Lessons from Sophie Trophy

Were you a well-behaved child? I got into trouble now and again. In fact, Grade 3 was a rough time for me. I was often in trouble at school, and when the rest of the class got to use pens to write in cursive, I was only allowed to print using pencil. It was humiliating.

Kindergarten hadn’t been great either, but a book helped me sort myself out. I’m told I read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst to myself every day when I got home from kindergarten.

There was no book for me in Grade 3. Instead, I took my frustration out on my little brother when I got home. A book would have been better; I’m sure he would agree. Kids need to see themselves reflected in books, and girls who get in trouble at school probably need that more than most.

When I first read the manuscript for Sophie Trophy by Eileen Holland, a novel for ages 7 to 9, I was impressed that Sophie’s antics got her in trouble. In so many books, girls are the voice of reason. In a story that includes boys and girls, nine times out of ten the boy characters have exciting ideas that involve breaking the rules and girls worry about the consequences.

That’s not only a little boring – it does girls a huge disservice. The kids who get into trouble are often creative adventurous leaders. Girls need to see themselves as leaders, and they need to feel like it’s okay to make waves to get things done.

Like so many kids who get in trouble – in fiction and in life —Sophie Trophy is trying to be helpful. She’s on a mission to save her teacher from a spider. But she also wants to avoid getting her pal in trouble for bringing the spider to school. This dilemma causes her to be rude to her teacher, to disobey her principal and to land herself in physical danger. It makes for a fun story and provides young readers with a model of a girl who is a change maker and risk taker.

I want every girl to see in Sophie – and in themselves – a hero who needs to break a few rules. Because let’s be real: many of the “rules” girls deal with need to be broken.