I started writing children's books because...
A friend asked me a few weeks ago, "Why did you start writing children's books? I love your awesomely unusual fantasy fiction novels. Why don't you continue writing stories like that?"
I told her, "I decided to write children's books because when I was at a friend's house and her five years old daughter asked me to read a story for her, I was disappointed at the book choices she had on her shelf."
As a young child, I truly hated it when the princesses in stories were always depicted as beautiful, dumb and helpless. The prince who was handsome and brave rescued them and they lived happily ever after. I asked my mom, "Why can't the princess kick the dragon's butt? Why is she laying there waiting for the prince? Isn't she smart and strong enough to get away?"
My mom shook her head and said, "This is the way it is. The prince rescues the princess, and that's that."
Mom loved dressing me up in pretty dresses and kind of parade me in church. God, I hated those bows she put in my hair and I could hardly wait to get home and take the itchy, uncomfortable dress and put my faded, ripped jeans on. My dad, maybe because he wanted a boy, encouraged me to get dirty while I helped him to fix the car, hammer nails when we fixed the fence, or dig a hole to plant trees beside him. He also taught me how to defend myself against bullies and stand up for myself and express my opinion. "You're a person," he always said. "It doesn't matter if you're a girl or boy, you're a person."
Later on when I was a teenager, most of the stories written for kids were about brave and smart boys who met and helped pretty girls and puppy love developed between them. I was so happy to find children's books as an adult that were about smart girls who can stand up for themselves and don't need a boy's help when they're in trouble. I also found some books that were about girls and boys as equally smart, inventive and brave. These stories told children that it's okay for boys to cry and show compassion, and it's okay for girls to be themselves in ripped and dirty jeans playing soccer, and they don't always have to look pretty in ruffled dresses, be quiet and submissive as society expects them to be.
But, when I looked at the little girl's bookshelf, I couldn't find any books that would boost her confidence, tell her that girls are just as smart, strong and brave, as boys.
So, I started writing children’s books and using my artistic talent, I illustrate my stories.
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Erika M Szabo
Author of urban fantasy, magical realism novels and children's books,
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