Little Simon Publishing
David Shannon, Loren Long, David Gordon
On the Move! is a board book and, therefore, is understandably low on complex content. It offers readers a series of friendly anthropomorphic work vehicles as they go about their daily tasks. Complete with interactive moving parts, this books is bright, colorful, and fun.
It also does some work against gender stereotypes. The first character we meet is "Wrecker Rosie" a smiling wrecking ball who is hard at work knocking down a building. While Rosie does have a pink wrecking ball, the stereotypical female features end there. She does not have pouty lips or long eyelashes. She's mid-stomp and clearly a tough, hard-working machine who is comfortably at home on the construction site. She gives young readers an example of a female in a male-dominated work environment and sends the message that it's fine for little girls to like trucks, too.
After meeting Monster Truck Max and Dump Truck Dan, we are introduced to a second female character, Rita the Ambulance (pictured on the cover above). While Rita does have some of the more traditional characteristics of a female anthropomorphized object (long eyelashes, big round eyes) and is shown being rescued from a ditch by Tow Truck Ted, she is no typical damsel in distress. She spends no time mooning over Ted or lamenting her brush with danger. She replies with a cheery "Thanks, Ted!" and follows it with "Now let's go rescue someone else!" Rita demonstrates that girls can have an important role in society while also showing readers that it's okay to mess up and to rely on others for help.
In eight pages, we get two examples of female characters defying stereotypical expectations. That's a pretty big accomplishment for a cute, short board book.
Childhood is a time of innocence, and it's easy to dismiss children's media as harmless because of the simplicity with which most of its audience will approach it. The truth is all media is created with a message, and the messages we send to our children may be the most important of all. The same innocence with which they approach the world leaves them less equipped to analyze the underlying intentions. As an offshoot to my main blog, See Jane Juggling serves as a place for some analysis on the messages children's media send. My perspective is admittedly biased toward gender and race concerns, but I would love to hear from you about your other viewpoints as well. Rate the media (explanation of ratings to the right) and leave a comment, and together we can shed some light on these complicated decisions.