Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What picture books do you read to girls...

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?


  1. It's been a long time since I read picture books to my girls. William Steig was the hands-down favorite. Would he be published now? All that text!

    Your post reminded me of the recent uproar over the Scholastic Girl/Boy guide books.

    (Can we embed links in the comment section? I can't figure it out.)

  2. My longtime favorite is "The Paperbag Princess" (which is not your normal princess story!), but you're right - there are a ton of pink, wussy books out there right now. Time we did something about it!

  3. Thoughtful post, Cheryl. Could it be that the quieter picture books of yore appealed to girls more and publishers want action now - commercial, commercial, commercial? Let's keep sending them great stories and not let that happen.