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.
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.
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!