/ Empowering books for a four-year old girl

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kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
I asked my sister what I could buy for my niece for Christmas. In her words:

"Modern/feminist princess/lead female character stories."

They both like the Zog books from Julia Donaldson (in which the beautiful princess would rather be a doctor) so more along those lines would be good - but not having kids myself I don't really know what is out there. Any suggestions gratefully received!

Lottie will be 4 in February and is starting to show an interest in reading for herself, so I would ideally like simpler books that she can read with her Mum rather than more complicated books for her Mum to read to her.
Ramblin dave - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is pretty great:
http://www.beatontown.com/books.html
pasbury on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Quite a tricky brief that. The Zog books are great, Room on the Broom is good too.

Peppa pig is good fun.

How about Rosie Revere, Engineer or Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. Not read them but they probably fit the bill.
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Thanks. They already have Room on the Broom - and in fact most of Julia Donaldson's other work too.

The other suggestions look good - thanks!
timjones - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

> I asked my sister what I could buy for my niece for Christmas. In her words:

> "Modern/feminist princess/lead female character stories."

> They both like the Zog books from Julia Donaldson (in which the beautiful princess would rather be a doctor) so more along those lines would be good - but not having kids myself I don't really know what is out there. Any suggestions gratefully received!

> Lottie will be 4 in February and is starting to show an interest in reading for herself, so I would ideally like simpler books that she can read with her Mum rather than more complicated books for her Mum to read to her.

A book token sounds like the safest bet ;)
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to timjones:

> A book token sounds like the safest bet ;)

Perhaps, but as not as much fun for her to open, and I miss out on the fun of choosing books and then reading them with her on Christmas day!
Ffat Boi - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Chris Haughton books are great for kids starting out reading, have a look at: "Ssshh we have a plan" or "A bit lost"

girlymonkey - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

My friends' little girls love Ronja the Robbers Daughter. They have the DVD so don't know how complicated the books are to read
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to girlymonkey:

> My friends' little girls love Ronja the Robbers Daughter. They have the DVD so don't know how complicated the books are to read

Oooh, and on that note, I should have a look at Pippi Longstocking too (same author). I can't remember how difficult that one is to read, but might be on the money theme-wise.
pasbury on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Yes - the perfect choice, but one for reading to rather than with for a four year old.

There's also Winnie the witch and Titchy Witch.
George Fisher - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Maybe not one to read on their own but ‘Fantastically great women who changed the world’. Is very good and our birthday present of choice for all the 4 year old birthday parties we get roped into.

Mike Highbury - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync: What's wrong with Swallows and Amazons? They go to the Lakes, get bullied by some chick, piss about with boats, kick some sleazy uncle into the water, and then the fun starts.
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to Mike Highbury:

> What's wrong with Swallows and Amazons?

Mostly, they are a little bit too advanced for reading with a four year old. You could perhaps read them to a four year old depending on their attention span, but that's not what I am after here. I enjoyed those when I was 7 or 8 and may well point her at those when she is a little older.
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to George Fisher:

> Maybe not one to read on their own but ‘Fantastically great women who changed the world’. Is very good and our birthday present of choice for all the 4 year old birthday parties we get roped into.

This looks great - thanks! I might buy her that one as an added extra. After all, spoiling your nieces and nephews is one of the joys of being an aunt, right?!
wercat on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:
I was read The Borrowers at that age and loved it - Aren't Homily and Arietty quite strong characters?


Empowering in the sense of loving stories and reading without any artifical "pushing" of roles


edit - I just saw that it doesn't quite fit the specification
Post edited at 16:28
cb294 - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Both Ronja and Pippi are for a bit older children. However, Astrid Lindgren has also written fantastic books for preschool children, especially the Lotta series.

I cannot find my absolute favourite one (in which Lotta learns cycling) as I don't know the English title, but "Lotta says NO!" is great as well.

There is also a third book set around Christmas (sorry no idea about the English title either), in which the family does not have a Christmas tree as the are all sold out, but Lotta saves the day as she finds one that falls off a lorry. I had to read that one to my daughter every year from November to February, and was only saved when they learned to read it to each other!

CB
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wercat:

> I was read The Borrowers at that age and loved it - Aren't Homily and Arietty quite strong characters?

Yes, completely agree - however as I said in the OP, I am primarily looking for books that Lottie can start to read for herself with some help and I think this would be a little complicated for that.

Thanks for the suggestion though, it was one of my childhood favourites too, particularly because it was one of the few books my Mum read to me (I did most of my reading with Dad).

kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to cb294:

Thanks, I will have a look for those and maybe save Ronja and Pippi for a couple of year's time then. I don't think I ever came across Lotta in my own childhood so I will enjoy those too!
JLS on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

>"Modern/feminist princess/lead female character stories."

