Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Am a Revisionist Female Character in a Kids' Story, Hear Me Roar

So, this is kind of funny. Not "ha-ha" funny, you understand. More like "huh" funny. Play along with me for a moment.

Realizing that our municipal strike, which has been going on for almost FOUR MONTHS now, could keep going indefinitely -- meaning that, in addition to having garbage piling up in a scary fashion in our shed, we also continue to not have access to the local library* -- I finally caved and ordered Sam some new books:
Lost and Found
"Once there was a boy who found a penguin at his door. From this opening line to the very end, this gentle story of friendship will capture young readers' imaginations."

Tikki Tikki Tembo
"Tikki Tikki Tembo (which means "the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world") and his brother Chang (which means "little or nothing") get into trouble with a well, are saved by the Old Man with the Ladder, and change history while they're at it."

Snowmen at Night
"Not since Frosty paraded through the village square have snowmen enjoyed such a slip-sliding good time as they do in the Buehners' latest flight of fancy."
Now, these are all good stories, and I stand behind them, but note anything interesting? Such as the fact that, in light of my recent complain-y post, NONE OF THESE BOOKS HAVE FEMALE CHARACTERS. Argh. Somebody thump me.

So, to refresh my memory -- and to give myself a one-stop wishlist to refer to next time I shop for kids' books -- I've reviewed all your comments on my original post, and I've compiled a list of stories for pre-schoolers that prominently feature girls. It's a work in progress, but it's a start:
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • The Miss Spider series by David Kirk
  • Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
  • The Frances series by Russell and Lillian Hoban
  • The Paper Bag Princess, A Promise is a Promise, Angela's Airplane, David's Father, Millicent and the Wind, Moira's Birthday, Murmel Murmel Murmel, Pigs!, Something Good, Stephanie's Ponytail, and The Boy in the Drawer by Robert Munsch (Here's where I sadly must confess that, so far, Sam is not feeling the Munsch)
  • Chrysanthemum, Lily and her Purple Plastic Purse, and Julius, The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
  • The Little House and Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Helga's Dowry and Adelita by Tomie DePaola
  • When I'm Sleepy by by Jane R. Howard and Lynne Cherry
  • The Charlie and Lola series by Lauren Child
  • Big Momma Makes the World and Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root
  • The Princess Knight, plus many other titles by Cornelia Funke (who is now at the top of my list... well, not THIS list, but the list in my head)
  • The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker and Grace Lin
  • The Library by Sarah Stewart
  • Moonstruck by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Roxaboxen by Alice Mclerran and Barbara Cooney
  • A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
  • The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty Macdonald
  • Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
  • The Little Princess series (which, trust me, is NOT all princess-y) by Tony Ross
  • The Daisy series by Jane Simmons
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  • If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Ugly Truckling by David Gordon
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems (I can vouch for this one. The story is cute and the illustrations are fabulous.)
  • Lizzy's Lion by Dennis Lee
  • Ganzy Remembers by Mary Grace Ketner
  • Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Joan Rankin
  • Who Said Boo? by Anne Miranda
  • Attic of the Wind by Doris Herold Lun and Ati Forberg
  • Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • George and Martha: One Fine Day by James Marshall
  • Maggie and the Pirates by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne
  • Fairy Wings by Lauren Mills
  • Dahlia by Barbara McClintock
  • Red Riding by Jean Merrilla
  • Outside, Over There by Maurice Sendak
  • Peg and the Yeti by Kenneth Oppel
  • Bullfrog Builds a House by Rosamond Dauer and Byron Barton
  • Petronella by Jay Williams
  • A Cowboy Named Ernestine by Nicole Rubel
  • Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson
  • Little Red Cowboy Hat by Susan Lowell
  • Eloise by Kay Thompson
  • Sleepless Beauty by Frances Minters
  • Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch
  • The Maggie B by Irene Haas
  • The Stella series by Marie-Louise Gay (Bonus: She has a little brother named Sam!)
Thanks so much to everyone who left suggestions. Keep 'em coming!

*Understand this: I fully support our librarians. They're getting screwed. Vancouver has a higher cost of living than Toronto. Why, then, do our library workers earn, on average, seven dollars per hour less than their eastern counterparts? Yeah, I think it's a good question, too.

23 comments:

Kristina said...

