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Celebrate International Women's Day with Children's Books

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For those who sported pink last month to support bullying prevention, there's a new colour in town for March -- purple. International Women's Day is celebrated annually around the world on March 8th. It's a day to recognize and celebrate the contribution and achievement of women. There are many ways to become involved, including donating to an important cause, participating in events, and getting decked out in some purple -- just to name a few.

For all the bookworms out there with little learners in their lives, I suggest celebrating with children's books. It is a great opportunity to embrace "girl power" with stories that showcase courage, confidence and creativity.

In honour of this special day, I would like to highlight some of my favourite female Canadian authors and illustrators making a difference in children's literature with their mini-diva heroines. I've had the pleasure of meeting them at book launches. And, to learn more about the messages each one conveys, I hit up the Reading for the Love of It Conference. Although their picture books are officially for kids, they all carry themes with deeper meanings that adults can enjoy and explore with their youngsters.

In celebration of Canadian girls and women this month, check out these three very special picture books:

The Most Magnificent Thing
Written and Illustrated by Ashley Spires
Recommended ages: 3-7 2015-03-06-1425616965-2124087-TheMostMagnificentThing.jpg

Quitting is a natural first reaction when "the going gets tough". How do we teach kids to overcome initial frustration and not give up? Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires tackles this very subject in her tale of a regular little girl turned engineer-in-the-making. With the help of her best puppy pal, she is determined to create the most MAGNIFICENT thing. Despite her initial pitfalls and mini-mistakes, she perseveres and reaches her goal. This picture book will appeal to young inventors with a passion for problem-solving, math and science. "I wrote this book to remind kids, and myself, that even though our projects might not turn out EXACTLY as we planned the first time, the third time or even the 40th time, we all have to keep practicing," explains Ashley Spires, author of The Most Magnificent Thing. "The joy of creating is in the making of it, even if it makes you tear your hair out sometimes! We all make mistakes and that's the only way to improve."

Whimsy's Heavy Things
Written and Illustrated by Julie Kraulis
Recommended ages: 4-8 2015-03-06-1425617262-9697075-WhimsyHeavyThings.jpg

Life can certainly have its ups and downs. But how do we teach children about overcoming obstacles in a manner that they can easily understand? With the help of Whimsy, the young reader will follow her journey to get rid of her heavy things - represented by round, dense balls. The illustrations are truly breathtaking and it will not come as a surprise that Julie Kraulis can add artist to her list of accomplishments. When asked what she hoped readers would get from her book, she responded by saying, "Everybody has heavy things. Hopefully this book will act as a tool to provide a different way of framing heavy things, turning them into something that gives you power versus something that makes you powerless."

Kika the Upside-Down Girl
By Jessica Tudos
Recommended ages: 4-10 2015-03-06-1425617463-6710373-KikaBookCover.jpg

Get ready to add the words "fliptastic" and "handstanding" to your vocabulary with this adventure. The charismatic Kika is an aspiring gymnast who loves to live life upside down. She feels lonely in her unique world but ultimately embraces the notion that her differences make her special. An interesting fact is that Kika's character is based on the writer's very own journey. Jessica Tudos spent over 10,000 hours upside down, training to be an Olympic athlete for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. As a result of her experiences she understands first-hand how it feels to be different which is why she initially self-published her book through crowdfunding to share her message. According to Jessica Tudos, author of Kika the Upside-Down Girl, "It is so important to tell this story of staying the course, finding support and living life to your fullest potential - whatever direction you choose. This is the message I want to pass on to kids and the grown-ups who love and support them."

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