I’ve talked on these pages previously about Lyra’s love for books. Well that love went into overdrive last week, what with World Book Day and Secret Reader Week. The latter involved us parents being invited to sign up for Secret Reader sessions at Lyra’s pre-school. My slot was last Thursday, I had to pick a children’s story suitable for 3-4 year olds and turn up on the day to surprise Lyra, and read her the story to her and her school friends. Her face was a picture!
And seeing as tomorrow is International Women’s Day I thought it was only right to round up some of the best feminist books for kids we’ve come across. I’ve given a rough age rating for each book, but take these with a pinch of salt, as Lyra is loving her Rebel Girls book yet I’ve noticed an age range of 8+ on some websites.
Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch (Ages 3-5)
Boy meets girl, scary fire-breathing dragon appears and burns girl’s clothes, boy saves girl. Right? WRONG. Not in this story. In Paperbag Princess, the girl is the hero and outsmarts the dragon and saves the boy. Published in 1980, this is surely one of the first feminist books for kids. It was one of my favourite books when I was little and it’s on Lyra’s birthday list.
Coco Chanel by Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Ages 4-8)
Part of the Little People, Big Dreams series, this gem of a book tells the story of the style icon that is Coco Chanel. Coco grew up in an orphanage and was ‘different’: she liked to sew clothes rather than play with the other girls. I love the whole ethos of the Little People, Big Dreams series, and the messages to little girls (and boys) that they convey: that it’s fine to be different, and that you can accomplish your dreams if you work hard enough. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series, all of which are just as beautifully illustrated.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst (Ages 4-8)
These girl power picture-book biographies are all the rage at the moment. Written by a descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst, Fantastically Great Women pays tribute to Emmeline and 13 other inspirational ladies. The colourful, cartoon-y style and layout reminds me of the super-popular Horrible Histories series. Pankhurst’s book has been such a hit that a follow up, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, was published last month.
Women In Science by Rachel Ignotofsky (Ages 4-10)
I actually bought this one for my friend Lou who’s a science teacher. It’s another influential-women picture book biography, but this time focussing on inspirational females who have made a contribution to the world of science. The illustrations are stunning – a kind of intricate papercut effect – and unusual and eye-catching because the pages are black.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Ages 8+)
This is the book that Lyra’s holding in the header image. She’s way too young for it now but I can’t wait for the day that we can snuggle up together at bedtime and read all about the March sisters and the trials and tribulations of growing up. Did anyone catch the TV adaptation of it over Christmas? It was, quite simply, perfection. Possibly the best thing the BBC have ever produced (sorry, I know this is meant to be a post about books…)
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Ages 4+)
I’ve saved the best ’til last.
Rebel Girls is 100 page-long stories of real-life, strong, independent women. I love everything about this book. The stories have been written with kids in mind: many start with ‘Once upon a time there was a little girl called…” and the language and structure of each story is kid-friendly. The illustrations are all by women. And even the story behind the story is a good one: the female authors were told that “two girls alone” would never raise serious capital. But when they started a crowdfunding campaign to publish Rebel Girls, they pretty much broke Kickstarter, raising over $1 million, making it the most successful book in crowdfunding history.
Lyra, too, is obsessed with Rebel Girls: we read three stories every bedtime and god forbid if I forget to read out the date that the Rebel Girl was born, or their quote.
Reading Rebel Girls is also turning out to be a learning experience for me. Maybe I should have known, but I did NOT know that Michelle Obama was Barack Obama’s mentor at the law firm where they met. Nor did I know that the first female Pharaoh was not Cleopatra but a lady called Hatshepsut, who had to present herself as a man to convince Egyptians that she was their legitimate leader, and went on to become one of the most successful leaders in Egyptian history.
Following the popularity of Rebel Girls, the writers were approached by so many people telling tales of other inspirational women that they soon amassed enough stories for a Volume 2. It was released last week and you can get your copy here.
Are your little ones as obsessed with Rebel Girls as Lyra and I? Are there any other feminist books for kids that you’d recommend?
P.S. A massive congratulations to the original Rock My Rebel Girl, Charlotte O’Shea, who gave birth to her little lady Iris on Saturday.