Without fail, my daughter darts for the pinkest, sparkliest, most obnoxiously feminine section of every bookstore we enter. I get it: she’s three and it’s completely normal for her to want to gender identify right now. (I could not need to read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” more.)
But as anyone who’s ever experienced the exquisite torture of reading “Barbie Butterfly Tea Party” knows, these books are the WORST: insipid plots, tedious prose, and a moral compass I’m not totally comfortable with. (Like when Princess Barbie’s mother tells her to stop reading books because no one will dance with her at the royal ball. Oy.)
I hesitate to impose personal preferences on my child when she’s, you know, showing an interest in reading. But as the person doing the actual reading, I just can’t with these books. So our family is working on a library of books that meets both our daughter’s need to remind the universe she’s a GIRL and our desire for smart, amusing content.
- “Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes” by Sujean Rim. Birdie desperately wants to wear her mother’s high heels, only to discover they might not be as marvelous as she’d imagined. (To be fair, Birdie’s mother’s shoe collection looks like the Vogue shoe closet. I’d want in on that action, too.)
- “Olivia” by Ian Falconer. Olivia the Pig is my kind of girl: she adores accessories, doesn’t really get the fuss about Jackson Pollock, and has a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt hung above her bed. Think all the audacious sass of Madeline and Eloise without the pesky abandonment issues.
- “I Had A Favorite Dress” by Boni Ashburn. As the mother of a child who has many, many favorite dresses, this story hits home. The “Mama, dear!” reprise is something my daughter delights in repeating and I never tire of hearing.
- “Tallulah’s Toe Shoes” by Marilyn Singer. OF COURSE my kid loves every pink-hued, ballet-themed volume in the “Tallulah” series, but what I love are the sweet messages about patience, hard work, and sharing the spotlight, all wonderful virtues both on and off the stage.
- “Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine” by Gloria Whelan. My daughter can be easily conned into reading anything about royalty, so this non-princessy book slipped into the mix merely because of its title. The illustrations are quite pretty and there are some humorous moments, but what I keep coming back for is Victoria and Albert’s timeless love story.