born.

Ellie was having none of that. Because, "Mommy, girls have long hair, and wear dresses." And my retort of, "Mommy doesn't wear dresses all the time and Grandma has short hair." didn't go far because, "Not in books. In books, Mommy, all girls should have long hair and wear dresses." And, so, you know, that's the fun story of the time my two year old called my bluff as I tried to pass boys off as girls during story time. (Thank goodness I won the argument about the WOMAN farmer from the Fisher Price farm set! Probably. Or. She's just been letting me live with that lie for the last few years. Awwww maaaaan....She has, hasn't she? Shoooot.)

So, back I went, to allowing the book characters to gender identify as the author originally intended, while scouring the library for books with girls as the main characters. Girls who didn't make me want to swack them over the head as they sat there, in their tower, waiting, when, let's face it, they could have cut their own hair off, tied to to the bedpost and climbed down it themselves, as Mythbusters has proven you can. Those. Those books were harder to find. The video was spot on about that.

Reading about characters who look like you is powerful. And, while Katie was willing to see herself as a train loving, cookie eating mouse who rode in a jeep with some crazy female sheep, Ellie, she saw herself as a princess. With long hair. And a pretty dress. And those girls need strong characters too.

I'm sure she's not the only one.

What are your favorite female characters in children's lit?

*With jazz hands.


  1. The funny thing is, I have a much easier time finding inspiring books for Madeleine than I have for William, particularly around 1st grade. I see this reversing as the kids get older, but girls' early readers have inspiration, and high flying tales. And boys' early readers have... well, tawdry comic book fighting.

    1. Hmmm... So my love of the series The Day my Butt Went Psycho, not what you're looking for, then? Which probably leaves out Captain Underpants too. *Sigh* Sad.

      I'm sure he's been through Roald Dahl. Nate the Great is good, as is Encyclopedia Brown. Katie really enjoyed Geronimo Stilton, and the Time Warp Trio books are hilarious! Really, anything by Jon Scieszka is a good time! Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Shiloh, The Tale of Despereaux, Hank the Cowdog Series. As far as books I've heard good things about but haven't read yet: The 39 Clues series, Owen Foote, Frontiersman by Stephanie Greene, The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry.

  2. 39 clues series has been a success with both my kids, but i haven't read them.

    Have you read Ruby Lu? (There are a few Ruby Lu books. By Lenore Look. Who also wrote Alvin Ho books.)
    I think they are brilliant.

    What about Dumpling Days? (by Grace Lin.) I really liked Castle Hangnail (by Ursula Vernon). The Girl who drank the Moon (Barnhill?)

    Most of them *have* boys, but all of them have good female protagonists.

    W is mostly reading comic books and non-fiction. Its acceptable, but I hope some day he is entirely captivated by a good series.

    1. Oooo! I have NOT read The Girl who Drank the Moon! Newbery this year too!

      Ellie has read the Ruby Lu books and enjoyed them.

      Dumpling Days and the rest of the series seems to be a popular checkout in the "library" but I haven't read them yet.

      If W is reading non-fiction, that's great! It got to a point with Katie that I had to make a rule that 1 of her 10 weekly library books she got to check outhad to be non-fiction. Oh the horrors and the pain!!

  3. (ps. Also, Ms. Boske is kind enough to take a special interest in library, so he's gotten some guidance from an expert.)