I mean, besides picture books about being princesses, and
loving purple and pink, and choosing shoes or dresses.
I didn’t realize how boy-oriented my early picture book
collection was until my daughter was born four years after my son. Sure,
there’s crossover appeal in many picture books, but there also seems to be an
overabundance with boys as the main characters. And many of the picture books
that have come in as well-meaning gifts that my daughter (now 5) could have
books “just for her” are as saccharine as pancakes topped with maple and corn and
chocolate and strawberry and butterscotch syrup. A friend was recently
surprised how much her reading options narrowed when her 5-year-old daughter
decided to stake out her place in the world by only listening to picture books
with girls as the main character. The books about boys are now the sole domain
of her twin brother. Personally, I wouldn’t take the point that far, but then
I’m not a 5-year-old who’s experimenting with how to define herself.
For my own daughter’s bookshelf, I find that picture book
biographies or legends are reliable genres for balancing out the bubbly bling.
Books like the one pictured at right. Or Phyllis Root’s Paula Bunyan, or Claire
Rudolf Murphy’s Marching with Aunt Susan.
Sometimes I wonder if more books with strong girl characters
are out there, but are hard to
find amidst the marketing of princess, princess, princess. What could change that? What
do you read to your girls? Where does this challenge come from?