In a previous post, I mentioned a Dear America book as one of my top-ten choices for best books about the American Revolution. I’m often leary of children’s books series that have a stock tone. Ghost writers and monthly releases don’t sit right with me. But these books, like the American Girl series before them, are different. To begin with, each Dear America book is written by a different author. Though their covers share a theme, their content is unique.
Kristiana Gregory wrote one of my favorite books about the Revolution, called Winter of Red Snow. Other great authors enlisted in the Dear America series include Karen Hesse, Patricia C. McKissack, Andrea Davis Pinckney, and Susan Patron. Also, look for Lois Lowry’s book about Shaker history! She talks about her experience writing for the Dear America series on the Scholastic website (just look for the audio link at the top right-hand corner of the page). Like the American Girl series, Dear America spans races, class, and time, while keeping to its target girl audience.
To me, the Dear America project is a crucial one. Its project is to correct the problem of the absence of women in history books. When our young girls get to college, they may not see themselves reflected in the classic texts they’re asked to read. Literature is meant to reflect its readers, to give them insight into themselves. I remember asking myself in libraries, Mirror mirror on the wall, where the heck are the people who look like me? For centuries women have been erased from history. I applaud Dear America for writing them back into the story. I also plan to read a bunch of them this weekend, and let you know my favorites! I’m excited to compare them with the American Girl books my daughter grew up with.
From what I know so far, all of these girls are as adventurous and brave as their real-life counterparts–the ones whose stories were so sadly lost. Luckily, the stories of these women can be imagined. They are being brought back to life in the future, channeled by a host of dedicated, imaginative, and research-driven authors.
Dear America is also important in the face of the new wave of fairy tale movies and literature hitting pop culture right now. Fairy tales are wonderful, but I’ve always thought there were one too many princesses. Historically, it was only ever the princesses who got their names in the history books. What about the many other types of women? What were their lives like? Why didn’t they deserve to be written about? Why did women only ever inhabit magical spaces, and never historical ones?
I have to say, though I enjoyed it immensely, I was a bit disappointed that Pixar’s first movie starring a female heroine chose to make her a princess. With all the creativity of Pixar, famous for its animate lamps and robots and toys, why couldn’t they write a female paper clip? Or a female talking book? Or a female anything-but-a-princess?
Of course, Brave did have its subversive moments–but I’ll take a Dear America book over a princess any day. It’s going to be a lovely weekend! If anyone wants to read the series with me, email me or post a comment, and we’ll get a conversation going!
On another note, the wonderful blog Just Children’s Books! is having a giveaway of the Dear America books. Be sure to get your name in the pot!