Our friends at Letterbox Library have picked out some great books that offer an alternative to fighting and snot vs fairies and cupcakes. Which books do you love that show boys exploring their emotional side, or girls making their mark?
At Letterbox Library all our books are chosen by a team of volunteer reviewers: teachers and parents and children. We know that followers of Let Toys Be Toys will have their favourites so we’ve tried to introduce some lesser-known titles into the mix. (Ages are guidelines only)
Stephanie Dagg & ill. Alan Clarke
Dara is expecting a new sibling and he wants to practise his nurturing skills on a doll. But no matter how many times he asks, nobody will get him the toy he wants. And then along comes a very cross girl. To her horror, she has been given a doll to play with…A heart-warming and funny challenge to gendered toys. Ages 5-7
Nobody notices the pigeon fall, injured, to the ground- except a tender-hearted child called Will. Minimal text and inclusive illustrations from a much-loved Australian artist. An award-winning picture book, starring a sensitive boy for a wide age range of 3 to 7.
by Eric Maddern & ill. Paul Hess
Nurturing triumphs over armed combat. In this retelling of a Chinese folk story, a king holds a competition to choose an heir. A bunch of knights gather, expecting to fight it out in a tournament, while a small boy, Jack, looks on. To their surprise, the king presents them each (including Jack) with a seed and challenges them to…sprout it! Ages 6-8
by Mark Elkin & ill. Amy Wummer
An absolute favourite of ours here and one we import specially. On Monday, Samuel announces to his classmates that he’s ‘expecting’. By Friday, all of the children- both girls and boys- are feeling a little broody. An endearing book which challenges, with bucketfuls of humour, the notion that wanting and caring for (and indeed having!) a baby is the preserve of girls/women. Age 4-7
by Mark Sperring & ill. Mirian Latimer
A small knight demands a sword. To deal with a small dragon problem. But, his parent gives him a sunflower instead. Can a sword-wielder turn peace keeper? Age 3-6
by Jill Marshall & ill. Sam Childs
Cavegirls fight back! Excluded from the Caveman Games, Kave-Tina sets out to flaunt her mettle. Described by one of our parent reviewers as ‘”a refreshing challenge to ‘girlie’ stereotypes”. Ages 4-7
by Mitali Perkins & ill. Jamie Hogan
A special, illustrated chapter book set in rural Bangladesh. Naíma is a skilled artist but she knows that she could earn more for her family by driving a rickshaw, something which she knows is forbidden to girls. But with enough courage… Age 7-11
by Kes Gray & ill. Nick Sharratt
One of the most joyful girl characters on the book market, now in superhero form. And with a new mission: to save the world form them pesky green peas. Age 3-6
by Anna Kemp & ill. Sara Ogilvie
Forget the frilly dresses, the twit of a prince and the pink penthouse in the tower. Princess Sue wants fun, adventures, dragon rides and a spot of knight-baiting. From the team who brought us the equally wonderfully gender-subversive Dogs Don’t Do Ballet. Age 4-7
by Kathryn White & ill. Miriam Latimer
A clever little tale in which Ruby beats her starting-school nerves by combating all sorts of fearsome red-eyed beasts and lurking monsters on her journey to school. Perfect for novice dragon tamers. Age 3-6
by Levi Pinfold
The winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal for 2013, this is a simply brilliant exploration of fears and anxieties. A HUGE black dog terrorises the Hope family…until a TINY girl, with bucketfuls of courage, calls him “guffin” and takes him on! Storytelling at its best. Age 6-9.
Getting hold of these books
You can of course buy any of these books from Letterbox Library. In any case, please do consider supporting an indie retailer or your local bookshop. Small independent booksellers are only able to do the careful sourcing and selecting they do if you support them through your purchases.
We’ve loved bringing you some of our top adventurous girls and caring boys. Look out for future blogs on alternative princesses, artistic boys & much much more.
Now… over to you: Who are your top caring boys and adventurous girl characters in children’s books? Add a comment below, or tweet us @lettoysbetoys
They could be old friends from your own childhood who you’ve shared with the children you know (Danny, the Champion of the World? Princess Smartypants?)
They might be new ones you’ve found in a shop, buried underneath the tractor and princess books and just fighting for airspace – here’s your chance to set them free!