Peggy’s Resources to Help Parents of Young Children “Fight Fun with Fun!”
Books, Toys, Movies, Clothing, Resources, Ideas, Suggestions, Recommendations That You Can Say YES To!
This is a work in progress, badly organized and yes, I know it is largely product-based. Obviously your girl should engage in outdoor activities and sports; pursue arts, music, science and culture; play with gender-neutral toys and toys that challenge notions of gender; do all kinds of things. But to specifically counter the hyper-feminized consumer culture, to find things you can say to that feel equal rather than compensatory to “girlie” products, try some of the following. And PLEASE email me your thoughts and ideas so I can include them! (Most of these suggestions are for girls approximately ages 3-9. Books are listed first, but scroll down–way down–for other things)
(Power Princesses and non-Princess; emphasis on fantasy, myth):
Hush Little Baby
Hush little baby, don't say a word, Mama's going to show you a hummingbird. If that hummingbird should fly, Mama's going to show you the evening sky.
The old house in Paris still stands...
My First Little House Books
Picture book versions of some of the storeis from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.
The Seven Chinese Sisters
How courage, talent and teamwork help seven sisters save one another from being eaten by a hungry, red dragon.
Just saying it makes me happy. Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum! CHRYSANTHEMUM!!!
Bread and Jam for Frances
I love all the Frances books. They are so dear.
This story about an outdoorsy little girl and her seemingly delicate doll has a great twist...
Little Red Riding Hood
Choose your version, but what could be braver than a girl who stands up to a wolf?
Kate and the Beanstalk
"Fee Fi, Fo, Fum'un / I smell the blood of an Englishwoman!" A witty re-working of the traditional tale.
Starting with the fact that the little princess has brown hair and brown eyes, this is a different kind of princess tale.....Oh, and sheÂ floats.
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
What happens when the queen invites Emily's bunny to tea?
Horace, Morris but Mostly Delores
Age 4+ What will three good friends do when faced with single-gender clubs? The answer is not at all spinachy and beautifully realistic.
McElderry Book of Greek Myths (read with caution, some are not gory!)
Age 4+ Greek Goddesses are a great counterbalance to princesses—they are full, complex characters with fun costumes, to boot.
These books are all by Cornelia Funke and they are great. One quibble: I wish the princess in Princess KnightÂ didn't reject needlework and other traditional women's crafts as unworthy of her. And, for those who are sensitive about such things, the princess knight's mother dies in childbirth.
Zog is the keenest dragon in school. He's also the most accident-prone. Luckily, a mysterious little girl always comes by and patches up his bumps and bruises. But will she be able to help him with his toughest test: capturing a princess?
Age 4+. This miller's daughter is one brave Mama.
Hansel and Gretel
Ages 4+. Gretel saves the day and big brother Hansel. Why isn't this story on the top of everyone's lists?
Ages 4+. What I love about the traditional Rapunzel is that she and the prince save each other—she has to save him before he can save her. And, by the way, she is not royal by blood—her parents are quite ordinary, except for the part about trading their baby for a bowl of lettuce.
The Snow Queen
Ages 4+. to infinity. This is a Hans Christian Andersen classic. I haven't read this version, but it looks good. I found the version we read to be a little heavy on religious moralism, so ended up rewriting it myself because I loved it so much! Why not, right? Little Gerda is one of the great girl characters in literature.
Ages 4+. This is a great "Cinderella" variant in which the girl is very active in her fate.
The Rough Faced Girl
Ages 4+. Another "Cinderella" variant, this one Native American.
The Wild Swans
Ages 4+. Another Andersen tale; there's a Grimm's version too, about a brave princess who saves her brothers who have been turned into swans. Sometimes gory (depends on the version) so pre-read.
The Glass Mountain
Ages 4+. I love Wolkstein's retelling of this classic: it puts the girl at the center of her own story.
The Fisherman and His Wife
Ages 4+. Not a bad one to revisit in this age of materialism....
I love William Steig's book about a girl who weathers a snowstorm to help her ailing mother.
The Paper Bag Princess
Ages 4+. The classic alt-princess book.
