Why did you decide to write Great Books for Girls?
As a school librarian, I read to groups of children ages 3 to 11, help
them find books to check out, and advise teachers and parents about books
for children. I make it a priority to promote books that feature strong
girls to try to offset the sexism that pervades our culture. Yet even for
someone knowledgeable about children's literature, it's a challenge. One
day a few years ago, a father came in asking for sports fiction about
girls for his second-grade daughter. I couldn't think of any off the top
of my head, and I realized there was no easy resource to turn to for an
answer. So I decided to write one.
What about boys? Shouldn't they read these books too?
Absolutely! Since the school where I work has boys as well as girls, I
have read many of these books to boys. I find that if a picture-story
book is as much fun as The Adventures of Isabel or Chester's Way, boys as
well as girls will enjoy it. The third graders at my school almost all
love the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, while fifth graders easily get
caught up in A Wrinkle in Time and The Adventures of Charlotte Doyle. It
is true that many boys prefer exciting books over novels about problems or
relationships. Those are exactly the kinds of books highlighted in this
guide. They are fun to read, and they will help boys see that girls too
are capable of adventure and heroism.
What kind of books did you look for to include in this guide?
I looked for female characters who are confident, capable, and
intelligent. They could be fictional girls, women, or even talking
animals, or real-life girls and women. I wanted characters who solve
problems, face challenges, deal with conflicts, and go on quests. They
are not waiting to be rescued, they are doing the rescuing. Nor are they
waiting for a male to provide a happy ending: they are fashioning their
own stories and their own endings. The biographies are about girls and
women who made a difference through their accomplishments and adventures.
How did you select the books?
Some I knew from my fifteen years as a children's librarian. I talked to
other librarians, teachers, children and parents to glean ideas. I
checked reference books and journals, and browsed in libraries and
bookstores. All the picture-story books I read to children at my school
to "test" them, and I gave novels and biographies to older children to get
their reactions. Of course I ended up reading hundreds of books that I
didn't include in the guide.
Do you have ideas for girls who love Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty?
I have an entire chapter on folk and fairy tales which have the magic and
the beautiful pictures many girls love, but which are about strong girls
and women. In them, princesses go on quests to rescue princes; brave
girls from all over the world fight monsters and dragons, and win.
Should we read our daughters only books about strong girls?
There are too many terrific books about boys and traditional girls to
limit yourself to the books I list. No one should miss Frog and Toad,
Winnie the Pooh, or the well-known fairy tales that are part of our
culture. At the same time, it is important to seek out books that give
children strong role models of girls and women to try to offset the sexism
they see on television and videos.
What is your favorite book of all the ones listed?
Often before I start reading to children I find myself saying, "This is
one of my favorite books." "You sure have a lot of favorite books," my
students say, shaking their heads. It's true! I love many of the books
that I describe in this guide. Some I have read aloud dozens of times and
I continue to enjoy them. Others are wonderful novels I've read to myself
more than once. You will see from the descriptions how great these books
How can we find the books listed in this guide?
The last chapter answers this question with ideas about using bookstores
and libraries. All of the books listed are in print so they are available
for purchase. I also list magazines that will help you keep up with
children's book publishing.