I do worry that this child will be poorly prepared to deal with hitting the glass ceiling.
Perhaps, some Commando comic books would provide some restorative balance and provide greater insight into a misogynistic world.
summo on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

> Thanks, I will have a look for those and maybe save Ronja and Pippi for a couple of year's time then. I don't think I ever came across Lotta in my own childhood so I will enjoy those too!

Add madicken to the list. Another semi wild girl of astrids.
Sealwife - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

My three girls all loved the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. And I managed to read them aloud without wincing at either the writing or the gender roles (and I'm fairly fussy about such things).

She might manage to read them herself too fairly soon, as they aren't too difficult.

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Book by the same author is also fab. See if you can read it aloud without making the Fairy Godmother sound like Jennifer Saunders
cb294 - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

You definitely will! Astrid Lindgren is so good in picking up little truths about children, even though I think she never had children herself. There is a little story about a failed picnic in the Lotta says NO! book (no spoilers, so cannot be more specific), which is perfectly true also for my girls. They are now both at uni, but still from time to time mention the situation in the book, as it illustrates something very true about sibling relationships.

In a way, Bill Waterston (also no kids) is similar, Calvin is THE six year old boy.... Maybe you need the distance as an observer.

CB
kathrync - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to JLS:

> I do worry that this child will be poorly prepared to deal with hitting the glass ceiling.

Ha, I think my sister is keen that she burst through it!
Andy Johnson - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

My children are both boys, so I have nothing to suggest from personal experience, but this seems like a useful resource: https://www.amightygirl.com/books?age_range_filter=8

alasdair19 on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Check out
GOOD night stories for rebel girls.
100 potted biographies with fantastic portraits of 100 inspiring woman.

Probably a couple of years too soon for are 4 year old. But worth remembering. The paper bag princess would be perfect right now.
Dave Todd - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

One of my faves when my kids were that age was 'That Pesky Dragon';

https://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Pesky-Dragon-Julie-Sykes/dp/0340932007

'Izzy's Dad had a farm. And on that farm there was a goat, a herd of cows, a flock of sheep, a brood of hens, three cats, two dogs... and a dragon!'
Big Ger - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Little Red Riding Hood - A Politically Correct Fairy Tale

There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother's house -- not because this was womyn's work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.
So Red Riding Hood set off with her basket of food through the woods. Many people she knew believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place and never set foot in it. Red Riding Hood, however, was confident . . .
On her way to Grandma's house, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a Wolf, who asked her what was in her basket. She replied, "Some healthful snacks for my grandmother, who is certainly capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult."
The Wolf said, "You know, my dear, it isn't safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone."
Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid worldview. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be on my way."
Red Riding Hood walked on along the main path. But, because his status outside society had freed him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought, the Wolf knew of a quicker route to Grandma's house. He burst into the house and ate Grandma, an entirely valid course of action for a carnivore such as himself. Then, unhampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine, he put on grandma's nightclothes and crawled into bed.
Red Riding Hood entered the cottage and said, "Grandma, I have brought you some fat-free, sodium-free snacks to salute you in your role of a wise and nurturing matriarch."
From the bed, the Wolf said softly, "Come closer, child, so that I might see you."
Red Riding Hood said, "Oh, I forgot you are as optically challenged as a bat. Grandma, what big eyes you have!"
"They have seen much, and forgiven much, my dear."
"Grandma, what a big nose you have -- only relatively, of course, and certainly attractive in its own way."
"It has smelled much, and forgiven much, my dear."
"Grandma, what big teeth you have!"
The Wolf said, "I am happy with who and what I am," and leaped out of bed. He grabbed Red Riding Hood in his claws, intent on devouring her. Red Riding Hood screamed, not out of alarm at the Wolf's apparent tendency toward cross-dressing, but because of his willful invasion of her personal space.
Her screams were heard by a passing woodchopper-person (or log-fuel technician, as he preferred to be called). When he burst into the cottage, he saw the melee and tried to intervene.
But as he raised his ax, Red Riding and the Wolf both stopped.
"And what do you think you're doing?" asked Red Riding Hood.
The woodchopper-person blinked and tried to answer, but no words came to him.
"Bursting in here like a Neanderthal, trusting your weapon to do your thinking for you!" she said. "Sexist! Speciesist! How dare you assume that womyn and wolves can't solve their own problems without a man's help!"
When she heard Red Riding Hood's speech, Grandma jumped out of the mouth, took the woodchopper-person's axe, and cut his head off. After this ordeal, Red Riding Hood, Grandma, and the Wolf felt a certain commonality of purpose. They decided to set up an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation, and they lived together in the woods happily ever after.

Source: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, by James Finn Garner (New York: Macmillan, 1994).

