Posts Tagged ‘gender stereotypes’

A friend of mine recently related that she had been stopped cold one day when her four-year-old daughter declared, “Girls can’t be heroes. Only boys can.”

This shocked young mama promptly sewed her daughter a cape and held a Hero Day. Together they found lots of ways that even a four-year-old could be a hero-in-training.

Little girls (and boys) pick up the most unfortunate things at such early ages from the ocean of air they live in called our culture. One of those is, sadly, a feeling of limitations on what girls are allowed to dream of doing and becoming.

Enter this gem of a book chock full of heroic women.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, compiled by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, illustrated by sixty female artists from around the world
published in 2016 by Timbuktu Labs
203 pages

One hundred, one-page stories of heroic women are gathered in these pages and I am telling you, your heart will burn with gladness as you read them! Women from ancient times and in the news today. Women from all corners of the globe and every race.

Illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley

 Dancers and doctors and film directors. Spies and scientists and war heroes. A race car driver. An orchestra conductor. And my personal favorite, a poet/baker. 

Cora Coralina, Poet and Baker, illustration by Elenia Beretta

The stories are super short. Each takes about a minute to read. They’re written with a hint of the fairy tale about them. Once there was a curious girl…or Once upon a time there was a girl who…making them tasty as can be for a bedtime snack.

It is no small feat to capture these women’s lives and contributions in such a short passage, retaining her individuality, highlighting something that glints with fascination, and reading not like a wikipedia article but rather an enticing sneak peek at a life you’ll certainly want to explore further. I thoroughly enjoyed reading my way through the whole volume but be aware that these are far from in-depth. That’s how we get 100 of them!

Miriam Makeba, illustration by Helena Morais Soares

Accompanying the stories are a-ma-zing full-page portraits created by an international collection of women artists. Oh, their work is stunning. I love the variety of styles and immense strength exuding from each one.  Riveting. 

At the close of these accounts there’s space for the book’s owner to write her own story and draw her own portrait. A brilliant touch. 

I’d peg this book for ages 7 and up. There is one account of a young, transgender girl, but beyond that there is no discussion of sexuality. Issues such as depression, violence, child marriage, the Holocaust, are softened with tact. It was funded by crowdsourcing and is not available through Amazon. You can order a copy by heading to their website here, and I hope many of you will.  

Margaret Thatcher, Serena and Venus Williams, and Michaela DePrince, illustrations by Debora Guidi.



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March is Women’s History Month. I’m hoping to share some weekly lists on this subject all month long…we’ll see how time allows.

There are gobs of biographies already in the Orange Marmalade archives, so if you’re looking for ideas to celebrate the intelligence, creativity, passion, insight, kindness, skill, fortitude of women throughout history — check out the Subject Index.

liberty's voice cover imageLiberty’s Voice: The Story of Emma Lazarus, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
published in 2011 by Dutton Children’s Books

I’ll open with the story of the poet who penned the lines engraved on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired,your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Given the xenophobic rhetoric being flung around our country today, it’s the perfect time to be reminded that this voice of altruism and refuge is what it looks like to be a great nation.

liberty's voice interior silverman and schuett

Read about Emma’s well-to-do upbringing in New York and her life-changing encounter with a flood of Jewish victims of violence in Russia seeking sanctuary in the U.S. Kaleidoscopic color infuses these pages making it a most appealing book to share with children ages 5 and up.

solving the puzzle under the sea cover imageSolving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From early childhood, Marie Tharp loved maps. Certainly trotting about the country with her mapmaker father had something to do with that. 

Tharp had to overcome gender stereotypes in order to pursue her love of science, then went on to pioneer the way in mapping the bottom of the world’s seas.

solving the puzzle under the sea interior burleigh and colon

Such an intriguing pursuit! Her story is presented beautifully here by a talented, award-winning team. Ages 6 and up.

a passion for elephants cover imageA Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss, by Toni Buzzeo, ill. by Holly Berry
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers

One of the highlights of my life involved watching elephants from the open veranda of a lodge in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. What a glory, elephants!

a passion for elephants interior buzzeo and berry

Cynthia Moss has spent a lifetime observing, learning about, and protecting these enormous creatures. Her story is vividly told and energetically illustrated here in this top-notch account. I really enjoyed this; a delightful choice for ages 4 and up.

