We Recommend: Softball Edition (No, Not Elena Kagan)

It's We Recommend, in which we attempt to find the right book for anyone who writes in. Want to try? Send us an e-mail describing your reader, age, likes, and anything else that might be helpful, and we'll see what we can do.

Today we address the question here:

My two and a half year
old daughter loves a wide variety of books, from Knuffle Bunny, to
Olivia, to Frances, to Little Bear, to Frog and Toad, to Sheep in a
Jeep
, to the Nutshell Library, to Hop on Pop, to lots of less iconic
board book and Sesame Street-themed filler.  One of the only books I
can think of that she affirmatively doesn't like is Llama, Llama, Red
Pajama
.  So
admittedly my request is more a request for me, as I am always looking for new, wonderful, enchanting books, and
particularly am interested in moving beyond the books I remember fondly
from my own childhood and the few modern classics in every bookstore to
unearth some excellent new picture books.  I would especially like to find something with a strong
female character doing non-girly, interesting, bold things, without
making a big deal about it, whether playing soccer or collecting bugs
or climbing trees or pretending to be a firefighter or whatever.  So,
please, hit this softball question out of the park!  What is a great
picture book that I have never heard of that will enthrall my daughter
and expand her imagination and her sense of the possible?    

Of course, the minute she says it's a softball question, I panic. I don't know any new picture books! I have no ideas! I will fail, as usual, at the challenge described as unchallenging. But enough of my pseudo-psychological self-evaluation, and on to the matter at hand.

Truly, I am out of the picture book world these days. And I do empathize with the desire to show a girl the whole world of what is possible as a girl, but it's hard to know where to go with it. And 2 and a half is tricky; is she fond of stories? Images? Craziness? Prettiness?

A friend recently recommended The Day the Babies Crawled Away, but I haven't actually read it and so am loathe to go around spouting off about it. I love Goodnight, Gorilla (which turns out to be by the same author) but maybe that's a modern classic of the kind she wants to avoid? Something fresh, something new, jeez. Hmm. I really like the Daisy books by Jane Simmons, and she is a female duck who goes about looking for adventure. But when my kids were getting big, she was all over the place, so no doubt this mom already knows about her. I like The Day the Babies Crawled Away, but I haven't actually read it and so am loathe to go around spouting off about it. I love Goodnight, Gorilla (which turns out to be by the same author) but maybe that's a modern classic of the kind she wants to avoid? Something fresh, something new, jeez. Hmm. I really like the Daisy books by Jane Simmons, and she is a female duck who goes about looking for adventure. But when my kids were getting big, she was all over the place, so no doubt this mom already knows about her. I like Marshmallow Kisses, and I think a bug or two might crawl across the page there. The truth is, books about girls doing independent things are, I think, for kids a little older. This age there is a lot of dealing with the anxiety about running away from your mother, or losing your mother, then finding her again. Not so much with the finding bugs.

So it is uncertainty but trembling hope that I present you with:

17 thoughts on “We Recommend: Softball Edition (No, Not Elena Kagan)

  1. You need Stella! A series of books by Marie-Louise Gay. While the titles of the books may seem a bit girly – “Stella, Fairy of the Forest” – Stella is more of an independent adventuress who loves exploring and nature and is a good contrast to her younger brother Sam who is much more hesitant about the world around him. Sam is, however, quite inquisitive, and Stella does tend to embellish her answers “Do butterflies eat butter?” “Yellow butterflies do…”

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  2. Phoebe Gilman!
    From Jillian Jiggs to Cinnamon the girl who dances with bears to Pirate Pearl… strong girls everywhere. Even in The Balloon Tree — the princess is resourceful and saves the kingdom.

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  3. Hooray! As the mother of the little girl in question, Rose, I am especially excited about your suggestion, as said little girl just happens to be named Stella. Though I think the ultimate suggestion in the original post got cut off? All that trembling hope and then…?

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  4. The Day the Babies Crawled away is hilarious, one of those ones that is just as good for adults as kids. Officer Buckle and Gloria, by the same author is also excellent.
    Also, I’ve made this recommendation here before, but check out Kevin Henkes, especially anything with a mouse on the cover. Lily the mouse is a good strong female character – try Chester’s Way, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, and Julius the Baby of the World. These are a little long for 2.5 year olds, but if your daughter is up for Frances’s in depth descriptions of her seatmate’s lunch, then she will probably be able to enjoy them.

