It’s (almost!) the middle of January already and that means it’s time for another of my #fivebooks – this time I welcome Rebecca from The Ish Mother. If you’d like to take part in this series then choose a topic and the five books associated with it and email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime… over to Rebecca
As the mother of a girl, and a bookworm, I noticed very quickly that picture books are dominated by male characters. Really, the number of picture books with only male characters is shocking. So from very early on I sought out books that not only included girls but actively gave them important roles in the story. I wanted my daughter to know that girls can be and do anything. Now I have a son I want him to know the same, so he grows up seeing girls as equals.
Here are 5 of my favourite books that empower girls:
1. Zoe and Beans: Look at Me! by Chloe and Mick Inkpen – I loved the Zoe and Beans books when my daughter was a toddler, they’re quirky and funny and sweet. This one is my favourite as it shows Zoe playing dress up with her best friend Oscar – yes, a boy-girl friendship! They take on all sorts of roles from bumble bee to pirate before swapping clothes and dressing up as each other in a glorious moment of gender norm defiance!
2. DC Super Heroes: My First Book of Girl Power – This is another great book for toddlers, bought for my daughter by her uncle with an accompanying Supergirl costume. We’re not heavily into superheroes but I really liked this introduction to the many female superheroes. There is an emphasis on them all being, “strong and kind,” which grated on me a little – I can’t imagine the equivalent book about male superheroes talks much about their kindness. But it does show the characters as positive role models and shows that girls can use their strengths for good.
3. Zog by Julia Donaldson – I ummed and aahed about going for The Snail and the Whale as my featured Donaldson book, after all the snail is female. But I couldn’t resist paying tribute to the fabulous Princess Pearl! The thing I love best about this book is how Donaldson sneaks a bit of feminism into what would traditionally be considered a ‘boy book’ – after all, it is about dragons, with a male dragon as the title character. I wonder how many parents have been taken by surprise by Pearl’s impassioned rejection of her role as princess at the end of the story? I know I was – I cheered!
4. Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew – Katie loves visiting the art gallery and has the magical ability to climb inside the paintings and make them come to life. When she tries to take a star from Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ the stars escape and she enlists the help of women from some other Van Gogh paintings to help her catch them. I love Katie’s curiosity and resourcefulness, and the fact that, without drawing attention to it, this story is completely dominated by females – aside from a brief line from the gallery guard, every speaking character is a woman or girl. This is so unusual in children’s books it would normally jump out at you, but in fact I barely noticed for months!
5. Lola’s Fandango by Anna Witte – My daughter was obsessed with this book for a while, and still listens to the audiobook every night. Lola starts the story in awe of her older sister who has long hair and wears pretty dresses, but when she insists that her father teaches her flamenco dancing she discovers her own strengths and steps out of her sister’s shadow. The book shows Lola’s perseverance in learning the dance and courage when she performs at a family party. Most children’s books about dancing centre around dainty ballerinas, so I love that this story features a strong and stomping flamenco dancer instead!