exactly that

A Saturday Thought

This Kid is something of a Math Genius.  I am not just saying this as a biased and proud mother.  She is already doing what I consider to be Second Grade or higher level Math, including multiplication of single digit numbers.  The other kids in her age group are still doing basic numbers and addition and subtraction w/ pictures.  We are going to ask her teacher to move her up in Math b/c she is doing the work too quickly and is bored w/ it.  I bought her a First Grade workbook for Math to do at home during her study time (twenty minutes after we get home for homework or quiet study), and she finished it.  It wasn’t even challenging.

We are finding bored is a common theme.

She does not enjoy reading as much.  I would say she is bored w/ it, and is eager to rush through her writing to move on to other things (like Math).  I want to get some books on her level that will be interesting to her, but maintain the principles we are trying to foster in her, both at home and at school.  Like Renee, I am trying to use feminism and womanism at the forefront of my teaching (along w/ some fun Pagan themes involving seasons and such).  That being said, I am as tired as can be of Grimm’s and Hans Christian Andersen and most of the tripe thrown in there.  In short, I don’t find those stories particularly woman friendly, and want to find more appropriate female characters for The Kid to love.  Some of the stories also use language that I don’t find acceptable today, in our more “evolved” age.

She has already asked me to read Harry Potter to her, and I agreed as soon as we get my books out of storage, and we made an agreement that she would try to read the words she can on her own to me.  But I really want to get her some stories w/ female protagonists, as much as I love the Hermione Grangers and Ginny Weasleys of literature, I also want someone who is a main character, and not just a supporting role for the male protagonist, no matter how kick ass those girls are, and no matter how much I love the stories of said male protagonist.

So, Readerland, my question to you:


What are your favorite feminist/womanist friendly books?  I want the Proggy reader list, gender equality and POC positive, and everything else.  I want to know your favorite books for the K-2 independent reading level, and also the more advanced ones that you read to your favorite youngsters, be it your own offspring or nieces, nephews, godchildren, friends kids, etc.


Comments on: "A Saturday Thought" (24)

  1. I loved this book when I was a kid. It’s got a dragon slaying princess who discovers a formula for fire-proofing herself and her horse


    And my Kid loves the Tamora Pierce books. These may be a bit too old for your kid, but keep them in mind.

  2. pizzadiavola said:

    Erm, I don’t know about K-1, but I think I read the Little House on the Prairie series in 2nd grade. That might be ahead of where your kid is now, but it’s something to keep in mind — the protagonist is a young girl at the beginning and it’s from her POV. There are also a lot of female characters in the book (her mom, her sister, her friends and acquaintances). Laura’s sister goes blind due to a fever later in the series, and although she’s presented as a Saintly Disabled Person, Mary was always Saintly to begin with (much to Laura’s annoyance), and I think that was the first time I ever encountered a character with a disability.

    There’s also a series of biographies about significant figures in American history that are age-appropriate. I can’t remember the name of the series, but they’re blue paperbacks and while they’re light on historical complexities, they have a lot of biographies about women, POC, and WOC, not just the standard rich white men lineup.

    OH! The Enchanted Forest chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede. The first one is Dealing with Dragons and it’s about a princess who rebels against all the princessy things she’s expected to do (learn the appropriate words to scream when kidnapped by a giant, when to faint while being rescued by a prince, etc.) and runs off to become a dragon’s princess. It challenges gender stereotypes and skewers fairy tale tropes in an entertaining way. I loved those when I was younger and still do!

  3. pizzadiavola said:

    When your kid grows a little older, the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde are actually quite feminist, IMO, although his writing style doesn’t appeal to everyone (absurdist and somewhat whimsical – I thought it was a lot of fun but one of my friends found it annoying). What else … hmm. The Little House in the Prairie books instilled a lot of feminism in me at a young age, but I think the biographies of women from all walks of life who were strong, brave and accomplished things (particularly feminist things) – Helen Keller, Sojourner Truth, Sacajawea, Susan B. Anthony – taught me not only that women could do things, but that gender equality was something that was up for contention.