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Politically-Correct-Bedtime-Stories-Garner/dp/0285640410
nufkin - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to Big Ger:

> Little Red Riding Hood - A Politically Correct Fairy Tale

There should be a separate thread for these, with a new one every week to read to the little ones at bedtime
Blue Straggler - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:
What is the target age of Moomin books? They are quite gender-balanced iirc and a reader can decide who is the "leader" without having "THIS ONE is the Warrior Princess character" shoved down their throat. Also has strong female antagonists from time to time.
Post edited at 23:14
bouldery bits - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:
> I asked my sister what I could buy for my niece for Christmas. In her words:

> "Modern/feminist princess/lead female character stories."

I sort of find this all a bit sad. What's wrong with just some nice kids books?

When I was 4 all my favourite books were about an uppity train, his workshy mates, and a furious obese autocrat.
Post edited at 23:21
Irk the Purist - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

My 4 year old loves reading but is limited to such classics as "big fat rat" and "cat and dog" which he can do with support now he's at school. Each one is about 25 words and takes about 5 minutes.

These aren't the best books for plot, character or retaining interest. I think you'll find it hard to find one that meets your brief.

You may find it easier picking a book that parents (and you) can read to them for many years. Not only will they love hearing you read it, they will grow older and then love to read it to you.

David Walliams is good and hasn't been mentioned yet.

MeMeMe - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Our almost 4 year old loves the 'Katie Morag' books, and although it's not feminist in a in your face way all the strongest characters are female and 'granny island' (the main character after Katie herself) in particular doesn't fit into her traditional gender role.

Sealwife - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to MeMeMe:

Granny Island is awesome.
MeMeMe - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to bouldery bits:

> I sort of find this all a bit sad. What's wrong with just some nice kids books?

I don't think there is anything wrong with some nice kids books but if you consider the weight of influence on children to conform to traditional gender roles, much to their detriment I think, then there's also nothing wrong with balancing that out a little either.
There's nothing wrong with nice kids books that open up their world rather than books that re-inforce social barriers.

Sealwife - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to MeMeMe:

Absolutely. And I've just thought of another great one - The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell. John Fardell also writes for Viz, so the drawing style might be familiar.

Tom Last - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

I loved Rebecca's World as a kid, not that I was ever a little girl.
kathrync - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Thanks for all the recommendations folk, there is some great stuff here!
Spartacus on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to Tom Last:

> I loved Rebecca's World as a kid, not that I was ever a little girl.

You could have been.....perhaps you weren’t allowed to explore your gender identity fully and were repressed.
kathrync - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to bouldery bits:

> I sort of find this all a bit sad. What's wrong with just some nice kids books?

> When I was 4 all my favourite books were about an uppity train, his workshy mates, and a furious obese autocrat.

They have lots of nice kids books with stories about all sorts of things. However, Lottie is also a nearly-four-year old girl who loves fairies and pink things and stories about princesses. Thomas the tank engine and similar doesn't interest her, although her brother is keen. My sister is trying to cater to her interest in reading, but she doesn't want every book to be about some poor downtrodden girl who has her life fixed by magic which results in her marrying the man of her dreams hours after meeting them and living happily ever after in a castle doing tapestry for the rest of her days. It is a much better example for the heroines in the books she reads to fix their own problems, have adventures on their own merits, and not have some mythical perfect man be the key to the happy ending. Is that such a bad thing?

Lots of the suggestions made here don't push feminism, they are just nice kids books that happen to have a feisty female lead who does things on her own terms - exactly the kind of thing I was after!
summo on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Mira forecasts the future
Paper bag princess
Matilda
Katy and the big snow
Super red riding hood
bouldery bits - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

I may not have been being entirely serious.

stubbed on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

I would recommend 'There's a snake in my school' (David Walliams).
We also have 'Good night stories for rebel girls' which should be inspiring but isn't, and my 4 year old thinks it's boring.

I am like your sister, I hate all this princess stuff and hope my daughter learns that life is not like that.
kathrync - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to bouldery bits:

> I may not have been being entirely serious.

Sorry, it's hard to tell on forums sometimes!
Dave Garnett - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

> I asked my sister what I could buy for my niece for Christmas. In her words:

> "Modern/feminist princess/lead female character stories."

When I first read this I thought these were your 4 year-old niece's words. I was going to suggest something from the Virago Modern Classics.

kathrync - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to Dave Garnett:

That made me laugh - her words would be more along the lines of:

"So, there was a princess right, and she sparkled and she didn't like gourgettas because, because because....and then there was a dog! <hysterical giggling>"

(Gourgettas are what she calls courgettes)
Max factor - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Emily Brown books fit the brief - e.g. Emily Brown and the Thing.

