Surprising Source of Woman-Friendly Kid's Fiction
If your house is anything like the Ragtime house, there is the eternal struggle between "Reading is a good thing!" and "That thing you have chosen to read is mindless drivel and the literary equivalent of crack cocaine."
For bedtime stories for the Ragkids (3 young girls), I am always on the lookout for mind-nurturning literature. The girls, on the other hand, are on the lookout for yet another iteration of "The Magic Fairy Princess Saves the Unicorn and Is Kissed By the Prince." Blech.
Happy Day, then, to find a Kids Book Series that BOTH fits into the Magic Fairy Princess etc . genre, and yet, doesn't suck.
So, are you ready for it?
Yep. I saw the titles ("The Trouble with Tink", "The Great Berry Battle", etc.) and the Disney Fairy animation, and I thought this would be no different from "Pixie Tricks" (vapid), Fairy Realm (dull), The Unicorn's Secret (unreadable), or The Rainbow Fairies (insipid). And yet, well, let's just get to it . . .
1. Female Centered Naming Conventions. The creatures that live in The Home Tree are called "Fairies" -- They are made up of two kinds, the males (called "Sparrow Men") and the females (called "Fairies"). Note that the Generic term is identical to the Female term.
2. Gender Division. There is no explicit statement of the breakdown of genders, but among the characters who show up in a representative book, they are about 75-80% Fairies, and 20-25% Sparrow Men. There is also a Queen. The world is Female-Centered without being either all-female or male-repressive. The Sparrow Men are there and apparently equals. They're just not really that important to the flow of the story.
3. Cool Jobs. Every Fairy has a special talent. Tinkerbell, star of the first book ("The Trouble With Tink") is a pots-and-pans-talent fairy. She loves to spend all day sitting alone in her workshop with her hammer, repairing pots and pans for the other Fairies. And it hits me. Brilliant! She's a Tinker! What the heck else should she be with a name like Tinkerbell! Once you work from the assumption that people should have jobs and not just flit around sprinkling fairy dust all day, of COURSE she's a tinker!
Other fairies have a wide variety of talents, that span the range of both traditionally male and female jobs. The "Waste Metal Recovery Fairy" was my personal favorite. The Sparrow Men get some good jobs, too, like Crown Construction, but just enough to show that the males aren't being subjugated here.
4. Interesting Tasks. Vidia, who is a loner and generally anti-social, is accused of stealing the Queen's crown when it goes missing. Even though she's generally unliked by the other fairies, she gets to be the protagonists of her own book, and goes though an elaborate series of problem solving tasks along with her assistant (also female) in order uncover the truth of the missing crown. Beck, as an Animal-Talent Fairy, assumes the job of arbitrator between the warring hummingbirds and chipmunks. The tasks never involved "Getting The Boy". The closest it comes is when Tink loses her Tinkering hammer and doesn't want to go get her spare that she left at Peter Pan's house when they were dating. Bringing a friend for moral support, she gets the hammer, and realizes that she will now have the courage to face Peter again without fear, and that she no longer has any romantic interest in him.
5. The Cute Factor. The illustrations are definitely classic Disney, and are thus very cutesy. The characters, though, never focus on appearances, get catty, primp, or whatever. They just go do their jobs.
The Ragkids, of course, don't see any difference between Disney Fairies and any other more-or-less insipid "Disney Princesses" creation. This is one series, though, that I am happy to recommend.