I very, very much enjoyed reading Doreen Cronin and David Small‘s Bloom (2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers). Playing around with expectations society has for fairies and young girls, this children’s picture book deconstructs gender norms in accessible language and via absolutely stunning illustrations. Bloom is definitely one of my favorite children’s books of the summer!
The fairy Bloom is extinguished from the kingdom because she is dirty and likes mud. However, when the kingdom begins to fall apart, the king and queen know Bloom is the only one who can save the kingdom. When the king and queen are unable to convince Bloom to return from the forest to the kingdom, they decide to send an “ordinary” girl Genevieve, who is responsibly only for keeping a crystal sugar spoon clean, to persuade Bloom to return. Genevieve returns to the kingdom with a solution to the kingdom’s ailments but also with a new understanding of her capabilities.
Bloom offers a children’s book that will help all kids think about the possibilities available to them. Kids and adults can think about what latent talents are within each of us. Genevieve’s new outlook on her capabilities is an important lesson for us all.
Kids and adults can also share ways in which this book pushes gender boundaries and ‘fractures’ the idea of what a fairy or what an ‘ordinary girl’ should be. I talk to my children literature students about ‘fractured fairy tales.’ These are tales that re-imagine the stereotypical representations (e.g. the beautiful princess with no agency, the prince who saves the day, etc.) found within fairy tales. Bloom re-imagines this idea of a fairy tale by flipping the entire genre on its head. The girls have the agency and the ability to change. No prince in shining armor on a white horse shows up to save the day. Rather, a muddy fairy teaches her skills to Genevieve.
This is a great book for younger children, but I also see some applications for this book in middle and high school classrooms. Bloom would be a great text to introduce a discussion of gender or as an inspiration for a fractured fairy tale creative writing exercise. Students could use Bloom as a mentor text for creating their own children’s picture books that provide a fresh perspective.
I LOVED this book and hope you do, too. Let me know what you think of Bloom in the comments below!