On Puzzled by Pink

Not too long ago, on our weekly visit to the local library, I stepped away from the picture book section to help my son choose some middle grade books. When I returned, my little girls had assembled a stack of titles. These are the books they had chosen:

  • GOLDILICIOUS by Victoria Kann
  • SHOE-LA-LA! by Karen Beaumont & Leuyen Pham
  • PRINCESS BESS GETS DRESSED by Margery Cuyler & Heather Maione
  • PRINCESS BABY by Karen Katz
  • BELINDA BEGINS BALLET by Amy Young
  • ANGELINA AND THE ROYAL WEDDING by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig

Anyone want to guess the common thread? That’s right…every single cover was shiny, glittery, sparkly, princessy, in-your-facessy PINK. Pink and shimmery is clearly a popular way to go with book covers! And it makes sense…most of the little girls I know have had some sort of princess/fairy/ballerina birthday party sometime in their short lifespan. But what happens when a little girl *gasp* doesn’t like pink? Since the dawn of Fancy Nancy, I have wondered if the pendulum would ever swing the other way. I wondered if there would be a response to the princess craze in the form of picture book heroines who represent a sort of “anti-princess.” Izzy, the main character in today’s Perfect Picture Book Pick, is one such heroine.

PUZZLED BY PINK

  • Written and Illustrated By: Sarah Frances Hardy
  • Published By: Viking Juvenile (April 12, 2012)
  • Suitable For: Ages 3 and up
  • Topics/Themes: Individuality, Siblings, Birthdays
  • Opening: “Today is my sister Rose’s birthday party. She’s really, really into fairies and princesses and everything pink.”
  • Synopsis: (from jacketflap) Izzy’s sister Rose loves pink. In fact, she’s planned an all-pink birthday party, where the guests will wear fairy wings and tutus. Not Izzy! She’s puzzled by pink, and she’s planned her own party in the attic. Her guests will be ghosts and spiders and monster dolls. But when Rose crashes the party and decides to prove that her magic want really works, a surprise guest joins the fun!
  • Resources: When we read this book for the first time, my 10-year-old son had been listening to the story as well, and his first comment was, “SEE…not every girl likes pink!” He thought Izzy was pretty cool, with her love of monsters and ghosts and all things creepy and crawly. Immediately, we launched into a very basic discussion of gender stereotypes. We asked questions like, “Why is pink a color for girls?” “Is it okay for boys to like pink, too?” and “Would you feel comfortable telling your friends that you did/didn’t like pink?” To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a productive conversation to come out of reading this book, so it was a wonderful surprise. I think this story could launch many a discussion about choosing to be yourself in the midst of societal pressures. And on the lighter side, I also found a website that gives you instructions on how to throw your very own Izzy-esque Tea Party. How cool is that?
  • Why I Like this Book: In this story, we see two very different little girls, each celebrating who they are. Izzy has a bit of a harder time than Rose, since Rose’s choices are more the social norm. The very first page illustrates this beautifully, showing the sisters’ room…one side drenched in pink, and the other in stark contrast. The sibling interactions are very realistic, each thinking that their way is better, and each trying to make the other see the error of their ways. But in the end, we get the two coming together to deal with the issue of their “surprise guest,” and we see that the sisters, though very different, are there for each other. Sarah Frances Hardy has created a charming book that celebrates sisters, and gives us an opportunity to talk about expressing our individuality, even when it goes against the grain. And that, my friends, makes for a pretty perfect picture book!

Please do remember to check out the other selections for Perfect Picture Book Friday, over on the blog of the ever-lovely Susanna Leonard Hill!

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  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    As the mother of two girls who never did the pink thing, I am very fond of this book :)  I love seeing the pendulum swing toward the girls that aren’t Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious!  Thanks for adding this one to our list, Amy! :)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I just like kids to see that there are other options. Nothing wrong with Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious. It’s just that these days, with the Disney princess craze, I’m not sure little girls always know that there is so much more outside of that!

      • http://storypatch.wordpress.com/ Carrie F

        It’s funny…if you read the original Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious, the message of those books is that you DON’T have to make everything fancy and pink. That gets lost quickly in the marketing blitz, though, and I don’t think readers always get that message.

  • Tina Cho

    I can’t wait to read this book. That’s neat this book brought about a wonderful conversation!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       It was an unexpected surprise! Thanks for commenting, Tina!

