The quest to highlight positive female animal characters in picture books continues. I have received brilliant suggestions through twitter and comments on my previous posts, thank you so much to everyone who is joining in the hunt. Between us, we have sourced some fabulous female crocodiles. But I am still yet to track down that elusive female rhino. Perhaps I am the only one? And I am yet to be realised in a book, although I do think I have the character for it. Alas, the search continues on that front. But I do have some corkers to share with you here. Today I have a brave and heroic female dog, and a cat who isn’t afraid to show her true feelings. Next up is a mighty raccoon and I also have it on very good authority that a female gorilla is on her way over to the Rhino reading room. I shall keep you posted on that matter. For now, I give you….
Bella Bones from Bella and Monty – A Hairy, Scary Night by Alex. T. Smith
Alex T. Smith is a very clever soul who is making his second appearance in the round up of strong female animal characters. That alone entitles him to use the name Sir Alex T. Smith of Fabulousness. I wonder if he will? His Ella is a work of feminist genius and should be required reading for all 4 year olds. Gove shouldn’t be messing about with breaking the curriculum, he should be getting a copy of Ella into every reception classroom. Anyway, I digress.
Sir Alex T. Smith of Fabulousness is clearly a feminist. He has created yet another strong female role model for young children. Bella is a dog who loves life and isn’t afraid to live it to the max. She isn’t frightened of anything and doesn’t let anything get in the way of fun. But…her best friend, Monty Mittens, is a scaredy cat. He is scared of EVERYTHING. Luckily, Bella reads books and is very intelligent (as all true feminist icons are) and she boldly leads Monty into the night and explains away his fears using a beautiful mix of knowledge and imagination.
The traditional gender roles of nervous, passive girl and brave, bold boy have been reversed with style. The illustrations are gorgeous and quirky and Sir Smith’s humour is always apparent. Bella and Monty provides another example of a female dog and a male cat. When I read this book with children there was no confusion over genders, perhaps due to the illustrations portraying their gender, maybe because they are so well characterised. Perhaps because these children are now so used to me throwing books at them that challenge their assumptions? Whatever the reason, the children didn’t question a female dog and a male cat. and it felt like progress. Hurrah for a book with a strong female animal character and a reversal of typical gender assumptions!
Source: The Rhino-shelves, thanks to a recommendation by ReaditDaddy
Olive from Olive and the Bad Mood and Olive and the Big Secret by Tor Freeman
Olive is a cat who knows her own mind. She is strong-willed, confident and not afraid to be herself. Olive and the Bad Mood begins with Olive tripping over her shoelace and landing with a button-popping bump. She is Not Impressed. She is now in A Very Bad Mood. As she stomps along she meets her friends one by one and takes out her frustration on each of them in turn. They catch her bad mood and all is not well. But, hooray! A sweet shop and a bag of jelly worms that saves the day. Almost!
In Olive and the Big Secret Olive can’t quite contain the temptation to tell a secret and so starts a chain of blabbing that leads right back to the start.
I love the humour in the illustrations- Olive’s physicality and facial expressions, the extra long giraffe-sized straw, Matt the dog singing as he changes after swimming. The joy of these books, though, is the lack of gender stereotyping. There’s an even mix of boys and girls and all the characters wear bright clothes. No pink princess dresses here. Olive in particular wears very fetching dungarees and Matt has a gorgeous floppy hat. It’s also refreshing to see the characters playing with a mix of toys regardless of gender.
Olive is a great character to use to step away from the gender stereotypical passive girl characters. She is confident, self-assured and not afraid to stand her ground and show her feelings. If she is grumpy, you will know about it. It’s great to see a female character being given the freedom to be wrong, make mistakes, feel frustrated and be bad-tempered and yet come out the other side. After all, that’s what happens to children every day, it is how they learn when they are young and it should be reflected in their books.
Source: Both kindly sent for review by the smiley souls at Templar.