The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans (1991), written by Johnny Valentine and illustrated by Lynette Schmidt, is an early Alyson Wonderland publication full of whimsy and charm.
The first story, “The Frog Prince,” is about a boy, Nicholas, who discovers a talking frog. The frog informs Nicholas he is really a prince and needs to be kissed to be transformed back into his true form. Nicholas begrudgingly plants a kiss on the frog and it does, in fact, transform into a prince. The prince explains that his parents could be cruel and as punishment for a minor offense had permitted a wizard to experiment on him. Continue reading
Nice Little Girls (1974), a Delacorte Press publication written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, explores the challenges of being a tomboy, particularly when boyish behaviors are paired with short hair, overalls, and sneakers that highlight how difficult reading gender can be.
When Jackie begins her first day at a new school her teacher, Mrs. James, introduces her as a boy, only to be loudly corrected by the boisterous girl. Of course, the class erupts in laughter at the expensive of both Jackie and her teacher. On the playground her new classmates continue to make fun of her gender expression telling her she’s really a boy, not a girl. Jackie is so upset she holds back tears while mulling over what it would mean to agree with them and just be a boy. This idea cheers Jackie up and she begins to march around the playground shouting “I’m a boy.” Although her peers first think she’s weird, they quickly follow her lead. Levy writes: “Jackie felt good for the first time that day.” Continue reading
Lynn Phillips’ 1972 Lollipop Power, Inc. publication Exactly Like Me is a slim paperback children’s book with an impactful message about disrupting gender roles. On the back cover of the book Lollipop Power describes itself as “a women’s literature collective that works for the liberation of young children from sex stereotyped behavior and role models.”
This book is about a rambunctious little girl confident enough to challenge social norms about what little girls can and should want, do, and be. She rejects the idea of being a nurse or a teacher. instead imagining herself growing up to be an astronaut or politician. This is a fun book with simple illustrations and text. Its poor production quality reflects that of other Lollipop Power, Inc. titles, but its message makes it an amazing snapshot of feminist history! Continue reading