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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Girls unlimited

March 27, 2009

When I started to write a response to an inquiry from Louise, I began listing a few specific books that I might suggest. (Louise works with 4 and 5 year old boys who have some strong notions about what girls do, like, and are capable of.)

Boys — and even girls — sometimes develop strange ideas about what can or cannot be done because of gender. And you're so wise, Louise, to use books to address this issue. Books offer a way to look at and talk about behavior without getting too specific.

Here are a few of my favorite picture books. Also,you may want to consider taking a looks at picture book biographies. I've noted a few toward the end.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (Dial) — Grace breaks several stereotypes to star in her class play.

Annabelle Swift by Amy Hest (Scholastic) — Annabelle overcomes a crisis of confidence with great competence!

Brave Irene by William Steig (Farrar) — Irene braves a blizzard to deliver her mother's work to a royal.

Dandelions by Eve Bunting (Sandpiper) — A girl and her sister work to help their mother become accustomed to their new prairie home (set in the 19th century US).

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily McCully (Putnam) — This Caldecott Medal winning book shows how Mirette helps the great Bellini regain his courage.

Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett by Steven Kellogg (HarperCollins) — a funny tall tale about the amazing feats of Davy Crockett's wife.

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs (Putnam)— another humorous tall tale about an amazing woodswoman of early America.

What to do About Alice? (Scholastic) by Barbara Kerley (a look at Theodore Roosevelt's unconventional and really independent daughter) or Fly High!: the Story of Bessie Coleman (Atheneum) by Louise Borden (the first African American woman to earn a pilot's license) or Wilma Unlimited (Sandpiper) by Kathryn Krull (the story of the Olympic star who overcame many obstacles to compete)?

And of course, there are lots of easy biographies of Amelia Earhart.

As you can tell, what was to be a brief answer turned into a list grew and could grow even more, so I thought I'd put it out there in hopes that Louise might be able to find some of these books in Australia and that others may want to add to the list.


This reminds me that characters in stories, both fiction and nonfiction, serve as role models for young readers. I always identified with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables as a girl.

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"Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear." —

Judy Blume