My girl that age loves the Ella Bella books. not exactly empowering but charming and harmless enough.
cb294 - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to bouldery bits:

There was one book my girls got from their school library which had my wife in a flying rage.

She would not countenace a book in which a female character would be unable to solve some stupid problem without having to ask a vastly more intelligent, superior, talking power tool.







So, no more Bob the Builder crap for my girls, and rightly so!

CB
Tanke - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Kommunist Manifesto
or Zetkin's works.
Allovesclimbin - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

My almost four year old girl loves the Busy People series : police officers , teachers etc . Also The Worst Witch is ' Jennings for girls ' if you like that sort of thing and the Alfie series by Shirley Hughes , Maureen is a great character.
Also try the The Pirates Next Door series, strong female characters.....
All good stuff .
Big Ger - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

How about "The Bell Jar", or "The Female Eunuch"?
pebbles - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to Tanke and others:

so who do we reckon Tanky really is? Not quite right for Big Ger (too subtle) . Lacks Bedspring's characteristic posting style. What other serial alter ego adopters are likely candidates? Is puzzle typical of western climbing forum!
wercat on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to pebbles:

Tanke keeps and trains Meercats
Tom Last - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to Spartacus:

> You could have been.....perhaps you weren’t allowed to explore your gender identity fully and were repressed.

Gutted. Still time for me to become a middle aged woman I guess.
pebbles - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to wercat:

well that narrows it down I suppose....
flaneur - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to pasbury:

> Peppa pig is good fun.

And Peppa Pig's dad is a useless idiot, now a bit of a children's literature stereotype itself.


In reply to everyone with positive suggestions:

Thanks.

Alyson - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:
I know they've been mentioned already but 'Ada Twist, Scientist' and 'Rosie Revere, Engineer' are brilliant! They are not simple, early-reader type books but they have fantastic female role-models.

Even in 2017 it's surprisingly hard to find books which fit your bill. Last time I took myself off to Waterstones with a similar mission I discovered that around 75-80% of picture books had a male protagonist (be he a train, a bear, an alien, a boy, a penguin or whatever).

'Earth to Stella' is good, as is 'That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown'. I'll try to think of a few others for you.
Post edited at 11:49
kathrync - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

These are all brilliant - thanks so much everyone!

I am going to pick one or two of these and then pass the rest of the list onto my sister as I am sure she will find it useful.
Durbs on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to pasbury:


> Peppa pig is good fun.

Nooooooooooooooo!

Peppa Pig - the cartoon certainly - is some of the worth behaviour modelling you'll ever see! "Vegetables - yuck!", bullying your baby brother, being rude, sticking your tongue out. Just what you want a toddler to start mirroring.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=what%27s+wrong+with+peppa+pig&oq=what%27s+wrong+with+pepp&...


wercat on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:
when she's older, The Demon Headmaster series, plenty of fun for child and political satire for the adult in those

good way to learn a healthy scepticism about politics
Post edited at 16:50
kathrync - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to wercat:

> when she's older, The Demon Headmaster series, plenty of fun for child and political satire for the adult in those

Oh, I remember a TV series of that. On children's ITV circa late 80s or early 90s I think!

kathrync - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to Durbs:

It's a bit late for that - she has been watching Peppa for a while already. She doesn't mirror it too much - she is more likely to pick up tongue-sticking-out behaviour from me!
pasbury on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to Durbs:

> Nooooooooooooooo!

> Peppa Pig - the cartoon certainly - is some of the worth behaviour modelling you'll ever see! "Vegetables - yuck!", bullying your baby brother, being rude, sticking your tongue out. Just what you want a toddler to start mirroring.

Peppa's not all bad, she likes muddy puddles, laughing and is generally curious. Her dad is a role model for me too.

I regard toddlers who never stick their tongues out or say yuck to vegetables with great suspicion.
Big Ger - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to pebbles:

> so who do we reckon Tanky really is?

Someone clever enough to hook you right in....
krikoman - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

50 shades of grey?
pebbles - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to Big Ger:

Not you then
rogerwebb - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Another vote for Katy Morag.
Big Ger - on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to pebbles:

How do you know?

(seeing as I just have....)
gribble - on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

We found a website called 'pinkstinks', which has a great list of books that suit exactly what you're after. We got some cracking ones, winner for our daughter was Paperbag Princess. Well worth a visit methinks.
dabble on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

Goldieblocks are great, you get a book and a toy to build as well. I got my niece one, she seemed to like it.
wercat on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to kathrync:

> Oh, I remember a TV series of that. On children's ITV circa late 80s or early 90s I think!

The books are worth getting for yourself.
pebbles - on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to Big Ger:

wondering what your definition of sucked in is? if its "replying to a post" then yeah, whatever

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