The Princess and the Pizza
Ages 4+. Another one in which our heroine dumps the prince (for pizza!)
Age 4+. Paper Bag Princess gets all the press, but I actually like this latter-day feminist-tinged fairy tale better.
Age 4+. Classic story of a real woman who travelled the world, then, as an artist, set out to make it a more beautiful place.
Ages 4+. Based on the life of the author's grandmother, a story about a girl who defies convention to achieve her dreams.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Ages 4+. This picture book version of the classic (Lucy and Susan are queens not princesses!!) preps them for the real thing.
The Princess and the Lord of the Knight
Ages 4+. Another wonderful latter-day fairy tale (brought to my attention by my daughter) that you can find in the library or used.
The Princess and the Pig
Ages 4+. There's been a terrible mix-up in the nursery—the King and Queen are sure that a newborn piglet is their baby girl!
Olivia and the Fairy Princess
Ages 3+. Speaking of pigs, Olivia is having an identity crisis. When all the girls are princesses she no longer feels unique! A great exploration of true individuality. One of my favorite anti-princess princess books.
The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women
Ages 4+. to infinity. Wonderful, multi-cultural legends from around the world. Some are gory, so beware!
The Lady of Ten Thousand Names
Ages 4+. to infinity. Also a wonderful book of legends and tales from around the world. Here, too, proceed with caution among the littlest ones.
Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales
Ages 4+. to infinity. No Sleeping Beauties in Alison Lurie's classic collection.
Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales
100 stories from around the world, arranged geographically. Try learning a few and telling them Â (rather than reading them) to your daughter!
Tatterhood and Other Tales
Ages 4+. another smart, strong girl-centered fairy tale collection.
Ages 4+. Picture Paul Bunyan but female. And in Alaska.
Age 4+. Another tall tale, Bunyan-style, but this of a girl in Tennessee.
Ages 4+. Robert Sans Souci's wonderful story of an Irish lass who seeks her fortune, slays the dragon and saves the prince.
The Quiltmaker's Gift
Ages 4+. This beautifully-illustrated story of how a quilt maker schools a king is one of Daisy's favorites.
Ruby the Copycat
Ages 4+. Ruby has to learn to be herself.
Katie Meets the Impressionists
Age 4+. Katie goes inside the great painters' work. Don't you wish you could?
Ages 4+. Suki wants to wear the kimono her grandmother bought on the first day of school—no matter what anyone says.
The Name Jar
Ages 4+. When Unhei moves to the U.S. from Korea, most people can not pronounce her name. Maybe she should just find a new one?
Strega Nona (and sequels)
Bonus points if you can read these wonderful stories in an Italian accent (mine comes out sounding like Dracula....)
The Recess Queen
A deft anti-bullying story with a satisfying conclusion.
The Magic School Bus
Daisy began asking for this series at age 4 because a friend had them. I would not have guessed it. She liked to pretend to be Phoebe. For little ones, just read the story. You can add the endless (really, ENDLESS) detail as they get older. She is still reading them in second grade. I credit Ms. Frizzle (and Lawrence Hall of Science) with Daisy's abiding love of science.
One Grain of Rice
Ages 5+. Daisy introduced me to this one... Clever heroine, great folktale PLUS a math lesson? She knew I'd be all over it.
Not One Damsel in Distress
Ages 7+. to infinity. Jane Yolen's book began as an "open letter" to her daughter and granddaughters. Again, some gore so read them yourself first and decide.
Ages 5+. The True story of the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
I'm in Charge of Celebrations
Ages 5+. Daisy loves this and says I should include it because it lets you invent your own holiday, which maybe can have a girl theme. I haven't read it (she got it from the school library) but looks good.
There are so many fabulous Chapter Books for girls, where to start? Remember: even if girls aren't old enough to read these, you can read TO them. Also, books on CD are GREAT for pre-readers.
Ramona the Pest (and all the Ramona books!) Long live Ramona!! Kindergarten and up.
Magic Tree House
Ages 4+. Daisy started reading about Annie & Jack when she was 4. As she grew, the books got more complicated. While they're not great literature, we both learned a lot and Annie is formidable. We have read them ALL! 4-8 years old.
