Reading books with main characters from all different backgrounds is important, but when you want something with a strong female lead, check out one of these 8 books!
The mounting pressure for women and girls to conform to unrealistic expectations is everywhere, from TV commercials and magazines to the attitudes and behaviors we were taught as children. So how do we raise confident, empowered girls? How do we help them see the power of their own potential? And how do we show boys the same?
By giving them good examples! These books have positive messages that let kids see strong girls and women in action.
1. The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Written by Jordan Stratford and illustrated by Kelly Murphy, “The Case of the Missing Moonstone” has Mary Shelley (author of “Frankenstein”) and Lady Ada Byron (creator of the first computer program) meet as girls. The two brilliant friends soon decide to use their abilities to solve mysteries and open the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency to track down the titular gem. The case gets more complicated when somebody falsely confesses to stealing the moonstone, and the girls have to use their gifts in deductive reasoning, science and math to identify the real villain. (For ages 8 – 12)
2. Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman
Kathleen Krull tells the true story of Wilma Rudolph (1940 – 1994), who competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics in track and field events. She contracted polio as a small child and her family feared she would never walk again. Wilma, however, vowed she would walk—and run. She won three gold medals in a single Olympiad and was considered the fastest woman in the world during the 60s. Illustrated by David Diaz. (For ages 7 – 12)
Written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is a memoir about Satrapi’s girlhood in Iran. It’s also a graphic novel that covers eight years of her life. During that time, Satrapi, the only child of Marxists, lived through the Iranian Revolution and the later war with Iraq. (For ages 11 and up)
4. She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
Written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don Tate, She Loved Baseball is the true story of Effa Manley (1897 – 1981), who became the first woman to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The book depicts her childhood in Philadelphia and covers her career as a sports executive. In 1936, she became the first woman to own and run a baseball team. She ran the Newark Eagles, a Negro league team, from then until the team disbanded in 1950. (Ages 4 – 8)
Ludwig Bemelmans wrote this classic about the fearless Madeline in 1939. The title character is a seven-year-old who lives in a Catholic boarding school in Paris. Despite being the smallest girl and the only redhead, she doesn’t fear anything—not mice, tigers, or trips to the hospital. Madeline is also the first book in a series, so fans can enjoy more stories about Madeline, Miss Clavel and other characters. (Ages 3 – 7)
6. A Wrinkle in Time
Madeline L’Engle wrote this science fiction classic in 1963, and it eventually became the first book in a series. The protagonist, Meg, is twelve years old, plain, and the oldest daughter of two scientists. When her father disappears while working on a government project, she, her brother, and some very peculiar allies go looking for him. Their quest takes them on an adventure across several different worlds and pits them against sinister forces. (For ages 10 – 14)
Huntress by Malinda Lo is a fantasy adventure with two teen-age girls at the center. Taisin is a skilled sorceress, while Kaede is a nobleman’s daughter with decidedly unconventional desires and beliefs. When their realm is devastated by unending rain that destroys the crops, they set out on a quest to seek help from the Fairy Queen. During the quest, they come to depend on each other and start to fall in love. (For ages 12 and up)
8. Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World
As might be guessed from the title, Fearless Girls is a collection of 100 fairy tales and legends from all over the world that have female protagonists. Kathleen Ragan, distressed by the number of books starring boys, set out to find stories featuring girls for her daughters to read. Some of the stories are derived from Native American legends, while others come from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. (For ages 9 and up)
While the lead characters in these eight books are all strong females, that doesn’t mean only girls should read them! All children benefit when the books they read have strong characters from many different backgrounds. Use the comments to share your family’s favorites!