    Alanna, by Tamora Pierce, is a young adult fantasy quartet about a girl who wants to be a knight. No women are allowed to become knights in Tortall, so she dresses up as a boy and carries it off. It’s difficult process, however, and Pierce makes Alanna a believable character, not an idealized Mary Sue. She has other YA books that feature girls as prominent characters – the Circle of Magic quartet has four protagonists, all of varying ethnic and class backgrounds, and three of them are female, one is a WOC, and all four come from different classes. Actually, all of Pierce’s YA books are worth checking out and I think they vary in age range, so you might find something that your kid will be able to read right now. Wikipedia’s list of her bibliography. Pierce is a feminist and interested in social justice (her personal blog is here), and it definitely comes out in her writing. A lot of her characters are misfits in some way or another and she writes them believably – less of protagonists who are Outcasts and Have An Easy Time Righting Wrongs and more of Social Misfits Who Stand Up For What’s Right And Find Out It’s Hard Work And Have To Deal With That.

  4. pizzadiavola said:

    Diana Wynne Jones was one of my favorite YA writers, but I can’t think of any books where a girl was the primary character and not a secondary character. She also has this distressing tendency to pair everyone up in boy-girl couples at the end of a book, which I dislike.

  5. @ RQ: That book sounds AWESOME, compounded by the fact that David said the second one (The Blue Sword) is one of his favorite books ever.

    @ Pizza, wow…lots of suggestions! I think you are referring to the American Girl series, I was fascinated by them, but we didn’t have money (they used to be expensive and only available w/ a collection of dolls). I think I saw Dealing With Dragons at the bookstore tonigh (where we got Where the Wild Things Are, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, and Sammy the Seal. No girl protagonists, but ones I like and they were there. I wanted to get Raold Dahl’s Matilda, b/c I loved it growing up, but is not her level yet.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! Keep ’em coming!

  6. pizzadiavola said:

    Sorry about the multiple comments, I keep hitting submit and then thinking, “Oh, wait! There was this other book!” Anyway, I liked Greco-Roman mythology a great deal as a kid, and those make interesting stories. Although they are most decidedly not feminist, they make great feminist object lessons. There are also stories of women who break their gender roles (Atalanta, Artemis, Athena), powerful women (Dido, Medea), women who rule on their own (Penelope, more or less), gay people (Hyacinthus, Cyparissus, Ganymede, Heracles & Hylas), and genderqueer people (I forget which story exactly, but in the Metamorphoses, a girl who’s been raised as male because her father wanted a boy and so her mother pretended her baby girl was a boy, falls in love with a girl and gets married, and on the eve of her wedding Venus grants her prayer and turns her into a man). Ovid’s Metamorphoses is probably the best place to go for most of those stories (the Metamorphoses are all about people changing in some shape or other, which explains Hyacinthus, Cyparissus, Hermaphroditus, and the girl raised as a boy). D’Aulaire’s book of mythology is nice but very sanitized. I like Humphrey’s translation of the Metamorphoses, but you can probably find a prose version out there that’s more at your kid’s level and doesn’t cut out all the interesting stories, unlike most childrens’ mythology books.

  7. pizzadiavola said:

    I liked the American Girls series when I was a kid, but those weren’t the biography series I was thinking of. I wish I could remember the name because I really liked them and read the whole series.

    Julie of the Wolves is also very cool but probably for when your kid is in second grade (is she in kindergarten right now?). My grasp on reading capabilities at a given age is pretty shaky, because I don’t remember what I read when (aside from Little House on the Prairie, which was grade 2), just that what we were reading in class was really boring/slow/basic.

    The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is named after the male primary character, but it splits verbiage evenly between Artemis and Holly, the other primary character, a kickass female elite elf secret agent-type who’s the first woman to be admitted into the Lower Earth Patrol force and is their test case for having women in the field. I think that should be about right for your kid at the moment, if she’s already asking for HP.

  8. pizzadiavola said:

    Nancy Drew, the Babysitters Club (I’m not sure about feminism, but it’s all about a group of girls and deals with real issues – racism, family trouble, etc.), the Saddle Club, and the Thoroughbred series all have girl protagonists.

  9. bottlecappie said:

    Girls are Not Chicks is an awesome feminist coloring book that deconstructs ideas from fairie tales and gives them a feminist twist.

    We also really love Pippi Longstocking and the Ramona Quimby books around here. The Paper-Bag Princess is a good picture book about a princess who outsmarts a dragon, saves the prince and doesn’t marry him.

  10. pizzadiavola said:

    Pullman’s Golden Compass and his Sally Lockhart mystery series, which I think I read in 3rd or 4th grade.

