A New Wave of Children’s Lit, No More Dead Mother Fairytales
by: Camalo Gaskin
It is not unusual for a nation to view their president as the father archetype, the citizens as the dependent children. American politicos even explicitly write about “The Mommy Problem” when looking at the social issues addressed by the Democratic party.
They are turned to when the housing bubble bursts or when the diversity in the nation is not reflected in the workplace and public institutions. Republicans, on the other hand, present themselves as being hard on foreign policy, crime, and ... the Arts.
But with the blatant disrespect of women and the marginalized being so visible in the most recent campaign, and now the first 100 days of this new presidency, this analogy goes deeper. This is a case where we can refer to the rise of “The Abusive Husband Problem”.
This direction is not what we want our children to believe is the only way. We’ve come too far to stay in this type of house.
Probably like you, many of us are actively seeking new ways to prepare our daughters (and sons) to be vocal, to be self-sufficient, to find humanitarian mentors, and to be seen. Children’s books are one of the first places we turn to for inspiration.
But, the fact that most fairytales have mother and adult women figures that are killed off or non-existent, is too reflective of the same crisis we see in politics. If women political leaders are also being symbolically erased, we need new sources of influence to model self-esteem, innovation, and connectedness in the face of adversity. We need reflections of everyday heroic figures who are concerned about social responsibility and creative solutions to complex problems. We need girls to see themselves at the center. We need to inspire them to see the power in their own voices.
Enter this new wave of children’s books for and about girls that address this very dilemma.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Two women entrepreneurs, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, set out to do something about the lack of women imagery they grew up with, creating a children’s book to highlight women role models. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is an encyclopedic book revealing the stories of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present. We get the sense that women will emerge as central influences in the imaginations of children, when we expose them to books that honor women for their contributions to society. Among the figures featured in this book are Serena Williams, the greatest tennis player of all time, Malala Yousafzai, activist and nobel laureate, and Jane Goodall, the anthropologist who exemplified a place where compassion and science meet.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton
She Persisted introduces young readers to thirteen inspirational women who shifted the course of American history, despite being told to stop. The title of the book references a recent political turning point marked by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s heroic act, reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Senator Jeff Sessions’ civil rights record. Republican senators voted to formally silence her after she dared to read the letter. The house majority leader reprimanded Warren, stating that “She was warned… She was given an explanations. Nevertheless, she persisted.” As a leader whose moral compass points in the same direction as many women and girls, her silencing lead to a resistant uproar and the #ShePersisted hashtag spread like wildfire across social media. Chelsea Clinton took on this battlecry. Her book sets out to introduce many more women who refused to be silenced including Harriet Tubman, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor. The author affirms, “I wrote this book for everyone who’s ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than.”
Entrepreneur Finds Her Way by Camalo Gaskin & Aubrey Gail Ferreira
A book that puts a daring girl herself at the center, the first in a series, this imaginatively written narrative should become one of those treasured children’s book classics. Entrepreneur is a girl of this age. Her adventures address the real crises facing the world today. Looking beyond the status quo, she wields her voice to open up to the universe that is every person she meets. A book full of multi-cultural and fascinating characters, she is invited by strangers, women mentors, and her engaging parents on learning journeys that spark new questions. They are prepared for her to create unique solutions.
This young girl thrives in a world where she begins to understand how currency moves, and how it can be used to move mountains. She approaches today’s challenges, seeing all of her possibilities. Champion of women’s leadership, mindfulness and the potency of a child’s imagination, this contemporary fiction serves as an allegory for girls and women alike. Not only a book, this is a manifesto. Witness the magic as Entrepreneur finds her way.
As poet laureate Toni Morrison tells us, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t yet been written, then you must write it.” That’s exactly the call these authors have answered.