Wonder Woman: I Can Read
Ages 4+. Great literature it ain't. But it's Wonder Woman and she can read it herself! The character is a good motivator for an emerging reader.
Nancy Drew and the Crew Clue
Ages 6+. Daisy also likedÂ Cam Jansen, though not as well. And I'm still partial to Sally in the Encylopedia Brown books, though she is strictly secondary, sort of like Hermione in Harry Potter.
Pippi Longstocking (and its sequels) Ages 6+. And long live Pippi!
Ronia the Robber's Daughter
Ages 8+. Another Astrid Lindgren book. Recommended by a reader who says it's better than Pippi! Could it be?
Ages 6+ as a read-aloud. This classic series is like the Little House books only instead of Norwegians on the prairie, it's Jews on the Lower East Side.
Mary Poppins (and its sequels)
Ages 6+ as a read-aloud. P.L. Travers' books are so much tarter than the Disney version (which, incidentally, she hated). Though, that said, I will always love the movie on its own merits.
Age 6 as a read-aloud.Â Need I even say this? I mean, please, the last line is: "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Ages 7+. All of Daisy's friends are reading this.
Ages 6+. Slight ambivalence here. I loveÂ Matilda. I love Roald Dahl. BUT he has that problem of equating ugly and/or fat with evil, pretty and/or thin with good. We read it, but we discuss those issues. Teachable moments...Sigh.
Ages 6+. Another Roald Dahl story. Sophie is the most wonderful character, an 8-year-old who is kidnapped by the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and who, with his help and the Queen of England's, saves the world! Daisy also likesÂ The Magic Finger, which features another omnipotent Dahl girl, but the story is a little peculiar....
Ages 6 as a read-aloud. Polly is a great character in this CS Lewis classic. There is tons of geeky-scholarly debate as to whether to read this first in the series (when it happened) or read it later, in the order published. I am agnostic.
A Little Princess
Ages 7+ as a read-aloud. Sarah Crewe shows girls what it REALLY means to be a princess. In the best sense. The original book can be slow going for younger girls. Barnes & Noble has a very nice abridged versions in more modern language that makes a good read aloud. Same goes for Secret Garden, another longtime favorite. Both books have been made into decent movies, including the inimitable Shirley Temple version of A Little Princess. But I like to read books before watching films. That's just me, though...
The Practical Princess
Ages 7+ as a read-aloud. Fairy tales for a new era—out of print, but you can get it at the library.
Sarah Plain and Tall
Ages 7+ as a read-aloud. Didn't you love it?
The Night Fairy
Ages 7+. as a read-aloud What if a fairy lost her wings?
The Little House in the Big Woods
Ages 7+. And long live Laura! One of the things I love about this first installment is it focuses on the traditional household work women did during the pioneer era. While reading the book, we made our own melt-and-pour soap, hand-sewed little pillows, began a finger knitting project and learned some other traditional crafts associated with women of the past. Also, Laura (who never plays princess, by the way) has but one doll—a corncob wrapped in some cloth. Imagine that! A little anti-materialism and imagination never hurt anyone...
Frank L. Baum's complete Oz series
Ages 7+. as a read-aloud. Not just The Wizard of Oz, but some of the others as well! It's not all Judy Garland (though the movie, if your daughter can deal with the flying monkeys, is still one of the all-time best).
The Hundred Dresses
Ages 7+. as a read-aloud. Eleanor Estes classic anti-bullying story from the 1940s still makes me cry each time I read it. Second grade and up.
Orchard Classics Shakespeare
Ages 7+. Shakespeare had a way with women characters and Orchard has made them not only accessible but riveting to children. Great illustrations, timeless stories, it's brilliant. We especially liked The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Thirteenth Princess
Age 7+ as a read-aloud. This retelling of "the Twelve Dancing Princesses" turns the 13th princess, who is a kitchen servant, into the hero.
Age 7+ as a read-aloud. I had mixed feelings, but Daisy loved this story of a girl who, on her birth, is given the "gift" of obedience.