    This one is for when she’s older, but I think it’s worth reading: Living a Political Life, by Madeleine Kunin, first female governor of Vermont. It’s her autobiography about how she got involved in politics and what it was like working as a legislator and then a governor, particularly a woman in a male-dominated sphere. Very, very thought-provoking and a reminder that civil service is one of the best ways to work for social justice and that politicians as a class aren’t inherently evil. I found that last point particularly important, because dismissing all politicians as corrupt can lead to dismissing the field as hopeless altogether, which can encourage apathy. Her new book, Pearls, Politics, and Power, is about the importance of getting women into politics, is also good but Living a Political Life was more directly inspiring.

  11. pizzadiavola said:

    When my sibling and I were little, my mom would take us to the library and choose anything that had won a Newbury or Caldecott award. In retrospect, a fair number of those had girl protagonists and most were decently written, so that might be another way of narrowing down your choices.

  12. Ha ha! Pizza, I think I may have her covered from now until junior high! :lol: Thanks for all the suggestions!

    I have read through a good portion of The Golden Compass (That douchenozzle Donahue made such a stink about it I had to see what all the fuss was) b/c the Kid loved the movie so much she wanted the books.

    I read Babysitter’s Club when I was young, and I just now remembered a spin off series about one of their younger sisters (which was a lot younger on the reading level). I remember them being extremely heteronormative though I do remember dealing w/ racism and such.

    I have been wanting to re-read Pippi now that I have finished reading Cunt myself. Inga Musico recommended it about nineteen times in that book.

    My mom was a Little House junkie, both the books and the show, which I think is why I never thought of them. I always groaned to think about them. I may have to revisit that notion. We are heavy into Sci-Fi/Fantasy as a household (she is legendary among her peers as the only girl who knows the ins and outs of Star Wars), so I guess I didn’t consider a lot of things outside that arena. Not intentionally, it just didn’t cross my mind.

    Also, BC, I LOVED the Ramona Quimby series. I wonder if a first grade reading level is right for starting Ramona.

  13. I am a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I have all the books and all of the movies. I think that she is a great inspiration for young girls and considering the time that it was written she was so ahead of her time. There is also a french Canadian series called Emille but I am not sure if they have an English translation. At any rate at least check out Anne, I think every girl should have the series. There are really no people of color in the books though but I still managed to identify as a woman to the series at a young age.

    For a look at race from a young girls point of view you can try roll of thunder hear my cry. I cannot remember the author. It deals with race and class during the great depression. Your daughter might be to young for it now but it should definitely be on the list for later reading.

    Good luck

  14. Is that the book series that Avonlea (the one set on Prince Edward Island) was based on? I loved that series growing up. It was always on CBC or CTV (can’t remember, but we only had three channels and two were Canadian). Either way, if that was it I would definitely check those out. I had forgotten about that one too.

  15. The Girls to the Rescue series, edited by Bruce Lansky, is just what it sounds like — several books of short stories where all the protagonists are girls and they all save the day in one way or another. Some of them are adapted from folktales from different cultures, others are original, and the “to the rescue” theme covers a lot of varying ground: medieval European girl rides in a joust in place of her injured brother, present-day skater girl saves her little brother from angry rottweilers, inner-city black girl brings the mayor’s attention to the rat problem in her building. I really liked them when I was little, and some of them were quite educational.

    I have to second the American Girl series. They’re a staple. And the Dear America books are great — most of them are probably a little much for the first grade, but there’s a spin-off/subcategory series, My America, that’s geared toward younger kids.

    The Paper-Bag Princess is just kind of one of those things it should be mandatory to have around the house.

    And I also have to second Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, as well as its sequels (Let the Circle Be Unbroken and The Road to Memphis). Those books gave me a much clearer understanding of the post-Reconstruction South than anything we ever learned in school. But I agree that she’s probably still too young.

    Let me see… maybe Matilda, by Roald Dahl. And The BFG. Those are the only two books of his I can think of where the main character’s a girl. Definitely need to get some Roald Dahl on her reading list, though.

