Expected publication: September 5th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
After noticing how her daughter played with “grown-up” paper dolls, Ruth Handler wanted to create a doll that would inspire little girls to use their huge imaginations and big dreams about their futures. While others told her it wasn’t possible, Ruth Handler proved them all wrong by creating the most famous doll ever. This beautiful hardcover picture book will inspire children ages 3 to 7 to believe that anything is possible—especially with Barbie!
Since 1959, Barbie has shown girls that they can live their dreams. From an astronaut to a chef to a president, she knows that girls can do anything!
Barbies were how my cousins from China, Malaysia, Taiwan and I bonded the first few times we met, despite having led very different lives. It didn’t matter if my cousins didn’t speak English (or even Mandarin in a few cases); we could all understand what it meant to swap Barbie’s outfits, and share giggles on what it would be like to live Barbie’s careers.
So it was with feelings of fondness, I dug into The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her, by Cindy Eagan. It’s a quick look into the life of Ruth Handler, who realized that young girls like her daughter were looking for dolls that could showcase the young women they could become, verses the baby dolls that were once popular.
Eagan’s nod to both Handler’s astute observations on what role models like her daughter needed, and the fact that Handler cleverly used her position as the wife of the founder of Mattel to her advantage, are both tacit but important reminders of how a woman could cleverly take hold of an idea and work around the system, despite others downplaying their efforts.
(Even though it’s never explicitly stated, the very idea that Handler persisted in spite of the naysayers in her life, will likely encourage young minds to ask and engage with questions about gender equality, so educators and parents should take note.)
This working around the system and growth idea, also dovetails nicely with the book’s acknowledgements that Barbie has continued to grow, decade after decade. Eagan nicely charts Barbie’s expanded careers and ambitions in latter pages, along with a nod to the fact that the company has expanded into more diverse Barbie and friends, as well. Though this definitely could have been expanded into greater detail, it seems to work for the age range/target audience of the book.