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Monday, March 21, 2011

Cool Chic Picture Books -- Celebrating Girl Power

Girls are awesome. Ask any girl from ages one to ninety-nine, and they will tell you that this is true. Granted, it's a biased opinion, but there are a few gentlemen out there that just may agree with this statement. At least to a certain degree. In 1987, Congress recognized the achievements of women with dedicating an entire month to the topic. Previously, it had been limited to the one week in March. As the old saying goes, We've come a long way, baby. Women's rights and achievements have certainly deserved recognition and applause. The same can be said for picture books with strong women role models. This is not in reference to Olivia, Madeline or Ramona, although each of these characters are endearing. Rather, this is in reference to picture books about real women who have inspired theirs and future generations.

Fortunately for today's young readers, boys and girls alike, there are authors who excel at telling a historical story in an fun yet educational way. This is not your grandmother's history book! It is a lot more fun and inspiring. Which is exactly what a good picture book should do when capturing the hearts and minds of every reader. In a previous blog, the topic of introducing teens to read biographies as a gateway to nonfiction was discussed. For younger readers, its no difference. The books may be shorter in length but they are not short on information or inspiration.

In Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride, Pam Munoz Ryan wraps a fictionalized account around two historic women who were known for their courage in action and voice. At the end of the book, the author explains why she choose to fictionalize her story. However, the illustrations along with the text inspires every reader to take the ride with Amelia and Eleanor in hopes of becoming just as bold and daring as they were. Barbara Kerley's What to Do About Alice? is a charming book based on the life of Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice. Life in the White House must have been a "riot" as President Roosevelt described it when Alice was greeting guests with a pet snake. However, Alice's love of life and adventure could not be squashed and in the end she slithered her way into American's hearts. If children ever begin to wonder why big hoops skirts are out of style, then share this next book with them. You Forgot Your Skirt, Amerilia Bloomer: A Very Improper Story, a wonderful story about another famous Amelia who changed the way women dressed. Shana Carey introduces her readers to a bold, yet practical writer who not only fought for women to be treated equally, but also for women to be comfortable. Instead of going along with society's demand to where silly hoop dresses that were so heavy and cumbersome, Amelia is inspired by other women visionaries to shed the skirt and wear bloomers instead. Many disapproved of this new fashion trend of women wearing flowing pants, however, many other women were happy to shed the skirt and follow Amelia's example. Who would ever think that wearing pants would label a lady as being "improper"?

Two wonderful titles about women athletes who broke records in the Olympics will inspire all readers to focus on their goals and not their obstacles. Kathleen Krull's Wilma Unlimited based on the life of Track & Field legend Wllma Rudolph and Shana Corey's Mermaid Queen, a biography about legendary swimmer, Annette Kellerman are both rich in text and illustrations. What is of particular interest in both of stories, is how these women over came not only prejudices from society regarding women's participation in sports, but also their own physical challenges. Gold medals are wonderful to earn, but the true testimony of their lives is that they never gave up, even when it looked hopeless.

There's only a few weeks left in March to continue celebrating and learning about women's contribution to society. However, let's say we buck the conventional wisdom and celebrate Girl Power all year round.
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