“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. Â 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. Â (Check out Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter for a fascinating Â sociological perspective on the subject). Â And yes, I know that there are modern Disney heroines who have real moxie and spunk. Â Â 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 Â Margaret McAllister (illustrated by Alida Massari) is such a gem. Â 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. Â There are the expected figures, like Rachel and Ruth and Mary, but the book also features Â Mother Noah and the wife of Pilate and Lydia from Acts of the Apostles. Â The book moves chronologically through the women, telling each lady’s story in a short, first-person narrative. Â These stories are detailed and imaginative, fleshing out the ones in the Bible. Â 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. Â This creativity makes even the most well-known of the stories feel fresh and engaging. Â (They are moving in places, too; the chapter told by Miriam, the sister of Moses, made me tear up a bit.)
And the illustrations? Â Well, they are truly gorgeous. Â 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. Â Each woman has character and beauty and dignity. Â If your daughter is used to princess stories, these pictures Â 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. Â I intend to share it with my older son as I think it’s always good for boys to read stories about strong women. Â 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. Â It’s an all-round winner, and a very welcome addition to the family bookshelf.