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.
RealGirls 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
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.
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.
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.
While 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 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!
Medallion Level Sponsors
Super Platinum: Make A Way Media
BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,
MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board
Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen 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 Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish 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 RESOURCES From MCBD
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.