Before I write about Reel Girl’s pick of the week, I’ll come clean on two issues: I never do this feature once a week, and I have not read The Doll People in full. I have read enough to know the book is charming and stars no less than three adventurous female characters. My six year old daughter is obsessed with the book, and finished it without me. I just bought her the two sequels. I’m inspired to tell you about now, because I just looked at her book report and it looks like a report made for Reel Girl. Here it Alice’s homework verbatim, worksheet questions in bold.
Title: The Doll People
Author: Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
How many pages? 256
Main characters? Anabelle, Tiffany, Auntie Sarah
The Best Part: is when they found Auntie Sarah. She was in the attic but her dress was stuck under a suite case. So Tiffany and Annabelle had to try to get her dress unstuck.
Did you enjoy the story? Yes
Why? Annabelle and Tiffany. They were brave a lot. They were very smart and read a lot of books.
Because I am one to judge a book by its cover, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this one. It’s about dolls and the one shown here has a pink skirt and a pink bow. This book came into our house because my older daughter’s friend, Calvin, gave it to her for her birthday when she was in first grade. I’m glad it found a way in past my prejudice.
What I love most about this book is that Auntie Sarah disappeared because she was so adventurous, she couldn’t stay safe, confined in her dollshouse home. Sarah’s niece, Annabelle, has the same spirit and this story is about how she gets the courage to follow her heart and how her family also comes to accept and admire her rebellious nature.
Based on Alice’s review along with sections I read, Reel Girl rates The Doll People ***HHH***
Someone commented on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: please note what age books are appropriate for. My daughter is almost seven. She loved it. It’s a chapter book. I think 6 – 10 would be ideal. Let me know if your kids have read it.
My daughter’s fourth grade poster and oral report on the first female architect certified in California, Julia Morgan.
“Hello, girls and boys. I am the one and only Julia Morgan. Now, let’s start at the beginning. I was born on January 20, 1872 right here in San Francisco. As a child, I wanted to know how everything worked. I loved mechanical stuff.
I went to high school in 1890. Instead of marrying, I tried to get into the University of California. They made me take the test three times even though I passed every time. Finally, they let me in. The men teased me, pulling all kinds of pranks, because I was the only woman there.
I won my first medal in a fancy palace decorated with characters from Greek mythology. I was so proud of myself.
There was a giant earthquake in San Francisco. I helped rebuild the whole city. I made it even better. I designed the wonderful Mills College
and the Fairmont hotel, but my masterpiece is the amazing Hearst castle.
It has an outdoor pool and an indoor pool, and did I mention I also built the Women’s City Club building? I also helped design the YWCA.
One thing I admit, I was a very big perfectionist. I loved architecture. Now here, I have to say good-bye. Today is a sad day. On February 2, 1957, I died. Still, even in my dreams, I love architecture.”
If you are a feminist and love the King Arthur legend, you will be a fan of “Avalon High.” I am so into this Disney made for TV movie. Yes, I just wrote that. I can’t believe it myself. Oh yeah, your kids will love the movie too.
This weekend, my nine year old daughter had a playdate, and it was her friend recommended the movie. This particular friend recommended “A Wrinkle in Time” during the last playdate, so I trusted her opinion. My daughter loved “Avalon High” so much, she begged me to watch it with her again the next day.
The protagonist is female. Allie Pennington is smart, brave, beautiful, kind, and athletic. She has just moved to a new area because her parents, scholars of Medieval literature and experts on King Arthur, got jobs at the local university. Allie is studying the King Arthur legend in her high school class as well, and it is there that she and her friend Miles first learn about a prophecy on the reincarnation of King Arthur: The Order of the Bear. Soon, they identify their friend and star quarterback, Will Wagner, as the new King Arthur. He is “perfect” so it seems obvious that her is the famous king. The danger in the story is that there is also an incarnation of the evil Mordred who Will must be protected from. After mysteries and adventures, it turns out that it is Allie, herself, who is the reincarnation of King Arthur. I knew that only because my daughter gleefully told me in order to convince me to watch. If I had not been warned, I never would have guessed. Your kids won’t. How many times in your life have you seen a Disney movie and not figured out the fabulous end? That, alone, makes “Avalon High” worth showing your kids.
Here are some more aspects I admired about the show:
Allie Though from my description– smart, beautiful, athletic, kind– may seem too perfect, Allie is a hero. Heroes are idealized. Too often, we don’t get to see idealized females except when the perfection revolves around beauty. Allie is super fast. She is a track star, ambitious, dedicated, and she knows she is good. There are several scenes in the movie where you see her running. I like that she was not cast as “plain” or an outcast/ nerd or as someone that gets a makeover in the end. Allie’s character defies the “smart” “pretty” split seen so often with female protagonists and hardly ever with male ones.
