With a lot of focus in the media on female empowerment it is not surprising that this message is being passed along to children in the form of picture books. The book Dear Girl,, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam, is one of those books that seeks to promote a message of kindness to oneself. What makes the authoring of this book unique is that it was written by a mother-daughter team and as such the book reads as a letter from a mother to a daughter.
The book reads like a letter to a young girl where each set of opposing pages addressesdifferent ways that girls can be powerful and unique. The book stars with “Dear Girl, Keep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!” This focuses on the concept of girls being kind to themselves and allowing themselves to be unique. This is part of a larger message of kindness that Amy Krouse Rosenthal worked to promote throughout her life including several large community projects that involved people getting together to be kind. This book follows that message but makes it personal to one girl.
Even though the main character is a white girl, the book contains diversity in the other characters used. I think that this is appropriate because the main character seems to visually represent Paris Rosenthal representing the personal mother-daughter pair who authored this story. The diversity in other characters allows the author to address the fact that all girls no matter how they look deserve to feel that they are special because of what they look like. This concept is especially important for young people because in a society that constantly tries to change people, it is important to be proud of who you are. I also liked her page about talking to people who are like and not like you because the only thing different between the two pages were the clothes of the people.
In addressing a theme that has been especially apparent recently with movements such as #metoo, the book dedicates a spread to telling the girl that it is ok to say no. As a movement we focus on telling girls that they can do everything, which this book supports, but I liked the fact that it addresses that just as it is important to know that you are smart and strong enough to say yes, it is also important to feel that you have the power to say no. I also liked the fact that in the illustration the “NO” is large and is physically overwhelming the girl because it truly demonstrates that it is powerful to say no. In an environment where people are not always safe, it is important to tell girls that they have the power to dictate what they participate in for themselves.
The book ends with the advice “Most of all, dear girl who I love, know that you can always always always…turn to me.” In a letter that I can imagine getting from my mom or giving to me students, I think that it is important that the book ends with the concept that you are always loved and that you always have someone to turn to. A large step in the empowerment of women has been that people are now talking and sharing their stories. If we want to continue making progress then we need to make sure that all people, especially young children, know that they are not alone.
A few months before this book was published Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away. She had been battling cancer while writing the book which led to her and her daughter co-authoring the book. Paris Rosenthal, Amy’s daughter, went on the Today Show after the passing of her mother to talk about this last book that she co-authored with her mother and to address what this book meant to her. In the video, Paris says that her favorite part of the book is that girls can pick any page of the book and read it when they most need to. This is important because we all need little reminders and it is nice that the reader can pick whatever page feels most relevant at the time to explore.
After reading this book, I can imagine using with the future children in my class so that I can share the message with them that they are unique, powerful, smart, and most of all that they are loved and will always have someone to turn to.