Books Celebrate Girlhood

I Look Like a Girl, is written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka for girls 4 to 8 years. The text is lyrical and the illustrations are bold, vibrant and a bit wild, creating a masterpiece of a book. Sadly, the book is out of print, but it can be found in libraries and in the used books at Amazon.com.

Hamanaka’s book delivers the kind of message we want our daughters to hear —  that they don’t  have to wait for a prince.  Like the wild animals the girls dream of, they are free to be anything they want to be.  “I look like a girl…but I’m really a tiger, with a rumble a roar and a leap…a mustang, a wild horse on the mesa…I soar with the condors and know how it feels to be free…I am a jaguar creeping through the jungle of my dreams…if you look past the sugar and spice, you’ll see the eyes of a tiger.”   This book is truly a celebration of life for young girls to dream and  free the wild spirits within, so they can be who they are born to be.   Hamanaka also is the author of another favorite book, All The Colors of the Earth, a celebration of diversity.

Amazing Grace, written by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Caroline Binch, is another favorite book from the past that speaks to the powerful years of girlhood and feeling fearless in pursuing their  dreams.   The text is beautifully written, and the illustrations show boldness, beauty and emotion.

Grace loves stories.  Better yet, her imagination soars when she acts out the main characters of the stories.  She goes to battle as Joan of Arc, weaves a wicked web as Anansi the Spider, sails the seas as a pirate and is Aladdin rubbing his magic lamp.  At school, Grace’s teacher announces that the class will put on the play Peter Pan.   When Grace raises her hand to show she wants to play Peter, the other kids tell her she can’t be Peter because he isn’t a girl or black.  Crushed she goes home to her mother and grandmother,  who remind her she has no limitations.   Her grandmother plans a big surprise for Grace that inspires and opens her eyes to something important.   She returns to school the next week for the auditions enthusiastic that anything is possible if she believes in herself.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttp://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

5 thoughts on “Books Celebrate Girlhood

  1. I would have loved to have read “I looked like a girl” as kid, what a shame it’s out of print. I would like to write something myself along this theme ;)

    I have always loved Grace’s indomitable spirit and her family’s support of her. This is really a timeless story.

    • The reason I liked both the books so much was because I saw so much of myself in it at age 9 — the time when girls are that their strongest. I thought I could do anything I wanted — and believed it. Laugh at some of things I did — I can tap into that memory of believing the log I was hammering into an airplane would fly. I really like Hamanaka’s books. And as you said, Grace’s spirit is timeless. Always loved Amazing Grace.

  2. Thank you for reviewing these two books — both of which I’m familiar with. It’s so important to encourage girls to stretch themselves and believe in themselves.

    I’m interested in your comment that age 9 is the time when girls are at their strongest. I hadn’t encountered that idea before, and it’s intriguing. Can you give me some citations for that? Is it pressure to conform to societal norms, or the way girls are educated, or what, that diminishes that strength?

    • There was a book I read around 2000 -2002, about how ages 9-10 years of age, are the most powerful time in a girl’s life. They are more self-confident and are much like the girls in “I Looked Like a Girl.” They are pre-pubescent, carefree and feel like they can accomplish anything. Once they enter puberty and adolescence, everything changes due to all of the bombarding influences, changes and peer pressure. I used to encourage many friends with young girls to read the book before their daughters reached puberty. I want to say it was Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, or maybe an earlier book. I believe that’s the book, but because I wasn’t 100 percent sure, I just briefly made the comment. It was something that stayed with me over many years. I also remember thinking about myself at that age and it was the best time in my life. There are a number of newer books out on adolescence.

      • Thanks, Pat. I was sure your comment was grounded in research, but I was curious.

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