Book Review: Abby’s Adventures “Picture Day and the Missing Tooth”

"Picture Day...and the Missing Tooth!" by Suzanne Ridolfi

Meet Abby. She is the newest character to come out of Eifrig Publishing, an independent book publisher with a reputation for being a great place to find books that build up a girl’s self-esteem and positive body image. Abby wants kids to know, “It’s okay to be me!”.

Author Suzanne Ridolfi created the Abby’s Adventures series, which can help your kids counteract the effects of the media, build resilience and self-acceptance, and start each day feeling good about themselves!

Abby is a first grade girl with a creative mind and good heart, she just sometimes needs help along the way her way through some of childhood’s difficult moments. There are four stories in the Abby series, each one leaving you and your kids with positive lesson to reflect back on. The illustrations are adorable, and really bring Abby and her friends to life.

My family received “Picture Day…and the Missing Tooth!” right before our kindergartner Amelia was set to take her school picture. Amelia had lost three front teeth over the summer, while many of her friends had still not lost their first tooth. She was a little nervous about taking her picture, but her dad and I assured her, the more holes the better. In “Picture Day”, Abby feels the same way so her mom shares with her the baby album that shows Abby how much she has changed over the years, and how awesome it is to enjoy the different stages of growing up. Abby learns that true beauty comes from within.

Don’t miss the new Christmas book in the Abby series: “Christmas Carol…and Little Miss Scrooge”.

Abby shows kids how to be full of awesome!

“The Good, The Bad, And the Barbie”: Q&A with author Tanya Stone

You will most likely not fall off your chairs in shock when I tell you, I’m not a fan of Barbie. I played with her when I was little. I think I had three of four of them. I didn’t really ever love Barbie. But I did love her Palimino horse, Tawny. I loved the adventures Tawny could take us on. I grew up in the 80’s, so very unfortunately my Barbies were taken POW by an army of Russians and despite valliant efforts, my brothers’ elite team of G.I. Joe, arriving in Barbie’s purple Convertible Dream Car, could not save her. Eventually I ditched the dolls, but held onto the horse and my love of adventure.
I’ve never been very good at sitting, which is why I never was good at playing with Barbie. Also, I think I was born a feminist, and even as a raven haired little girl I can recall looking at my blonde haired, blue eyed Barbie and thinking I had some issues with her. In second grade I cut big chunks of my shiny black hair off and Scotch taped them to my Barbie’s head because I was desperate for a doll that looked like me.
Fast forward twenty five years, and I now have a raven haired girl of my own. She wants a Barbie – Sea World Barbie and Mermaid Barbie, to be exact. So with as open a mind as I could muster, I dove into Tanya Stone’s “The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us”. (buy here) Maybe I was over-reacting. Maybe my view that Barbie is a sexist, sexualized, 3D version of all the photoshopped models we scream about affecting older girls’ self-esteem was all wrong.  I was traveling to DC and needed something to keep my occupied while in the air. I will say this — the book is excellent, well reserached, and unbiased. My plane to DC was delayed by three hours, and I never once looked up from the book. I took six pages of notes! At one point I read a couple of excerpts aloud to the poor lady next to me. I don’t love Barbie any more, but I have a new love for Barbie’s creator and astounding businesswoman Ruth Handler, and I have a much better understanding of what Barbie means to different people and different generations.
Tanya was so nice to answer some questions for us…..
1. Tanya, thank you so much for sharing you new book with us. I loved reading “The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact On Us”. I have to say, after reading the book, I have a better understanding of ‘who’ Barbie is to so many people. I don’t like her any better, but I understand better. How did you view Barbie when you were a girl?

As I confessed in my Author’s Note, I never cared about Barbie much one way or the other. But this made me a prime candidate to dig in an analyze all the pros and cons and be objective about her. 
 2. Do you think Barbie is more sexualized today than Barbie of yesteryear? What do you think Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie, would say about Barbie in 2010?

Surprisingly, if anything, her figure has been less sexualized over time. Her waist has been slightly widened and her bust line slightly reduced. But I think the clothes, which Mattel has often historically linked to current trends in fashion, are much more sexualized. Sadly, this is not limited to Barbie, but in keeping with what we see in many toys, and, of course, of the teen clothing stores. I think Ruth would not be a fan of these trashier trends as she was very much admiring of haute couture and had great taste, and I just can’t imagine her categorizing the current teen fashion trends that way!
3. What would you say to the parents of girls, like me, who fit into the 10% of girls age 3-10 who do not own a Barbie? What about those of us who say “over my dead body”?

