Children’s literature

‘The Princess Knight’ – Slaying Gender Stereotypes

IMG_8023The Spring One of a Kind Show is over now – our last big retail show.  It was such a fantastic week – I felt so alive being in nearly a thousand conversations with customers past, present and potential about what Fancy Pants Kids is up to.  You responded to my excitement and passion with your own enthusiasm and great questions that allowed me to refine my plans and clarify what work remains to be done.  I’m really looking forward to bringing my costume collections to your parties, events and classrooms!

IMG_8026Today’s project is working on a new workshop which will combine imaginative costume play, literacy and analysis of gender stereotypes.  This workshop will revolve around my medieval costume collection and be aimed at kids kindergarten through Grade 3.

My reading and research has turned up a whole pile of new books for the Fancy Pants Kids Reading List.  The books I’ll be bringing to you today and in future weeks will all eminate from a ‘castles and dragons’ world – lots of knights, dragons and royalty.

princess knightToday’s pick is ‘the Princess Knight’ by Cornelia Funke with illustrations by Kerstin Meyer.  This book really enchanted me with its depiction of the young daughter of a king who wishes to do what she loves (ride, joust, choose her own friends) instead of dressing ‘like a princess’, doing needlepoint and sitting quietly.

Initially, my seven year old son rejected this book (based on its cover and title alone…about a girl – not of interest) and had me read every other book in the pile first.  However, once we actually started reading it, he was completely entranced by the illustrations which run in long horizontals across the top and bottom of each pair of pages.  He analyzed the facial expressions and reactions of all the characters, celebrated her victories and laughed at the shocked expressions when the princess’ community came to understand who she was and how she was committed to living and being in the world.

While he cannot really fathom the extent of intolerance for what she was about in her medieval world, I see in him still surprise that a girl could be as powerful (more even) than the men around her.  We continue to work against gender stereotyping and children’s literature must play a powerful role in this, as it is much literature that helped reinforce these stereotypes for many years.

I’d love to hear your recommendations for children’s books that encourage equality and empower both boys and girls to be who they are and all they can be.

King Jack and the Dragon – Imaginative Reads #9

JackDragon‘King Jack and the Dragon’ by Peter Bently & Helen Oxenbury is our very newest discovery.  Thanks to our friends at Halifax’s Woozles Bookstore for bringing it to my attention in a recent blog posting.  I promptly grabbed a copy from my Toronto Public Library branch and it passes the Imagination Test with flying colours!  Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations capture the physicality of young dragon-slayers and the whimsy of their play so beautifully.  I love the perfection of their blanket fort and the ‘giants’ (parents) that come and take away Jack’s playmates.

9780141327594L_006The story is simply written in pleasing rhyme and the forest in which Jack and his friends confront the beasts is reminiscent of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ – one of our perennial favourites.

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Snowy Day Reads #8 – Madlenka’s Dog

madlenkaGiven the impressive snow storm occurring here in Toronto and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard, we’re calling today’s ‘Rainy Day Read’ a snowy one!  I’m delighted to add this little gem to my booklist for Great Imaginations.  ‘Madlenka’s Dog’ by Peter Sis delighted me, my 6 year old son and my 11 year old son!  The artwork is fantastic – I love a book that can stay in mainly black and white and still entrance a child.  Madlenka lives in a New York City apartment complex.  She wants to have a dog, she feels like EVERYONE has a dog but her.  So she leashes up her (imaginary?) dog and takes it for a walk around her block.  Each person she meets on her journey imagines her dog differently – their distinct images are from their childhoods and we get to see them revealed in beautiful full-colour ‘lift-the-flaps’ throughout the book.  Children, memories and imaginings are the only things that show in colour in the book.  My boys particularly loved the little map of the city block in the top corner of each page which showed by means of coloured dots – where the people on each page were standing in relation to Madlenka.  She and her imaginary dog meet up with her friend (who has an imaginary horse) and they go to the complex’s courtyard where a number of fantastic imagined worlds are created (where horses and dogs play fantastic roles…in the flesh!)

madlenkas-dog-illustration-sisHere’s a little Youtube video with a reading of the book, if you’d like to preview the story and see the beautiful illustrations.  Check it out at your local library or bookstore.

As always, we love to hear about your favourite imagination-driven children’s literature!

These Are Your Kids On Books – Burning Through Pages

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This great graphic has been making the rounds on the internet and caught my eye for obvious reasons.  As a huge advocate for stimulating imaginations through literature, art & culture, I wanted to know who was behind this poster campaign – so I did a little digging…

Burning Through Pages is a non-profit organization based out of Denver, CO dedicated to the advocacy of reading and writing for our city’s youth. The working concept of Burning Through Pages is that the literature assigned by public and private schools, while important, contains dated prose and often antiquated ideals. While the classics are classics for a reason, they are not always easily relatable to the current generation reading them. That’s where we come in. We are here to introduce new and updated literature to Denver’s youth. We buy books, give them away, and take the time to talk about them.

Burning Through Pages Inc. has one goal and one goal only:

To inspire a love of reading in today’s youth by recommending, donating, and discussing books.

There are no quizzes, just conversations. If you don’t like the book, you can give it back. If you do like the book, there’ll be another one waiting for you, free of charge. The important thing is that an adoration of reading grows. It’s not what you read that’s important to us, it’s that you enjoy whatever it is that keeps you burning through the pages.

Rainy Day Reads #7 – Skippyjon Jones

Centred On Kids Skippyjon Jonesl  January is Family Literacy month and libraries across the country have been celebrating the joy of reading with library users of all ages.  Fancy Pants Kids has been bringing our costume and story workshops to branches of the Toronto Public Library throughout the month.  We have been reading from some of our favourite books about imagination and imaginative kids.  Today we share another from our reading list – Judy Schnachner’s Skippyjon Jones books.

skippySkippyjon Jones is a fantastic character that kids and parents can both adore – a siamese kitten who thinks that he is a chihuahua! Skippyjon has a rich imagination and can be counted on to get into some epic-sized pickles while pursuing his fantastic adventures (which often happen in his closet).  His sidekicks are a posse of rainbow-hued chihuahuas and he often wears a supercape and bandit mask.  The cadence of the text is incredibly fun to read and you will find yourself falling into an accent – whether you are good at them or not!  Every adult reader will find their own way to read the little verses that comeIMG_1595_2 up in every book along with a great ‘clap-clap’ that the kids can help with.

Skippyjon Jones came onto my radar several years ago when my sister-in-law informed me that the Supercape I had made for my nephew had become part of his Skippyjon Jones halloween costume.  I had to check it out and I was hooked!

Check the author’s website for links to a Skippyjon Jones iPad app.

Check the Toronto Public Library website for Family Literacy Day events.