Girls rule. Or so I’m frequently told by my nieces, goddaughters and assorted friends and their friends and daughters. And you won’t get any argument from me.
To celebrate that simple statement, Charlesbridge Publishing has issued "Extraordinary Girls" ($16.95), a joint effort by three women: Maya Ajmera, Olateju Omolodun and Sarah Strunk. Ajmera is the founder of the Global Fund for Children, Omolodun is the director of the Xanadu Arts Education Project for the fund, and Strunk is public health activist.
Together they have come up with thumbnail sketches of girls from around the world with photos and descriptions of some outstanding accomplishments. Girls are courageous: Patricia Cruzado has been working to help end abuses of child labor in Peru since she was 10 years old. She’s now 15.
Girls are smart: Jody-Anne Maxwell, 12, from Jamaica won a U.S. national spelling bee in 1998. She outspelled 248 other finalists to win with "chiaroscurist."
Girls are mobilizers: When Aubyn Burnside of the United States was 11, she learned that foster children often move from home to home carrying their belongings in paper bags. She organized scout troops, 4-H clubs and church groups to collect luggage, exceeding her goal of 200 by collecting more than 10,000 suitcases for kids.
This book strives to be inclusive and through its photographs does an excellent job of making the global village seem like a wonderfully fun, exciting, female place to be.
Poet, novelist and Professor Sherley Anne Williams of UC San Diego grew up in the projects in Fresno. An unhappy childhood? Not at all. At least, not as she recounts it in "Girls Together" ($16, Harcourt Brace), a picture book with bold, bright paintings by Synthia Saint James also of Southern California.
"One summer morning we get up real early, before anyone else in our house. We wash and dress real quiet. Mamma hear, she sure to find us something to do." But the five girlfriends are able to slip quietly away, ride bikes, climb trees, look at the pretty houses outside the project – and have a great day, which turns into a special memory.
Since girls rule, it follows that they have to be good at all the things that they were once thought to be bad at, like math. If you know any little girls between the age of 3 and 8, "Monster Math" ($16, Harcourt Brace) will be a number book that they’ll like. The author is Anne Miranda who lives in Madrid, Spain, and the illustrator is Polly Powell who lives right here in Sacramento. I think Powell had to do most of the work in this collaboration, especially since the plot (if that’s the right word for a children’s picture book) involves 50 birthday party-crashing monsters, each one quirkier than the next.
Francisco Alarcon of UC Davis pays homage to girls, too, in his latest children’s book of poetry, "Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems" ($15.95, Children’s Book Press). Angels are predominately female, aren’t they?
His bilingual Spanish/English book is one all girls will love. "Angels Ride Bikes" is a celebration of autumn in the city where dreams come true. In it he honors the simple joys and trials of everyday life as he recalls through his poems what it was like to grow up in the "city of angels." He continues the successful collaboration with Maya Christina Gonzalez, the illustrator who brought to life his two previous collections of children’s poetry, "Laughing Tomatoes" and "From the Bellybutton of the Moon."
Girls also will appreciate Alarcon’s celebration of family.
"My family has lived in Los Angeles since 1919," Alarcon writes in the afterword. "For me and my four brothers and two sisters, this city was a sunny and open space where we were very happy as children. Since my parents saw education as the main route to a better life, they encouraged us to go on to college and become professionals. My brother is an architect and artist. I’m a poet and educator. My sister Betty is a dentist. My oldest brother is a medical doctor. Carlos is a Catholic priest. Sammy is an electrical engineer and Esthela, the youngest, is an advertising executive."
Finally, Berkeley author Marissa Moss has produced "Emma’s Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl" ($15, Harcourt Brace) in the popular hand-written journal format. She tells the story of Emma Miller who is struggling to prove herself in an adult world. The year is 1774 and the British army has blockaded Boston. Emma desperately wants to help the American colony, but what can a 10-year-old girl do?
As it turns out, a lot. And why not? Girls rule.
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