Do you believe you can fly? I know I will fly. Not immediately, but definitely.
Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers is a stunning picture book that is as inspirational as it is beautiful. It tells the story of a girl who lives in a fictional land where everyone has wings, but only boys and men are allowed to fly. Loujain grows up hearing about a faraway field of sunflowers, and she dreams of one day being able to fly there. Despite there being a law forbidding girls to fly, her family supports her, and her father teaches her how to fly, eventually flying with her to the place of her dreams.
While the story is fictional, it was inspired by a real Saudi Arabian activist named Loujain AlHathloul, who defied the law against women driving cars in Saudi Arabia and was imprisoned for it. It is an important story because it highlights the need for women’s equality and rights across the globe, and inspires us to speak up and act when the law is oppressive or unfair. I’ve read this book many times now with my 4 year old son, who understandably was confused about why the rules would be different for boys than for girls. I think it’s an important conversation to start early in life, as I also hope to encourage an awareness of privilege, injustice, and prejudice that may otherwise become internalized if it’s not talked about. These conversations are not always easy to have or to initiate, which is why I love using picture books as a jumping-off point.
- Before reading: Look at the cover. What do you think this book will be about? How does the picture on the cover make you feel?
- During and after reading: Do you think this story is fiction or nonfiction? Why?
- What are some words you could use to describe Loujain?
- Why isn’t Loujain allowed to fly? How does her family feel about it?
- Why do you think Loujain was on the cover of the newspaper after she flew to the sunflowers? How did Loujain’s flying make the people in her city feel? Did anything change?
- Do you think it was brave of Loujain to learn how to fly? Why or why not?
Check out some other books that feature female leads defying societal expectations!
Mary Wears What She Wants, by Keith Negley
The World is Not a Rectangle– a Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, by Jeanette Winter
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909, by Michelle Markel
Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington
Counting on Katherine, by Helaine Becker
She Persisted- 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton
Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos, by Monica Brown