What about The Ordinary Princess? Is that too old? Because I've got a buttload of YA lit that isn't all about omg boys makeup and should i have sex with him?!

The only other little kid books I can think of that have a female character in them are the Clifford the Big Red Dog books, but Cliff's...kind of male. So...yes.

Marissa said...

Rikki Tikki Tembo No Sarembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Berry Pembo!

I will never forget that as long as I live. Forget the spelling, which I know I've completely gotten wrong, but the little chant will stay with me until my dying breath. That's what you're getting yourself into!!

betsytacy said...

Sticking to the preschool age group, here are some more to add to your list. Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs is a funny book about a female Paul Bunyan type. Library Lil by Suzanne Williams and Steven Kellogg is about a woman who builds up her enormous strength toting library books, so she's able to defeat the bullying motorcyle gang that comes to town--and she turns them on to reading, starting with Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Jane Yolen is always a good place to look for stories about strong girls, like Tam Lin. She also wrote the lovely Owl Moon about a girl on a late-night owl walk with her father. Another favorite of mine, Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, is about a girl with a vivid imagination who wins the role of Peter Pan in her school play. Jan Brett also writes picture books with strong girl characters, in particular The Trouble with Trolls, where a smart girl bests some pesky trolls. Felicia Bond wrote several books featuring Poinsettia the Pig (I think they're out of print though), one of which features firefighters. And if Sam likes Mike Mulligan, you might try Virginia Lee Burton's Katy and the Big Snow and Maybelle the Cable Car, where you get heavy equipment and female characters (what could be better?). And the last one off the top of my head is the Dorrie the Witch series by Patricia Coombs. It's more of an early reader, but still might work.

landismom said...

Corduroy by Don Freeman

can't believe I forgot Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans last time we did this (In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines/lived 12 little girls in two straight lines--is there a better opening line to a picture book?)

landismom said...

Oh, and The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez, and The Big Box by Toni Morrison!

Sarah said...

Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegehold was my favorite book when I was tiny. It might be out of print, though.

Ruby said...

Ooh, I second The Paper Bag Princess. Oh, and also, Cherries and Cherry Pits has a lot of girls in it, as well as black characters, if you want to go for racial as well as gender diversity. When Sam gets older (like 11 or 12), if he's into fantasy, you should give him Tamora Pierce's books. There are a trillion and they're pretty much the most blatantly, unapologetically feminist books I've ever read.

anna said...

Lost and Found is the best book everrrr... and the penguin could be male OR female, right?

I have had a brain explosion all over the rest of this comment, sorry for spamming!

Clarice Bean by Lauren Child, also! Lovelyyyy. And there are some pretty rocking versions of fairytales lately, Lauren Child's Princess and the Pea, and Mini Grey's books, Cinderella and other stories by Nick Sharratt, and Lydia Monks (Falling for Rapunzel, and Aaaargh Spider is awesome as well, it features a whole family, but I think the daughter is prominent). The Daisy books by Kes Grey! (Eat your peas, 006 and a bit, Yuk, Really Really and so on.) Pippi Longstocking! (Lauren Child just illustrated the first one - I am a fan! Could you tell?) Handa's Hen, Handa's Surprising Day and Handa's Surprise - Eileen Browne. Laura's Star - Klaus Baumgart. The Gotcha Smile - Rita Phillips Mitchell. Lucy's Picture - Nicola Moon. There's the Katie series by James Mayhew - she visits loads of different paintings (Katie and the Sunflowers, Katie meets the Impressionists etc.) and she also visits the dinosaurs! (In, ahem, Katie and the Dinosaurs!) Emma Chicester Clark - Blue Kangaroo stories! Emily Gravett - Monkey and Me. Hiawyn Oram - Rumblewick Diaries (My Unwilling Witch), and Mona the Vampire if it's still in print! Cressida Cowell - That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, Emily Brown and the Thing, There's no such thing as a ghostie. Julia Donaldson - The Magic Paintbrush. Ian Falconer - Olivia series. Valerie Thomas - Winnie the Witch series. Helen Nicoll - Meg and Mog (although maybe they are a bit young now?) Georgie Adams - Three little pirates. Judith Kerr's Mog is a female cat and there's a girl in the family! David Melling - The Ghost Library. Sarah McConnell - Don't Mention Pirates. Tom Harris - The Night Pirates.

