Category Archives: May #smashingstereotypes Challenge

Day 20: #genderequality for all!

We have been loving this hosting gig, and today’s topic is one of our favorites, so we’re ecstatic to show you what we’ve got! Today we are talking about books that are #smashingstereotypes with their depiction of #genderequality! You might think that books on this subject have all been published in the 1990’s and later, but today’s books include one, William’s Doll, that was originally published in 1972, and it stands up to the test of time, delivering a sweet story about family acceptance and recognizing that toys aren’t for specific genders.

Read on for our picks!




Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

For Ages: 5-6 years

This book emphasizes that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes, and in some situations that you might not expect!  Like Beautiful, this book will take a phrase like “a brave kid has super strength” and pair it with an illustration of a young girl of color concentrating on a game of chess; turning the notion of strength on it’s head.  “A brave kid never gives up” shows a young child wheelchair racing while their friends cheer them on from the stands and “a brave kid speaks the truth” shows some children admitting they broke a window playing baseball.  Something truly beautiful about the books that McAnulty writes is they put disabilities as active participants-a boy with cerebral palsy is standing up to a bully, not on his own behalf, but the behalf of another child (seemingly able-bodied) crying in the background of the illustration.  A second theme of both Brave and Beautiful is teamwork.  Many of the pages show groups of children working together towards a common goal, determined and happy expressions on their faces.  The characters treat each other tenderly and encourage each other to achieve their dreams.  This book is a much needed addition to any curriculum that addresses social-emotional development and learning!

The Flying Girl: How Aida de Acosta Learned to Soarthe-flying-girl-9781481445023_hr

Written by: Margarita Engle

Illustrated by: Sara Palacios

For ages: 3-8 years

This simple rhyming book tells the tale of how a teenage girl became the first woman to fly an airship. Aída became fascinated with flight when she saw an airship fly over her town, and began taking lessons after tracking down the pilot Alberto. Aída’s family was scandalized when they learned of her dreams to be a pilot, but she was undeterred. Alberto one day offered her a ride on his airship but Aída demanded that she be the pilot! Amazingly enough, Alberto conceded and she soared over the city like she had seen Alberto do on that fateful day which inspired her lifelong love of flight. When she lands, the townspeople are horrified that a woman was flying the airship and surround her shouting! Alberto however, is ecstatic for her and tells her she’s an inspiration for girls all over the world.In the back of the book is also a more extensive life history of Aída de Acosta. This book is fabulous, and introduces young children to an individual that most of them have never heard of before!

williams dollWilliam’s Doll

Written by: Charlotte Zolotow

Illustrated by: William Pène Du Bois

For Ages: 3-8 years

William wants a doll more than anything! He wants to practice being a father, holding and feeding and cuddling a baby of his own. William’s brother and the boy next door tease him, calling him a “sissy” and his father buys William a basketball. William plays basketball, he still wants a doll though. His father buys him a train set, but he still didn’t stop wanting a doll. One day, William’s grandmother comes to visit. William shows her the basketball and train set, but on a walk with her he reveals that what he truly wants is a doll. She says that is “wonderful” but William is not so sure, because of all the things everyone else says. She takes William to the store and picks out the perfect doll, and William is in love with it! His grandmother explains to William’s father that he wants a doll to practice being a father, and so “he’ll know how to take care of his baby”. Published in the 70’s, William’s Doll is one of the first examples of literature combatting gender stereotyping. A quick read with relatable content for young children, it makes the case that young boys can want and play with dolls without going into any assumptions about sexuality.


Lights! Camera! Alice!

The Thrilling True Adventures

of the First Woman Filmmaker

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by:Simona Ciraolo

For ages:5-9 years

A little girl named Alice loved stories more than anything.  She listened to those around her, and the tales they told her throughout the day.  She read book after book, as many as she could get her hands on.  Terribly, one day, her father’s bookstore got caught in an earthquake, followed by a fire, and then looted by robbers.  Lastly, most terrible of all, her father died.  Alice’s family had no money, so she learned to use a typewriter and set out to find a job to help her family.  When she applied for a job at a camera company, she surprisingly was accepted despite being very young!One day Alice went with her boss to see a new type of camera, one with a crank that could make the pictures move-they could be played over and over again!  This was a HUGE success, and Alice’s job began selling the cameras.  Alice loved the moving picture cameras, but thought they could be used more creatively than just filming everyday happenings like trains.  What if they could film a story?  Alice began to film short movies, and at first they were just used to demonstrate what the new moving picture camera was capable of.  

