Deciding to go to a convention is no small task. You have to plan your days, decide on your cosplay, and figure out what art and swag you want to buy.
But even before that, you have to decide who you’re going to the con with!
That’s why if you’ve been on the fence about coming to GeekGirlCon, you need to finish reading this blog post and jump online to buy your passes. I didn’t plan to write this as a listicle, but here are four reasons why you should do that right now:
I first heard of the Guardian Princesses via Black Girl Nerds. With birthdays and gift-giving holidays coming up, and nieces and nephews of the targeted age range for these books, I knew these were books I needed to check out and share.
Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services
Vision: “A Book in Every Child’s Hand” by Pratham Books
Today, April 2, 2014 is International Children’s Book Day. Established in 1967, the holiday falls on or near Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, the 2nd of April. Ostensibly, it is meant to encourage a love of reading and highlight children’s books. It is also an opportunity to turn a critical eye towards children’s book and their representation of people.
When I look back at the books I loved most as a little kid, they included:
The Poky Little Puppy A Big Golden Book – representation male, animal
Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up by Shel Silverstein – I’m not going to go through the poems, but there were poems about boys and girls and animals, all the depictions in the illustrations seem to be white people
McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Suess – ‘young man’ main character, drawn as white
Giants Come in Different Sizes by Jolly Roger Bradfield – all main characters are male and apparently German, based upon umlaut usage, or British, based upon names. There are a few images of female characters.
Richard Scarry’s Peasant Pig and the Terrible Dragon – all the characters are animals, the cast seems fairly evenly split as male and female, but the major players are male.
Dr. Suess’s Sleep Book by Dr. Suess – a variety of genders in made-up species
According to my favorites, there was a slight advantage to the boys, and other groups of people were not so well represented. A study in 2011 looking at the representation of gender in books found that in children’s books written from 1900 to 2000, male characters had a central role in 57 percent of books published per year while female characters were at 31 percent. This value did not get better over the century, and in fact, it was worse mid-century. Another more recent study has found that in the literature children read in their school textbooks, male characters outnumber female characters in both text and visual representation. As I pointed out in the books I listed of my own interest, even when characters are female, they are doing stereotypically female things.
I didn’t go into my favorite books where the text outweighed the illustrations, such as Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe or The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. But these books are characterized in the above studies as well, and also show the same gender disparities.
What about race or disabilities? What about sexual orientation? To address the latter, I found one study directly exploring the representation of sexualities other than heterosexual in children’s literature. Considering so many children’s stories actually have a romance or an arranged marriage between a male and a female character, I would expect that heteronormative experiences are the huge majority of any sexuality presented.
There have been studies of the representation of disabilities – and a wide range of disabilities in children’s books. You guessed it, they are hugely under-represented. And the disabilities shown do not reflect those that most children see in their peers in elementary schools. Sadly, children’s books are where the tropes of characters with disabilities start. These tropes include being support characters, inspirational, “pitiful or pathetic, or a burden and incapable of fully participating in the events of everyday life.” For those who are disabled reading this, this is not the reflection that is healthy. And for those who are able, seeing only these stories is also unhealthy for learning about others.
Studies of the representation of both disability and race have been done. In general, when you find children’s stories with disability represented, the percentage of those with non-white races depicted is very low. In fact, the percent of children’s books depicting any race that is not white is low.
As every single study or article linked above says, it is important for children to see representations of themselves, and positive representations of themselves in the literature they read.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon was not a book of my childhood, but it is a book I read to my kids and have kept because I liked it so. The main bat character is female, but it does not live up to a fully diverse cast. Do you have some examples of inclusive children’s books?
A recent Ask GeekGirlCon about what the games we played as children had me thinking about games I play with my children. As gamers prior to having kids, of course my husband and I were going to play lots of games with our children. Playing games with babies tend to be things like singing nursery rhymes and peek-a-boo – not exactly the pinnacle of gaming. When my children were that young, games on the computer and consoles were not under three friendly, but a quick Google search shows many options for that age now.
When the kids hit about age three, you can start getting both video games and board games robust enough for the younglings. My daughter was four when the oft-maligned Barbie Horse Adventures came out. She loved this game. The plot was basically to go collect horses and ponies that had left the stables and return them to the stables while making them happy by keeping them away from skunks and feeding them fruits and veggies. There was a whole beautifying aspect to the game, but it did not interest my daughter. She loved this game, which we had for Xbox or Playstation 2 (I don’t recall which) at the time. There have been several games in the series released since on several different consoles.