No mean girls There are no mean girls in this movie! YAY. Mean girls can be well done when kids relate by sympathizing with the protag who is victorious in the end; the lesson learned is “be kind.” But we’ve seen that so many times. I’m sick of it. “Avalon High” is original. Allie is disappointed when she meets Will’s girlfriend just after meeting him, but Jen is nice to her and she is nice back, throughout the whole movie. I was so surprised seeing this kind female relationship depicted that after Allie and Jen met on screen, I turned to my daughter, and said, “She’s nice?” My daughter said, “Yeah, she’s complicated.” She’s complicated, in a Disney movie. Hallelujah!
Action scenes We see Allie running, as I mentioned. We also see scenes of her galloping on a horse and battling in brutal sword fights. That said, I can’t find any pics on Google images of Allie fighting, running, or riding, while I can of Will. ARGH.
Cross-gender friendships Allie is good friends with Miles (who turns out to be the reincarnated Merlin.) Though she has a crush on Will, they are also shown as good friends.
Scenes of Allie admired by male characters for her skill There are several of these including when Allie beats Will in a race and when Will stops to watch her run, awed. Here, we see the equation we so often get with male protagonists but rarely with female ones: skill + talent = attractive
The only thing that slightly bugged me about this movie is that there are cheerleaders and Jen is one. But, then again, that casting clearly shows that Allie, our hero, is not one.
This movie made me long for an Middle Grade book that is a feminist version of King Arthur, sort of a Mists of Avalon, but for kids. Does this exist? I know its problematic because of the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere triangle (which is in Avalon High and well done.) This film is based on a book by Meg Cabot.
I have not liked a movie of this genre as much since “Escape to Witch Mountain.” Reel Girl rates Avalon High ***HHH***
My nine year old daughter found Bella’s Mystery Deck in her Christmas stocking.
Today, we broke it out and played all morning. The deck consists of 52 cards, each with a story that describes a mystery to solve. The game revolves around Bella, a 13 year old Mexican-American girl who lives in Tucson with her family and black lab, Noche. If you follow Reel Girl, you know I love games that center on a female protagonist who is smart and brave. Bella is all that.
Besides Bella, the stories are full of colorful characters in Bella’s community. My six year old and three year old, while too young to solve the mysteries, were entertained just by listening to the nine year old read these entertaining narratives out loud. To check your answer, or find it if you’re stumped, the package comes with a mirror to decipher the backwards writing at the bottom of each card. All of my kids loved that.
We had at least an hour of utopia playtime for everyone in the family with this game, no tears, no board upsets.
My daughter, Rose, with her new Christmas friends: Catwoman, Buffy, Serafina Pekkala, Hawkgirl, Lyra Silvertongue, and Coraline.
My favorite is Coraline. She belongs to Rose’s older sister, Alice, who loved the book.
These characters are so much better than the ones photographed above for Reel Girl’s header just after Christmas, three years ago, when I started this blog. I took that photo because, as the mother of three young daughters, I was so freaked out and disgusted by the grinning plastic strewn around our living room.
I’m going to post a photo of the whole new crew soon. There are about 15, and I think, seriously, if this group doesn’t comprise all of the non-sexualized female action figures out there, it’s most of them.
Thank you to A Mighty Girl and Toward the Stars. It is on these new sites that I found all of my daughters’s Christmas presents this year. Let’s just say the figures above are not aggressively marketed or found in my neighborhood Walgreens along side the Barbies, stacks of princess coloring books, or Monster High dolls. Cool, inspiring female figures do exist and can be found in targeted searches. But for the most part, they are not mainstream. Coraline costs $100.
We need more figures to be more accessible to more people. Before we can have more female action figures made or mass marketed– featured in games or embossed on clothing sold at Target– we need more movies, TV programs, and books with strong female protagonists. Since the beginning of time, stories have always been the best marketing tool.
When heroic females go missing from stories, they go missing everywhere.
Are you looking for a Middle Grade book that will magically transport your child and you to a different time and place?
I just finished reading Leyla, The Black Tulip to my daughters ages 6 and 9. Wow. We read this book in just one day. You know how sometimes you are reading to your kids and you’re so bored with the story, you want to scratch your eyes out? (If you think that’s an exaggeration, you’ve never been a victim of the endless Rainbow Magic series.) Leyla had us all hooked, and I’m 43, from page one until the end. When we took a reading break, I found my 9 yr old sequestered behind a chair, secretly reading ahead.
The narrative takes place in the 1700s. It is the story of a twelve year old Turkish girl who, after her father doesn’t return from war, sells herself into marriage so that her family won’t starve. On a ship to Istanbul, from the horrible conditions and whispers of other girls, Leyla realizes that she has, in fact, sold herself into slavery.
