Exploring Gender Stereotypes and Gender Independence with Primary Children
j wallace (j@juxtaposeconsulting.com)

 

Boys can break gender stereotypes!

 

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Synopsis

Bedford, David. It's a George Thing! U.K.: Egmont, 2008.

 

 

George the zebra spends most of the time with his friends Peachy the gorilla and Moon the lion. Sometimes they do things Peachy likes, and sometimes they do things Moon likes, like weight lifting or stacking heavy rocks. When George discovers that “his thing” is to dance, he’s not sure how his friends will respond. They declare it “A George Thing” and dance along.

Bansch, Helga. Odd Bird Out U.K.: Gecko Press, 2008.

Robert is a crow who loves bright colours and beautiful singing. The other crows tell him that crows only wear black and caw. Robert wears colourful dresses and sings anyway. He’s at first ostracised from the crow community, and then returns triumphant and admired.

Blackwood, Mary. Derek, Derek the Knitting Dinosaur Carolrhoda Books, 1990.

 

Grade-Grade 2

 

out of print

Derek is the only dinosaur who would rather knit than be ferocious. When the climate grows colder and his dinosaur brothers shiver and complain, Derek comes to the rescue with woolly clothes for all. There is room for difference, and Derek's unreptilian skills turn out to be an asset.

Bradley, Kimberly. Ballerino Nate New York: Dial, 2006.

 

Grade-Grade 2

 

Nate decides he wants to dance after attending a recital. Although his parents disagree, his brother’s words telling him that boys can’t be ballerinas, worry Nate. While he loves his ballet class, he wonders why he is the only boy. His troubles disappear when he attends a professional performance and meets one of the male dancers.

Bryan, Jennifer The Different Dragon . USA: Two Lives Publishing, 2006.

 

Grade-Grade 2

A boy with two moms befriends dragon who is also different and convinces him that there are lots of ways to be a dragon besides being fierce.

Cheng, Andrea. When the Bees Fly Home

 

Preschool- grade 4

Jonathan is a poor bee keeper and bad at heavy labour. When a drought comes and money is scarce, it becomes all the more important for everyone in the family to contribute. Jonathan discovers his artistic talents can help support his family.

dePaola, Tomie.  Oliver Button Is a Sissy . San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company: 1999.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Oliver knows he is different, but does the things he enjoys, like dancing. Hate graffiti at his school, but after a public talent competition, the graffiti is altered from “Oliver Button is a Sissy” to “Oliver Button is a star” and Oliver feels proud. DePaola identifies this story as being his own experience of childhood.

Fierstein, Harvey. The Sissy Duckling New York: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2002.

 

Grade-Grade 3

Elmer tries to do typical boy duck activities but just doesn’t fit in. Elmer is rejected and harassed by the other ducks, including his father. Elmer runs away but his ingenuity,  bravery and loyalty earn him the respect and admiration of the rest of the community.

Fox, Mem. Tough Boris Australia: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Tough Boris is a pirate, and like all pirates is fierce, and tough and mean, but when his parrot dies, he cries and cries. This is a book that celebrates the men can be tough, and strong and tender all at the same time.

 

Howe, James. Pinky & Rex U.K.: Simon Spotlight, 1990.

Pinky is a boy who loves pink, and Rex is a girl who loves Tyrannosaurus Rex. They are best friends and loving doing things together.

 

This book could also appear in the “girls can break stereotypes” category.

Newman, Leslea The Boy Who Cried Fabulous New York: Tricycle Press, 2007.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 3

A rhyming tale endorsing exuberance, this book offers a refreshing, optimistic message about appreciating all manner of ever day things.

Rickards, Lynne, Ill. and Margaret Chamberlain.Pink! 2009.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Tired of rejection, Patrick the pink penguin tries unsuccessfully to live with the flamingos before he returns home to acceptance. Includes question whether boys can wear pink.

 

Zolotow, Charlotte. William's Doll . 1972.

 

William wants a doll but is told that makes him a creep and a sissy. His Dad buys him a basketball and a train set, but he still wants the doll. Finally his grandma buys him a doll which he can feed, care for and love.

 

 

Girls can break gender stereotypes!

 

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Bunnell, Jacinta,

Girls Are Not Chicks Coloring Book , Berkley: Soft Skull Press, 2009.

 

Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls: A Coloring Book , Oakland: PM Press, 2004.

 

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book . Oakland: PM Press,   2010.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Three colourings book for feminists where the girls are thinkers, creators, fighters, and healers. Boys and girls work together to bake and build drum-sets, massive beasts enjoy dainty, pretty jewellery and princesses build rocket ships. These colouring books celebrate those who do not fit into disempowering gender categorizations, from sensitive boys to tough girls.

 

Be aware that there is no narrative to these books although the pictures would be good for sparking discussion. Adults will enjoy the author’s wit.