Igraine the Brave
Age 7+ as a read-aloud More Cornelia Funke. Kids can listen to this on CD at about 4-5, or make it a read-aloud. Princess Igraine longs to be a squire; follow her journey as, with the help of talking books and a sorrowful knight she saves her parents (who have been turned into pigs!).
The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool
Age 8+ as a read-aloud, Another recommendation from Daisy. Satirizes fairy-tale conventions in a way kids can understand.
The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses
Ages 8+. Again I have somewhat mixed feelings about this series. I'd like to see a series of great role-model type books about girls/women who WEREN'T princesses. Then again, if you're talking about the history of governance, royal lineage was what gave women power. And I respect that the woman who wrote them was trying to combat her niece's obsession with Disney Ps. I also don't especially like the idea of "thinking girl" because it implicitly puts down other girls as not thinking and I don't like that divisiveness. And it also indicates boys wouldn't want to read about princesses or strong women. Uncool. All that said, it's a fun, thoughtful, interesting series. (If you search for the term on Amazon, BTW, you get an ad for the Disney Princesses!!!). And check out,the same company's series, "The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames."
Ages 8+. Four sisters and a new friend. Rollicking and funny! Plus the series (as it is becoming) is an overt homage to Edward Eager, Noel Streatfeld and Sydney Taylor (the author of the All-of-a-KindÂ books). Be still my heart! Second grade and up.
Skating Shoes , Theater Shoes, Ballet Shoes
Ages 8+.These Noel Streatfield classics are back in print. What's fascinating about them is that they don't treat performance as a vehicle to fame or fame as an inherent good.
The Ordinary Princess
Ages 8+.Godmother grants an unusual gift to a newborn princess.
Half Magic (and its sequels)
Ages 8+. Edward Eager's books about girls and boys on magic adventures never go out of style. They girls and the boys are all fabulous (occasional sexism or racial stereotyping so read through first and be ready to discuss).
The Goose Girl
Ages 8+. Daisy and I have been listening to the audio version of this book, which beautifully fleshes out the Grimm story about a princess who loses her crown and finds herself. Highly recommended.
The Sisters Grimm
Age 8+ Sisters Sabrina and Daphne's parents disappeared two years ago. Since then they've bounced among foster homes and now have been sent to live with a grandmother they never knew they had—Mrs. Grimm. And they find themselves in the middle of a mystery—and a family legacy—that makes real life look like a fairy tale. Second grade and up.
The Dear America Series
Age 8+ Fictional diaries of ordinary American girls in history.
Anne of Green Gables
Age 8+ as a read-aloud. Again, maybe a little old for this grouping.
See above. Remember: Beth dies (spoiler?) so your daughter has to be ready to handle that.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Ages 9+. A classic. Again, probably a read aloud for kids in the early grades, but one of my all time favorites.
Because of Winn Dixie
Ages 9+. Another read-aloud or read-alone for advanced readers. (see below for film version)
The Wrinkle In Time Series
Ages 9 or 10+. I love it so...
SUGGESTED BY READERS
The King's Equal
Sisters in Strength: American Women Who Made a Difference (non-fiction)
Heroines of the American Revolution (non-fiction)
Boston Jane: An Adventure
The Wide Awake Princess
The Saddle Club
Island of the Aunts
Shakespeare's Secret (9 and up)
Ivy & Bean
The True Meaning of Smekday
The Great Good Thing
Trailer Park Princesses
Handy Girls Can Fix It
BOOKS OF BOOK LISTS (FOR GIRLS—AND BOYS TOO!)
I mean it about boys!! they need to read books and hear stories about adventurous, strong, competent, heroic girls and women too!
Let's Hear it for the Girls
Once Upon a Heroine
Great Books for Girls
Amelia Bloomer List (not a book—a list on the web)
Outside the (Toy) Box (also a list on the web—of "non-sexist children's books")
A Mighty Girl (also a web list)
Use next or previous arrows to scroll through movie trailers.
Lisa Ray who pens the blog "A Magical Year Without Disney" makes these suggestions for "turing off the Disney default."
Also: don’t forget to read books, watch movies, play games with strong female characters to boys–they need those images too.