shining star cover imageShining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Lin Wang
published in 2009 by Lee & Low Books

Anna May Wong grew up at the turn of the century, the daughter of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. From the get go she was fascinated by drama, enamored with film stars, dreaming of starring in the movies herself.

shining star illustration lin wang

Anna achieved her dream, but was humiliated by the industry’s treatment of Chinese-Americans. After years of taking roles tainted by negative stereotypes of Asians, Wong made a decision to buck the racist system. Read her thought-provoking story, a great follow-up to the discussions surrounding the Academy Awards. It’s long-ish — try it with ages 7 and up.

sonia sotomayor cover imageWomen Who Broke the Rules: Sonia Sotomayor, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
published in 2015 by Bloomsbury

Here’s another in the same series as Dolley Madison, which I reviewed for President’s Day. 

Krull writes snappy biographies, moving us right along without bogging down, yet including vivid anecdotes that make these women human and approachable. Dominguez contributes friendly, warm illustrations that keep the pages welcoming.

sonia sotomayor illustration angela dominguez

Sotomayor had so many hurdles in life — an alcoholic father, juvenile diabetes, an impoverished life in the projects. But her nickname as a toddler was Little Pepper — so that tells you something! She needed all that spunk and drive to become the first Latino member of the Supreme Court. This is a 46-page bio for ages 8 and up.

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my near death adventures 99% true cover imageMy Near-Death Adventures (99% True) by Alison DeCamp
pubished in 2015 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Here is a book that made me laugh out loud one minute, then swung about and deftly delivered heartache the next. 

It’s a book coated in an outer shell of boisterous, eye-rolling humor, yet beneath that tough exterior lie profound yearnings and insecurities.

And it takes place in the 1890s, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Not many Yoopers in kids lit, eh? The book’s cast features a cast-iron-tough granny, a logging camp full of grimy guys, a tough-as-nails girl cousin, a hard-working single mom, and our hero — from andersonvalleymuseum dot orgStanley Slater.

Stan has recently arrived at Uncle Henry’s logging camp where his Mama will be helping out in the kitchen and his Granny (whose Evil Rating fluctuates throughout the book, from a high of 99.9%) will be keeping Stan from inadvertently killing himself.

Stan’s deadbeat dad has never been a part of his life, but Stan has just discovered that it’s not due to his dad’s death. He’s alive out there.  Somewhere. Being the man of the house at age 11 is a tough job, but Stan is one determined young thing, bent on being just the sort of manly man to take care of the flimsy women folk who depend on him.

Stan is a lovable klutz, an anti-hero who reminds me a bit of Walter Mitty, ever drifting off into an inner world in which his muscles bulge and his enemies quail before him, while back in the real world he bashes his head open on an ax handle and mutters aloud the secrets he means to keep to himself.

from connorcoyne cot comThe humor and the pathos of this story stem from the same source — Stan’s burning desire to prove himself a man to his unseen father. Stan is certain he’s coming back, and when he does, he longs to be the spitting, can-crushing, ax-wielding, throw-your-weight-around, heap of masculinity he’s sure his father is. This lands Stanley in many hilarious hotspots. He is so charmingly ridiculous.

Yet that deep longing for a father, the gripping onto a mirage, the fierce sense of loss and denial — that isn’t funny. It’s heartbreaking. And Alison DeCamp nails it, never overwhelming the story with despair, but painting big streaks of sobering reality in it which anchor the whole novel to the earth.

Stan is a slow learner, but there are some golden characters and moments in his life that feed him the truth: that being a real man is not about brute strength and bad smells; it’s about faithfulness, responsibility, kindness, and oh yeah,  treating women as intelligent, strong, equals.

It was hard for me to figure out who would best like this book. I

Just one of many items from Stan's scrapbook.

Just one of many items from Stan’s scrapbook.

think kids ages 10 and up will enjoy it and plug into the humor of the story easily. To grasp the depth of the story, read between the lines, and appreciate all that’s been crafted into it, I think readers will need to be 13 or older. It would make a fabulous book club choice, with gobs of discussion fodder.

An unusually good novel with a genre-breaking format. I hope it gets some award attention.

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