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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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Dear Elliott: Use Your Crock-Pot

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I started jotting down things I wanted to be sure to tell her someday, when the time is right. None of my advice is intended to make her more like me, but rather to save her the unnecessary trouble of figuring some of these things out the hard way. Every Thursday you can expect to read one of the many tid-bits I intend on passing on to my daughter, in a series I’m calling “Dear Elliott.”

3. Use your crock-pot. The easiest meal is one you don’t have to tend. Most stews require chopping up a few kinds of vegetables, cubing some meat, tossing in some kind of liquid and setting the crock-pot to 8 hours. You can leave the house and come home to a delicious home-cooked stew feeling extra smart because it was so easy and you’ve got plenty left over for lunch the next day. If you’re feeling like doing a little extra “work,” warm some rolls or store-bought artisan bread (you won’t really notice a difference) and serve it with your stew. Hearty, tasty and best of all, easy.

(Image courtesy of rosecitywellness.com)

I’m a recipe fiend– Do you have a favorite slow-cooker recipe? I’m a meat lover (as much as it offends my veggie & vegan friends), so I’m especially interested in meaty recipes. But, I’m always looking to try new (tasty) vegan cuisine, so if you’ve got a recommendation, please let me know below. Because, as always, sharing is caring.

Dear Elliott: Be More Melanie than Scarlett

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I started jotting down things I wanted to be sure to tell her someday, when the time is right. None of my advice is intended to make her more like me, but rather to save her the unnecessary trouble of figuring some of these things out the hard way. Every Thursday you can expect to read one of the many tid-bits I intend on passing on to my daughter, in a series I’m calling “Dear Elliott.”

2. Be more Melanie than Scarlett. In the book (and film) Gone With The Wind there are two major female characters, Melanie Wilkes and Scarlett O’Hara, and they couldn’t be more different from each other. I won’t spoil it for you, but keep a keen eye on that Melanie girl, because she’s got a heart of gold and would never betray a friend, even if that friend betrayed her. You’ll meet lots of girls like Scarlett; be sure to treat them as kindly and with the same love that you would treat anyone else. And don’t you worry, I’ll let you know if you’re behaving more like Scarlett than Melanie; we’ve all got moments that we’re not so proud of, and those moments can shape us for the better if we recognize them.

(Left: Melanie Hamilton Wilkes     Right: Scarlett O’Hara)


 

 

Dear Elliott: True Fashion is Appropriate

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I started jotting down things I wanted to be sure to tell her someday, when the time is right. The list is varied with some serious, some irreverent, and some plain-old-useful advice and tips on living. None of my advice is intended to make her more like me, but rather to save her the unnecessary trouble in figuring some of these things out the hard way. Will she make some of the same mistakes I did? Probably. We all like to learn things for ourselves every now and again.

I suppose I feel like there was a lot I could have gotten from my mom that I didn’t, whether it was because I wasn’t paying attention, or because it wasn’t offered, so I’m going to try my best to pass along all of the good things that I know to my little girl. And, in typical mj fashion, I’m keeping a list. Every Thursday you can expect to read one of the many tid-bits I intend on passing on to my daughter, beginning today, in a series I’m calling “Dear Elliott.”

1. True fashion is appropriate. When choosing what to wear, consider these three things first: the weather, the time of day and the occasion. Even a brilliant girl looks silly standing in the rain in flip-flops. And don’t out-dress the hostess. Look up Alix, aka The Cherry Blossom Girl; she’s usually spot-on:

Alix, "The Cherry Blossom Girl"(Photo courtesy of The Cherry Blossom Girl.)

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