Cole, Babette. Princess Smartypants

 

Grade-Grade 3

Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married; she'd rather live with her pets. Commanded by her parents to marry, the princess sets impossible tasks for her suitors, all of whom fail miserably, until Prince Swashbuckle. He succeeds, and when the princess kisses him he turns into a toad. Princess Smartypants is able to live with her pets after all!

 

Princess Smartypants’ adventures continue in Long Live Princess Smartypants (U.K. title)/Princess Smartypants Rules (U.K.) where she decides to have a baby on her own, and Princess Smartypants Breaks the Rules where she goes away to school.

Funke, Cornelia. Pirate Girl

 

Kindergarten-grade 2

Afloat in a dinghy with a flowered sail and clad in sensible shorts and a T-shirt, Molly is snatched and held for ransom by Captain Firebeard, an infamous buccaneer who causes "the knees of honest seafaring folk [to] shake like jelly." Molly’s not afraid – her mom is Barbarous Bertha, a fierce pirate queen and well familiar with the pirate life. Molly sends messages to her mom who comes to her rescue.

Funke, Cornelia. The Princess Knight . Somerset UK: The Chicken House, 2004.

 

Preschool-Grade 2

King Wilfred teaches Violetta how to be a knight along with her brothers, but when she comes of age, he holds a tournament and announces that the winner can marry her. Violetta secretly enters the contest, and by winning it wins her own independence.

 

Funke, Cornelia. Princess Pigsty . U.K. The Chicken House, 2007.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 2

Sick of her pampered existence, Princess Isabella tosses aside her tiara, declaring, "I want to get dirty!" The outraged king prescribes tours of duty in the kitchens and pigsty, but Isabella merely revels in the good, honest work and good, honest mess. She only agrees to come home when the king says she can be who she is, and dress how she wants, but he misses her and would she please come home.

Homan, Dianne. In Christina's Toolbox Lollipop Power, 1981.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 2

Christina loves to fix and build things – and she can safely use all the tools in here tool box – something she has learned from her mum.

Hoffman, Mary Frances. Amazing Grace Lincoln Paperbacks, 1991.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 2

When her teacher announces that the class will put on Peter Pan, Grace wants the lead role. A classmate tells her that she can’t, because she is a girl and because she is black. Saddened, she tells her family this and with their love, support and encouragement she goes on to audition and win the role.

Jimenez, Karleen Pendleton Are You a Boy Or a Girl? Toronto: Green Dragon Press, 2000.

 

When Kathleen was a girl other children would ask her “are you a boy or a girl?”. In this book she uses pictures from her childhood, and her mother’s words of acceptance to bring home the message that girls can like boy things, and boys can like girl things, and that being who you are is what matters.

 

Johnson , Angela. Just Like Josh Gibson , Simon & Schuster, 2004.

 

preschool – grade 3

A tribute to Negro Leagues Josh Gibson and a book about a girl playing ball well before A League of Their Own!  The narrator tells the story of her Grandmama – how her father brought a baseball bat to the hospital, and as she grew, taught her to play, until she was better than all the boys. There were no girls teams at the time, so she practiced with a local boys’ team and watched games from the sidelines. One day, when her cousin was injured, she steps into a game and earns the cheers of the crowd.

Kroll, Virginia, Carp for Kimiko Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing, 1993.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 4

 

On Children’s Day, boys across Japan are honoured with fish kites – and Kamiko wants want to. She points out to her parents that she shared the Doll’s Festival with her brother, even thought he’s a boy and that if it is Children’s day and no longer Boy’s Day she should also get a carp. Her parents find a way to honour her without breaking the gender rules of the holiday.

Lee, Jeanne M. The Song of Mu Lan " U.S.A.: Front Street, 1995.

Follows the traditional story of Mu Lan, who seeks to become a warrior and defend others.

Mackall, Dandi Daley. A Girl Named Dan U.S.A.: Sleeping Bear Press, 2011.

 

Grades 2-4

 

When the Kansas City A’s announces a contest where the winner will become their new bat boy Dan is determined to enter and win, even if it says it is “for boys only”. Dan does enter, and wins, although when the officials arrive to give her her prize they discover she is a girl and decide she can not be the bat boy. Dan finds her own solution that allows her to win with her friends.

McCully, Emily Arnold. Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun's Kung Fu New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.

A book about how focus, discipline and qi are stronger than muscles. It follows Beautiful Warrior through her childhood, where her father pushes her to study kung fu, the destruction of the Chinese Empire, her moving to the Shoalin Monastery and her passing her teachings on to the next generation.

Martin, Bill Jr White Dynamite & Curly Kidd U.S.A.: Henry Holt, 1989.

