Little girls to the rescue

Of Consuming Interest

February 16, 2000|By Tricia Bishop

"Cinderella," "Snow White," "Little Red Riding Hood" -- all classic tales with sound lessons of just deserts and possibilities, but also all tales of female characters waiting for someone else to pave the way -- for someone else to rescue them. If you have daughters, or sons, you might want to introduce them to a different kind of heroine -- the kind who does the rescuing.

Kathleen Odean, a librarian and former member of the Caldecott and Newbery Award selection committees, has compiled a list of more than 600 titles into "Great Books for Girls" (Ballantine, 1997), which challenges the perception of little girls as docile. The characters in these stories wreak their own havoc, compete in tough competitions, solve difficult problems and have fun by their own rules, which don't include many glass slippers or Prince Charmings.

Among the books chosen by Odean are:

* "JoJo's Flying Side Kick" by Brian Pinckney; ages 3-7 -- To earn her yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do, JoJo must overcome her fears and use the flying side kick to break a wooden board.

* "Eloise" by Kay Thompson; ages 4-8 -- For almost half a century, this spunky girl has delighted readers with her talent for annoying adults, especially those at the Plaza Hotel.

* "Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story" by Ed Young; ages 4-8 -- This Chinese folktale presents a clever Red Riding Hood who outwits the wolf and saves her family.

* "Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the World's Fastest Woman" by Kathleen Krull; ages 5-8 -- This book tells the powerful tale of how Rudolph overcame polio to become a three-time Olympic gold-medal winner.

* "A Ride on the Red Mare's Back" by Ursula K. LeGuin; ages 5-9 -- A fantasy world of magic and trolls sets the backdrop for a brave girl as she heads out to rescue her kidnapped brother.

* "Sarah, Plain and Tall" by Patricia MacLachlan; ages 6-10 -- Two children hope Sarah, a strong and quiet woman, will marry their father in this Newbery Medal winner.

* "Lost Star: The Story of Amelia Earhart" by Patricia Lauber; ages 9-13 -- Earhart's triumphs and challenges come to life in this biographical tale of a fascinating woman.

NEXT WEEK: "Great Books for Boys"

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