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PBs with female animal main characters?

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Hello,

I am looking to put together a list of picture books with animal, dinosaur or other non-human main characters who are female, to check out from the library and read with my daughters. Can be any theme or age range because I'm gathering a long-term list.

We have a lot of strong human girl main character PBs on our shelf, but my daughters love animal main characters and it's tough to find them where the animal is referred to as "she." :(

Thanks in advance for your recommendation! Oh, and I can start with these for anyone else who is interested:

THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE by Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler (the snail is a she)
GRUFFALO'S CHILD by Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler
GOSSIE series by Olivier Dunrea

(Edited to add: And yes, we do often simply change "he" to "she" when reading aloud, but...I'd love to find a healthy supply of female animal stories.)
#1 - May 16, 2016, 12:00 PM
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 12:15 PM by Christine B. »

I just found BERNICE GETS CARRIeD AWAY and it's beautiful. A kitten main character.
#2 - May 16, 2016, 01:57 PM

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Excellent question, Christine! I'd love a longer list of picture books with animal MCs who are girls too. Here's my list:

NONI THE PONY GOES TO THE BEACH by Alison Lester
Deborah Marcero Presents: URSA'S LIGHT
THE COW WHO CLIMBED A TREE by Gemma Merino
LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING by Emma Chichester Clark
WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman / illustrated by Zachariah OHora (2 MCs: Dot the bunny is a girl and Wolfie is a boy.)
YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND by Peter Brown
THE GREAT GRACIE CHASE: STOP THAT DOG! by Cynthia Rylant / illustrated by Mark Teague

My book, EWE AND AYE by Candace Ryan / illustrated by Stephanie Ruble, also fits, sort of. There are 2 MCs, Ewe and Aye. There are no gendered pronouns in the book, but a ewe is a female sheep, so Ewe is a girl. Aye could be a girl or a boy.

There was an article on this recently, about how there are so few female characters in picture books, especially non-human characters. It's made me search them out more and be more aware when they are lacking, especially when there's a big cast with no girls or only one girl.

Interesting things I've noticed on my list:
- Only one of them is an older book - The Great Gracie Chase was published in 2001. The next oldest is You Will Be My Friend, which was published in 2011. The rest were published in the last couple of years.

- Only one of the books was written by a man. The other two men on the list are illustrators of a book written by a woman.

- 5 of the 7 books are by an author/illustrator

I'm hoping the recent publications are an indication that there's change coming. A few years ago I had a PB ms with a female animal character that had publisher interest. Was told I might have to change her to a boy to get it published, because the character was very athletic and adventurous. Didn't get offered a contract, but changing who the character was would have been a deal breaker for me. Would like to think that wouldn't happen today, or if it did, I could convince them to keep the character a girl, because girls are athletic and adventurous and like to read about girls who are like them.
#3 - May 16, 2016, 01:58 PM
Site - http://sruble.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/StephanieRuble

picture book: EWE AND AYE (now available as an ebook!)

Thank you both for the recommendations!

Stephanie, I hope it does spark conversation. And you raise an excellent point: it's not just the lack of girl main characters; it's books with a large cast of animals, not one of whom is female. Male seems to be our default setting and I think this contributes to stereotypes that children of all genders carry with them. These stereotypes can be damaging and limiting, like your point about the lack of books about girls who are adventurous and athletic.

I thought of a few others -- some are classics in fact:

OLIVIA
the ANGELINA books
MAX AND RUBY (Ruby is really the mc)
MISS SPIDER'S TEA PARTY

I think KITTEN'S FIRST FULL MOON is also a girl kitten. Some of the Beatrix Potter books feature girl mc's but while I have always been intrigued by these, they are too complex for my daughters for now. (They're 2.5 years old.)

However as I browse my daughters' book shelf, stocked with hundreds of titles, I notice that most animal books feature a male mc. And that like you said, books with a large animal casts are largely all-male -- which to me speaks societal bias about gender and personality.

I hope things change. How many of us remember growing up with a Sesame Street that featured only male muppets? And now they've added Abby, Rosita, Zoey, and Ovejita.
#4 - May 16, 2016, 02:37 PM

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Good question and discussion. I never realized that the default was a male animal. I don't think my kids picked up on it either. They simply identified with the animal.
Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller. F is female, M is male. Story about friendship.
The Oliver and Amanda Pig books -- oh gosh, I learned so much about being a better mother from Mama Pig! My kids loved these chapter books about family life.