I say that everyone should make their own choices about it. If that’s how you feel, more power to you! I’m not interested in swaying anyone’s opinion. My goal was to explore what it means to be an icon and the impact Barbie has on our culture. 
4. I once met with a Congresswoman, and brought along Miss Sassy Barbie, or Stripper Barbie as I unaffectionately call her, to give a visual aide to the type of sexualizaed products sold to young girls. One thing that drives me bonkers about Barbie – she is one of few dolls marketed to girls. Does Barbie have any competitors? Match Box Cars has Hot Wheels. Who goes up against Barbie?

I actually think there are a lot of dolls marketed to girls. There are all kinds of little-known fashion dolls lining the toy store shelves, as well as American Girl dolls, Hasbro Pussycat dolls (cough, cough), and don’t forget those Bratz dolls that most certainly went up against Barbie. I think Bratz dolls are much more sexualized than Barbie dolls. We have Barbies in the house, but I defy you to find a Bratz in any nook or cranny at my casa. I’m sorry, but they all look like they’ve had plastic surgery and lip injections!

The figure of the Barbie doll is one issue–and is a constant–but any particular outfit is a separate, dynamic issue that changes with each new issue of a get-up. So how offensive or inoffensive you find Barbie might depend on what she is wearing.

Dealing with her figure first–my book puts Barbie’s figure into context–when and where she was designed, and by whom had a lot to do with the body type she was given. Her function was really to be a teeny tiny mannequin that would look great in haute couture at a time when the beauty ideal was Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. Also, I like to remember that Ruth’s initial intention was to make Barbie quite plain so that any girl could see herself in Barbie. Even today, as much (or as little) as it has changed, imagine a Barbie face next to a Bratz face. Big difference. 
5. How strong do you feel Barbie’s message is that, “You can do anything, so long as you are pretty?” And can you tell us more about 11 year old Super Girl Sara Newman? I loved her insights in the book!

What I found most interesting in the research for this book is that the distraction of how pretty she is was more a concern of adults and less so for the kids. The kids seemed more interested in what they were doing with her, and less what she looked like while doing it (whatever it may be). 

Yes, isn’t Sara Newman fabulous? As is Abby Jones, who co-wrote the article Sara’s quotes came from in New Moon magazine. 
6. Black Barbie isn’t really so ‘black’. I think your book did a great job of teaching how Barbie didn’t always do such a great job of reflecting diversity or cultural norms. Did you find this at odds with the very diverse and forward thinking workplace the Handler’s had created during the years of Segregation in the 1940’s and 50’s?

I did, a bit. The thing is, there’s a big difference between real-life actions by people (such as the admirable ones shown by the Handlers in their workplace) and concepts intended to reflect real life as played out in a doll. It’s difficult to compare the two. I am always interested in intention, though, and I think it’s significant that Mattel has been well-intentioned throughout the process, despite the varied successes of their ethnic dolls. My frustration with these dolls has less to do with how they were executed and more with the fact that they are much more difficult to find on store shelves than the white dolls.  
7. Pretend Ruth Handler could be at one of your book signings. What do you think she would say to all of us? What would you want to say to her?

I think she would tell everyone to relax and let kids play how they want to. But I also think she would never have come up with Miss Sassy Barbie in the first place. That happened well after her time!   

What would I want to say to her? I think I might want to ask her what regrets she had. She was a complicated and driven person who achieved a lot, but also suffered losses along the way. I think I might ask her if she was given a Do-Over, what would she “do over.”  
8. What was the craziest Barbie story you heard while compiling this book?

Oh, I don’t think I can pick just one! People wrote and told me some hard-to-imagine scenarios! Let’s just leave it at that!
9. What do you want people to take away from “The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie”?

Mostly to always consider context. The fact that Barbie was invented by this specific woman, living where she did (Hollywood), and when she did (in the 50s), and what her goals were, have everything to do with the resulting creation that is Barbie. When you put the story of Ruth Handler and the story of her invention in context, it all makes a lot more sense than simply wondering why a toy company would market a toy to our girls that make them feel badly about themselves. It’s also important to remember that, with any icon, what we as a society bring to IT has just as much impact as the icon itself. 

