I was struck by the similarities and differences between these two books that came across my desk recently. Both are for early elementary students and have a B is for Betsy vibe, both feature supportive families and realistic problems, and both could be enjoyed by both boys and girls.
When we do "Guys Read Pink" month at my school, I always wonder when exactly boys start wrinkling their noses at books with girls on the covers. Could it be that the books themselves are trying to set up these expectations? While I haven't read the first nine Princess Posey books, nothing in any of them seems to hinge on Posey wearing a sparkly tutu, yet there she is, sporting one.
I have huge objections to the princessification of young girls, having been raised at a time when it was perfectly okay to get a miniature electric iron, ironing board and Bissell sweeper for my 4th birthday. And yes, it then became my job to iron all of my father's handkerchiefs. My brother got trucks. I got a diaper bag for my doll. My daughters had plain jeans, primary colored t shirts, dolls, trucks, swords, art supplies, a kitchen set and a work bench. There were addenda to stories about how Cinderella married the prince but then went back to graduate school to get a degree in accounting.
I enjoyed Princess Posey. I thought it had a good message about not giving up, about embracing something different, and had great characters with realistic reactions. But I worry that her tutu, no matter how small a part it plays in the story, will cause parents to take the book away from boys, thereby setting up the problems I see in middle school.
Title IX was 40 odd years ago. Haven't we learned anything in the intervening time? Sigh.
Brown, Monica and Dominguez, Angela. Lola Levine is NOT Mean
November 3rd 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Lola LOVES soccer, so she is very distraught when she accidentally tackles a classmate too hard at recess and gets banned from playing. SHe also has to deal with Alyssa, who is not very nice, and starts to make fun of Lola and call her mean. Lola is also very artistic (like her ponytailed father) and a writer (like her mother). She has other adventures in the book, like trying to comb her younger brother's wild hair, and helping with an escaped guinea pig. Eventually, she tells her parents about her issue at school, and they help her figure out a way to make the situation better.
Strengths: Lola's mother is of Peruvian descent (like the author's), and there is some Spanish language thrown in, which is nice. The characters all feel very real, as do Lola's problems. I'd love to see a middle grade novel with a character like Lola!
Weaknesses: The pictures in this are a bit weak; they don't have the flair of Tuesday Mourning, LeUyen Pham, or Abigail Halpin
What I really think: Sadly, too young for my readers, but a must purchase for elementary libraries. I love that the third book in the series features a debate between a new student and Lola, who doesn't like pink and thinks ballet is silly, but learns that soccer and ballet have a lot in common!
Stephanie, Greene and Sisson Stephanie Roth.
Princess Posey and the Crazy, Lazy Vacation.
February 9th 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the Publisher
Posey is worried that staying home for vacation will be boring, but she finds that there are plenty of things to do. She tries to learn to ride her new bike without training wheels, but crashes and loses a tooth! Posey has a sleepover, plays with her friends Nick and Tyler, and eventually learns to ride her bike with help from Grandpa Romero.
Strengths: I would have enjoyed this series as a child, as would my daughters, both of whom took FOREVER to learn to ride a bike! Posey is an appealing character with realistic fears, but with the help of her supportive family and friends, she is able to confront them. The pictures are fun and full of personality.
Weaknesses: If Posey didn't have that tutu on, I think that boys would pick up this series as well, and learn a lot from it. And Posey doesn't even wear the tutu in all of the interior pictures. Frustrating.
What I really think: This would be an excellent purchase for an elementary library, but it's clearly too young for middle school.