“I am of such an age,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, 71, confided to her editor, Laura Godwin, during Thursday morning’s keynote, “that little girls were actively told all of the things that we couldn’t do.” While acknowledging that the world has changed greatly since her childhood, she maintains that “there’s still a lot of that out there.”
If there’s one thing that Warren hopes that her picture book, Pinkie Promises (Holt/Oct.), illustrated by Charlene Chua, accomplishes, it’s that “little girls...and their brothers” will realize that girls are capable of doing anything they set their minds to do—even if it defies stereotypical gender expectations. After all, she says, she not only ran for office—and won, becoming Massachusetts’s first female senator in 2012—she also ran to be U.S. president during the last campaign.
“I’m not president. But you know what? I did win something: I ran for president,” she pointed out. “I met hundreds of thousands of people and I got to talk about things I believe in and fight for them. In many ways, this is what this book is about.”
In Pinkie Promises, Polly is told over and over all the things that she can’t do because she is a girl. When Polly meets a woman running for President, the two link their pinkies and promise each other to remember instead all the things that girls do. “The whole rest of the book,” Warren explains, “Is about the things Polly takes on,” including a run for class president.
“The win is in the trying,” Warren insists, disclosing that "best of all," the story ends “with Polly snuggling down under the covers and dreaming big. Because that’s what girls do.”
While Warren is a seasoned published author, with a dozen books to her credit, this is her first children’s book. “I write books and the books are all about words,” she told Godwin as they discussed Chua’s illustrations—including the side stories tells visually about Polly’s relationship with her mother and about their “rambunctious” Golden Retriever, modeled upon Warren’s own dog, Bailey.
Praising the illustrations for complementing and expanding upon the story she’d written, Warren marveled at how the art accompanying the text in Pinkie Promises “causes the imagination to fire in all kinds of directions.”