Few people have the ability to take a significant, wide-reaching, and often misunderstood concept and turn it into an entertaining story for infants and toddlers. Loryn Brantz nailed it with her recently released board book Feminist Baby.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, one constant topic of conversation among my friends has been what we need to do, as parents and potential parents, to raise our children in such a way that we don’t repeat history. There’s a thousand right answers about how to do this, each involving kindness and respect- most involving books. But one general consensus is that we need to integrate our values into our children’s lives early, so they are raised understanding the importance of gender equality, bodily autonomy, and an appreciation for one another’s differences. Enter: Feminist Baby.
Brantz, a senior writer/illustrator for Buzzfeed and two-time Emmy Award-winner, has created several comics around the character of Feminist Baby in addition to the 22-page board book. The book contains delightful lines such as “Feminist Baby makes lots of noise/Feminist Baby throws her toys!” and “Feminist Baby is as smart as she seems/Feminist Baby can be whatever she dreams!”
I had the opportunity to ask Brantz about Feminist Baby and other projects. Feminist Baby is Brantz’s third children’s book. She has also published Not Just a Dot and Harvey the Child Mime, which won the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best First Picture.
Here is our conversation:
EB: All of your books have such distinct and creative topics. How do you come up with your topics? Do you find there are seemingly unrelated but recurring topics in your work?
LB: Every book I do I’m always asking myself, “What will have the most positive impact on the world?
EB: Can you tell us about the character of Feminist Baby?
LB: Feminist Baby is an irrepressible bundle of sass. She lives life the way she wants to and doesn’t let the patriarchy get in the way. But, aside from all of that in a lot of ways she acts like a typical baby, which I think is a fun dynamic.
EB: You started working on Feminist Baby well before the 2016 election was in full-swing. How has the election impacted your view of the importance of the book’s message?
LB: I think there is more of a heaviness to Feminist Baby now- more than ever. I want a younger generation to rise up and not let this happen again. But on a personal level, it honestly just horrifies me that Trump is at all in any way connected to my dear (book) baby. For me, feminism has been important before Trump and will be after.
EB: What do you hope children (and parents) take away from Feminist Baby?
LB: For the adults, I think it at least sends the message that you can introduce these concepts and words to children early on and have it be part of their lives from the get-go. For the babies, I think of it as a way to expose them to the word and familiarize them to it. I’d like to think that if a child loves Feminist Baby, it will help them have a positive association with feminism later on in life.
EB: You won two Emmys while working for Sesame Street. Do you have a favorite story from your time there?
LB: Hmm well I don’t know if this qualifies as a story exactly, but one time we needed Elmo to blow bubbles on his own… which is very difficult as he is a puppet. Figuring out how to solve the problem was incredibly challenging and ultimately satisfying when it worked- it was a really exciting time.
EB: In addition to your role as senior writer and illustrator for Buzzfeed, do you have any new projects you’re currently working on?
LB: I have a book of comics coming out at the end of the summer entitled Lady Stuff and I’m currently thinking about possible future stories for Feminist Baby.
EB: I have to ask: Have you read any good books lately?
LB: Yes! Honestly, under this administration I’m having trouble reading anything but fantasy because I’m so stressed out during the day. That said, I just read Uprooted by Naomi Novik and it was a great escape from the news!