Happy reading, Vijaya
#5 - May 16, 2016, 03:35 PM
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Mike Jung

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One of my favorites is A BALLOON FOR ISABEL by Deborah Underwood and Laura Rankin. There's also DRUM DREAM GIRL by Margarita Engle, THE SEA SERPENT AND ME by Dashka Slater and Catia Chien, JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith, GRACE FOR PRESIDENT by Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham, THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY by Kate Beaton, THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Allen Say, LITTLE NIGHT by Yuyi Morales, VAMPIRINA BALLERINA by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham, SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf, PRINCESS HYACINTH by Florence Parry Hyde and Lane Smith, BIG RED LOLLIPOP by Rhuksana Khan and Sophie Blackall, and...uh, others.
#6 - May 16, 2016, 04:39 PM

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MAISY (mouse) series by Lucy Cousins
PEPPA PIG
#7 - May 16, 2016, 04:43 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink

www.juliemurphybooks.com

Thanks for the recommendations, everyone!

Mike, I think some of those are human girls rather than animals, but still a great list and I'm so glad you reminded me about BIG RED LOLLIPOP because that's on my list and I keep forgetting to check it out from the library.

Good question and discussion. I never realized that the default was a male animal. I don't think my kids picked up on it either. They simply identified with the animal.

These are very astute points that I bet many of us can relate to. I don't know how aware I was of the male default prior to reading to my girls and to becoming very conscious of the gender biases affecting them. Book by book, I feel the same way, that they identify with the animal. But I do believe their is a long-term, collective impact that comes from seeing each gender represented in certain ways, or under-represented in this case. For that reason, I think what startles me more than seeing lots of books about a single animal who happens to be male (for example, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR) is seeing the multitude of books with big casts of animals where not a single one is female.
#8 - May 16, 2016, 05:35 PM

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Sorry if it's a repeat (wrangling kids to bed!) but Kevin Henkes has quite a few -- from Lily to Chrysanthemum to Sheila Rae -- are perennial favorites in my house (of three girls and a boy, who are between 10-14 but still love PBs). http://www.kevinhenkes.com/reading/mouse-books/

Plus, not a modern PB series, but all the Francis books by Russell Hoban.

Peppa Pig became a sweet (if commercial) staple.

Vampirina Ballerina is also a fave -- not an animal, but, well, a vampire. Which might open you up to that non-animal, non-human reading list.

Oh! My kids LOVED Maisy!

Stephanie, what an interesting compilation of statistics. And a sobering reminder about what an overall default in literature can be, even when we are just talking about animal main characters. I never really stopped to think about how many animal MCs in my home library are male. Wow! (We have a ton of female MCs, but they're human, lol, and most of the animals are male.)

 :eh2

#9 - May 16, 2016, 07:18 PM

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Jenna - Oh, I forgot about Kevin Henkes books! Love his mice, especially Lily. I thought they were interesting stats too. Would be even more interesting to see a larger sample to see if there are trends overall or if things have changed. Also would be interesting to see percentage of male picture book writers and author/illustrators with girl MCs (animals and/or human) vs. female picture book writers and author/illustrators with girl MCs.

Christine, I forgot about Olivia. Can't believe I forgot about her!

Vijaya, the Oliver and Amanda Pig books have been on my to read list for a while. Really need (and want) to read them!

Christine, I didn't realize the Sesame Street puppets were all male when I was a kid, until you mentioned it. There were human girls and women on the show though. I think this is true too:

Book by book, I feel the same way, that they identify with the animal. But I do believe their is a long-term, collective impact that comes from seeing each gender represented in certain ways, or under-represented in this case. For that reason, I think what startles me more than seeing lots of books about a single animal who happens to be male (for example, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR) is seeing the multitude of books with big casts of animals where not a single one is female.

Since it's also TV and movies for kids, and not just books, the cumulative effect is even greater. And many of those movies and TV shows have book tie-ins, so they're important in book talk too.

*edited to take out off topic comments*
#10 - May 16, 2016, 09:45 PM
« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 09:31 AM by Stephanie Ruble »
Site - http://sruble.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/StephanieRuble

picture book: EWE AND AYE (now available as an ebook!)

