Beyond Sugar & Spice, Snakes & Snails: Childhood Characters That Defy Typical Gender Roles
Gender stereotypes in our culture—reinforced by parents’ expectations and other kids’ comments—ignore the unique personality of every child. The girls and boys in these books challenge stereotypes, expose the hurt they cause, and show the importance of staying true to oneself.
Horace and Morris but Mostly Dolores, story by James Howe, illustrations by Amy Walrod. Horace, Morris, and Dolores are friends—until the boys decide that “a boy mouse must do what a boy mouse must do” and join the all-male Mega-Mice club. So Dolores decides that “a girl mouse must do what a girl mouse must do” and joins the all-girl Cheese Puffs club. But they’re unhappy doing what they “must” do and worried about their friendship—until Dolores finds a solution. These three friends show that likes and dislikes are not based on gender. Ages four to seven. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999)
Grace for President, story by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrations by LeUyen Pham. When she sees the all-male poster of U.S. presidents, Grace is shocked. She decides that she will be president. In the school election, she campaigns hard against the popular Thomas, who figures he’ll win because there are more boys than girls. Then Sam, representing Wyoming, chooses the best person for the job. This story will inspire children to look beyond gender, in their leaders and themselves. Ages four to seven. (Hyperion Books for Children, 2008)
Elena’s Serenade, story by Campbell Geeslin, illustrations by Ana Juan. Elena’s father is a glassblower, so she asks him to teach her the trade. He responds, “Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?” Angry and sad, Elena runs away to learn from the legendary glassblowers in Monterrey, discovering on the journey how to make beautiful music as well as glass with her long pipe. Children will be inspired by Elena’s courage to be who she wants to be. Ages four to seven. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004)
Oliver Button is a Sissy, story and illustrations by Tomie dePaola. Because Oliver Button prefers reading, drawing, and dancing to playing ball, the other boys call him a sissy. When he begins dance classes, someone writes, “Oliver Button is a Sissy” on the school wall. But Oliver enjoys tap dancing, practices hard, and performs in the town’s talent show. Then, when he doesn’t win, Oliver doesn’t want to go back to school. When he does, though, he is surprised to see that the school wall now reads, “Oliver Button is a Star.” This story celebrates one boy’s uniqueness while reminding readers of the pain that teasing causes. Ages four to seven. (Harcourt Inc, 1979)
Allie’s Basketball Dream, story by Barbara E. Barber, illustrations by Darryl Ligasan. Allie wants to be a basketball player. When her father buys her a basketball and takes her to the park to practice, she is eager and excited. She gets discouraged when she misses shots and friends tell her basketball isn’t for girls. But she keeps practicing, makes baskets—and convinces friends to join in the fun. Both boys and girls will relate to Allie’s frustrations in practicing and will be inspired by her determination. Ages four to seven. (Lee & Low Books, Inc, 1996)
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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