The Closing Session of ALA Virtual Conference 2020 featured Natalie Portman, who has a new picture book coming out called Natalie Portman’s Fables, being interviewed by librarian Betsy Bird.
[Betsy made a funny slip when she was listing Natalie’s credentials and called her an “Archivist” when she meant to say “Activist.” Only a librarian! Natalie said that would be cool!]
The main idea of the book, which includes three stories, is to rewrite beloved stories with more female characters.
She noticed when she had a daughter after having a son that people had given her boy baby “classics” that all seemed to feature male characters. Then they gave her girl baby books with feminist slants — but does a toddler really need to be told she’ll encounter obstacles?
She would change the pronouns in the stories she reads to have more female characters — and decided to write a book that does that. It’s not going to be all females, but just more a reflection of what the world is actually like.
They discussed the old saying that girls will read books about boys, but boys won’t read books about girls. Natalie said that girls are taught from a very young age to get inside boys’ heads and understand what they’re thinking. Boys also need to learn to think about a girl’s perspective.
The practice of empathy starts in children’s books.
Toddlers will empathize with any creature. We should encourage that.
She chose three tales with animal characters that she could fit into a message appropriate for modern times.