Nintendo GameCube and Wii have catered to younger users and the whole family more than other Next Gen gaming systems. The Kirby game series, especially on Nintendo systems, was popular with my kids and my nephlings. The Super Mario Parties are always a hit. They started in 1998 and the latest edition, 9, released in 2012. My husband and I have played hours of the various Mario Parties with our children as they have grown older. The kids always have their favorite characters that they want to play. These games have a mish-mash of cooperative and competitive play.
We also enjoyed Animal Crossing and Viva Pinata. On these games, the kids could have their own characters and towns/gardens, and we parents could also have them to interact with the kids. This led to a little less “parent plays and child watches” – as was the case in Super Mario Sunshine – and a little more child plays without a lot of competition. Rock Band, with its multiple difficulty levels, edited lyrics, and collaborative play, was also popular in our house for many, many years.
My kids are pre-teen and early teen now. They play a wide variety of games. However, we recently had a revisit of Kirby Air Ride and the latest Mario Party. Puyo Puyo has become quite popular in my house, too, which harkens back to my own childhood days of playing Tetris. Truth be known, a Wii U has just made an appearance in my house. The family is currently playing Nintendoland, which we find loads of fun with its recycling of familiar Nintendo characters and versions of mini-games. Nintendoland has both cooperative and competitive play, with 1 to 5 players.
I would not want to leave out games on the good ol’ desktop. Desktop games do not lend themselves well to family play, unfortunately. Nearly all the console games I mentioned have multiplayer modes or a method of collaborative play. As my pre-teen has grown older, he has enjoyed perusing some of the video RP games his dad has played. He’s spent much time watching Dad play his own characters and building some characters. (Unfortunately, my RP characters are gathering dust in the server.)
Of course, I haven’t even touched on tablet or smart phone games.
Games have rating systems. All the games mentioned are rated E for Everyone, ages 6 and over, except Rock Band, rated T for Teen. Ratings and manufacturers recommended ages are based on content and not play capability. I will admit to not strictly adhering to the suggested ages at all times. Our kids have done well at ages 6 and over playing Rock Band, we simply avoided more suggestive songs. In addition, game play is rather individual. My kids have been able to play Mario Party games since about age 3, but were not able to play Super Mario Sunshine with the same rating – they mostly enjoyed watching the adult play it. There is also lots of advice on how much screen time any person, especially children, should get in a week or a day. But for a little family fun time, a video game can be just the thing to share your own gaming enthusiasm with your kids.
Do you have video games you play with your kids? Tell us about them.
Comic books were once a child’s domain. Now not so much. Today’s Batman and Iron Man are aimed more for teenagers and, let’s face it, those more in their 30s than for those beginning their love for the graphic novel*. You may look fondly on your younger self, sitting around following the adventures of Wonder Woman, the X-Men, or Archie. But where do you start for your child?
The following 10 comic books are ones that I’d recommend for children ages 7-12, who might find a story to love. And, parents, you just might love them too.
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura
There are monsters in every child’s life, but one girl, Barbara Thorson, is ready to fight them. And she’s preparing the world for her battle or at least trying. Barbara’s tale touches your heart, especially as she fights her demons: both real and imaginary. Between Kelly’s thoughtful writing and Niimura’s beautiful art, they bring Barbara’s story to life. Let I Kill Giants warm your heart.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
One of my favorite comic books about the bravery of small things: in this case, mice. Mouse Guard draws you in with its beautiful art and keeps you around with its big heart. The Mouse Guard valiantly defends all mice territories from threats like eagles, weasels, foxes, crabs, and sometimes even larger creatures. Despite their size, the mice risk their lives for each other and work together to bring down their larger enemies. Soon Saxon, Kenzie, and Liam will be your new friends. Buy Mouse Guard.
Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona
Ever wonder what would happen if you found out your parents were super villains? That’s just what happens to these six teenagers (plus, one pet velociraptor). After finding out that their parents play for the dark side, they run away and plot to stop their parents. Also Vaughan doesn’t forget that they need practical things like food and shelter. How would you react to finding out that your parents are evil? Join the Runaways on their epic adventures.
