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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!


Why do I blog?

16 Nov

It was my one year blogoversary on 14 November. I had remembered it, but just hadn’t had the time to post. We’ve had laptop issues (now resolved!) which made it really hard to get online. I’ve also got a 2 year old Chuggington & Peppa Pig addict for company who wants nothing more than to get his hands on my phone so he can watch videos (so much for not having a TV!) so blogging from the phone (or ipad for that matter) is nigh on impossible. Excuses, excuses…it was mainly because I usually feel so freakin’ guilty about how little I blog. I was feeling all angsty – I enjoy blogging, so why don’t I just blog? Why do I waste so much time procrastinating about the whole thing? Will I go to my blogging grave as the queen of the unfinished draft post?

Then one of my favourite bloggers – Dillytante – started an interesting thread on Mumsnet about why bloggers blog. Dilly’s questions seemed like a good way to mark my one year anniversary in blogging, while also letting me get some of my angst out of my head.

Why do you blog?

I blog for myself. I started this blog when I was pregnant with my daughter and was staring down the barrel of a year long maternity leave with a 2 year old and baby (and even then I knew we’d probably move to the US and I’d be staying at home for the foreseeable future). I wanted something for me and a blog seemed like a good idea (less work than a pet! But seriously, I wanted something to provide an outlet for myself so I didn’t just drown in family stuff). I love the environment and try to live mindfully and sustainably and I want to foster these values in my family. Hence my theme, although not a great deal of thought went into it! In reality, over the past year, I’ve found it’s more personal. Blogging helps me to hear myself.

What do you get from it?

I get great satisfaction from it. More than I expected actually. It’s great to think about words in a non-pressured way. Very enjoyable. I also get guilt – why don’t I blog more? How can I blog more without neglecting my “real” life? Will I ever finish all the drafted posts I have?? – but I’m a lapsed Irish Catholic, so a bit of guilt never did me any harm.

Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?

It is mostly trivial and that is just fine. I’m not about to halt climate change or bring world peace. I’m also not interested in a book deal or anything like that. I’m just happy to blog for myself and hope that anyone who stumbles across this blog likes it. I do like to highlight things that matter to me when I can but that’s because it’s MY blog so I can blog about whatever I fancy…But really even the “trivial” stuff is important to me and that’s enough for me.

Why should people be interested in what you write?

People can be interested or not. I don’t really have a reason as to why they should or shouldn’t!

Do you care if they are not?

I really don’t. I know that everyone says that and that we’re supposed to all be secretly obsessed with our stats but I really don’t mind who reads or who doesn’t. I do like to see what countries people visit from – so interesting! And I like to see what search terms bring people here – it’s fascinating to see what people search for! But most of all I love comments. I love love love comments.

If you blog just for you why do it publicly?

Well, it’s public but it’s not like I’m forcing anyone to visit or read. It’s just such an easy way to write. I can blog from anywhere with an internet connection (as someone who loses notebooks this great – much easier than paper and pen!). Plus I like the sense of community blogging brings. I like reading other blogs and like when they visit me (see above about my love of comments!). Hopping around blogs is so much fun. It’s actually the thing I miss most about working in an office…all that glorious blog hopping I could do while appearing to “work” [sigh].

What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?

This is an interesting one. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I could argue that I’m contributing to the social history of our time. Which is particularly important when you think of the lack of female voices from most eras of history and how blogs provide some balance to sexist mainstream media (women do not all care about having a beach bod or whatever). This would be a good point to sidetrack into why I think most of the criticism of mummy/mommy bloggers (see, I’m going native here in the US! I’m slowly starting to be all diaper this and stroller that) is all part of the misogyny running through Western culture. But really I don’t think about it in terms of value. I like blogging so I blog and anyone who cares can read (or ignore or think it’s rubbish…).

Do you feel defensive about blogging?

This is an even more interesting one. I guess I do sometimes. Well, not so much defensive as guarded. I have this thing where I don’t want people I know in real life to read my blog in case they think it’s terrible and judge me accordingly. Plus I don’t want random people to know about it (work colleagues and the like). I don’t want my name to turn up on Google as a blogger for privacy reasons. Plus I don’t want my kids to be too exposed in it as I’m the guardian of their privacy and don’t want to invade it when they’re too young to consent. So I keep schtum about it to most people. But I’m happy to discuss blogging with anyone who’s critical of it. It’s the sense of community and inspiration that I usually talk up. And [sweeping generalisation alert] I find that people who hate blogs have usually never read any actual blogs (I don’t count newspaper blogs as proper blogs btw). So I can remain straight-faced while discussing with them while mentally filing them under “speaking out of their arse”.