But eventually, people just wanted to see the films that Alice was creating, they would even offer to pay for them!  Alice began to experiment with playing films backwards, painting the film reel to make it colorful, and experiment with stop-motion animation.  Theatre’s showed her movies, and she was very excited to introduce sound and speaking to these films as well!  She was unstoppable, and moved to America with a young cameraman that she was in love with.In America, she was confused.  People thought someone named Thomas Edison had invented moving pictures, and Americans had never heard of her!  

Americans went to see movies that didn’t even have sounds or color!  Alice got to work, even bringing her baby on movie sets.  She would make very exciting movies with animals, explosives, and rats that rescued leading characters!  Americans began to love her movies.  Until Hollywood took over, and could make fancier movies than Alice.  Even her husband left her for Hollywood, and crowds watching her movies dwindled.  She and her children decided to move back to France, and she wrote a memoir.This is a hefty book, with many pages.  The words aren’t overwhelming, and the pictures are beautiful.  The story is very detailed, and covers Alice’s life incredibly well.  The “Director’s Cut” in the back of the book provides more historical context about Alice, including that she produced over 700 movies herself, even before her studio went on to produce hundreds more.  She is truly the “Mother of Movies”! 

Day 16: Adults Read Too?

Hello All! We’re all the way to the middle of May, and it’s flown by! Although we spend a whole lot of our time reading children’s literature, we have some favorite books for adult readers as well! As educators, we especially enjoy books that expand our knowledge about theoretical background behind our work on anti-bias and gender-neutral parenting and education. These books are standouts, packing a double punch of fascinating information and great writing!


Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

Written by: Cordelia Fine

“Neurosexism promotes damaging, limiting, potentially self-fulfilling stereotypes. Three years ago, I discovered my son’s kindergarten teacher reading a book that claimed that his brain was incapable of forging the connection between emotion and language. And so I decided to write this book.”

“If we think we have left behind the cliché “Men think and women feel”, Fine persuades us to think again. Newer, shinier versions take hold every year: “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems,” writes Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, while the neuroscientist Louann Brizendine describes a “female brain” and a “male brain” forever divided by their genetic destinies. Drawing on more sound but less high-profile research, Fine argues that most gender differences arise within social, cultural and personal environments that influence what hormones we produce and how our genes work.”

-Terri Apter, The Guardian


The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

Written By: Rachel Simmons

“Shame is a virus that creates paralysis in its hosts. When you’re busy telling yourself what a bad person you are, you expend most of your energy obsessing over your self- not what you may have done wrong, not what you can do to fix it. For this reason, shame creates a moat around girls’ potential. It limits their ability or willingness to face challenges. It makes them want to be alone, isolating them from friends, their most important buffer against stress. Shame is therefore a major threat to girls’ resilience.”

“In this volume for parents of middle-school daughters, the author of Odd Girl Out observes that girls today still pressure themselves to conform to the old, narrow paradigm of a nice, people-pleasing, rule-following, even-tempered, socially acceptable good girl, shunning the image of a rebellious, proud, socially outré, in-charge, outspoken bad girl. To dispel the curse of the good girl, and despite using those familiar, easily misconstrued labels as a touchstone, Girls Leadership Institute founder Simmons offers instructive tales out of school and workshops, revealing that flawed communication rituals and fear of confrontation contribute equally to a girl’s belief that it is more important to be liked than to be an individual. In order to become a successful, well-adjusted “real girl,” she needs to know how to say no to peers, ask for what she needs and express what she thinks. In the second half of this book, parents will find concrete strategies and tools—confidence-building exercises that emphasize emotional intelligence, self-evaluations, q&a’s, scripts and lots of first-person stories—to help guide a girl’s growth into a young woman who can respect and listen to her inner voice, say what she feels and thinks, embrace her limits and present an authentic self to the world.”

