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Author-illustrator Yasmeen Ismail has a real talent for presenting an authentically child’s eye view of the world – and in this bright, bubbly snapshot of one pre-schooler’s life she gets right to the heart of an issue that can be immensely frustrating for parents, practitioners and most of all, youngsters themselves: gender stereotyping and expectations. Without lecturing or criticising, Ismail gently makes a nonsense of the idea that all girls should be gentle, neat and quiet, wear certain clothes and colours, or enjoy particular toys. Her female protagonist is loud, messy, spontaneous and competitive (when she feels like it). She wears shorts and a pretty necklace; she likes drums, boats and dolls. And despite the fact that – much to her annoyance – her choices and behaviour mean she is constantly being mistaken by grown-ups and her peers alike for a boy, she knows she is a girl, and moreover, that what is most important is simply to enjoy being herself. The message is powerful, positive and, crucially, non-prescriptive; no matter how conscious you are as a professional of the need to avoid pigeon-holing people, pressure from society and the media to conform according to rigid ideas about gender starts early, and having books like this available to share together can add a very useful and timely element of balance.
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