“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” —You’ve Got Mail
Nora Ephron wrote it, Meg Ryan said it, and we’re saying it again, because it couldn’t be more true. A (Little) BUST Book Club is a new monthly feature for the kids' books we love because they encourage in their slightly shorter readers the same things we encourage in our sometimes taller ones: Be fearless, be rebellious and above all be yourself, whoever that is.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a story about a boy and his dog, except that there are too many of them. Where are the stories about female scientists? Daughters of single mothers? Or trans kids? Or immigrant families? Well, they may be few and far between, but they are there and they are coming at you every month from yours truly. To begin, here are 5 books for little feminists going back to school:
Andrea Beaty’s books should be on every bookshelf, young and old, and Ada Twist, Scientist is no exception. It’s so easy to fall in love with Ada Marie Twist, a science-loving character of color who’s on a smelly science adventure fueled by curiosity. It’s no wonder Beaty, a biology major and computer programmer turned kids' book writer, named our new she-ro after two inspirational females: scientist and inventor Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer ever. The book embodies everything we want to see in future generations: fearlessness, creativity, and an unquenchable thirst for answers. The book comes out on September 7th, and we can’t think of a better back to school book!
This is an old favorite of ours. Written by Vera B. Williams, A Chair For My Mother tells the story of Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother who lost everything in a fire and are saving up for a big comfy chair. This book passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, in fact it is an especially relatable read for a child who is being raised by a single mother, or by a household of strong women. Rosa’s mother works at a restaurant, and eventually her tips buy them a large floral pattern armchair that we are totally jealous of, but not before we learn the importance of family, community, and female strength.
Sometimes Anna feels like a kitten, and sometimes a jackrabbit, but never like a tree deeply rooted in the ground. Maxine Trottier’s Migrant shines light on the transitory life of people moving in search of a better life. (Something we should all be very aware and attuned to right now.) The child of Mennonites from Mexico, Anna moves north with her family to harvest fruit and vegetables, and together they live in an empty farmhouse where she shares a bed with her sisters. Isabelle Arsenault’s beautiful illustrations capture Anna’s colorful imagination and the complexity in her uprooted state. For any child struggling with any sort of upheaval, whether it be immigration, their parents' divorce, or simply moving schools, this is an essential read.
“When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” Chills, right? Kids can have a pretty clear idea of their own gender identity at as young as three years old, but young trans protagonists are few and far between. Fortunately, Alex Gino’s 2015 novel is a window into the complexity LGBTQ youth face in not only their own self-discovery, but other’s recognition and acceptance. George desperately wants the part of Charlotte in her school’s upcoming production of Charlotte’s Web, but her teacher says she can’t have it because she’s a boy. Au contraire! But George is not to be stopped, and her bravery and hope, as well as her pain, is why this book belongs on every kid's shelf.
5. The Dot
We all need this book. Why? Because sometimes, we just can’t: We can’t draw, we can’t write, we can’t get out of bed, and this female protagonist, Vashti, gets it. But her female art teacher gives her the advice we all sometimes need: “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” And that’s something every kid should learn, and then never forget. “Make a mark and see where it takes you,” and then be super effing proud of that mark. Because you’re awesome and everyone should know it.
Top photo by Rayna Fahey
This post was published on September 1, 2016
More from BUST