Book Review: Like A Girl
“Like A Girl” is a gorgeous children’s book, written by Leslie Perkins and illustrated by Magi & Justin Hernandez, and is the inaugural release of the children’s book division of The Far Press. This book aims to destigmatize the playground insult of doing things “like a girl” and instead neutralizes the phrase in a way that is both empowering and and inclusive. With simple, clear language and gorgeous illustrations, the book features five girls who all do things “like a girl,” and it’s an excellent addition to any family library.
I had the opportunity to email with the author, Leslie Perkins, as well as sit down with one of the illustrators, Magi Hernandez, and discuss their process of creating this book.
Leslie, I’m curious as to what prompted you to write the book. Why reclaim the phrase, “like a girl?” Do you have any personal experiences with that phrase that informed your writing?
I wrote this children’s book after hearing my son’s friend use this phrase as an insult — and trying to find a children’s book that would help my kids understand why “like a girl” actually meant something really incredible. I found that there wasn’t actually a literary children’s resource that specifically tackled the way society at large still uses the phrase “like a girl.” I loved the idea of a children’s book that turns this supposed insult on its head for girls from the time they begin hearing it for the first time in preschool and early elementary school.
I want young girls who read this book to feel proud of who they are. I see this book as an inoculation, of sorts. I imagine parents reading it to their child as an act of love and rebellion of the way society uses the phrase “like a girl.” I can think of countless times, in my own life, that I was mocked for doing something “like a girl” (PE and gym class come to mind), and every time it stung. I never heard “like a girl” used in a positive context when I was younger.
One of the things I really love about the book is that it doesn’t demand excellence – it talks about running like a girl, and sometimes that’s fast, and sometimes that’s slow, but it doesn’t suggest that girls have to be perfect in order to do things “like a girl.” What made you want to approach it from that angle?
After the 2016 election, post #metoo, we’ve seen women–and men too–rise up and re-engage with feminism. I love seeing that happen. One of the things that I think we need to be cautious of, however, is only talking about women and girls in the superlative. You don’t have to be the epitome of brave, strong, fierce, fast, powerful, etc. There are all kinds of girls, and all kinds of ways to be. And it’s up to each girl to decide what the phrase “like a girl” means in her own life.
When you picture a child sitting down with your book, what do you hope he/she feels while they’re reading it?
I hope little girls and boys who read this book feel that being a girl is a thing of pride. Not a benchmark for the low bar or a lesser status. And that no matter what a girl says, does, wears, or feels, she’s the right kind of girl. I also hope that young girls feel a kinship with other girls. I hope they feel empowered to, if (and unfortunately when) they do hear the phrase “like a girl” used in a derogatory way, to reject it.
When I sat down with Magi Hernandez to ask her how she and her son, Justin, came up with the illustrations, she walked me through her studio filled with amazing artwork that is clearly filled with light and love. She told me about how, when she was approached to do this book, she went to her local neighborhood playground to watch how girls play. She wanted to see how they move, how they interact, and how they express themselves. She also drew upon girls she’s known in her own life, including girls who dance, girls who read, and girls who are disabled.
Once she had ideas for the five girls that the book discusses, she drew inspiration from other artwork she had created, and wanted to include books, trees, beautiful skylines, dogs, and plants. To me, the art feels like it’s rooted in the whimsical reality that I remember from my childhood, where things were both ordinary and magical at the same time.
“Like A Girl” is a fantastic addition to any children’s book collection, and one that I’m thrilled to own for both my sons and my daughter. I love how it frames doing things “like a girl” as doing things as a girl – they aren’t necessarily worse than the way other people would do it, nor are they rooted in the perfectionism that often plagues girls who are striving to prove the patriarchal norms wrong. Girls simply do things like girls, because they are girls, not because there’s a value judgment placed on how they move through the world. It’s a refreshing, beautiful, and inspiring book that I plan to read over and over.