Dolltopia by Abby Denson
I pretty much cannot stop raving about Denson’s Dolltopia. As a little girl, I played with dolls, mostly Barbies, Ninja Turtles, Batman, or Star Trek ones, all the time. There were extensive narrations in my head and certainly, ones like Denson’s book, that defied heteronormative gender identities. But before you go thinking Dolltopia might be too much of an intense genderqueer narrative for a child, it’s just subversive enough. It is, at its crux, a story drawn in all black and white and hot pink about a group of dolls that escape humans’ homes to find themselves. Whomever they may be. And there’s nothing stronger to give a child to read, but a book that tells them that they will be loved, no matter who they are. Get some subversive fun in your life.
Rose and Isabel by Ted Mathot
Take a historical trip back to the Civil War with Rose and Isabel, two sisters who don’t sit idly by while their three brothers go off to fight with the Union soldiers. But Rose and Isabel are no ordinary women; they come from a long line of warrior women. And even though they were taught pacifism and kindness all their lives, neither will tolerate the loss of their family. Travel back in time to meet these strong ladies.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Vol. 1: Super Crush by Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa
Ever want to know what Mary Jane thought of Spider-Man when they were in high school? Now you can walk the halls with Mary Jane, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Harry Osborn, and Gwen Stacey as they all try to figure out who they are becoming. Miyazawa manga-style art makes this teenage romp even cuter. Discover Mary Jane and Spider-Man in their early days.
Kevin Keller: Welcome to Riverdale by Dan Parent
Who doesn’t have fond memories of going to the orthodontist and reading Archie and the adventures of the rest of the gang in Riverdale? It can’t just be me. Well, today, the whole loveable gang’s still around getting up to their typical shenanigans that still make adults go “those darn kids!” Recently, current writer and artist Parent has introduced a new pal to the bunch, Kevin Keller. Kevin’s most famous for being Archie’s first gay character. Get to know Kevin and how he’s just another darn kid.
Doctor Who: The Only Good Dalek by Justin Richards and Mike Collins
Hiding from Daleks behind couches is a strong British childhood tradition I’d like to bring to the States. Exterminate! Here the Doctor and Amy Pond must stop the Daleks from invading Earth (again) and follow up on some rumors about there being a good Dalek. (The Doctor is not a believer.) My favorite scene is where a Dalek sinks into lava; now that’s something I’d like to see on the show. Do you believe in good Daleks?
GoGirl Vol. 1 by Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons
When Lindsay inherits her mother Janet’s superpowers, her teenage life involves more than just algebra. Inspired by Robbins own relationship with her daughter, GoGirl fosters a great mother-daughter relationship, not to mention equally awesome female friendships. In the first story, Lindsay saves her best friend Haseena, who’s been kidnapped, with the help of Janet and Haseena herself. Thoughout the book, Lindsay learns a lot about life, growing up, and her mother’s love as she starts fighting crime. And, of course, her adventures are just really a lot of fun. Take an adventure with GoGirl!
The Saga of Rex by Michel Gagne
Rex, a fox, gets taken from Earth to a faraway world to be studied. Due to his charismatic nature, he ends up traveling the universe and meeting his soul mate. In a comic with few words, Gagne paints every cosmic scene and discovers other worlds, species, and a bit of magic through the point-of-view of a fox. This adorable fox will melt your heart no matter what planet you’re from.
What comic books do you recommend for those under 12?
*Graphic novels are collected versions of comic books. Though sometimes these book might go straight to graphic novel format and skip the single issue.
Erica McGillivray is the Director of Marketing for GeekGirlCon.
Are you bringing your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew to GeekGirlCon ‘12 — or are you considering it?
We highly recommend you do. Last year, around 20 percent of all attendees were children under the age of 10. We are an extremely family-friend convention.
Unless specified, GeekGirlCon programming can be enjoyed by all ages (at parental discretion of course). However, some of our programming and events are particularly geared towards geeklings (or geekling-adjacent), their parental-types, and kids of all ages. And we wanted to be sure to call them out for you in one location — so check out some of these kid-focused panels and workshops below. Saturday
11:30 a.m – 12:20 p.m.
Making Science Fun (with NASA)! (RM204)
12:30 – 1:20 p.m.
From Jedi Princess to Sith Witch: An Exploration of Female Characters in Star Wars (RM204)
12:30 – 1:50 p.m.
Girls Leading the Robot Uprising: FIRST Robotics (RM303)
1:30 – 2:50 p.m.
Customizing My Little Ponies: Tips, Tricks, and a Basic How-To (RM202)
2:30 – 3:20 p.m.
A Family that Games Together… (RM205)
2:30 – 3:20 p.m.
Sporty Geek: How Roller Derby and Quidditch Are Changing the Game for Women (RM204)