Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 06 Aug 2019

Positive about gender

This morning (31.7.19) when listening to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s hour, Claire Pollard the writer of Fierce Bad Rabbits described the importance of children’s books to her as a child and also why some were more popular than others; for example, The Tiger Who Came To Tea and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (unsurprisingly it’s about young children and food). As she spoke one important fact leapt out for me, often the default gender is male; for example, the Dr Seuss books have no female characters!

This led me to think about the three books gifted to my daughter and Son in Law for their new daughter. At the time I thought ‘what a thoughtful present’ (although they also loved all the clothes and toys as well) and it made me want to undertake a short review of them.

The first is Fairytales For Feisty Girls. The chapters include Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina all illustrated by different artists. The first chapter is a re-wording of Rapunzel and is beautifully illustrated. The narrative doesn’t lose any of the key characteristics such as the long hair and the tower but what it gains is Repunzel’s inventiveness and her escape was one of collaboration with a boy of her age but there was no talk of marriage just a happy ending in terms of the positive results for her village as a consequence of her escape.

The other two books are part of a Little People Big Dreams series and again they are illustrated by different artists. Entitled Coco Chanel and Vivienne Westwood they give a short taster of the lives of these designers and in the case of Westwood her activism in terms of climate change and I’m sure they could be critiqued for some of the factual content but the reason I love them are the beautiful drawings that accompany every page.

The front cover of Vivienne Westwood sums me up at age 12 and the Chanel book describes her love of sewing which I would also have related to at an early age.  The series of books includes board books and the boxsets, Women in Art and Women in Science and I know one great niece who will be receiving one of these for her birthday.


Julia Neall

August 2019


Details of the books mentioned:


Fairytales For Fiesty Girls is written by Susannah McFarlane illustrated by Beth Norling. Allen & Unwin London.  


Coco Chanel by Isabel Sanchez Vegra. Illustrated by Ana Albero and Translated by Emma Martinez (2016)

Vivienne Westwood by Isabel Sanchez Vegra and illustrated by Laura Callaghan (2019)

Both published by Frances Lincoln Children’s books, London