Sep 2, 2016

Everything (and EVERYONE) Is BEAUTIFUL, In Its Own Way!

One of the most important aspects of the current climate surrounding children's literature is the wide recognition that books for every age need to be considerably more representative of the population at large than they have been until now. The general public is becoming more aware of active efforts within all levels of the  publishing world to generate a universe of books for ALL kids and to support ALL those who create them. The best possible site to learn more about these efforts is the organization WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKSI hope you'll click through and explore it. 

As you would expect when dealing with a massive and traditional industry, change does not come overnight. What's exciting, though, is that CHANGE really IS coming. One example is a picture book release that might well have made it into print before this movement  but now should be met with genuine fanfare, for good reasons.
Running Press Kids, 2016
BEAUTIFUL is written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Its very simple text frames long-standing expectations for girls from a fresh perspective. You know the kind I mean:
"Beautiful girls have the perfect look."

McAnulty  relies on the illustrations to display the ironic and humorous intent of her statements and illustrator Lew-Vriethoff  does not disappoint.

Interior spread, used with permission
For example:
"Beautiful girls smell like flowers."

Interior spread, used with premission

Beautiful girls know all about make-up.

These lines and all of McAnulty's text parrot the all too familiar expectations of society, absorbed at all too young an age. In this book they take on a more inspiring interpretation with the full-speed-ahead, no holds-barred participation in life demonstrated by these beautifully diverse little girls.

I'm curious about the pitch-line McAnulty must have used to convey the clever irony of her text. This is one of the best examples of the magical symbiosis of image and text in the picture book format. Lew-Vriethoff's vibrant, dynamic young girls would leap off the pages except that these characters are so fully engaged with their own fantastic activities and with each other that they can't be bothered to worry about  those holding the book in their hands. Their energy, independence, and acceptance of themselves and others are an inspiration to anyone, any gender, and any age. 

Whether this picture book came about due to rising consciousness about diversity within the publishing community or if it had been a work-in-progress for decades that finally found its publisher match, it is long overdue and should be a welcome addition to collections in classrooms, libraries, and homes. That includes putting this one into the hands of older readers, including adults who've lost touch with the limitless nature and potential of children who happen to be girls. 

Just ask yourself how often a girl-child's image is posted on social media then generates comments focused on many of these entrenched labels: She's so... beautiful, sweet, lovely. Could we all take a moment's reflection before reverting to those responses and encourage less superficial and stereotypical labels? She's so... curious, energetic, athletic, clever, friendly?

See what others think about this concept book when you check out other stops on the blog tour welcoming these beautiful girls into the world of books:

BEAUTIFUL blog tour
9/3 MomReadIt
9/8 MamaBelly

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.