I mean, besides picture books about being princesses, and loving purple and pink, and choosing shoes or dresses.
I didn’t realize how boy-oriented my early picture book collection was until my daughter was born four years after my son. Sure, there’s crossover appeal in many picture books, but there also seems to be an overabundance with boys as the main characters. And many of the picture books that have come in as well-meaning gifts that my daughter (now 5) could have books “just for her” are as saccharine as pancakes topped with maple and corn and chocolate and strawberry and butterscotch syrup. A friend was recently surprised how much her reading options narrowed when her 5-year-old daughter decided to stake out her place in the world by only listening to picture books with girls as the main character. The books about boys are now the sole domain of her twin brother. Personally, I wouldn’t take the point that far, but then I’m not a 5-year-old who’s experimenting with how to define herself.
For my own daughter’s bookshelf, I find that picture book biographies or legends are reliable genres for balancing out the bubbly bling. Books like the one pictured at right. Or Phyllis Root’s Paula Bunyan, or Claire Rudolf Murphy’s Marching with Aunt Susan.
Sometimes I wonder if more books with strong girl characters are out there, but are hard to find amidst the marketing of princess, princess, princess. What could change that? What do you read to your girls? Where does this challenge come from?