When he's a little older: Joe Friedman - Boobela and Worm. Chris Riddell - Ottoline and the Yellow Cat. Allan Ahlberg's Happy Family series is pretty evenly split between girls and boy leads, I think.

M. Giant said...

As much as my son likes them, I'm not going to recommend the Max & Ruby books by Rosemary Wells. Preverbal bunny Max is the star, his (barely) older sister Ruby appears to be his primary caregiver, and Max is always outwitting her despite being a moron. Plus she's consistently portayed as an uptight asshole.

electriclady said...

Too old for him now perhaps, but as a kid I loved Tatterhood and Other Tales, which is a collection of traditional stories (sort of fairy tales I guess) from all over the world featuring female protagonists. Published by the Feminist Press, so that gives you an idea. :)

az said...

How about the Olivia books? Yeah, she's a pig, but she's a girl pig. And she's awesome.

Anonymous said...

A few others (some of which may be out of print):

Maid of the North and Other Tales (a companion book to Tatterhood)
Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins (Lauren Mills is the illustrator - this is different from Tatterhood and Other Tales)
Princess Stinky Toes
Rumplestiltskin's Daughter
Not One Damsel in Distress
Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters (another folktale collection)

Cara said...

I also can't believe that I forgot Madeline. I had those books memorized.

The Dorie the Witch series, by Patricia Coombs. I really don't remember much about them except that she had a cat named Gink and my sister and I loved them.

Meghan said...

My preschoolers loved Lost and Found.. I even got a little teary eyed reading it! There is a series of books called Katie and the Mona Lisa, and other artists...are really cute, and great for introducing kids to fine art.

Anonymous said...

What about the Madeline series?

Jennifer said...

The Paperbag Princess by by Robert N. Munsch and Michael Martchenko
The trouble with my mother, by Babette Cole.
Any of the Meg and Mog books, by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski <- These are pretty much all classic kid's picture books, in that you always find them in any nursery or playgroup book selection.

Also Alan Ahlberg's stuff is generally pretty good. You might want to look at his happy families range in particular-- Mrs Plug the Plumber, Mrs Wobble The Waitress, Miss Dirt the Dustman's Daughter, Mrs Vole the Vet, as well as Master Bun The Baker's Boy and so on. There's also Each Peach Pear Plum which is firmly embedded in my psyche and I can still quote by heart.

j2 said...

second to olivia!
and I'm in total agreement with M Giant on the Max and Ruby books - Ruby is a giant pain in the fluffy rabbit tail.

I suggest Mud Puddle and Something Good by R Munsch my big girl loves these books and they are fun to read aloud as well...

Jeane said...

My great-aunt used to read us Tikki Tikki Tembo when we were kids- I LOVED that book! I need to find one for my daughter. And the Charlie and Lola books, she LOVES the cartoons of it on tv (one of the 3 shows I let her watch) and I didn't know it was a book!!

Steph said...

Great list - I looooove Sam and Stella.

Rebecca said...

The Children's Librarian at work can recite Tikki Tikki Tembo from memory :)

Has anyone said Amelia Bedelia? Granted, she's kind of a spaz, but her heart's in the right place.

Katharine said...

I've always like the books written and/or illustrated by Marla Frazee.

The Seven Silly Eaters, Harriet, You'll Drive me Wild!, On the Morn of Mayfest, and The World Famous Muriel in particular, though Muriel is out of print, I think.

My all-time favorite from when I was a little girl is Girls Can Be Anything by Norma Klein which is also out of print and very much a snapshot of the early 70's.

MaggieCat said...

Mercer Mayer is known for the Little Critter and Little Monster books, but What Do You Do With A Kangaroo? was the one I loved when I was really little. It is awesome and hilarious, and has the notable distinction of being the first book I ever read for school. Oo, and There's Something In My Attic, that has a female protagonist as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your list. I have a six year old tomboy. Who, this halloween wants to be a knight. Which is great with me. Trouble is, I need a book to go with the costume for school. I could go with any book about knights, but would rather a book about a female knight. I'd like her to know that it's good to be what you want to be. But then found that there aren't very many children's books that have females in the hero type roles.
Anyway thank you again. I'm going to check out your list. I will not give up until I find something.
Maybe I'll have to write my own. LOL