By using her wits and her talents, Leyla is able to avoid the worse fate and ends up tending the gardens of the Padishah’s harem at his palace in Istanbul. When Leyla passes the “gates of felicity” into the harem, we enter a different world.
Reading this book, my daughters and I leaned all about Turkey, Istanbul, the clothing, the food, the architecture, religion and traditions. We learned Turkish words and about the history of the Ottoman empire, all in a way that was integrated with the story and completely engrossing for all of us.
Not only all that, but Leylais the story of a brave girl who saves her family and discovers her destiny. It is about the meaning of love, freedom, and art.
Leyla is my first venture into The American Girl series. This one is one of eight books of the Girls of Many Lands. The only reason I knew of this book is because I was lucky enough to meet the writer, Alev Croutier, at a party. When I told her that I was writing a MG book, she told me about Leyla. I since learned that Croutier is the only female novelist from Turkey to be published extensively worldwide. Her books have been translated into 21 languages. She is best known for her international best-seller: Harem, the World Behind the Veil. Here she is with my daughter, Alice.
Like many American Girl books, Leyla comes with a doll. Leyla is fascinating to look at. Her expression is so thoughtful, you can see how smart she is.
The details of the doll are amazing, replicating the description in the narrative exactly, from the pearls woven into her braids, to her earrings and slippers.
It’s hard to believe that the other books in the series are as good as this one, but I will be finding out for sure.
“The comedic duo will be taking over for Ricky Gervais, who manned the hosting duties for three years.”
Not sure if that humor is intended, but this hosting gig is a huge victory for women. Fey and Poehler will become the first female duo ever to host this high profile awards show.
Tina Fey is a pioneer. She was the first female head writer ever of “Saturday Night Live,” a notoriously male dominated show that launched the career of many high profile male comedians from John Belushi to Adam Sandler. Fey’s brilliant book, Bossypants, was a best-seller. One of my favorite sections was her beautiful prayer for her daughter. Like Fey, Amy Poehler is a groundbreaker as well; she’s funny, smart, beautiful, a mom, and the star of her own show. Even cooler, both women are…FRIENDS.
Winning this hosting job helps to repudiate ridiculous but persistent myths about women, mainly: (1) Women aren’t funny (2) “Pretty” women aren’t funny (3) Women aren’t friends (4) Women can’t work together (5) Moms aren’t high-profile, breadwinners, funny, smart, or sexy.
Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter:
First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.
May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.
When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with beer.
Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need not lie with drummers.
Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, for childhood is short – a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that shit. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with your God eyes.
She was an artist, photographer, war correspondent, model, and girlfriend of the famous surrealist Man Ray.
There’s an exhibition right now at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor “Man Ray/ Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism.” It was fascinating for me to see this show the day after I went to the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the SF MOMA. In many ways, Miller seems like a precursor to Sherman. Like Sherman, Miller was obsessed with depicting females and female body parts in a way these subjects, though done so many times before, hadn’t yet been presented.
Miller’s photographs show heads that appear to be severed by using lighting techniques or positioning them over cloaks, and one that I loved of a hand that appears to be floating, fiercely clutching an elaborate hair do. The creepiest and most Shermanesque image– or I suppose Sherman is Milleresque: the photographer stole severed breasts from a hospital (where a patient had a radical mastectomy) and photographed them on dinner plates. It amazes me that Miller had the guts to create this photograph, in 1930 no less. Miller has many more fascinating shots in the show including a female head suffocating under a bell jar (before the more famous Sylvia Path used that image) and a model pinned against the wall by knives thrown by another woman.
The next gallery documents Miller and Man Ray’s break-up. When she left him, he was tormented, writing pages of her name: “Elizabeth.” There are also framed love letters and a series of art works of Miller’s body parts by the obsessive Man Ray: giant lips floating through the air, an eye attached a metronome, severed legs. You can see why Miller experienced herself as so fragmented and disembodied. Her career as a model obviously contributed to this experience.
In one fascinating pairing in the exhibition, there is nude portrait of Miller by Man Ray next to Miller’s nude self-portrait. While Man Ray’s photograph has Miller in a typical seductive pose with typical soft lighting, Miller’s joyful art in a powerful pose is far more unusual and striking. When I looked at Miller’s photograph, the highlighted biceps and subtle smile– it also reminds me of poses made famous so many years later by Madonna.
Another gallery shows Miller’s war correspondent work, she was one of the few females to photograph war time– still not a profession that many women venture into.
This show is a beautiful and fascinating documentation of how a passionate relationship creates great art.
Reel Girl rates “Man Ray/ Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism” ***HH***