By Katie Culver
Summer means days lounging at the pool and beach or in a hammock under a shady tree – and, of course, reading. You may have a list to tackle with kids, or want some light, “enlightening” reading for yourself. Here are some non-traditional books you might not have heard of (and most likely won’t see on a summer reading list). I assure you, these books will be enjoyed equally by children and adults. Read on for highlights plus a full list of books and resources for feminist and historical literature. And – please comment with any suggestions of your own. I am always adding to my list!
Highlights: Did you know the song, “Take me Out to the Ballgame” was written about a girl? In Players in Pigtails (Shana Corey) you can read about Katie Casey, a girl who loved to play baseball even though it wasn’t considered very “lady-like.” She was one of the first girls to cross the gender line and play in the women’s professional league in 1940. “Outrageous!” thought most people. “Girls don’t like sports.” “What good is baseball to a girl?” read newspaper headlines. Find out how these talented young ladies wowed everyone with their talent (after the campaign to convince the country just how ladylike baseball could be!) and how the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League saved the country’s favorite pastime.
Amelia Bloomer thought it was silly that women couldn’t work so she started her own newspaper, “The Lily” and wrote about women’s rights. She also thought it was silly that women had to wear cumbersome, impractical hoop skirts. Amelia borrowed a pattern for bloomers and soon sported this “brilliant” and very liberating style. Read about what else transpired in You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!” (Also written by Shana Corey).
If you are tired of the traditional fairytale, featuring a helpless princess who needs to be saved by a prince, you will appreciate The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch. After a dragon burns down the kingdom and carries Prince Ronald away, Princess Elizabeth uses her wit to outsmart the dragon. When she arrives to rescue the prince from the dragon’s cave, an ungrateful Ronald criticizes her appearance saying, “Your clothes are dirty and your hair is a mess. Come back when you look like a real princess.” You will be inspired by the ending and girls will be empowered to be the hero of their own story. This is one book I give as a gift to every girl-and boy!
Children’s Literature (featuring strong female characters):
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Elena’s Serenade by Campbell Geeslin
Waynetta and the Cornstalk by Helen Ketteman
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
Maisy Books by Lucy Cousins
Madeline Books by Ludwig Bemelmans
Don’t Bet on the Prince (re-written fairytales) by Jack David Zipes
Jane and the Dragon (Series) by Martin Baynton
My Name is not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry
The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke
The Night Pirates by Peter Harris and Deborah Allright
Three Wise Women By Mary Hoffmam and Lynn Russell
Books About Women in History:
Tonya Bolden: 33 things every girl should know about women’s history
Pam Munoz Ryan and Brian Selznick: Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride
Shana Corey: You Forgot Your Skirt Ameila Bloomer and Players in Pigtails
Jacob Lawrence: Harriet and the Promised Land
Robert Coles: The Story of Ruby Bridges
Gender and Teaching/Raising children:
Myra and David Sadker: Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls
Leonard Sax: Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences
Peggy Orenstein: School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap
JoAnn Deak: Raising Confident and Courageous Girls
Steve Biddulph: Raising Boys
Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson: Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of boys