One more note: I’ve linked to Amazon a lot. Not because I endorse Amazon, but because I’m lazy. Since I began this project there is a new site called A Mighty Girl that sells books and movies about girls of courage, wisdom and spirit. Please patronize them!
Oh, and another: there are, indeed, a lot of books about princesses here. That’s because a lot of wonderful classic (and not-so-classic) books for kids really are about royalty. I highly recommend a good Grimm Brothers book to adults. Stories like “The Girl Without Hands” and “The Robber Bridegroom” and “Fitcher’s Bird” are archetypal and feature strong female characters. They are also way, way, WAY too bloody for little kids.
And one more: Here are some general lists, compiled by others, of “anti-princess” books. I can’t vouch for this one, having not read them all (let me know if you have), though it is extensive.
This one, from NYT’s “The Motherlode,” is more of an “anti-princess princess” reading list (lots of other great ideas in the reader comments, too!)
And The Diamond in the Window blog has great discussions of kids’ lit. If you email her, she’ll even offer recommendations tailored to your child.
OTHER READER SUGGESTIONS:
Power Puff Girls (available on netflix)
Stella and Sam
Cute aspirational, inspirational t-shirts for girls, infant on up!
Seriously cute line from England for kids 0-5, their web site states: "The world is filled with colour...and we don't intend to make that world smaller by putting our fearless adventurers into a sea of pinks and blues, clothes that look like they were meant for adults or slogans they can't yet read!"
Handsome in Pink
Comfy and well-fitting t-shirts. And not all pink.
Daisy likes the one with the lemonade stand that says "Entrepreneur." I like the bamboo that says "one."
Tee Party from Shaping Youth
Our friends at Shaping Youth compiled their own list of great t-shirts for little girls. Some of the links no longer work, but lots do. Plus, you can find out all about the wonderful Shaping Youth site and blog!
Polarn O. Pyret (P.O.P.)
The most popular children's clothing line in Sweden has made its US debut. Clothes are cute, functional and in addition to a "girl" line (which is way less frou-frou than anything you'd see here anyway, yet plenty cute with bright colors and fun patterns) there is a unisex line. With a manifesto that will bring tears to your eyes. Swedes. Gotta love 'em. Infants-Age 11. A little pricey, but great sales.
Idea: If you're tired of pink for your little girl, have a party to dye for: get a bunch of cheap white cotton t-shirts, some washing-machine friendly dye and make a batch of shirts in whatever color you'd like. You can do a little tie dye or just dye them plain. Have your daughter help and she will have wearable art! The shirts can become her trademark, all the cooler since she made them herself....
Idea: Invest non-pink items with lots of fun, excitement and specialness. Van's slip-on sneakers with flames on them, for instance, or color crayons can become another trademark, something that confers rather than flattens identity.....
TOYS AND DOLLS
Check out the Bindi Irwin line of dolls (here's one)
The Lovely Lennon Sisters, of Lawrence Welk fame, have recreated the Best Pals rag dolls of their youth and they are fabulous. I wrote a whole post about them on the blog. They even have multi-cultural lines, and a doll for boys.
Little ones 3+ are fascinated by Woodkins and there are lots who look like regular girls (as well as the inevitable fairies and princesses)....Boys too!
Papo and Schleich both make great inexpensive little figurines such as royal figures, fantasy and mythical figures, animals, Maid Marion, Joan of Arc, Pirates, Wild West.....And they aren't being cross-marketed as clothing, room decor, breakfast cereal etc so it keeps play unscripted! For instance see, Enchantress or Schleich Sera.
Along with (or instead of) princess costumes try Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Spider Girl, etc. (they make action figures of these dolls as well, and some are even Barbies, though God knows what message a superhero with Barbie boobs sends....). Or Dorothy Gale from Wizard of Oz.
If you've got lots of money to burn (I don't) or lots of kids and need durability (I don't) take a look at this costume company
Sarah's Silks has flowing, multi-colored big silk squares that can be used imaginatively to make costumes of all kinds
I don't know if this counts as being "for girls" or about femininity exactly but my college housemate, who was in the fashion industry, gave Daisy a stack of fabric remnants when she was around 3 or 4. They were each roughly 4x4" and were all different weights, colors, patterns, textures. They have, quite possibly, been the most well-used "toy" of her childhood. She has found zillions of creative uses for them over the years and still plays with them all the time. I never would have guessed.
