Sonderbooks Book Review of

Strong Is the New Pretty

A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

by Kate T. Parker

Strong Is the New Pretty

A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

by Kate T. Parker

Review posted September 9, 2018.
Workman Publishing, 2017. 250 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017

Strong Is the New Pretty is a book of photographs of girls being strong - and they are indeed beautiful.

My library has put this in the juvenile nonfiction section, but I think in many ways, this is a book for families. If you have girls in your family, stick this on your coffee table. Let the whole family browse the photos. It would also make a nice high school graduation gift for a girl, encouraging them to be themselves. (Though the girl isn't likely to take such a large book off to college with them, so I suppose that's a little problematic.)

The text accompanying the pictures isn't exactly geared to children. There's an introduction, and then nine chapters, with titles "Confident is Strong," "Wild is Strong," "Resilient is Strong," "Creative is Strong," "Determined is Strong," "Kind is Strong," "Fearless is Strong," "Joyful is Strong," and "Independent is Strong." Each chapter has an inspiring explanation at the front of how these pictures fit with the theme. Every photo has a quotation from the featured girl.

For example:

Cancer stole part of my leg but not my joy. I choose happiness. Being happy is my superpower.

-- Grace B. age 12

Leaf jumping is the best.

-- Alice age 6

Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry when I perform in a way that moves someone.

-- Nora age 11

She had a knot in her cleats. I'm really good at untying knots, so I helped.

-- Lily S. age 5

Yeah, I am a little muddy. So what?

-- Tayla age 6

The quotations aren't usually profound, but the photographs are stunning! And I love that the photographer gave each subject a voice.

In the Introduction, the author explains how the project got started.

This photo series started as a personal project. I work as a professional photographer, but I'm also a mom (the mom with the giant camera and bag of lenses at most events). And it's not uncommon for me to be photographing my girls and their friends - constantly - when they're riding their bikes, at soccer practice, or exploring tide pools while on vacation. The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images, the ones that resonated most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn't ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way - not just for my sake, but for theirs, too.

As a body of work emerged, I kept at it with more intention. I wanted to show my girls that beauty isn't about being a certain size, or having your hair done (or even brushed, in their cases), or wearing a fancy outfit. I wanted to combat the messages the media sends to women every day. I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.

I strongly recommend checking this book out and enjoying the beautiful images. And I even more strongly recommend sharing them with your daughters. Talk about them. I'm guessing they, too, will see how pretty these strong girls are.