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When my baby son was born in March 2015 I started reading to him right away. I’ve always loved reading and I love sharing new worlds and adventures with him. But I was struck by the gaping holes in our favourite books: where are all the women? So few of the picture books we read have any female characters in them, and if they do have a token girl she’s more often than not a princess or a generic mother figure. In the real world my son is surrounded by fantastic women who are doctors, academics, body builders, musicians… and yet in fiction these women are absent.

At first I thought that it was just because we tend to be quite retrospective in our reading habits for young children: we read them what we read as a child. And perhaps partly because a lot of the classics were written in the 1950s and 1960s at a time when women were more restricted in their roles in society. But this isn’t the case. Almost all books written today still fall into the trap of making every hero and anthropomorphic talking animal a ‘he’, even when the author is herself a successful woman. (Julia Donaldson I’m looking at you. Would it have killed you to make just one of the five characters in The Gruffalo female?? Really? Changing the pronoun wouldn’t have messed up the rhyme…)

So I’m on a search for story books that I can read my son that have at least some female characters. And if the central character is a girl at the centre of the adventure then top marks. I’ll review them on this blog with a heroine rating in the hope it might be a useful resource for other parents and picture book readers. And please do recommend any books to me that you enjoy that fit this bill. You’d have thought in 2016 they wouldn’t be that hard to find…

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