Advance Praise:  

“Love Barbie or hate her, what I admire about Tanya’s book is that she takes an even eye to Barbie’s global phenomenon and delicately lets readers explore their own complicated relationships to this very complicated doll.” –Jess Weiner, self-esteem expert and author of Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now 

“Holy belly buttons! This is no mere Barbie book. This is a how-to manual about being a girl: a strong, sparky, awesome girl, with Barbie in hand *or* Barbie in the nearest Dumpster!”  –NYT best-selling author Lauren Myracle

 Tanya Stone is an award winning author whose books focus on the amazing accomplishments of women from our nation’s history. “The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie” is on shelves today! 




“One of Us” – Book Review and Interview with Lyn Mikel Brown

"One of Us" by Peggy Moss, Illustrated by Penny Weber

On June 1 Peggy Moss’ engaging new children’s book “One of Us” will be published to the delight of parents and educators everywhere. It is a story about fitting in, standing out, and being yourself. Navigating elementary aged friendships and trying to figure out as a kid who you are can be awkward.  The message of “One of Us” will leave with you and your child as you read together is to “bravely be you”.

The story is centered around a girl named Roberta. She is new to the school and spends her first day trying to determine where she fits in. Roberta has a successful first day at school as she moves in and out of several social circles and finally finds the one that accepts for just the way she is. Hair styles, monkey bar ability, choice of footwear, and even the menu inside the students’ lunch boxes determine who is friends with whom. Roberta makes this all for nonsense and opts to sit by herself, only to find, she isn’t alone.

The day the advance copy arrived in my mailbox was exciting. I’ll admit I’ve never seen an advance copy of a book and when I opened the package, I felt like I was holding someone’s newborn. I’m sure Peggy Moss and Penny Weber would agree that I was. I fell in love with the story on my first read. Then I went back to really study the story line. A third “read” allowed me to soak in the rich illustrations that accompany this tale of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. I highly recommend this book for families of grade school aged children, but I will say my preschooler understood much of the story and really enjoyed the artwork.

Robert and Anna discuss being different from each other. "One of Us"

These days it is difficult to raise a child who believes in authenticity and being true to oneself. Media influence and peer pressure, especially during upper elementary and middle school years, is intense. Parents can consider “One of Us’ as an excellent tool and conversation starter with their children. Here to talk more about that is our special guest Lyn Mikel Brown.

Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D. is a professor at Colby College in Maine; an expert on gender, girls’ development, and media literacy; co-author with Sharon Lamb of two of our favorite books “Packaging Girlhood” and “Packaging Boyhood”; a popular speaker and activist; and a mom. We did a little happy dance when Lyn agreed to share with us her insights here on the importance of the message “One of Us” delivers to parents and students.


1. Hi Lyn, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. I’m really excited about “One of Us” because the story and the illustrations do a wonderful job of showing kids it is okay to be different, and that there are so many ways we are different from each other. Why is it so important for boys and girls to be allowed to explore various interests and become involved in a wide array of activities as they grow  up?

Thanks so much Melissa.  Happy to be here.  I’m a big fan of Pigtail Pals!

It’s important to offer children to a wide range of options quite simply because we don’t yet know what they’ll be excited by, or want to pursue and explore on their own. This is the gift we can give them as parents; the ability to discover and choose what they love.  It’s also really good for them. We know from research that children’s brains are impacted by the opportunities for exploration and engagement they’re given—so the best thing we can do as parents to stimulate their minds and interests is to give them a rich array of possibilities.  We also know that media limits those options, by telling girls and boys way before they know what they like or can express their own interests, what being a girl or boy SHOULD be about.  It does children a real disservice to be channeled down such narrow and limiting pathways at a young age.

2. I thought it was both subtle and powerful that Peggy Moss’ story includes girls that liked car racing and baseball over ballet; boys that liked origami and flower lunch boxes. As the parent of a girl who loves dinosaurs and jellyfish, I find it difficult to get gender-neutral toys and books and clothes for her. What are some easy steps parents can take to encourage their kids to break out of binary gender stereotypes assigned to them by marketers and the media?

We all find it difficult!  That’s because marketers and media deem it cost-effective to sell products using gender stereotypes.  If you can sell little girls on pink, princess, shopaholic fashionistas and boys on over the top violence, superheroes, risk taking and winning, it becomes easy to market to them.  Media also operate on the assumption that girls will watch or read about boys but boys will not watch or read about girls.  In fact, research tells us that if the stories are interesting, gender isn’t a big deal for boys or girls.  Boys loved Dora The Explorer, for example.  It’s only when Diego was introduced and Dora started selling pink princess stuff that boys got the coded message that Dora wasn’t’ for them.