Discovery Toys has wonderful, bright-colored toys for both sexes. Their catalog and web site are gender-fair, showing both sexes playing with a range of non-color coded items.
Check out the new building toy, Roominate whose tag line is "because every young girl is an artist, architect, engineer and visionary!" It's pricey, but worth it not only to encourage those all important building skills but to support young, female entrepreneurs and show the toy companies that we WANT THIS STUFF!
For a less expensive option, check out Goldieblox books and engineering toys for girls 5-9. Not on the market yet as of this writing, but you can pre-order.
Melissa Wardy, founder of pigtailpals.com has a fabulous page of toy shopping tips.
Michele Yulo, founder of Princess Free Zone Inc. suggests having your daughter make up her own unique super hero. She can name it and create a costume with a mask of sorts and you can get some fabric and help her make a cape with glitter, glue, iron-on letters for the name...Check out her Super Tool Lula and friends, who have stories, activities, and a chapter book for girls 6-8. Lula (and Michele) encourage girls to get their own tool belts and tools (play plastic ones or, if they're older, real ones). Get one for yourself, too, and BUILD!
The Daring Book for Girls
So many activities, so little time!
Here Comes Science (They Might Be Giants)
Classical Kids: Mr. Bach Comes to Call and Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery Song of the Unicorn
I adore this whole series of fictional stories that integrate composer, music and children. Performed by marvelous actors, too. These three, in addition to that, have fab girl characters! An absolute must, especially if your child is at all musical. They also have an ipad app, though I haven't checked it out
Daisy's two favorite "girl power" songs are the Dixie Chicks' "The Long Way Around" and "Not Ready To Make Nice." They are a little bit PG-13 (references to smoking, kissing ass etc) but so great I let that slide. Plus, they are both co-written by one of my dearest high school friends, Dan Wilson.
Here's a fun cover of "I Am a Scientist" to watch:
A friend of mine recently needed to apply a coat of clear resin to the hull of a boat. Before he began, he pasted on Â pictures of women and men, historical and contemporary, whom he admired. His kids asked about the pictures and, as they worked, he told their stories. Who floats your boat? You could do this on a wall, on a table, on a piece of cardboard...the possibilities are endless. Get some modge-podge, some magazines and snapshots and let your imagination set sail!
Physical activity and girliness: Girls want to do ballet in preschool. And that can be fine. But most of them won't want to do it anymore once it gets "real"—and given the body image concerns about ballet, most of us don't want our daughters pursuing it anyway (I don't mean to put a knock on ballet, which I respect, or certainly any other form of dance, I'm just saying the world of ballet can be very tough. I've seen "Black Swan...."). Anyway, in addition to, or instead of, ballet how about kids' yoga? It's graceful, you can wear a leotard if you want, and it's something that can actually be the building block of a lifelong healthy practice that promotes POSITIVE body image, confidence, competence and inner strength. Sounds good, doesn't it? Check at your local studios for kids' classes...We started out when Daisy was tiny with the books Babar's Yoga for Elephants and Yoga Bear. There are also some good DVDs. for 3-6 year olds try YogaKids and YogaKids ABCs (we were less pleased with YogaKids Silly to Calm). We haven't tried Storyland Yoga for 3-8 year olds, but for older kids (and their parents) we like Rodney Yee's Family Yoga. And if anyone else knows other fun DVDs PLEASE let me know (for the list AND for myself!
Another suggestion: Martial arts. Probably more for 4 or 5+, I think, but Daisy took karate in kindergarten and adored it. Made her feel strong and great in her body, excellent for coordination and awareness. Plus she enjoyed the "dress up" aspect of wearing the gi (even went to Halloween one year as a "martial arts girl"). Why is she not in it any more you may ask? Long and tedious story. But it's not for lack of interest.....
Someone just told me about Girls on the Run. I don't really know anything about it, but it looks like a great confidence-building non-competitive athletic program for grade school girls.