One of our favorites was Lisa Wheeler's Sailor Moo: A Cow at Sea because it was a female main character AND she was having adventures.
#11 - May 17, 2016, 03:23 AM
ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW HOLLYWOOD MOVIES GET MADE [Cherry Lake/2015]
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I am querying a PB with non-adorable female animals -- I'm curious to see how it does! No luck so far but this topic is interesting.

In most examples, the girl animals are cute little animals, a lot of cats, bunnies, mice, sheep and pigs. They are mostly prey animals, as ZOOTOPIA would put it. A favorite in our house that is not within this trend is ALTOONA BABOONA by Janie Bynum -- my sister bought it for my daughter because all the rhymes are her name, Oona. Altoona gives the impression of being an eccentric middle-aged woman baboon.

Miss Spider is an exception. So is TIARASAURUS REX from Brianna Caplan Sayres.

More animals:

Rosemary Wells YOKO books, as well as RUBY
BETTY BUNNY books by Michael Caplan, illus Stephane Jorisch
THE JELLY BEANS books by Laura Numeroff, illus Lynn Munsinger
#12 - May 17, 2016, 04:34 AM
« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 04:44 AM by Kell »
Kell Andrews
www.kellandrews.com
Twitter @kellandrewsPA

THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

Why am I not published? I have six anthropomorphic stories with female MC's.
#13 - May 17, 2016, 04:47 AM

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Since you mentioned a long-term list  ;), my forthcoming PB, PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, stars a female animal (and she's smart and mechanically-minded). It releases in 2017 from Henry Holt.
#14 - May 17, 2016, 05:33 AM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, BUSY BUS series, EMERGENCY KITTENS, and more!
Twitter @jodywrites4kids

Thanks again everyone! Planning a library trip this weekend so I've put together a list of all the suggestions above. I've taken out the books that were included that have female human m.c.'s simply because I'm hoping to compile a list of animal m.c.'s, but a lot of the human books seem terrific too and I'll take a look at them in the future. Here's the list in case anyone else wants it. I love to support BlueBoard books so if any BlueBoarders books are available in my library I'll check them out tomorrow (or request them if they're at another branch)--sorry if I did not mark your book as a BBer book and feel free to let me know! :)

PICTURE BOOKS WITH FEMALE ANIMALS AS MAIN CHARACTER

EWE AND AYE by Candace Ryan / illustrated by Stephanie Ruble (BlueBoarder Book!)
PB, PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW (2017 BlueBoarder book!)
Vamparina Ballerina (BlueBoarder Book! Vampire/not an animal)
OLIVIA
BERNICE GETS CARRIeD AWAY
NONI THE PONY GOES TO THE BEACH by Alison Lester
Deborah Marcero Presents: URSA'S LIGHT
THE COW WHO CLIMBED A TREE by Gemma Merino
LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING by Emma Chichester Clark
WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman / illustrated by Zachariah OHora
YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND by Peter Brown
THE GREAT GRACIE CHASE: STOP THAT DOG! by Cynthia Rylant / illustrated by Mark Teague
Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller.
The Oliver and Amanda Pig books
Kevin Henkes books including Lily, Chrysanthemum, and Sheila Rae
Peppa Pig
Maisy
A BALLOON FOR ISABEL
Lisa Wheeler's Sailor Moo: A Cow at Sea
TIARASAURUS REX from Brianna Caplan
MISS SPIDER'S TEA PARTY
ALTOONA BABOONA by Janie Bynum
#15 - May 20, 2016, 07:34 PM

Ginny Louise series by our own Tammi Sauer. As I recall, she didn't know they were going to make the MC an animal!
#16 - May 21, 2016, 08:28 AM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
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Christine-- Thanks so much for including Tiara Saurus Rex in your list! You can definitely mark it as a Blueboarder book. :)

Hope you enjoy getting to know Tina!

