Guardian journalist Viv Graskop has been testing feminist-friendly books on her 3-year-old daughter and six-year-old son in a ‘gender stereotyping intervention’. Out of five novels, the kids give Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole and The Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke a big thumbs up:
A riotously subversive read. “Princess Smartypants did not want to get married. She enjoyed being a Ms.” Princess Smartypants keeps giant slugs as pets and challenges her geeky prince suitors to roller-disco marathons. When one of them finally wins her over, she kisses him, intentionally turning him into a toad. “When the other princes heard what had happened to Prince Swashbuckle, none of them wanted to marry Smartypants. So she lived happily ever after.” Excellent.
Molly is in her boat, sailing off on holiday to her granny’s, when she is kidnapped by Captain Firebeard and his vicious band of pirates. But they chose the wrong girl. Molly’s mother is Barbarous Bertha and when she comes to rescue her daughter she brings her own ferocious crew. Brilliant – although I worried slightly about the male pirates. At the end they are forced to polish Barbarous Bertha’s boots 14 times a week. Punishing the oppressor is not true feminism, it’s just role reversal. Still, this was the most successful read and I would recommend it to anyone.
We’ve got a selection of books for children and young people in our shop, and for older kids and young teens I’d highly recommend my favourite childhood series The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, featuring a girl who disguises herself as a boy so she can train to be a knight (the best knight in the kingdom, no less). What would you recommend? I notice Graskop’s selection focuses mainly on challenging female stereotypes rather than male; are there any books out there featuring boys baking pink cakes to save the world?