In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Historical Girl Power

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I look forward to sharing the baseball books with Eleanor when she gets a little older. Right now, of course, we have Cubs-related board books, and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as our last lullaby every night ("And it's root, root root for the Cubbies") -- but you understand marrying into a family with a love for a team that seems destined to lose forever. At least your Red Sox fan daughters eventually got lucky....

We've found and checked out a few random baseball-related books in the library. The one she liked best was Girl Wonder, by Deborah Hopkinson.

Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings

It's based on the true story of Alta Weiss, who pitched on a minor league team starting in 1906, then quit baseball to become one of the first women doctors. It's a punchy book, and Eleanor enjoyed reading it. Like a number of historical girl-power books, however, it raises a funny issue for me: it introduces my daughter to historical prejudice and stereotyping even as it tries to debunk the stereotype. When I read dialogue in which men and boys tell Alta, "You can't play baseball! You're a girl!" I cringe. Nobody has ever told Eleanor that she can't play baseball. I kind of hate for her to have to find out.

When I opened Girl Wonder, I realized that Hopkinson was also the author of another good library find: Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains.

Apples to Oregon

This is a joyful, weird, tall tale of a book, also based on a historical narrative. It's told by Delicious, the oldest daughter of a tree farmer who transports a nursery full of trees from Iowa to Oregon in a covered wagon. The full-length title gives you a good sense of the tone. And while it's the father's idea to go this whole long way, Delicious and the other kids are the ones who do a lot of the tree-saving work. Empowering in another way?

Love, Annie

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