If you fear the influence that Bratz dolls, My Little Pony, and Barbie might have on a child’s mind, a new alphabet book, Rad American Women A-Z, offers a beautifully illustrated corrective. Written by Kate Schatz, with papercut portraits by Miriam Klein Stahl, it’s a feminist primer on some of the most radical women in American history, from political activist Angela Davis to comedian Carol Burnett to godmother of punk Patti Smith.
In addition to expanding the elementary school curriculum on cool women in history to include more than just Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt (the authors made an effort to include women of color and diverse sexual orientations), the book steers clear of the cutesy cartoons that dominate many books “for girls.” To appeal to boys, too, Stahl used bright, strong colors that would read as fairly gender-neutral. “It’s pretty stunning how gendered book covers and colors are, and we knew that if we wanted boys to pick this up and read it—which we absolutely do—we’d need a cover and a color scheme that wouldn’t be telling them, ‘This is for your sister, not you,’” Schatz writes in an email. Stahl’s papercut portraits of powerful women–each made with black paper, an X-Acto knife, and one continuous cut–recall wheat-paste posters or artist Kara Walker’s politically charged silhouettes.