POINTS: 5 out of 10.
Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points.
The Maisy books are almost as much of an institution as the Thomas books, but, in my not-so-humble opinion, are significantly better. This one (also called Maisy Goes to Playschool in some countries) is a great little introduction to Maisy and her world. The preschool experiences closely mirror what C, at least, has experienced, and he took great pleasure in talking about how “we do that at kindy too!”. Which is evidence for the fact that children love reading about the familiar almost as much as they love reading about the fantastic (and is also evidence, incidentally, for the value of this whole project – think about what it’s like for kids who hardly ever see lives or characters like their own in their books).
The book passes the Bechdel – Maisy and her friends chat about various things, including the fact that they should wash their hands after going to the bathroom. It’s reported speech rather than direct dialogue, but I’m still giving it the point, Bechdel passes being rare enough birds as it is. We could almost give it the “variety of characters” point, given the different animals in Maisy’s class, but I decided that would be a touch too generous.
Having said that, Maisy’s preschool teacher is male, which is enough of a slap in the face of the generally accepted status quo that it gave me a smile. While nothing particularly exciting or subversive happens in the plot of the story, there is a real sense of this being a positive and safe space for these ‘children’, and the kind of preschool I’d be happy to see my son at. Everybody does everything, there is no gender stupidity or exclusion of characters. It seems like a safe nurturing encouraging environment.
And, in general, I love Maisy as a female character in a children’s book. She drives toy cars, wears trousers, paints, plays music, holds hands with her friends… There is zero suggestion that her only options are pink sparkles and princesses, which, honestly, is a breath of fresh air.
Good stuff. Very good stuff. Highly recommended. I actually look forward to working my way through the rest of this series.
What do you think? Do you enjoy the Maisy books? Have you read them to your children? Which is your favourite?