The little girls of today will be the women of tomorrow. It’s never too early to start letting your daughter develop her identity as a strong, empowered woman. One of the main critiques of institutions like Hollywood is that it generally puts men in leading roles and ignores the various experiences and narratives of women. But there are lots of children’s books that put young girls in leading roles, portraying them as independent, capable role models. So, whether you’re buying a book for your child or a friend’s, here’s a list of books that will help cultivate a sense of empowerment that every young girl should have:
1. Imogene’s Last Stand
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrations: Nancy Carpenter
Imogene Tripp is a feisty girl with a love for history. Her passion is tested when her town plans to tear down the local Historical Society. A champion of nerds everywhere, this atypical girl rides around town in a Paul Revere costume and fights for the cause she believes in.
2. Rad American Women A-Z
Author: Katie Schatz
Illustrations: Miriam Klein Stahl
This is a clever catalogue of influential and inspirational women in history and current affairs.
3. Judy Moody
Author: Megan McDonald
Illustrations: Peter H. Reynolds
Judy Moody is a third-grader with plenty of attitude and a good dose of pessimism. She’s an aspiring doctor that does medical experiments on her little brother and passes notes in class to her best friend Rocky. She makes no apologies for her individuality.
4. Not All Princesses Dress In Pink
Author: Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Illustrations: Anne-Sophie Lanquetin
“Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, blue team jerseys that don’t quite fit, accessorized with a baseball mitt, and a sparkly crown!”
This book challenges commonly accepted preconceptions regarding womanhood and femininity. What does it mean to be female, and do women and girls need to be “girly”? Does does girliness include stuff like jumping in mud puddles and climbing trees, playing sports and making a mess? Why do we see these as belonging in the domain of man and masculinity? There are all kinds of princesses!
5. Grace For President
Author: Kelly S. DePucchio
Illustrations: LeUyen Pham
Grace, a young student, raises the totally compelling question, “Where are all the girls?” when faced with her teacher’s poster of all the presidents. Excellent question.
Author/Illustration: Ludwig Bemelmans
This classic book tells the tale of a fearless young girl who is a lovable outcast in all the right ways, afraid of neither individuality, nor tigers nor frogs.
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrations: Quentin Blake
Matilda is an amazing girl stuck in less-than-amazing circumstances. Her parents don’t appreciate her, and the headmistress of her school is the child-hating Miss Trunchbull. Matilda uses her unexpected supernatural powers to overcome all of her obstacles. Matilda teaches girls about the magic of personal power in a chaotic and difficult world.
8. The Princess Knight
Author: Cornelia Funke
Illustrations: Kirsten Meyer
Unlike traditional princesses that wait around in a tower until a man comes to save them, Princess Violet prefers to show the world that she is equal to her brothers in every way.
9. Harriet The Spy
Author: Louise Fitzhugh
The now iconic character, Harriet M. Welsch is an amateur spy who writes down EVERYTHING, loves tomato sandwiches, and “dresses like a boy.” When disaster strikes, she turns out to be a relatable, normal kid dealing with social pressures and issues with her parents. \