Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
Longstanding readers of this blog will know how much I hate gender stereotyping, and a book with girl characters that appears to be all about shoes and clothes is therefore unlikely to be on my ‘brilliant books’ list. But…
There is no doubt that this is a beautiful book. We have the hardback copy and it is beautifully made, tactile, has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to it and the artwork is stunning. The choice of fonts is lovely, the story is sweet, and if I wasn’t me all of these elements would add up to a perfect and beautiful picture book for little girls. But I don’t believe in categorising anything by gender, so that’s not how my review goes.
The story starts with two little girls who are the best of friends, called Amelie and Nanette. One girl is blonde and the other dark-haired, so I am required to change the names of the characters to Destructo-Girl and her best friend’s names when I read it! DG (4) loves this book. The description of the two girls and their friendships starts well, and I love the use of colour.
The first scene is in a shoe-shop. Nanette is choosing a new pair of shoes. Something all children have to do a lot! She then meets up with her friend, who has a new dress. The focus on appearance appears to be the theme for the book. Later the children choose more clothes and jewellery, then look for ‘pretty’ flowers. This is where my gender-stereotyping issues kick in. Focussing only on appearance is a problem.
The good in this book is that the girls are independent and resourceful. They make a picnic up together, happily walk outside, climbing over fences and carrying their picnic and then play in the grass and mud. They worry about their muddy clothes and shoes, but there isn’t any “yuck, I’m dirty, how terrible!” moments, it’s more concern about what their parents will think of how they’ve messed up their new clothes. And the getting dirty is not shown as being a bad thing (which is a good thing!)
It’s a beautiful book and a nicely written story with a lot of positives. I’m not keen on the focus on appearances, although it’s not the only thing in the story but a major part. Amelie and Nanette have the potential to be great role models. I hope the series continues to promote resourcefulness, friendship and honesty.
Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties by Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.