  16. in a couple years, I’d suggest finding anne mccaffrey’s earlier stuff. specifically Dragonriders of Pern, and Dragonsinger/song. I’ve got a few right now that’d work as read-to books: terry pratchett’s Tiffany Aching trilogy, of which I still need the third, darnit. more when I remember ’em

  17. Road to Avonlea was based on Story Girl which is also by L.M. Montgomery. For some reason they changed the name of the town to the name of the town in Anne of Green Gables. I guess this was so they could have Marilla from the Anne books in the TV series. I’d look up L.M.Montgomery in general. I haven’t heard of a book of hers that doesn’t have a female main character. I’ve read Emilie of New Moon by her also (another TV series).
    I also enjoyed Little House. It’s not exactly gender equal but it is set in the 1800s.
    For children’s novels, also try Kit Pearson’s and Lois Lowry’s books.
    There is also a fictionalized novel about Nellie McClung.

  18. I am not sure about the little house series, I do know that my children are not allowed to watch the show. There are too many instances of parents spanking their children for me to allow them to watch that. If it is not on screen it is inferred that the children are getting a beating. It is something that always bothered me when we watched it as a family and therefore I feel that it negates anything positive that could be gained from it. In case you wondering Nancy was the one that was beaten the most, isn’t interesting that she was the child that was considered the brat. Sorry off topic but once I start my anti-spanking thing it is hard to stop.

  19. Not entirely off topic.

    I was really young when the show was on, but my mom loved it. I never cared for it, but now I have a reason that is more concrete.

    I don’t believe that spanking is an answer.

    There is something from the show Roseanne I was considering posting, which addressed the issue of spanking and hitting children, about being conscious parents unwilling to hit their children as they were hit (something I can relate to, and that is another post, about recognizing the effects our own abuse had on us). The show was not unproblematic, but it was very much ahead of it’s time, IMNSHO.

    And please, Renee, your anti-spanking rants can find a home here any time. They are in good company.

    FTR (I may have to write a post about this), our discipline issues reduced greatly when spanking (even the occasional swat I had reserved for dangerous infractions) was taken completely off the table. What we use now has been about a gajillion times more effective.

    OK, back on topic. ;)

  20. bottlecappie said:

    Regarding the Little House books – there are some instances of racism in the books as well. I’m thinking of one book where some of the characters don blackface and put on a “minstrel show” in particular. There is also Ma’s prejudice against the Native Americans, and the fact that NA people are refered to as “injuns” and the like. I edited some of this out as I read to my daughter, but sometimes I used the language & situations in the books to start a conversation about racism. Tricky, to be sure.

    Has anyone mentioned Madeline L’engle? I loved her books when I was a kid – A Wrinkly in Time, Swiftly Tilting Planet…there are quite a few where the protagonist is a girl named Meg. These are young adult fiction.

    From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankenwiler is another good one with strong female protagonist. It’s about a girl who runs away from home with her little brother and they stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The children discover a statue that might have been a work of Michaelangelo and they try to solve the mystery. Good stuff.

  21. i LOVED The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankwiler! I had forgotten about that book.

  22. Ohmigosh. Kids’s books–I read ’em all…many more than once!
    First– @agree w/Babysitter’s Club: Stacey has diabetes, Kristi deals with a divorced/remarried situation, Mallory is oldest of 8 kids, Jessi is a POC who moves to a new town, etc. Each sitter has a myriad of social/economical/familial situations to come to terms with, and it’s a great series for girls!

    Next– I know you’ve considered Judy Blume, right? Are You There God, the ultimate in ‘girl power’ books…for sure when the Kid’s a bit older. For now, pick up Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing… tons of fun and Pete deals w/ lots of ‘interesting’ issues!

    Also–Island of the Blue Dolphins. Maybe in a year or two, but it’s a wonderful book similar to Treasure Island but w/a strong female lead.

    And, Number the Stars by Lois Lowery. A 10-y-o girl hides her friend from the Nazis during WWII… much to talk about during that book!

    A fun one for you to read together and try and figure out is The Westing Game. Again, you may want to wait a year or so for this one, but it’s certainly an excellent book to get a kid interested in reading.

  23. A few more:

    Egypt Game–has the ‘sci-fi/fantasy’ part down as the kids use their imaginations to create their own world and come together despite their outward differences.

    Also: Maniac MaGee. Maniac’s parents are killed in a car accident and he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle. They fight all the time, so he runs away to a new town and encounters racial hate, socio-economic oppression, bullies, and even a few kind people. It is just the kind of book you’ll want to read with the Kid.

  24. One more (post) & I’m done for today!

    Mouse and the Motorcycle–a fun story that’ll keep the Kid reading (n teaches some life lessons too!)
    On the same note: Ramona Quimby, age 8.

    Harriet the Spy

    Secret Garden

    The Giver


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