Publisher’s Weekly


Assata: An Autobiography

Written by: Assata Shakur, Angela Y. Davis (Foreword), Lennox S. Hinds (Foreword)

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

How did Shakur become a woman considered so dangerous by the US government that her name is ranked alongside members of Hezbollah? There is a $2m reward for information on her, unprecedented for an American citizen who maintains her innocence and has become a hip-hop cause célèbre, cited in songs by everyone from Public Enemy (Rebel Without A Pause) to Common (A Song for Assata). Undoubtedly, her relationship to Tupac– she was his step-aunt and godmother – has played a role. But it is only a small part of a story tangled in a series of criminal charges – which were variously dismissed, acquitted, or ruled mistrial – of violence, prison time, escape and political asylum in Cuba.

Life in the US in the 50s was tough if you weren’t white. The civil rights movement was slowly trying to undo centuries of damage and change government policy, but there is no doubt that as a black child born in the 1940s, Shakur’s life was permeated by racism in a way that seems almost unimaginable today. Born JoAnne Deborah Byron in Queens, New York, she moved with her grandparents from New York to Wilmington, North Carolina, to live in the house that her grandfather had grown up in. It was a time of segregation, of “Coloured Only” and “White Only” signs, and Jim Crow laws. As a result of the prejudice shown, Shakur’s grandparents drilled into her the idea of personal dignity. “I want that head held up high, and I don’t want you taking no mess from anybody, you understand? Don’t you let me hear about anybody walking over my grandbaby.”

-Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian


Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes

Written by:  Christia Spears Brown

“That assumption—that labeling and sorting children based on gender doesn’t really matter as long as everyone is treated fairly—would hold true if children only paid attention to the more overt, obvious messages we adults send. If children only listened to our purposeful messages, parenting would be easy. Most (but not all) parents and teachers take great effort in treating their children fairly, regardless of gender. Parents don’t need to say to their daughters, “You probably won’t enjoy math” or say to their sons, “Real boys don’t play with dolls.” Most parents wouldn’t dream of saying these blatant stereotypes to their kids. But research has shown that when we label (and sort and color-code) by gender, children do notice. And it matters—children are learning whether you mean to be teaching them or not.”

Brown, associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Kentucky and a Psychology Today blogger, has researched the impact of gender stereotypes on children and teens. Here, she presents her argument to parents, asserting that the differences between boys and girls are far less pronounced than the media and some other authors contend (most notably, Michael Gurian, whose Gurian Institute trains educators to approach the learning styles of boys and girls quite differently). Wading through and interpreting the gender studies, Brown concludes that the way boys and girls learn, play, verbalize, and think is far more similar than dissimilar, though some differences do exist; for instance, boys are more physically aggressive and their brains develop at a slightly slower pace than girls’. The mother of two girls, Brown urges parents to beware of studies that are flawed and overstated, and to place greater focus on the individual child. As Brown also explores her own feelings as a mother, she is not without humor, sharing for instance, a boy/girl pizza birthday party ambushed by the pizza maker’s unsolicited gender-based comments (“Boys always like pepperoni”). Though her anecdotes and observations can be amusing, Brown’s message is simultaneously a somber and far-reaching commentary on the ways that gender stereotyping needlessly limits and labels children.

Publisher’s Weekly

Day 13, Living the Dream

Corrie is finally done with her spring semester, but she starts a new job tomorrow! She never gets a day off y’all, and she works so hard. Lee starts a new position in the next few weeks as well, so there are many changes afoot in the Tiny Activist house!

Day 13’s theme is books with our favorite #storylines for readers, and we chose a few books that blew our minds with their inventive plots! Characters make their own choices and don’t just follow flat, contrived narratives-they are thoughtful and based on the character of the protagonists involved and don’t exist simply to move the plot along. True storytelling can be found in these fresh characters and situations!



Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

For Ages: 5-6 years

This book takes the stereotypes fed to women and young girls through the media and turns them on their head with illustrations. Suddenly, “smiling sweetly” means enjoying sticky orange slices with friends rather than anything else! This book shows a diverse cast of young girls having fun outdoors, playing sports, and playing instruments for their community.

This book is fantastic. It shows girls catching frogs and planting flowers, covered in mud. It makes a statement about makeup and shows a group of friends dressed as pirates! An important part of any book collection that emphasizes kindness, individuality, and strong girls.




Written by: Susan Lendroth

Illustrated by: Priscilla Burris

For ages: 4-8 years

Natsumi is a young Japanese girl that is constantly being told things like “slow down!”, “not so fast!”, and “not so loud!”.  When the community is gearing up for a special holiday, Natsumi wants to try all of the different activities!  She tries dancing, matcha-making, and flower arranging, but none of them are for her.  Luckily, Natsumi’s grandfather has an idea and meets her everyday after school to prepare.  On the night of the event, Natsumi reveals what she’s been working so hard on to her family and community.

This book addresses both cultural and familial acceptance.  Natsumi defies some stereotypes often associated with Asian women, while also finding a place within her community to celebrate an important cultural event.  Having a mentor like her grandfather is an endearing plot point, and helps to frame the book’s interpersonal relationships so readers feel like they are a part of Natsumi’s family!



Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

Written by: Hiawyn Oram

Illustrated by: Birgitta Sif

For ages: 3-7 years

This book is whimsically illustrated, and subtly drives home the importance of natural resource conservation.  It teaches the importance of standing up for what’s right, and Snowboy reaches these conclusions quietly yet independently.  This style shows that activism does not have to be loud, it just has to be done.  Even a single person can have a drastic impact on the world around them, Snowboy saves the forest and the ocean with his animal companions.  This book is a fantastic example of independent thought and doing what’s right, even if you’re all alone at first.


brazenBrazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

Written and Illustrated by: Penelope Bagieu

For Ages: Teen and up

This graphic novel is a compilation of stories about strong women and historical figures. It is definitely written for teens and above, as some stories include plot lines with domestic violence, death, civil war, and other sensitive topics. The incredible novel includes the stories of Nzinga, Las Mariposas, Lozen, Agnodice, Christine Jorgensen, and Naziq al-Abid, just to name a few!  The illustrations are fantastic and the dialogue sassy.  Brazen is a graphic novel that readers will want to return to again and again, and it also serves as a fabulous jumping off point for more in-depth research about historical feminist figures.  The book fully embodies the rebel path, and it’s perfect to show young people that women don’t have to settle for anything less than what they want.

Day 12: Featuring Fabulous Illustrators!

Day 12, and it’s all about illustrators today!  We had a pretty tough time narrowing it down, because every artist has their own unique style and artistic twist, which makes it so difficult to choose favorites!  Without further ado, here are our favorite book illustrations:


Vashti Harrison

Part author – Illustrator – filmmaker Vashti Harrison is an artist originally from Onley, Virginia. She has a background in cinematography and screenwriting and a love for storytelling. She earned her BA from the University of Virginia with a double major in Media Studies and Studio Art with concentrations in Film and Cinematography. She received her MFA in Film and Video from CalArts where she snuck into Animation classes to learn from Disney and Dreamworks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now, utilizing both skill sets, she is passionate about crafting beautiful stories in both the film and kidlit worlds.  Her Experimental films and videos focus on her Caribbean Heritage and folklore. They have shown around the world at film festivals and venues including the New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival. Find out more.

Vashti’s work can be found in:

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Shaking Things Up

Something we love about this book is the assorted artists that illustrate the pages!  Click on the link above to learn more about both the women featured in the book, as well as all of the artists involved in the illustrations!


Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning NYT Best-Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” Nelson states, “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal and collective stories of people.“

His work can be found in:

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Gordon C. James

Gordon C. James’ chosen artistic genre has its roots in Impressionism.  The art of John Singer Sargent, Nicholai Fechin, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and many others inspired James to pursue a style that is both academic and expressive.  As a result his work contains a lyricism not often found in contemporary art.  Be it through the sensitivity found in his romantic pieces, or commitment to excellence in his commercial work, James always connects with his viewer.  He says of his work, “When people see my art I want them to say, I know that person, I know that feeling.” James currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife Ingrid, their children Astrid and Gabriel, and their dog Rascal.

His work can be found in:

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We’re here to profile #lgbtcharacters who #smashstereotypes!

It’s Day 10 folks, and we’re so excited that the topic of #lgbtcharacters has come up, because as two queer educators, we are super passionate about the representation that younger LGBTQ folks can experience with the wealth of books now available!

To check out our list of Top Books with LGBTQ Characters, read on!

from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea

Written by: Kai Cheng Thom

Illustrated by: Wai-Yant Li and Kai Yun Ching

For ages: 3-8 years

from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea is an incredible portrait of what it feels like to be a child in between. Gorgeously illustrated by Way-yant Li and Kai Yun Ching, it tells the story of Miu Lan. “Born when both the moon and the sun were in the sky”, Miu Lan “couldn’t decide what to be.” Supported and loved by their mother, Miu Lan is a “strange, magical child” with the ability to adopt various animal characteristics. This empowering home environment is contrasted with Miu Lan’s experience at school, where the other students are all “either boys or girls”. Challenging gendered expectations, Miu Lan must discover how to express their truth fully and without fear.

Jack Not Jackie

Written by: Erica Silverman

Illustrated by: Holly Hatam

For ages: 4-8 years

 When the two kids’ mom gives them haircuts, Susan goes first.  She wants her hair long, but Jackie urges their mother to keep cutting more and more hair off until Susan yells that Jackie looks like a boy.  “I am a boy!” says Jackie, and their mother is quiet, finally recognizing that Jackie has been telling them something important for a long time.  Jackie asks Susan to call him Jack, and Susan begins to cry, saying she doesn’t want a brother, she wants a sister.  Susan goes to sit alone in her tent to think things over, and brings art supplies with her.  She draw two pictures-one of Jackie and one of Jack. Susan notices that both pictures have the same eyes and the same smile. 

I Am Jazz

Written by: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas

For Ages: 4-8 years

This book is great for readers of any age, introducing the real-life experiences of of trans youth in a thoughtful, understandable way.  The prevailing notion of living your own personal truth has been a very strong narrative most recently, and Jazz’s story adds her valuable experience. She says that she feels good when she does things like play on the girls soccer team, and ignores kids in her school that make fun of her.  The book closes with Jazz saying she doesn’t mind being different, because she is special and proud to be who she is!


Written by: Alex Gino

For Ages: 8-12 years (chapter book)

George wants to be Charlotte in the school play, but the role is only for a girl.  She secretly looks at beauty magazines and wishes she were friends with the glossy images.  These characters are beautifully developed for a young adult novel, and have very believable reactions and dialogue with each other. This book is beautiful, and the unexpected twists and turns make it hard to put down.  The plot explores a young mind from that believable perspective-unsure yet sure at the same time, nervous but yearning to break free.  Character development and tender exchanges between George and Scott were unexpected and welcomed, as Scott accepts George immediately, and subverts the “older brother is a bigoted jock” narrative that is common in a lot of LGBTQ media!

Our May Endeavor!

Hi friends!

We wanted to let you know what we’re going to be up to for the month of May, because we’re super excited about it!  We have the great honor of working with the Gender Equality Charter and a variety of other groups to work on #smashingstereotypes in May with a variety of children’s books!

We will be hosting a few of the days, and reposting the other host’s posts so get ready for a month of fantastic content and book recommendations!

Down below are some links to the other accounts we’re working with this month, as well as the hashtag schedule for posts this week.  Let us know in the comments what you want to see!

Challenge Week 1

Our Fellow Participants:


Cat Wildman


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Annahita de la Mar


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Hayley Grove & Kirstie Beaven



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Joelle Retener


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Catherine Bailey