If you spend any time in the children’s section of a bookstore, you may notice a fairly predictable colour scheme at play. There’s the brightly coloured stuff for toddlers and a sprinkling of shades all along the spectrum for the older kids. There is also a lot of pink. Swaths of it. Entire shelves just bursting with rose-coloured volumes, frequently bedecked with sequins, feathers and all manner of girly frou-frou aimed at the Barbie set.
But there are also a growing number of books featuring strong, independent heroines for girls who love to read. One of the newest of these is Pearl Power.
Now, despite her moniker, Pearl does not have the strength of Wonder Woman or a magic wand that turns spiders into kittens. She can’t fly or shoot sparkly pink lasers out of her eyes. But she does have a super-power that can – indeed, must – be instilled in any young girl: the power of confidence and kindness.
Pearl Power is the brainchild of adult colouring book creator Mel Elliot, whose self-published colouring books of stars like Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Gosling have proven a hit with Crayola-loving grownups all over the world. But this new tome has a far more personal impetus behind its creation.
“Pearl, my little daughter who is five years old, came into my bed one morning,” Elliot says. “She said, ‘I know that boys become doctors and girls become nurses,’ and I was just so sad that she thought this. She obviously got this idea from somewhere, I have no idea how.”
Elliot had toyed with the idea of a children’s book for a while, and her daughter’s startling revelation spurred the author into action. But creating a feminist book for four- to seven-year-olds was a little hard going at first.
“It was just such a departure for me,” she says. “I love drawing, but I’d never attempted anything like this before. I’m used to drawing things exactly as they are.”
The result is truly wonderful. Pearl Power has a retro 1950s feel to it, with salmon and turquoise hues and cool, blocky shapes. Pearl herself is downright adorable: rosy cheeked and bobbed hair, with a cheerful simplicity that evokes nostalgia with a modern twist. Her first adventure details Pearl’s start at a new school, where she endures teasing for ‘running like a girl’ and ‘doing maths like a girl.’ The plucky gal quickly puts a stop to this, with good humour and an unshakable sense of self-worth.
And what does Elliot’s daughter, the real-life Pearl, think of her eponymous doppelganger? “She loves it,” Elliot says. “She’s taken copies to school and wants to change her last name to ‘Power.’”