RealGirls: it really is a revolution

As both an educated woman and a mother of a daughter, I’m conscious of how girls and women are presented. Those of us concerned with diversity (or the lack thereof) in the literature we consume understand the power of representation (and its erasure). While I’ve experienced many close approximations of myself visually and descriptively, and have often been the default, I am not ignorant of the mass swath of bodies and their cultures completely absented from page and screen. Even so, I’m still learning. And you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I’m passionate about sharing my finds.

This marvelous find is thanks to my new friends at Multicultural Children’s Book Day and Terri Birnbaum, the creator behind RealGirls.

2018-12-17_11-32-25RealGirls is a coloring book, featuring a collection of illustrated girls, which were created by many different artists with one mission: to provide girls with images they can identify with, so that they might feel empowered to remain proud and confident. RealGirls celebrates, on every page, all levels of difference as beautiful, in an effort to let every girl know she is valued for the unique and beautiful person that she is.—realgirlsrevolution.org

Lydia, Terri, and Evelyn Birnbaum creators of RealGirls: It’s a Revolution

Terri Birnbaum and her daughter Lydia found themselves frustrated by a familiar problem: Barbie. Along with another daughter, Evelyn, they decided to find an appealing way to counter the narrative of which Barbie has become emblematic. I appreciate that they went in a direction that would interest the age range Barbie snares: a coloring book.

When I pulled the RealGirls coloring book from the mailing envelope: I was impressed. I felt like I was being taken seriously. The paper is quality, as is the print of each portrait on its own sheet of paper. I was immediately taken by the spiral bind at the top. The presentation reads like a book for artists. The models on the page will especially speak to young designers.

Each page features a different girl etched in fine line work: the detail relaying nuance. They take up most of the oxygen on the page (read: fully present). After even a brief flip through the pages, what strikes is not only the sheer variety in body, face, culture, interest, and ability, but that each model is named with a signature. You are offered the suspicion that these may be people, and there is probably a story.

RealGirls “Penelope” image by the artist Yasmine Nur via her site Yaz Creates

A visit to RealGirls’ website and Birnbaum offers an opportunity to hear some of the models’ stories. And you’ll meet some of the artists who had a narrative in mind and created its character. [seek short film here] I dare you to not tear up when the girl with the cleft palate expressed her pleasure at seeing and coloring a girl who looked like her. Or the Hmong artist. Or the girl you grew up with and realized how much she would have (and might still) love to see herself fashionably represented in a book with the title Real. She has daughters, perhaps they would be pleased to see their mother.

I was pleased to be gifted this coloring book to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day upon a mere glance, but Birnbaum’s method and mindfulness added a whole new level to my interest. She sought out the artists and advocates, listened, and stepped aside to offer a platform, a means. The first page of the coloring book? It’s not a letter from Birnbaum, or an Introduction. It’s the first girl to color. The book speaks for itself, and it is spoken by the girls and the female artists. You’ll find the colophon, index of artists, and links on the inside of the back cover.

RealGirls “Sofia” image by the artist Yasmine Nur via her site Yaz Creates

As I was turning each page, I was moved by just how startled the images made me. I was brought to an awareness and reminded of how rare these images are. It makes me sad and yet so very pleased to be seeing them. I know some of these girls/women and I was so happy to see them in a publication, in such positive light, in such good company. I want to see more of this. I want to see more present-tense representations of girls and women with expressions all their own, that come from who they are, how they are created, the cultures that nurture them, not that unattainable misrepresentation that demands we keep within its narrowed lines. Or that they have to have achieved something to be noticed–or to even exist.

I know we’ll see more of it when I encounter determined creators like Terri, Lydia, Evelyn and all the artists and models with RealGirls. I know we’ll see more of it when we support their good work.

line clipartWhile I’m not sure we would have owned RealGirls as a coloring book, our household was raising a creative writer and RealGirls would have been a brilliant tool as inspiration/writing prompts. It can be used for both, of course. This would be a good gift for your schools’ visual arts and writing programs, friends.

Pair RealGirls with a blank artist journal or lined notebook. Pair it with other grassroots creations like Rebel Girls or Womanthology comics. Pair it with a journal meant to record books, films, celebrities, friends who share a likeness with each of the girls: e.g. contributing artist Yasmine Nur submitted a drawing of Halima Aden and was inspired by Misty Copeland when she submitted Lina.

Also, because it still needs to be said: this isn’t just for girls.

mcbd new logo

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-
*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste PaulRedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial BookwormsBooks My Kids Read, Crafty Moms ShareColours of UsDiscovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it,  Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.


Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.




3 thoughts on “RealGirls: it really is a revolution

  1. Thank you for sharing on the MCBD linky and for your support of Multicultural Children’s Book Day! This book looks great! I love role models of real girls for my daughters!

  2. Leslie,

    I can’t thank you enough for your kind review of the RealGirls coloring book. Thank you for appreciating the complexity of the pages, the nuance in each artist’s visual statement. I’m thrilled to have this assessment, and with your permission I would like to reference it, or use quotes from it, in future promotional materials. Please let me know if you would consider it.

    With gratitude,
    Terri Birnbaum

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