Category Archives: beating stereotypes

Mr. President Goes to School

Written by Rick Walton. Illustrated by Brad Sneed. Peachtree, 2010.

“Mr. President,” said Madam Secretary. “…It’s the Sticks and Stones issue again, sir. What should we do?”

Well, apparently the answer is don a disguise, get the heck out of the White House and hide out in elementary school, where even the nastiest problems can be solved with a snack and the hokey pokey. My kids cracked up at the stern-faced leaders of Bulrovia and Snortburg sitting criss-cross applesauce in the Oval Office. I loved the subtle reminder that grownups are at their best when we act like kids.

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Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival

By Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery; Illustrated by Jean Cassels

Walker & Company, 2008

The city of New Orleans, on the mighty Mississippi, is a place many people and pets call home. Jamming with jazz and dressing up fancy for Mardi Gras, it  bustled with life day and night. But on April 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city and everyone who lived there, including a wisp of a cat and one puppy.

Much to the concern of my children, I’m a total sucker for (read: I cry a lot while reading) books about dogs and cats in peril. Two Bobbies fits the bill. Continue reading

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Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated

By Florence Parry Heide, Illustrated by Lane Smith

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009

Princess Hyacinth had a problem. Well, you’re saying, everyone has a problem. But this was an unusual problem. Oh, she didn’t look unusual, that wasn’t it. She had two eyes, with a nose between them and a mouth under that — you know, the usual things in the usual arrangement…So what was the problem?

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Mirette on the High Wire

mirette

By Emily Arnold McCully

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992

One hundred years ago in Paris, when theaters and music halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street. Acrobats, jugglers, actors, and mimes from as far away as Moscow and New York reclined on the widow’s feather mattresses and devoured her kidney stews. Madame Gateau worked hard to make her guests comfortable, and so did her daughter, Mirette.

What was initially conceived as a biography of real-life daredevil Blondin is now a lovely tale of bravery and redemption. Continue reading

The Well at the End of the World

well

By Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Rebecca Walsh

Chronicle Books, 2004

The King of Colchester was a kind and just man, but not a very good ruler. Oh, he did fine dubbing knights or deciding what to have for dinner. But it was his daughter, Princess Rosamond, who really ran the kingdom. She advised her father on matters of state, kept the royal accounts, and fixed the drawbridge when it wouldn’t rise or lower. People often said it was a shame she wasn’t beautiful, too. But practical Rosamond would just laugh and say, “I prefer good books to good looks. I may not be pretty, but my father’s treasury is in order, the drawbridge works, and I’ve almost saved up enough for a new set of royal dishes!”

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The Only Boy in Ballet Class

boyinballet

Written by Denise Gruska, Illustrations by Amy Wummer

Gibbs Smith, 2007

As soon as Tucker pushes open the door to Madame Clara’s Dance Studio, it happens. He stands a little taller. When he takes off his shoes and pulls on his very worn-out ballet slippers, he jumps even higher than usual. It feels like flying. He likes to carve the air with the other dancers.

Every once in a while, I crave a really simple rom-com in which the plot is so formulaic that exactly forty-nine minutes in, the lead actress feels sorry for herself and eats a lot of ice cream, straight out of the container. There’s something wonderfully ¬†comforting about knowing exactly how things will turn out ¬†— like they should, damnit — and that’s why I’m fond of The Only Boy in Ballet Class. Tucker Dohr loves to dance, although it embarrasses his Uncle Frank, his little sisters attempt to trip him, and the bullies in his class (who, of course, play football and all need haircuts) call him “Tippy-Toe Boy” or “Twinkle Toes.” It’s all so hurtful that Tucker cries sometimes when he’s alone. But then he’s goaded by his Uncle Frank to play a game of football with his arch enemies and surprise! He wows them with his pirouettes, jetes, and assembles. (Cue the feel-good pop music.)

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