My daughter is three years old, and has gotten to the point of focusing on who is a “she” and who is a “he.”  This includes people she knows, toys, and musicians playing on CDs.  It also includes characters in books.

Without being obsessive, I’ve tried to ensure a balance of genders in her literary protagonists.  Fairly early, many of her favorite characters were male, among them: Else Homelund Minnarik’s Little Bear, and Peter of the Ezra Jack Keats books.  But giving her plenty of shes to think about was more challenging than it seemed.  To minimize gender stereotypes, and give her plenty of female heroes.  Her latest hero is Katy, from Virginia Lee Burton‘s book Katy and the Big Snow.  Following is from the review:

Katy, a red crawler tractor, “could do a lot of things,” Burton explains early on. In the summer she is a bulldozer, helping to build and repair roads in the city of Geoppolis. In the winter, she turns into a snowplow, waiting and waiting for her chance to be useful. Most of the winters, though, the snowfalls are mild and the town doesn’t need Katy. But when the big one finally hits, the town is buried in page after page of powder. The power lines are down. The doctor can’t get his patient to the hospital. The fire department can’t reach a burning house! “Everyone and everything was stopped but… KATY!” Suddenly, the entire community is dependent on one little snowplow.

I found the book in a jumbled shelf at Dark Star Books last week.  My daughter now fully identifies with Katy.  This is a snowy winter, and her Grandpa Mark drives a snow plow, so the story of Katy is not only relevant but personal.  At one point in the book, the highway department says of Katy, “Nothing can stop her.”  A couple days ago, my daughter repeated it, about herself.

I want to capitalize on this moment, so I’m looking for recommendations.  I like best the books where it feels incidental that the characters are female–not necessarily overtly political or socially aware (or please, not simply politically correct!) and I want books that have good stories, well written, and with lovely art.  I love old books that have held up over a long time.  And with strong females or girls.  Female animals are okay, but I want to make sure we have some good shes around.

Read any good girls lately?

6 thoughts on “Read any good girls lately?

  1. Hi Rebecca. I’ve been following your blog for a while, and just wanted to say how much I love your posts. they are simple, nice, well-written and easy to connect to.
    This post made me think about how wonderful it must feel to be a parent watching your kid going through all kinds of phases as she grows up. I like your attempt to find “incidentally” female protagonist. Of course there is always Pippi long stocking, which I personally love, and love that she is a “sincerely female” protagonist.

    1. Sara, thanks for following my blog–and thanks for the compliments! It’s so nice to get feedback like that. And yes, it’s wonderful to see the little person unfolding. I can’t wait until she’s ready for Pippi Longstocking. I loved those stories as a child, too. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Oh! This brings back good memories. I must have read that book a thousand times to my boys! Your baby girl might also like “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel”, also by Virginia Burton. It was another favorite in our house and it features a powerful female character too–a steam shovel named Mary Ann.

  3. Probably too soon for these (sorry, it’s been a while). But these are worth tucking away for later:

    “Not One Damsel In Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls” contains folktales without helpless princesses.

    “Newberry Girls” Selections from 15 Newberry Award-winning Books Chosen Especially for Girls by Heather Dietz.

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