 

Kindergarten-Grade 4

 

White Dynamite is a rodeo rider, and we follow him and his kid, Curly Kidd on rodeo day as they prep for the ride and White Dynamite bucks his way into winning. Curly Kidd is not identified as either a boy or a girl through most of the book, but at the end is revealed to be a girl – who dreams of growing up to be a rodeo champion like her dad.

Moss, Marissa. Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2011.

Sarah Edmonds becomes Frank Thompson to serve her country and takes on increasingly dangerous roles during the U.S. civil war. Based on a historical person.

Newman, Leslea. A Fire Engine for Ruthie Clarion Books, 2004.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Ruthie loves to visit Nana, but they don’t always like to play with the same things. Nana loves dolls and dress-up, while Ruthie likes fire engines, motorcycles and trains. Nana’s neighbour Brian gets to play with them, so why not Ruthie?

Puttock, Simon. Earth to Stella!

 

Grade-Grade 2

Stella celebrates her love of space and her imagination as her Dad helps her get ready for bed. A tender book about a dad parenting his daughter, and a daughter who dreams of becoming an astronaut.

Roth, Susan. Hard Hat Area New York: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2004.

 

Grade-Grade 2

Based on a real person this book shares a day-in-the-life-of Kristen, an apprentice ironworker. Tools are identified and explained and the value of teamwork is celebrated.

Vernick, Audrey. She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story U.S.A.: Collins, 2010.

 

 

Kindergarten-Grade 4

 

A true story. Effa Manley challenged racism as a young person, and organized community boycotts of stores that would sell to black people but not hire them. As an adult she became an owner of the Newark Eagles, a Negro League team and succeeded as a woman in business. She fought for recognition of The Negro League, both from the major leagues, and from the Baseball Hall of Fame. She is the only woman in The Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wyeth, Sharon Dennis, Tomboy Trouble . U.S.A.: Random House Books for Young Readers, 1998.

 

kindergarten – grade 3

 

out of print

Because she has very short hair, students at her new school think Georgia is a boy. She challenges the bullies, makes friends and with the support of her mother and the teacher insists that she is her "own kind of girl."

 

 


 

Books where children can project their own understandings of gender

 

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Gilori, Debbi. No Matter What San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999.

 

Preschool – Grade 2

 

This is a book about love between a caregiver and child. Neither the caregiver or child are gendered, allowing children to project their own families onto this tender story.

 

Maclear, Kyo. Spork Toronto: Kids Can Press, Ltd. 2010.

 

Grades 1-4

Spork has a fork and a spoon for parents, and is well, a bit of both. Cutlery customs however a strict and neither the forks nor the spoons accept spork. Spork tries to act more spoonish, and more forkish, but ultimately only finds his place at the table by being himself: a little of one thing, a little of another, and just right. This book does not specifically talk about gender, but lets children think about all the ways they are a little of one thing, and a little of another and just right.

Parr, Todd. It's Okay To Be Different U.S.A.: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2001.

 

Preschool – Grade 2

 

With rainbow colours, simple drawings and reassuring this book affirms that it is okay to be different in lots of different ways, from real life examples to funny ones.

 

 

 

Gender Independent Children’s Books!

 

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Bergman, Bear. Backwards Day Toronto: Flamingo Rampant, 2012.

On the planet Tenalp, one day each year everything is backwards. Rivers run uphill, they have dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner, and men become women and women become men. This is the story of Andy, who one year does not change on Backwards Day, but instead the day after, and then to his delight, stays that way.

Bergman, Bear. The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy Toronto: Flamingo Rampant, 2012.

Ever wondered what happens to wishes? This book offers us an inside view to the fairies who answer wishes and how they help people find the inner strength and resources to answer their own wishes. Tulip becomes the “gender wish fairy” who’s role is to work with families of children who are gender independent/trans. It’s tender and whimsical.

Carr, Jennifer. Be Who You Are USA: AuthorHouse, 2010.

 

grades 3-6

Nick has always know he is a girl inside. His parents support him, but other people are discouraging. Through this book he journeys towards becoming a girl. Written by the real-life Nick’s mum.

 

My favourite of the children’s transition stories.

 

Ewert, Marcus 10,000 Dresses New York: Seven Stories Press, 2008.

 

PreSchool-Grade 2

Bailey’s parents think she is a boy, but dreams of being a girl and wearing beautiful dresses. Her creativity in dress design help her find a friend and acceptance after rejection.

 

Gonzalez, Maya Christina. Gender Now Coloring Book TN U.S.A.: Reflection Press 2010.

 

ages 3 and up.

 

Fun, creative and action oriented, this is a colouring book that celebrates a diversity of bodies, dressed and undressed. Activities include things like an image of a closet of clothes (with space for more) and an instruction to colour what you would like to wear.

 

There are two editions of this book, one that shows naked bodies (to show physical diversity in a non-sexual way) and a schools edition where all the children are dressed.

