Friday, 1 November 2013

Girls Can Be Anything by Norma Klein reviewed by Lynda Waterhouse

A few weeks ago I rescued a copy of this book from an unwanted pile in a library. The title caught my eye first. It tugged at my heartstrings when I saw the front cover was stamped WITHDRAWN and above that stamp was another one;  I.L.E.A. The Inner London Education Authority. I have some fond memories of I.LE.A and still pine for some of their fabulous literacy resources and The Curtain Theatre.
This edition was published in 1975 but the first edition came out in the U.S in 1973. The fact that this book was forty years old seemed to be another good reason to rescue it from the scrap heap.
I flicked through the pages .There was a lot of text on each page but Roy Doty’s illustrations were quirky and fun.
The story begins
“Now we will play Hospital,” said Adam Sobel. “I will be the doctor and you will be the nurse.”
Adam Sobel was Marina’s best friend in her kindergarten class. They went home on the bus together and at school, in the yard, they sat and pretended to fish. They were the only ones in the class who could do the lion puzzle and get all the pieces of the mane together. Usually she liked the games Adam thought up, but this time she said, “I want to be the doctor too.”
These are real children who are close friends and they are negotiating their roles in imaginary play in very much the way that I observe children playing today. There is humour in the story too. Marina and Adam reject playing kings and Queens because, ‘kings and queens don’t do anything anymore. It would be dull.’
Marina toys with the idea of becoming a pilot  with Adam as her co-pilot;(there is no stewardess as it is a self -service plane)  but finally decides that she will  become the first women president of the U.S.

Forty years on this book should be an anachronism but only this week I have been reading about Saudi women protesting for the right to drive a car let alone pilot their own plane. When was the last time you heard a women pilot’s voice when you took a commercial flight? How many women run giant corporations or run companies? Why is childcare so expensive?
Girls Can Be Anything is out of print but copies can be found in discarded piles or on the internet.


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