Clearly it’s important to keep an eye out for books like One of Us.  You can also help your child do more than just accept what the media hands them.  Even when they’re as young as four or five, you can develop a vocabulary that will set the conversational stage for years to come.  What better way to introduce the word “stereotype” to your daughter or son than by walking through the girls’ and boys’ departments of any clothing store, or the “blue” and “pink” aisles of any toy store?  Model a way of seeing and talking about the different choices presented to your children.  If you question, they’ll question.  For example, you might ask if he or she can imagine another way a movie, TV show, or book could end? Ask her to imagine stories other than romance, shopping sprees, or saved by the prince versions she’ll see over and over.  Ask him to imagine stories other than superheroes or guys that need to fight to teach someone somewhere a lesson.  Help your children notice when their world is becoming smaller and more limited, so they can step back and say, “That’s silly. That’s a stereotype.  Real girls and boys aren’t always like that.”

And speaking of introducing them to a world of possibilities, how about increasing the time you spend trying new activities that challenge your child’s imagination.  Seek mind-opening books, TV shows, and music that aren’t marketed to “boys” or “girls” but to all kids.  Offer girls and boys the possibility of action without violence, pretty without sexy, and also, the full rainbow of colors!

3. In this story, the main character Roberta is new to her elementary school and tries to makes friends while also trying to stay true to who she knows she is. I found her character to be confused and confident at the same time. I view self-confidence as a muscle you have to exercise. You founded an organization, Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) with this same ideal: to create strong and healthy girls by developing safe places to explore life and push the limits. Tell me more about HGHW and how we need to train our girls to be strong and confident.

Thanks so much for asking.  I think of Hardy Girls Healthy Women as “the little nonprofit that could.”   We’re committed to workingwith girls to change the culture in which girls are growing. Whether it’s our elementary Adventure Girls program, our middle school Girls Coalition Groups, or our Powered By Girl media literacy and social action project for teens, we provide the scaffolding and the platform for girls to do their best social change work. We connect girls with the people and resources that help them transform their surroundings into safe havens; and we empower them with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and a platform for activism. As an organization, we have spent the last ten years finding out what happens when you really listen to girls and take them seriously, when you empower them instead of treating them like victims, and when you work side by side with them to challenge media messages that pit girls against one another, promote unrealistic body and beauty ideals, and sexualize girls from a very young age. Our mantra:  Girls aren’t the problem, they’re the solution!

4. I am a huge fan of your research and the books you have written. Before I launched Pigtail Pals, I had made lots of observations about the state of childhood, and then I read ‘Packaging Girlhood’ and it was like finding my Holy Grail. What was a message from your parents or lesson during your girlhood that led you to become who you are today?

I grew up working class in a small town in “downeast” Maine.  My parents valued relationships, humor, and a sense of place. They didn’t limit themselves and they didn’t judge or box in other people.  That had a big impact on me.  But maybe even more than that, they never saw me as anything but smart and capable.  My dad never went to college, and so maybe I was his chance.  But it never felt that way.  It just felt like confidence in me and support for what I was passionate about.

5. I found “One of Us” to be brilliant. The story was written perfectly for grade school kiddos to relate, the illustrations are delicious, and the representation of diversity warmed me over. It broke down racial barriers, gender barriers, and had a strong girl at the center who didn’t need a boy to solve her problem. My favorite part was towards the end, at the lunch table, when Roberta tells her new friends “But we aren’t the same” and her pal Anna reassures her, “That’s the best part.”  What was an image or message from the book that stuck out for you?

I’ve loved all of Peggy’s books, but this one is truly special. My favorite point is when Roberta recites just “what” she is.  I really feel her in that moment.  Her expression and stance say it all:  I’m done playing around.  Like it or not, this is me.  I am who I am.   One of Us is an invitation to children to embrace their quirky originality and to find the people in their lives who can appreciate their unique, joyful, and infinitely interesting selves.

I would like to thank Peggy Moss and Tilbury House Publishers for inviting Pigtail Pals to be a part of the book tour and launch. We are proud to participate and wish Peggy much success with her wonderful book! Thank you to Lyn Mikel Brown for your insightful answers for our readers.

Catch us on twitter on June 1st for a book party. Follow the #bravelybeyou  hashtag for more info! We’ll update you with more info as the date approaches.