penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Three books for girls

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I don’t generally like to say that a book is targeted for a specific gender.  Frequently I am surprised by how sweet and gentle my boys are and how blood thirsty and energetic my girl is.  When I read books to my kids, I don’t differentiate to them – I read to them all about pirates and princesses. I won’t say all characters are universally loved (except maybe Winnie the Pooh and Aslan the Lion) but they seem to enjoy them regardless.

However, it can probably be said that some books are more likely to be targeted (and certainly marketed) towards a specific gender.  I have recently read three books that one might call “books for girls.”

Tonight I finished On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  About a week ago I read Because of Winn-Dixie.  Before that, I read Princess for Hire.

I have been reading On the Banks of Plum Creek to my kids, chapter by chapter, night by night.  We read many books this way and we have already read Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.  In the interest of full disclosure I must admit – this book is special to me.  I have the same copy I was given when I was about eight years old and it has been read so many times, so ferociously, that the front cover has come off and the back cover is in danger of doing likewise.  This was the first Little House book I was given and the adventures of Laura and her family as they battled locusts and blizzards is still my favourite.  The story telling, as it is with all Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s works, is straight forward and straight up as a child-journalist can be.  Yet, it is somehow compelling in its narrative and contains beautiful writing.  Unlike some of the other Little House books that I needed to censor due to racism, I could tell this one in its entirety.  It can be a little frightening in places, but the message rings true – if you remain strong and use your wits, you can face any obstacle.

I found Because of Winn-Dixie at a second hand store that I love to visit when I have a moment to go out of my way.  I picked it up because I thought my daughter might like it.  I wanted to read it before I gave it to her though – she’s a sensitive soul and I wasn’t sure if it might have some scary moments.

I was treated to a small, lovely book about loss.  The writing is jewel-like, delicate in its narrative.   The characters are off-beat but realistic, each carrying their own life’s burden – some smaller, some bigger.    They live small town lives, as told from the perspective of a young girl, yet it never comes off as twee.  There are some wonderful messages about fitting in and (perhaps faintly) bullying.  In the end, the girl finds her own way, but comes to the realization that life isn’t perfect – you need to live and enjoy what you have.  It may take some effort to get there though.  It’s an important message in a world full of promises of instant gratification.  I’ve since put it on my girl’s shelf hoping she might consider reading it when she has finished the latest Thea Stilton. Or I may read it to the kids for bed time myself.  It has a lot of threads that may lead to some thoughtful questions.

(Nota: There is a movie. I haven’t seen it.  From the trailer it looks kinda, well Hollywood over the top meh).

The last book, Princess for Hire, was give to my daughter as part of a draw at a church dinner.  I had misgivings when I saw the Barbie pink cover, with pictures of a tiara, compact, lipstick and sparkles plastered to the front cover.  I decided to read it in advance of giving it to her – thinking it was likely suited more to a tweenager.

I read this one while I was off sick from work – so I was in the mood for something mindless.  This book was designed to put girls in a coma. Clearly the publisher of this book knows its market (which is to prepare them for the Twilight series in a few years time).  I disliked all the characters – who had ridiculous names, were shallow, annoying and self-absorbed. The dialogue, intended to be funny, instead comes off as stilted and silly. The narrator, intending to show growth and development through obvious “symbolism”, instead longs to be a real princess and then proceeds to  moon after one boy and then another.

Hardly the role model I’m looking for. I won’t be giving it to my daughter.

I would consider giving the book away to someone else (say through something anonymous like St. Vinny’s), but don’t want to subject anyone to this kind of dreck.  Frankly, I’m thinking I should just use it for kindling the next time I’m at the cottage.

Final verdict:

Little House on the Prairie: Buy it. Read it to your kids. It’s a keeper.

Because of Winn-Dixie: Delightful.  Also a treasure to give to your kids.

Princess for Hire: I’m sorry I wasted my time.  Don’t give it to anyone. Burn it.

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Written by pennyinacastle

March 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

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