Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Workman, 2017. 9780761189138. 256pp.
Gene: It’s the ultimate coffee table book. Photos of girls, a lot of them doing sports – it’s a celebration of how strong and tough girls are. It’s not quite against the idea of dolling yourself up, but it makes it clear you don’t have to to be strong and pretty.
Sarah: So a wider variety of pretty than you’d see in a lot of books.
G: Right. The photographer, Kate Parker, said she was shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends and the ones that resonated were the photos where they are 100% themselves. They’re celebrations of who the girls are. (Reading) “I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.” There’s a quote from each girl next to her picture, with her age and her first name.
S: I’m just flipping from page to page.
G: That’s how I prefer to experience the book, too. The themed chapters / sections didn’t really speak to me.
S: This one: “When I first started to surf I got made fun of all the time.” I like these stories about people becoming champions though in my own life I’ve had to acknowledge that I have to be willing to go into something knowing that I might suck at it.
G: I think it’s more about them loving what they’re doing. The cover photo’s quote is about how she was scared for her first triathlon. At 9.
S: I know!
G: It probably wasn’t an Ironman Triathlon, but still. Wow. And that’s her trying to look fearless before the race.
S: That’s just perfect. You can see that she’s a little unsure.
G: I don’t think so. I think she’s going to kick my ass.
S: Well, yeah, definitely.
Oh, wrestlers! Close to your heart.
G: This is the picture I was looking for when I got this book because my daughter just wrapped up her first season of high school wrestling. The thing I love about that picture is the girl is looking the boy right in the eye and the boy won’t even look at her. He’s looking at the ground. His handshake seems weak.
S: She looks a lot more confident.
G: She’s going to kill him. This is the fear I saw when my daughter stepped onto the mat. It was so funny. You could see that some of the boys didn’t give a crap that they were wrestling a girl — they were going to go in there and tear it up and do their best. (This didn’t stop my daughter from winning. She had the most pins on her team this year. Every time one of the boys or girls got a pin, the assistant coach gave them a pin with beads on it — a pin for a pin.)
S: That’s adorable.
Here’s a water polo kid. Here are her talents: water polo, she can lift one eyebrow (I remember when that was a huge deal), she speaks Farsi, plays tennis, and and she can make people laugh by making funny faces. She’s 6.
G: And she just taught her little sister to read. This book is designed to make librarians love it.
S: Those are perfect little kid achievements.
Wow, here’s a kid in a forest full of mud.
G: Not a kid. A girl. A 6-year-old girl. She is the mud.
S: I see — they’re making a clubhouse and it’s her job to make the mortar.
G: When I was a little kid I wanted to be a mad scientist so I mixed all the chemicals from our kitchen. Luckily we didn’t clean much or there would have been caustic crap in there and I probably would have killed us all.
S: I did a lot of chemical mixing. There are still some stains in my parents’ house because of that.
Gene: I chose this photo for you.
S: So Natalie is 15 and she’s an archer, she’s shooting an arrow. “Last year I chose to move to a different lunch table instead of being ignored by people who I thought were my friends.” That’s incredibly strong.
Girl on the beach, age 10. “The beach at night is my favorite place in the world.” That’s great.
Gene: “It’s quiet, and all these little animals come out to say hello.”
S: There are a lot of photos of serious girls looking right into your eyes, but in this one she’s facing away from us, but she’s nose to nose with a diorama of taxidermied bears.
Gene: “I love going to museums because it feels like I am standing super close to real live bears.” That’s such a real quote, a 6-year-old being ultra specific. Why do you want to go to the museum? Because I love live bears!
S: That’s my favorite type of library patron interaction, where a kid comes up and tells you about the thing they love the most in the world and they want a book about it.
G: That is the best thing you can hope for. But then the parent goes, “What she really wants is a book about being a veterinarian.”
S: (imitating a kid) “No! I love sharks!”
G: (imitating a kid) “I really just want to meet a bear.”