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Children's Book Reviews

For Girls, and Those Who Love Them

For Girls, and Those Who Love Them

Kate Marley

Sexism is one of the most enduring, widespread and misunderstood prejudices in this world today. Many countries imposed economic sanctions to protest the plight of blacks who were denied equal rights in South Africa, but there is no such movement against the Taliban government for itís similar treatment of women. If we discovered a culture that whacked off the penis of teenage boys to control their libido, one can just imagine the outcry (remember the Bobbitts?)Öand yet girls in Africa who face genital mutilation donít seem to get much help from ďenlightenedĒ societies. Heck, there are still places in Switzerland where women canít vote! So I wanted to focus on books to help everyone - mothers, fathers, brothers as well as sisters - be more aware of the dangers of prejudice and the advantages for us ALL when females are free to learn and grow to their full potential.


Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne. c 1997, Greenwillow Books
While most historical accounts revolve around the deeds and efforts of war, this author talks about another kind of heritage, one passed down through the women of her family. It includes harps and hardiness, quilts and courage, teapots and tenderness, books and bravery of the quiet, unsung heroines of everyday life. Vibrant illustrations by Bethanne Andersen are an excellent compliment to this neat book, that extols the homemaker as well as the professional woman.

Beautiful Warrior by Emily Arnold McCully. c 1998, Scholastic.
From the fertile grounds of 17th century Chinese art, philosophy and martial arts comes the inspiration for this original story about a nunís kung fu. Mingyi goes to the nun for help when a bandit threatens her and her family, and receives far more than she had ever dreamed. Illustrations by the author evoke the magical, mystical aura of that faraway time near the famous Shaolin Temple.


Tomboy Trouble by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. c 1998, Random House.
Georgia has moved, and her short haircut causes confusion among some of her new schoolmates. She doesnít see whatís wrong with liking baseball, or having short hair, but has to deal with the sexist attitudes of grownups as well as kids. The colorful illustrations are by Lynne Woodcock Cravath.

WNBA, We Got Next! by Gail Herman. c 1998, Grosset & Dunlap.
Filled with plenty of color photos as well as illustrations by Edward Heins, this short recap of the first year of the Womenís National Basketball Association is a positive look at how far womenís sports teams have come. Thereís a short history of women in basketball, some player profiles, and a look at whatís ahead.

Women of Hope by Joyce Hansen. c 1998, Scholastic.
Each woman profiled in this beautiful book has a double page spread - on one side is her picture and on the other, a brief biography of her contribution to society, her gender and her race. Itís a great introduction for kids, to see just a few of the courageous examples of what hard work, determination and talent can mean not just to one person, but to those around them as well.

Anita! The Woman Behind the Body Shop by Jules Older. c 1998, Charlesbridge Publishing.
This works really well in three ways. First, itís a modern day success story of an unconventional woman in the conventional field of business. Secondly, Anita Roddick kept her conscience even when rich, and has tried to use her money to help worthy causes. And third - this book was just so much fun to read! Written in a colloquial, breezy style, with plenty of weird details, the cartoony illustrations by Lisa Kopper, and the interesting beauty hints scattered throughout made this entertaining as well as educational.


Rosie the Riviter by Penny Colman. c 1995, Crown.
Itís amazing how so many people think that modern womanís discontent arose out of the sixties, when there is so much evidence that it began earlier. This fascinating book on women and work on the home front during World War II talks about the social changes created by the desperate need for workers in defense factories, complete with photos, cartoons and lots of interviews. Itís a side of World War II that most kids have never seen, and still relevant to today, for many seeds of change that were sown back then would later bear fruit that directly benefits today's generations.

Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages by Vicki Leon. c 1998, Wiley.
Another fun book in the Outrageous Women series! Short biographies of several outstanding women who defied conventions and left their mark in history reminds girls that even if the history books donít always mention them, there were still women out in the world making waves.

For Girls Only by Carol Weston. c 1998, Avon Camelot Books.
Inspirational, pithy, practical and insightful - this nifty collection of quotes from everyone, all over, is great to read one page at a time, in one sitting, or by sections. Unlike most such advice books, which are organized day by day, this has sections devoted to specific topics such as friends, love, work, etc. A neat little book.

And Not Afraid To Dare by Tonya Bolden. c 1998, Scholastic.
This is another collective biography of African-American women who have transcended the double burdens of racism and sexism to achieve greatness. Sometimes what they accomplished was widely recognized, sometimes notÖbut they achieved nonetheless. While similar to "Women of Hope", this book has much longer sections on each woman profiled. Their stories are inspirational for girls of all colors.

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives by Ruth Bell and others. c 1998, Times Books, 3rd edition.
This is the teen version of OUR BODIES,OURSELVES, which most of you will remember as one of THE most no nonsense books about sexuality when we were growing up. It was honest, and thorough, so donít get upset about this book being the same way! Hopefully, this will be as useful for our children as the original was to us, saving them from grief through misinformation because they were too shy or embarrassed to ask.


Once Upon A Heroine by Alison Cooper-Mullin and Jennifer Marmaduke Coye. c 1998, Contemporary Books.
Actually, kids can read this too - itís a really great listing of 450 books with a positive role model or message particularly relevant to girls. (Although it wouldnít hurt boys to read these books, either!) To leaven out the listings and summaries recollections by some famous women of the books that influenced them when growing up are sprinked liberally throughout. It was incredible how often Nancy Drew popped up, and the comments are very interesting. I was impressed with the breadth - old fashioned titles like UNDERSTOOD BETSY are there as well as some of the newer stuff, like GALAX-ARENA.

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