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  5. One of our favorite picture books was an impulse buy at the baby store on a diaper and formula run: Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond. I can still recite parts of it. Not a “strong girl” book, though.

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  6. Yes, yes, yes! for Kevin Henkes! I ADORE some of his beautifully simple books like Kitten’s First Full Moon, A Good Day, and Old Bear (the pictures are magical in a lovely old-fashioned way), but we also love the mouse books.
    We also really enjoy Lisa Campbell Ernst – her stories seem to be a lot of fun. Good luck.

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  7. I asked this question on my blog about a year ago and got a ton of answers (many of which I don’t agree with). I’m going to have to make a list because I have never gotten myself organized. But off of the top of my head: Miss Rumphius (LOOOOOVE) I like the day the babies crawled away, but I don’t recall that it was a girl as the lead. Ladybug girl – though I do have some mixed feelings about it, I think there are some great things in it. Mirette on the High Wire. Anna Banana and me. Amazing Grace. A couple of these might be too old for a 2.5 year old. Some would depend on the child.

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  8. I love those Stella books.
    I also love a book called, “I Hope you Dance,” which has little to nothing to do with the song and is my all-time favorite book to read out loud: http://www.amazon.com/Hope-You-Dance-Childrens-Book/dp/B0007QC2IA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277302590&sr=8-7.
    As for girls not being girly, have you thought about checking out the biographies in the kids’ section of the library. There are usually great picture books on a wide array of women, Amelia Bloomer is one of my favorites and Brynna loved hearing about Marie Curie.
    We also just read a picture book called Princess Grace (it may be a little long for a 2 year old) that was about a girl who wanted to be a princess and learned about real princesses from all different places who did all different things and decided to be an interesting princess instead of a pretty princess. It was a nice piece of princess detox: http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Grace-Mary-Hoffman/dp/B001KOU1LS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277302967&sr=8-1
    Hope you find some great treasures!

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  9. These aren’t new, but they do feature great female leads, so just in case you missed them:
    The Maggie B. by Irene Haas
    Tatterhood by Robin Muller

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  10. 26 big things small hands can do-Paratore
    Dinner at the panda palace-Calmenson
    All tutus should be pink-Brownrigg
    More, more, more said the baby-Williams
    Jesse bear what will you wear–Carlstrom
    A snowy day- Keats
    Walk with me- Danis
    This Quiet Lady- Zolotow
    Toot and Puddle
    Each Peach Pear Plum- Ahlberg
    These were some of our favorites, along with Mirette on the Highwire as someone else mentioned.

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  11. Aaaargh! It’s totally cut off. I wonder what the heck happened. Oh God, what was it?
    Byron Barton, Machines at Work. Yikes. Sorry. I said a whole bunch of stuff about it, too. I believe it was about how great it was as a book, and they had a girl driving the big thing that flattens the road, but they don’t make a big deal about it. I love his books, I am sorry I am so strangely incompetent with managing my electronic self these days.

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  12. Check out Cynthia Rylant, she is a favorite around here, even though it isn’t the “strong girl” genre. And Chris Van Allsburg is awesome and mysterious. Mem Fox is another great author with varying texts.

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  13. Emily – my nearly 3 yo likes the Stella books so much that when I read them I have to change Stella’s name to hers (and her brother’s name and the dog into a cat…). So I hope your Stella like them and if she does you won’t have to change the names!

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  14. What a great list. I have heard of some (for example, we just happened upon Toot and Puddle last week, and it has been a huge hit) and not others, which is the perfect mix.

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  15. We have boys, who tend to migrate to boy heroes, but as the only female human in my house, I am keenly interested in them seeing girls as heroes as well. These don’t necessarily fit that pattern, but are great illustrators who at least give females a role. But mostly these are the books I still love to look at:
    Flotsam, by David Wiesner, plus all his books.
    Roller Coaster, by Marla Frazee, and almost anything else she illustrates.
    Both nice for summer, too, now that I think of it.
    And we are very partial to the Janet & Allen Ahlberg books, especially Peek-A-Boo!, but also Each Peach Pear Plum for fun-ness of reading and pictures with lovely detail.

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