Must-Read Children’s Books with Strong Female Characters

Must-Read Children’s Books with Strong Female Characters

By Kathryn Peck

My 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with the book, “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” by Elena Favilli and Fiurancesca Cavallo (hardcover; 212 pages; ages 5-8). Every night she chooses a different story, each just one page, that tells about an extraordinary woman who has helped shape our world with courage and tenacity. My daughter now wants to learn gymnastics because we recently read about Simone Biles, and we all-too-often return to the stories of artist Frida Kahlo and motorcross racer Ashley Fiolek. But sons should not be excluded from the book’s audience (my son loves the story of female pirate Jaquotte Delahaye), as each of the 100 age-appropriate stories included invite readers to learn about and honor amazing women and strive toward their excellence themselves. So, if strong female characters are what you’re looking for these days, then here are 15 other books bound to inspire your little ones. 

  1. “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark” by Debbie Levy (hardcover; 40 pages; ages 4-8) is a picture book about the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s many famous dissents or disagreements. She disagreed with inequality and unfair treatment, and the famed justice proves that she was not just disagreeable but instead determined to stand up for what she believed was right. 

  2. “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty (hardcover; 32 pages; ages 5-7) is a simple story that celebrates creativity and perseverance. Young Rosie Revere is a shy girl but has dreams of becoming a great engineer someday. Her Great Great Aunt Rose (aka Rosie the Riveter) visits and talks to her about her one unfinished goal, which is to fly, so Rosie sets to work inventing a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true, despite what others may think.

  3. “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch (paperback; 32 pages; ages 4-7) tells the story of the unconventional Princess Elizabeth who is all set to marry Prince Ronald. The story takes a turn when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald, only to be later saved by Elizabeth who outsmarts the dragon. Upon his rescue, Ronald’s superficial reaction about Elizabeth’s un-princess-like appearance (she’s wearing a paper bag) causes the heroic Paper Bag Princess to dismiss him, remove her crown, and happily dance off into the sunset.

  4. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist” by Jess Keating (paperback; 40 pages; ages 4-8) recounts the life of Eugenie Clark, who is best known for her research on shark behavior. While most people dislike sharks and are afraid of them, Eugenie found them to be beautiful creatures, and she devoted her life to learning about sharks and proving the popular belief about them wrong. Eugenie found the strength to discover truths that others weren’t daring enough to see, and her story teaches readers that women can do anything they set their minds to. 

  5. “A is for awesome! 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World” by Eva Chen (board book; 32 pages; ages 1-3) is an alphabet board book for younger readers that depicts feminist icons, many of which you don’t see in many kids’ books, like Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey, and Katherine Graham of the Washington Post. “A is for the awesome aviator Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic,” it reads. Julia Child, Lucille Ball, Nina Simone, and others are included.

  6. “Little Feminist” Board Book Set by Emily Kleinman (board book; 32 pages; ages 0-3) is another set for the little ones. These adorable chunky board books (there are four in the set: Activists, Leaders, Artists, and Pioneers) feature strong women role models like Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Cleopatra and Malala Yousafzai. Each page of this 4-inch square book set has one simple sentence.
  7. “Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13” by Helaine Becker (hardcover; 40 pages; age 5-9) tells the story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race at a time when the space program was largely dominated by men. Katherine excelled at math from an early age. She was smart and determined, but racial segregation and gender discrimination proved a hurdle she had to overcome. In the 1950s, Katherine found her opportunity when hired along with thousands of others to join the space program. Her skills made her a key member of the team that shaped history by launching John Glenn as the first person into space, sending the crew of the Apollo 11 to the moon, and bringing the crew of the damaged Apollo 13 safely back to Earth.

  8. “Me…Jane” by Patrick McDonnell (hardcover; 40 pages; ages 2-6) is the sweet story of a young Jane Goodall. We know her today as renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, but this story offers a simplified look back before this, when as a child with her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee, Jane dreamed of "a life living with and helping all animals."

  9. “Katy & The Big Snow” by Virginia Lee Snow (paperback; 40 pages; age 4-7) makes the list because the brave and steadfast tractor is a girl (not all that common!). Katy, the tractor, pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, but without much snow, it seems she’ll never get much of a chance to work in the winter, the biggest snow fall ever hits and everyone suddenly relies on Katy to help dig them out.

  10. “Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles” by Patricia Valdez (hardcover; 40 pages; ages 4-8) is an empowering and true story of a little girl who, while others played with dolls and read stories of princesses and dragons, preferred playing with her lizard and reading stories of snakes and turtles instead. As Joan grew older, her interest in reptiles flourished, despite others’ scrupulous feelings about these unconventional slithery and slimy animals, and she went on to become a well-known zoologist, herpetologist, and the first female Curator of Reptiles at the London Zoo. 

  11. “Lady Legends Alphabet Book” by Beck Feiner (hardcover; 56 pages; ages 3-8) is another alphabet book featuring strong, determined, and influential women who helped change the world. Each letter, on one page, prompts the simple, yet enlightening, story sentence on the opposite page. Rosa Parks, J.K. Rowling, Vivienne Westwood and many others make the cut in this book of female legends. 

  12. “Ada Twist, Scientist” by Andrea Beaty, author of “Rosie Revere, Engineer” (hardcover; 32 pages; age 5-7), is the story of Ada Marie Twist, an inquisitive second grader who never stops asking questions. Her experiments go awry at times, but her curiosity and passion for problem solving never dampen, and the story, inspired by the lives of famed mathematician/writer Ada Lovelace and physicist/chemist Marie Curie, teach little ones to never stop searching for answers. 

  13. “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?” by Carmela LaVigna (hardcover; 32 pages; ages 3-7) begs the question, what makes one a princess? The main character asks her mother if princesses climb trees, do chores, etc., and in the end, she learns that being like a princess has to do with what we are on the inside, not on the outside. 

  14. “Julo Valentine and the Magical Shoes” by Eva Chen (hardcover; 32 pages; ages 4-6) is the story of Juno and her favorite everyday adventure shoes. Because they don’t light up or sparkle, her shoes might seem, in fact, boring. Her shoes go missing, and she stumbles upon a room of magic shoes, which, by stepping into a pair, enable her to travel through time and space on various adventures inspired by female icons like Lada Gaga, Serena Williams, and Cleopatra. As her adventures in “other people’s shoes” continue, Julo begins to understand that her very own shoes, although boring, might be the best shoes of all.

  15. “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2” also by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (hardcover; 212 pages; ages 5-8) is the sequel presenting 100 more stories in much the same way about extraordinary women in the past and present, including Nefertiti, Katherine Johnson, Beyoncé, and others. If your little one likes the first book in the series, this second installment won’t disappoint.


About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.


Shop The Story

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published