Dress Like A Girl (Patricia Toht)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dress Like A Girl, written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, a lovely lesson in self-expression and possibility.

As a group of friends gather for a sleepover, the text notes that when it comes to dressing like a girl, there are lots of rules: wearing white in the summer, keeping patterns subtle, and how to wear elegant black gowns. However, as the girls begin to pull out their costumes and play, the narrator encourages us to interpret these rules in new ways. After all, astronauts look great in white; jungle explorers can camouflage themselves with their subtle patterns, and you know who loves a flowing black robe? Orchestra conductors and judges, of course! And when it comes down to it, if the rules aren’t for you, well, sometimes rules are made to be broken. After all, there are plenty of ways to dress like a girl.

Marvelous. Any girl will tell you that when it comes to women’s fashion, the “rules” can be tough to navigate, so it’s nice that the ultimate message of the book it that girls should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable, creative, and like themselves. What makes this so special is the lead-up, and the clever juxtaposition between standard fashion rules and the limitless range of professions that girls can pursue. It reminds little ones that it’s okay for girls to have aspirations other than ballerinas or princesses (though those are fine too!). The art is splendid, featuring a diverse cast whose expressions and movements capture the joys of childhood and female friendship. The length is perfect, and JJ and I loved it. A great way to show readers that, be it in fashion or their future, girls should never be put in a box. Baby Bookworm approved!

Dear Girl, (Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Paris Rosenthal)

Hello friends, and Happy International Women’s Day! We wanted to pick the perfect book to celebrate, so our review today is of Dear Girl, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, and illustrated by Holly Hatam, a simple yet empowering series of notes to girls of every age.

“Dear Girl,” each page begins, before imparting bite-sized wisdoms to its reader: “Keep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!”, “Look at yourself in the mirror. Say ‘thank you’ to something that makes you YOU”, and “Find people like you. Find people UNLIKE you.” Readers are encouraged to form supportive friendships, to ask questions, and to trust their instincts. And if they ever need encouragement, they can turn to any page in the book, and remember that they are appreciated, celebrated and loved for the dear girl that they are.

Beautiful. The late, great Rosenthal’s books are always tinged with a bit of sadness – each a reminder of what a lovely and profound writer she was. Yet reading this earnest, guileless, and heartfelt message to the special girls in our lives with JJ was more than enough to leave me misty-eyed by the end. So many positive messages are woven in: confidence, loyalty, kindness, wonder, individuality, inclusion, hope and more. It encourages girls to think and speak for themselves, and a particularly powerful page reminds them that they always, in any situation, have the right to say “NO”. The art keeps it simple and does exactly what it needs to do, using ink lines with mixed-media and paint embellishments to keep the art minimalist yet impactful. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both adored it. A lovely read to remind each girl of their power and potential, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Beautiful (Stacy McAnulty)

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Beautiful, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, a fabulous celebration of everything, inside and out, that makes girls beautiful.

What makes a girl beautiful? Is it a girl’s style, her hair, her smile? Yes! Every type of hair, every smile, and every style, as long as it’s hers. It’s also in her mind and her heart; her sense of adventure and determination; her kindness and friendship; her laughter, her intelligence, her courage. For every girl is unique and talented, every girl is a riot of color and personality, and every girl is beautiful.

Is there a better, more necessary message for little girls these days? And this book imparted it beautifully: girls of every shape, size, color and ability are represented as being both physically and mentally beautiful. Girls are shown reading, playing sports, studying science, getting dirty, supporting their friends, and enjoying being ALL the things that little girls are made of. The art is exuberant, colorful and filled with energy and joy. The text is easy to read, and satirizes traditional stereotypes to make its point (“beautiful girls smell like flowers,” it reads, showing three happily mud-crusted girls gardening together). The length is just perfect, and JJ loved it, and I’m honestly excited we get to keep our copy. A fantastic celebration of girlhood in every sense, and we absolutely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Uni The Unicorn (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Uni The Unicorn, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Brigette Barrager, the story of a unicorn, a girl, and belief.

Uni the unicorn is like all the other unicorns: flowing mane, twinkling purple eyes, magical powers. But there is one thing that makes Uni different: she believes in little girls. All the other unicorns mock her, but Uni just knows that there is a special little girl out there. A little girl who, like her, looks to the night sky and dreams of a special friend.

Oh, boy. This is a pretty popular book, so I’m going to get some people who disagree, but we didn’t love it. There is some gorgeously colorful art, flipping the trope and having a unicorn believe in people was cool, and the length is good, but for positives, that was it for us.

In the meantime, the book lacks a satisfying conclusion. It bills itself as “A Story About Believing,” so I can understand why the author chose to never have Uni and her friend meet, but it’s a choice that ends the story rather abruptly. Furthermore, the book is extremely gendered. Uni believes in little girls, and only little girls. Apparently, little boys and unicorns are not meant to have special friendships. And, uncomfortably, Uni only seems to believe in little white girls. Her dream friend is blonde and blue-eyed, and all the drawings of little girls that Uni makes or looks at in books are light-skinned. In fact, the only time children of color make an appearance is as villains, taunting the little girl for believing in unicorns. So as far as gender and race representation, this one misses the mark, to say the least.

We had heard good things about this book and were looking forward to it, but it honestly just left me underwhelmed and slightly troubled. Even JJ didn’t seem very interested beyond our initial read-through. If you have a daughter who loves unicorns (and, again, only a daughter), this could be a fun read, but otherwise, not one we would recommend.

Chamelia (Ethan Long)

Summer Reading Day 61: Our book today was Chamelia by Ethan Long, a story about a little chameleon girl who loves to stand out. As messages go, this book had sort of a complicated one: Chamelia is an original, and loves to be different from everyone else, but she lacks the understanding that her constant rebelling can affect others negatively. 

Honestly, I’m not sure how I felt about the conclusion that Chamelia needed to try to blend in with everyone else (she’s a chameleon, get it?) by giving up some of her individuality. It seemed very odd to me to tell a little girl to stop being too loud, or too colorful, or too independent. It felt, well, like a book written for little girls by a man who has never been one. I can’t say I would recommend this one. Girls should not be discouraged from being who they are, regardless of how loud, unique or different they may be.