Kay, Verla. Rough, Tough Charley New York: Tricycle Press, 2007.

 

 

Preschool-Grade 2

The exciting true story of Charley Parkhurst, an orphan living in California in the mid-1800s who became a famous stagecoach driver, joined the Odd Fellow's Club, voted in Presidential elections and was revealed, after death, to have been born female.

Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy New York: Aladdin 2010.

 

 

Grade-Grade 2

A mom talks about her experience of raising a boy who likes being a princess. In a didactic and heavy handed way, she ends by telling readers “my princess boy is really our princess boy” and we all need to help make the world safe for him.

 

This book is very affirming for princess boys, but other children do not seem to find it interesting.

 

Mack, Bruce. Jesse's Dream Skirt U.S.A.: Lollipop Power Inc. 1979

 

Out-of print

Jesse dreams of having a beautiful skirt that will whirl, twirl, flow and grow. His mom helps him make one from pieces of fabric in her closet. When he wears it to school, other children tease him, but the teacher leads the children in a conversation about clothes and gender, encouraging acceptance and self expression. After the talk, all the children get to experiment with long flowing pieces of fabric.

Martinez, Jason, My Mommy is a Boy. USA: Self Published, 2010

A short story of a little girl who is explaining to the reader why her female-to-male transgendered mommy looks like a boy. She explains the gender transition process in simple terms. The message she portrays is no matter what her mommy looks like on the outside or how people portray her family, her mommy loves her unconditionally.

Ogburn, Jacqueline K. A Cowboy Named Ernestine

Dial, 2001.

 

 

Grade-Grade 2

Ernestine O'Reilly, a feisty Irish woman is sent to Texas as a mail-order-bride. When she arrives, she discovers her intended wanted a cook and cleaner and servant, and she escapes to the desert and where she becomes "Ernest T.," a cattle herder. She has great and wild cowboy adventures and eventually cleans up and marries a cowboy partner.

Stiller, Laurie. Princess Max. Milsons Point/AU : Random House Australia, 2002.

 

 

Preschool – Grade 4

 

Out-of print

“Max has discovered how much fun he can have when he wears his mother's dresses and "swaltzes' around the house like a fairytale princess. But his favourite cousin Marty comes over and calls him a weirdo for dressing up like that. Poor Max is heartbroken and runs into his room in tears. His Mum comes in and cheers him up by putting his Dad's underpants on her head like a hat. Max still isn't sure that he ought to keep swaltzing until his clever Mum comes up with an idea.” (from the author’s site”

Tetro, Marc. A Barbecue for Charlotte Canada: McArthur & Company, January 2005.

Charlotte and Tiffany are very different siblings. Charlotte likes rugged things and sports, and Tiffany likes pink, bows and frills. Charlotte wants to grow antlers like the young bucks, and adapts a barbecue to the task. What follows is rejection, acceptance, heroics and welcome. The book also gets points for family diversity as a mother and grandmother are raising the youngsters together.

U'Ren, Andrea Pugdog . New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001.

 

 

Grade-Grade 2

 

 

Out-of-print

Mike believes his Pugdog is a boy until the vet tells him Pugdog is a girl. Mike then treats Pugdog in more feminine ways, until he discovers that he knows far less about sex and gender than he assumed.

Van Der Beek, Deborah. Melinda and the Class Photograph

 

Out-of print

Melinda’s mum wants her to wear a dress for her class photo. Melinda resists the dress, female pronouns and keeping clean.

Wong, Dr. Wallace. When Kathy is Keith Canada: Xlibris Corporation, 2011.

Kathy struggles with being a girl and feels uncomfortable in a feminine roll. She tells her parents, who seek help and counselling and eventual transitions to being Keith. Keith is happy and basks in the unconditional love of his parents.

Wurst, Thomas. Pearl's Christmas Present U.S.A.: Community Press, 2007.

 

Out-of print

Not a book for children, but possibly a therapeutic book for adults. In this bleak book, the family grimly faces Christmas. Pearl wants desperately to be a girl, but her attempts at dressing and make-up get her in trouble with the family. Her present at Christmas is a toy truck, which she gives away, although she keeps the ribbon from it which she considers a gift.

 

Why am I including out-of-print books?

  1. There is not a large cannon of picture books that support and encourage gender independent/gender variant children – the out of print books I have included are truly excellent ones that I or other people highly recommend.
  2. These books may still be in circulation – it’s worth checking your school or community library for them.
  3. Often they are still available for sale – I’ve included a couple of on-line locations that sell out of print books.
  4. So more people can put pressure on the publishers to bring them back!

 

Places to buy out-of-print books

Abe Books: www.abebooks.com

Powell’s Books: www.powells.com

For more resources, please visit www.juxtaposeconsulting.com