Tired of princess stories? Try “Women of the Bible.”

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“I have to say,” said Scott a few months ago, “as much as it would have been fun to have a daughter, I’m glad we dodged that whole princess thing.”

I know what he means.  Even if you have a fondness for the classic Disney movies, there is something about the aggressive pink-and-purple princess marketing machine that is off-putting, to say the least.  (Check out Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter for a fascinating  sociological perspective on the subject).   And yes, I know that there are modern Disney heroines who have real moxie and spunk.    But it’s also fair to say that young girls deserve a more diverse range of female role models than the ones you’ll find dancing through most animated movies.

That’s why Women of the Bible by  Margaret McAllister (illustrated by Alida Massari) is such a gem.  It’s a picture book for older readers (7-11 says the press release, though younger kids could enjoy it with their parents), and it’s a great way to get ten fascinating historical women into your child’s imaginative life.

One thing I love about this book is the range of women represented.  There are the expected figures, like Rachel and Ruth and Mary, but the book also features  Mother Noah and the wife of Pilate and Lydia from Acts of the Apostles.  The book moves chronologically through the women, telling each lady’s story in a short, first-person narrative.  These stories are detailed and imaginative, fleshing out the ones in the Bible.   Mary’s story, for example, is told through a description of five special objects she keeps in a box: a feather dropped by a dove right after the Annunciation, a stone she picked up on the journey to Bethlehem, a fleece offered by the shepherds, among others.   This creativity makes even the most well-known of the stories feel fresh and engaging.  (They are moving in places, too; the chapter told by Miriam, the sister of Moses, made me tear up a bit.)

And the illustrations?  Well, they are truly gorgeous.  They have a vaguely folk art feel about them, which suits the subject matter, but they are also wonderfully detailed and pretty to look at.  Each woman has character and beauty and dignity.  If your daughter is used to princess stories, these pictures  will capture her imagination while providing a good break from pink ballgowns and tiaras.

In fact, while the subject matter makes me think of girls (and I can think of one niece of mine who will be receiving this as a gift!), this is a book that boys can learn a lot from, too.  I intend to share it with my older son as I think it’s always good for boys to read stories about strong women.  Even I, a forty-year-old woman, thoroughly enjoyed this book and loved having a chance to ponder the lives of these women more deeply.   It’s an all-round winner, and a very welcome addition to the family bookshelf.

Women of the Bible by Margaret McAllister, illustrated by Alida Massari.  Many thanks to Paraclete Press for the review copy.

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