Best Books For Young Girls?

Is this a thing for little girls?

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but growing up, I was never a girly-girl. I imagine that this has less to do with my inclination to “girly” things, as it does with the fact that I didn’t really have the means/relationships/security to develop that aspect of myself. I spent a great deal of time by myself, and my volatile family situation made it hard to make friends, or meet people outside of my immediate family. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I brushed this off as an inconsequential fact of my childhood. Would I really ever care that I didn’t get the “typical” girl experience? And wasn’t I better off for not having that whole gender-identity thing shoved down my throat? Yes…and no.

Here I am now, inching towards my twenty-ninth birthday (which is about a decade longer than I expected to live), married, and with a daughter of my very own. And it wasn’t until I was married and had a child that I started to get the feeling that I was missing something.

I remember several instances when we were planning our wedding that my husband (then fiancé) would ask me for my opinion (music, food, etc), and I didn’t have a preference one way or another. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it’s just that I had never put much thought into it, and in the end, we were going to be married regardless of which band played, or whether we had a wedding cake or wedding cupcakes. I’m not trying to say that being ambivalent with regards to one’s wedding preparations makes one “less of a woman,” but I am using that as an example of how little preparation or comprehension I had for what “normal” women are like. Most women (certainly not all), have, you know, some clue as to what they’d like their wedding to be like. What their dream house looks like. What they might name their children. Whether or not they’d even like to have children. Those sorts of things. And I had nothin’. (Which, in many ways, made my wedding totally awesome. Lowest maintenance bride ever, this one.)

But here’s the thing: growing up with so little attention paid to my gender, and yes, my gender identity (as much as people seem to hate the very idea of “gender identity”) and having so many negative examples of femininity ingrained in me from such a young age, made my young adulthood ridiculously difficult to navigate, and has left me totally unprepared for many aspects of my life as a wife, mother and maker of my home. Don’t get me wrong: I make up for it. I read a LOT. A LOT a lot. And I discuss. And I argue both sides of things to myself to discover how I actually feel about *breastfeeding/cloth diapering/vaccinations/preschools/etc. But none of this comes naturally, the way it seems to for women who were raised to be women (whatever that means). Sure, it’s not “easy” for anyone, really (life as a mostly stay-at-home-mom has been the toughest “job” of my life), but some women just seem so…natural, you know? I chalk it up to all those years they spent pushing their dolls around in strollers and playing house. OF COURSE their houses are beautifully decorated, they’ve been planning it since they were five years old! 🙂

I could go on and on about my perceived deficiencies, but that’s not the point here. The point (yes, there is one!) is that I don’t know what books to make my kid read. Can you believe it? Four paragraphs of background, just to solicit book recommendations? Before you yell at me, hear me out: My Friend Flippa? (Flicka?), American Girl? Something about a Prairie? Anne of Green Gables? Something about a black horse? These all sound vaguely like book titles to me, and if I reach for it, I feel like they’re typically associated with little girls. Am I right? I know there’s a whole sea of wholesome, little-girl books out there, but I have no clue–not a clue–where to start. I figure, if you all can give me some recommendations, I can begin reading through the list, and have them ready for Ellie when she’s five or so.

For context (as if you need more context…), the first book I remember reading was an oooold Webster’s Dictionary. It was the biggest book we had in the house, and I feel in love with it. In the back it had charts of the solar system, and the periodic table of elements, and a field-guide to rocks and minerals (not sure who’s going to carry a dictionary with them out in the field, but okay) AND a section with old-timey slang. I went into kindergarten calling boys “fella” and my favorite game was “making a list of words that mean the same thing” (evidently I skipped the entry on the word “Synonym”). And as if you didn’t see this coming: I ended up marrying an AP English teacher whose favorite book is Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” and who sends me hand-made postcards from work quoting e e cummings. *SWOON*

So, if you’d like to help a sister out, please leave your favorite little-girl book recommendations below. I’m partial to stories about courageous women who make huge sacrifices for the betterment of others, and stories about girls who overcome adversity and make an impact those around them. I like stories about hard work, and struggle, and when the characters get excited about things like “going into town” or “playing in the crick,” but I’ll read whatever. 🙂 Thanks for your help! And I’ll let you know what I think as I read through them.

❤ mj

*Yes, as long as possible/Love the idea, will do it with the next one/Regular vaccination schedule/Montessori, I hope

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On Creating: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway

Image Credit: morgueFile Free License

Lately I’ve consumed so much content regarding getting started producing your own content. How meta, right? (Seems like everyone has something to say about it right now.) And basically what everyone says–everyone– is this: Keep. Producing. Content. Keep on making your thing. If you want to read arguably the best and most comprehensive  article on the subject, then do yourself a favor and devote ten minutes to reading this, thoroughly: Make Your Thing: 12 Point Program for Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success

And if that’s too long, or you don’t have ten minutes to spare (seriously though, for makers-of-things, it’s ten minutes that you’re investing in your future, it’s that good) then here’s the sticking point for me: Don’t get so caught up in the details and future-plans (or lack thereof) that you never actually make/produce anything. Quit over-thinking and waiting for the “right time,” and just keep making your thing. It will not be perfect. It might not even be very good, and that’s okay. You need to practice. You need to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You need to exercise your making-muscle. If you can only work under the most ideal of circumstances, you lack the creative discipline to actually be a professional, so stop waiting for the stars to align, and just keep working.

Today I came across this quote, on RowdyKittens: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” (Henri Cartier-Bresson), and I felt that it summed-up the truth of the matter rather succinctly. Whether your thing is photography, or writing, or vlogging, or cooking, or heck, analyzing data and creating neato infographs, everyone has to go through their own personal amateur-hour before they actually get good at their thing. And if your thing is public-facing, that can be scary, right? No one wants to be judged harshly off of their first efforts.

Personal story: I completely hacked the first dance solo I was given in high school. I mean, seriously. It was terrible. I hacked it at every single competition we attended. Wanna know why? I never committed to getting it right in rehearsal, because I was so afraid of my teammates judging me. But that’s the thing! You have to have that vulnerability at first, in order to get all of that hacking out of the way. So what if those teammates judged me? If I’d have committed to taking risks in rehearsals, I likely wouldn’t have performed so terribly at competitions. I’d have worked my amateur-hour out already, and the audience would have received the “real thing.”

So if it’s a given that “your first 10,000 photographs will be your worst,” then what are you waiting for? Better get those out of the way so you can start making the “real thing.” A thing you can be proud of, and a thing that you’re not afraid of being judged on.

Which reminds me of another quote, which I will leave you with: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” Wish I could tell you who said that, or where I heard it, but it’s stuck with me and served me well on so many occasions. Acknowledge that you’re afraid, but don’t let that stop you from actually doing.

Deep stuff from me today, folks. Deep stuff.

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