This month’s Parragon Book review comes with a hefty side helping of honesty about gender roles and whether I live up to my own ideals..!
So, after the craziness that is Christmas and the beautiful treasury of Christmas stories and songs that Mushroom and I have been dipping in and out of since we received it, I sort of forgot about January’s book until the email dropped in my inbox. My first thought (and I hate to say it!) was ‘I wonder if that’s a bit ‘girly’ for Mushroom?’ The book was part of a new series of interactive books released last month, starring Glitterbelle, a modern day princess.
Glitterbelle is described as smart, funny and enthusiastic and she loves riding her scooter and climbing trees. Although she has plenty of sparkly ‘princess’ dresses, she prefers her leggings and glittery trainers. Each page in the books is a photograph of a stunningly designed miniature 3D set created by Harriet Muncaster with which the reader can interact, adding his or her own creative input.
When I read the description, I challenged myself. What exactly did I mean by ‘girly’? And where did that come from..? Whose voice was in my head (because it didn’t feel like mine!)..? Mushroom likes scooters and trees and sparkly things and loves creative activities so why wouldn’t he identify with Glitterbelle and enjoy the books?
We received two books from the range (there are four in the series); Dazzling Dress Up and Doodle, Dazzle, Create! Mushroom was drawn to the Doodle, Dazzle, Create! book first as he liked the sparkly tin notepad but once he had opened that, he lost interest a bit. We have looked through it a couple of times and he has coloured in some of the pictures but he hasn’t really engaged with it. Not to say that he won’t come back to it though, as we have now got through almost all the stickers in the Dazzling Dress Up book, which was by far his favourite!
Mushroom loves stickers and dressing up. He likes to try on clothes before we buy them and he actually enjoys clothes shopping – both for himself and for me. He likes trying things on where possible and has very strong opinions on my choices! So he has really enjoyed interacting with this book. He’s not so interested in the story – he keeps saying he will ‘read it later’ and makes up his own narrative about what the girls are doing as he dresses and accessorises them. This is one of his favourite activities to do before bedtime, I think he finds it calming.
I thought the sets were stunning, so much detail has gone into each page that I almost didn’t want to then mess with them! But the books were not for me and Mushroom loved dressing the girls up and creating his own stories. The books are aimed at children up to the age of six, and I do think that slightly older children might get a bit more out of them but if your child is the creative type and especially if they are in to princesses, then they might enjoy getting to know Glitterbelle. You can learn more about her on the Glitterbelle website.
My initial reaction to this book has made me really pay attention to when I might be encouraging gender stereotypes. While I’m mindful to challenge Mushroom when he says that things ‘are for girls/boys’, which he generally explains with ‘[insert random nursery friend’s name] says so,’ suggesting that the messaging is not coming from me, there are clearly some things that to me feel much more marketed at girls and I would perhaps shy away from buying if he hasn’t asked specifically for. Funnily enough, as I was thinking this I read Nina’s recent post on whether we are raising our kids to confirm to gender stereotypes and it certainly got me thinking again. Maybe I’m actually overthinking it sometimes… What are your thoughts?
Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here.