Picture books for budding feminists

8 Mar

Parenting young children can be tricky for a feminist. There are the gendered clothes and the gendered toys and the gendered cartoons and books let alone all of the influences on parents & extended friends and family about boys being a “handful” and girls being so “caring”. So in honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share some wonderful picture books that we love and that fit with my feminist principles.

What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best written by Laura Numeroff & illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

This book was passed onto my son from his cousin and I assumed, from the title, that it would be an awful gender-role specific book. How wrong I was! It’s actually two stories, which mirror each other and come together in a center spread. Munsinger’s lovely illustrations show a variety of animal mums & dads doing the exact same things with their children – both parents hold you when you’re feeling sad, or teach you to ride a bicycle, or sew a loose button on your teddy, or watch the sunset, or play ball in the park, or bake a birthday cake. I love the equality of it, how it turns gender roles on their head. Parents do the same things in their own way, sharing the care and love of their young children. Crucially, my preschool boy loves this too! Especially flipping it over to start at the back again.

Kate and the Beanstalk written by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Giselle Potter

We’ve gotten into fairy tales in a big way recently here. We picked up some old copies of Jack & the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood at our local library sale a couple of months ago and my son has really enjoyed them. But they really jarred with my feminist principles. So I was delighted to discover Mary Pope Osborne’s books at our local library.

In her clever retelling of this fairy tale, Kate is intelligent, courageous, resourceful and quick-witted (much nicer to read that a tale about a lazy, stupid boy!). But it stays true to the original tale, in that the same events happen, but adds such richness of detail and language that it’s a more complex story (so far more enjoyable for me to read!) and a wonderful take on the happily-ever-after of fairy tales.

My son loves this book – it’s a frequent request both when we have it checked out and when we’re looking for books in the library. We’re also fans of Sleeping Bobby by the same authors.

Sweet Dreams, Maisy by Lucy Cousins was the first Maisy book we got for our son. It arrived in the Bookstart pack we received when he was a baby and it quickly became part of our bedtime routine. And it still is now, nearly 3 years later (though I did have to replace the original when I accidentally put it through the washing machine!).

And now this beddie Maisy, as my son calls it, has much company in the form of other Maisy books. How we love Maisy Mouse! Maisy is the ideal strong, female role model to expose young children to, without any overt preaching or “issues” to discuss. She simply operates in a world where girls can do anything (admittedly, she also operates in a world where toddler animals can do anything!). She drives buses and trains. She plays dress up with her pals. She drives fire engines and rescues cats. She takes the bus into the city to see friends. And all illustrated in vivid colours by Lucy Cousins. I haven’t yet come across a Maisy book we haven’t enjoyed.

I’d love to hear any recommendations others may have. We’re always on the look out for new reading material!

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6 Responses to “Picture books for budding feminists”

  1. evitaso March 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Lovely selection, thanks.
    The other day I came across this post http://mysmallpotatoes.com/2012/06/15/weekly-kids-co-op-williams-doll-by-charlotte-zolotow/ and I’m going to order one.

    E x

    • lowimpactmama March 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      Oh what a lovely post and book! Thanks for sharing it! It reminds of DS nursing his monkey and carrying him the way I do foe DD :)

  2. rosy mammy March 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    oh I’ve never come across the first one youve mentioned here, it looks lovely…

    • lowimpactmama March 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      It’s funny, as I totally thought it would be cheesy sexist nonsense so I was quite smitten when I read it! I’d love to hear any you’d recommend – you always recommend such lovely books!

      • rosy mammy March 9, 2013 at 5:58 am #

        well in terms of challenging traditional fairy tales, the ones that first spring to mind are the ‘Princess Smartypants/Prince Cinders’ books, theyre always popular at school – but they may be a bit self consciously feminist, rather than just normalising girls doing exciting things.
        Youve got me thinking – will let you know if I come up with any more!

  3. Crafts on Sea March 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    They all look lovely :) when I was young I was really into the paperbag princess which was all about a princess realising she didn’t need a knight to save her :)

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