  • Lori Mozdzierz

    Can appreciate the sisters personalities. My sons are like night and day.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       They are all so different, aren’t they? Thanks for stopping by, Lori!

  • http://storypatch.wordpress.com/ Carrie F

    I really need to take a look at this book as my girl heads into a “pink” phase. I’ve tried to tone down on the pink and princessy stuff, but it’s almost impossible to avoid. A little off topic, but have you seen the “Bic for Her” reviews on Amazon.com? They are absolutely hilarious and speak so well to the ridiculousness of the idea that women and girls are consistently marketed to in this way.

    http://www.amazon.com/BIC-Cristal-1-0mm-Black-MSLP16-Blk/dp/B004F9QBE6

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Lol, I have seen those comments, Carrie. Hysterical. To continue off topic, have you read the book, CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER? It is such a good look at the ways our culture dictates to little girls what they should and shouldn’t be. While I didn’t agree with everything the author said, I do think that it will cause you to ask questions of yourself as a parent that are really important as we think about raising girls.

      • http://storypatch.wordpress.com/ Carrie F

        I’ll have to look for that one. Since my older child is a boy, I’ve read a lot of “parenting your boy” books, not so many for her. Thanks for the rec.

  • Tiltonph

    I’ve seen this book and enjoyed the great messages about respecting individuality.  I like pink, but I’m tired of all of the pink and purple books.  But, little girls love color and sparkle and glitter and go through that phase.  Glad there are books that balance the pink.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       It is funny, but some of those pink and glittery books really do hold some great, empowering messages for girls! Sometimes I steer my girls away from the pink and pretty books because I want them to experience something different. But boy, are they drawn to that sparkle and publishers sure do know it!

  • http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com/ julierowanzoch

    Great pick! And I love the personal ‘pile up’ anecdote!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Thanks, Julie!

  • Sarah Frances Hardy

    Amy!! What a fun surprise to see your review today!!! 

    I love that your son got involved in the conversation. I’ve had a few boys at my booksignings and readings, and they always connect with the book (something I’d hoped would happen!).

    I’m thrilled that my book sparked some meaningful conversations with your children about gender roles and our over-pinked girl culture. Thanks for making my day!!!!

    Sarah Frances

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       So glad you stopped by, Sarah Frances! My son is the only boy with 3 sisters, so he puts up with an awful lot of pink and princessy in our house. It was a great conversation and I hope it will continue to be a reference point as we keep talking about it as a family. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.flowering-minds.com/ Darshana

    Nice review. I too was happy to see a non-pink princessy heroine. So waiting for my girls to expand their horizons.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       It is hard because no matter how much you try at home, the world outside our front doors is still there and waiting to bombard our girls with pink and frilly cultural messages. I recommended it to Carrie F. as well, but you might be interested in CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER by Peggy Orenstein. Super thought-provoking as we try to raise girls in American culture.

  • JoSVolpe

    I love this!  Your kids sound like smarties to begin with-how cool that the book led to a thoughtful discussion on gender stereotypes!!  VERY COOL.

  • http://lauraplusthevoices.blogspot.com/ Laura

    An interestingly timed post. I know this book has nothing to do with this, but a lot of people complain about the over-“pinking” that goes with breast cancer awareness, particularly during October. Even that cause associates pink with girls…

  • Sandi Purdell-Lewis

    Hooraayyyy for all the Izzies of the world.  I don’t mind the pink and frilly, but the princess attitude that often accompanies the tiara can wear rather thin by Friday for this kindergarten teacher.  Glad that there are books out there to join The Paperbag Princess in the to show that girls can be strong and resourceful and don’t have to wear clothes that are no good for climbing trees.

    sandi

  • http://www.jenniferrumberger.com/ Jennifer Rumberger

    Loved your review of this book.  It has been on my to-read list, but haven’t gotten to it yet.  Thanks for sharing!

  • patientdreamer

    Aww… I love pink!  But I had to smile at Sandi’s comment about the princess attitude wearing a bit thin by friday.  This sounds like a really great book.  I would get it just for Lizzy’s attitude…lol.

  • Patricia Cruzan

    Pink is one of my favorite colors, too. The other day, my sister and I had green on to eat together. We are quite different on some things. It sounds like the sisters represented in your book are very different. I wish you well on the launch of it.