Brianna  :)
#17 - May 23, 2016, 11:59 AM
Intergalactic Afikoman (publisher)
WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? series (author)

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If my PB manuscript ever gets published, there will be one more.  :whistle
#18 - May 23, 2016, 01:22 PM

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If my PB manuscript ever gets published, there will be one more.  :whistle

Me too :lol4
#19 - May 23, 2016, 01:39 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

And if she's still interested by 2017, my forthcoming book has a female dino mc. It's called DORIS THE BOOK-ASAURUS. (My apologies for the shameless self-plugging. :) )

Ooh, and you know what's interesting? When I had it under consideration at another publisher (before it was purchased) the publisher wanted me to change it to a boy! Named "Boris"! Really glad the final publisher kept the mc female.
#20 - May 23, 2016, 02:52 PM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
http://www.dianamurray.com

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Interesting, Diana. I'm so glad!
#21 - May 23, 2016, 04:41 PM
Kell Andrews
www.kellandrews.com
Twitter @kellandrewsPA

THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

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Thanks, Diane!

Yes, in my head Ginny Louise was a little girl. It turns out she was actually a hedgehog. Who knew?  ::-)

A couple more:
I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo by Jill Esbaum
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
#22 - May 24, 2016, 05:21 AM
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 11:46 AM by Tammi »
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Hilda Must be Dancing by Karma Wilson is fantastic.
The Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems - i'm pretty sure that Piggie is a girl. Most of the books don't refer to gender but I'm sure Piggie is referred to as 'she' in one of them.
#23 - May 24, 2016, 07:06 AM
https://marlalesage.com/
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Ooh, I loved Hilda Must Be Dancing!

And for some reason, that also reminds me off The Cow That Laid an Egg. Very funny.

If she likes fairy tales, there's also Ponyella. A little long, but my daughter loved it.
#24 - May 24, 2016, 10:47 AM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
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Samanthasaurus Rex by B.B. Mandell and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman is another great one that just came out.

Also, I just realized that you are looking for other non-human main characters who are female. My truck and train bedtime books, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? and Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night? both have truck moms and truck dads. (And "Steam Trains" has what looks like brother and sister snowplows. :))

Looking forward to checking out this great collection of books! (And hope the soon-to-be-published ones find homes soon.)
#25 - May 24, 2016, 04:14 PM
Intergalactic Afikoman (publisher)
WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? series (author)

www.intergalacticafikoman.com
www.briannacaplansayres.com

Also, I just realized that you are looking for other non-human main characters who are female. My truck and train bedtime books, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? and Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night? both have truck moms and truck dads. (And "Steam Trains" has what looks like brother and sister snowplows. :))

That's so great. In the car and truck story world, there is definitely a shortage of females. Glad to know about yours!
#26 - May 25, 2016, 12:32 PM
« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 04:04 AM by Christine B. »

Me too :lol4

Amy Mouse, Millie Elephant, Taylor (an aspiring seamstress spider) and a bossy spider named Aunt Tess.
Oh, and an anthropomorphic aspiring chocolatier pig named Patsy Swine.
Where could the inspiration for that one come from, I wonder?
By the way, Millie was a would-be ballerina and one of my most popular characters. Watching a group of five year olds attempting a pirouette is a great sight!
#27 - May 26, 2016, 04:49 AM
« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 04:51 AM by thunderingelephants »

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Thanks for this list and discussion. I think about the gender issue with my two-year-old son almost as much as I would with a daughter. I think it's important for all kids, not just girls, to grow up knowing that people of every gender can do mostly anything, and it's hard to teach that when so many books suggest a uniformly male world. Even when both genders are present in a story, subtle messages tend to creep in. With animal books, it's often the case that all the sweet, passive, or boring animals are female, while all the active and outgoing ones are male.

Kevin Cornell's GO TO SLEEP, MONSTER has some monsters in it that look female, and the character who drives the action is a human girl. If anyone else knows of silly monster stories that mix up the genders, I'd love to hear about them too. Monsters are favorites around here.
#28 - May 26, 2016, 05:41 AM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

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Hi Melissa, Nice to "see" you here.  I totally agree with you about being concerned with gender issues for my sons.

For monster books with a female monster, we really enjoyed Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer when my son was younger.
#29 - May 26, 2016, 09:42 AM
Intergalactic Afikoman (publisher)
WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? series (author)

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Nice to "see" you too, Brianna. I've been thinking about your lecture at the monthly meeting last week. It really got my brain working. Thanks for the book rec, too!
#30 - May 26, 2016, 02:38 PM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

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