By Victoria & Katja
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”
Serena Williams, tennis champion
In honour of International Women’s Day we wanted to share some of our favourite books for girls (and boys!). As mothers to both daughters and sons, we’re always keen to find books with strong female characters. It’s important to both of us that all members of our families are brought up knowing that girls can do anything and be anyone that they want to be. More importantly, we want our kids to know that their futures are not determined by a prince on a white horse. The following list of books are about inspirational women, both real and fictitious. Many of the following stories have won awards but really we’ve picked them because our kids like them (and so do we!). And, while we never thought we’d quote Beyonce in a blog post, she’s got it right when she asks who runs the world? Yep, it’s us girls!
Best Books for girls (to read together)
1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 2
By Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Following the phenomenal success of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (see below) comes the second volume. As before, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 features a host of strong, smart, independent women that our daughters and sons can look up to. Expect profiles of famous contemporary names including German chancellor Angela Merkel and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling as well as historic figures such as Frankenstein author Mary Shelley.
2. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
By Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Created for girls with big dreams, this beautifully illustrated book includes 100 stories of 100 remarkable women from the past and present who have changed the world. Heroines in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls include Maya Angelou and Frida Kahlo and some of our favourite adventurers such as Jane Goodall and Amelia Earhart. Each women is given a double page spread which includes their story as well as a full page portrait in colour – illustrated by different artists (women of course!) from around the world.
3. Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
By Rachel Igntosfsky
Remember those insulting remarks that Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt made a couple of years ago? About it being distracting to work alongside ‘girls’ in laboratories because ‘they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry’? If only Tim Hunt had had a copy of the the New York Times best seller, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World when he was growing up! This informative book that celebrates the work of 50 female scientists is full of captivating infographics and biographies. Some of the women featured include Marie Curie (who my science-obsessed son thinks is ‘awesome’) and oceanographer. A must-have book for girls. and perhaps more importantly, for boys if we want to ditch the sexist stereotyping.
4. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Inventions by Women
By Catherine Thimmesh
You don’t have to work in a lab or hold a PhD in neuroscience to make a difference in the world. Some of the most life-changing inventions have been created by women who are simply curious in everything they do. The women in Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women demonstrate that you all you really need in order to become a groundbreaking pioneer is a strong dose of determination, as well as a cracking idea of course! Inventions include the windshield wiper, disposable diapers, Scotchguard, a flat bottomed paper bag and – a personal favourite – the chocolate chip cookie!
5. Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World
By Ann Shen
Describing Hillary Clinton as a ‘nasty women’ during the presidential debate last year is arguably the best thing Donald Trump has done for women to date. His misogynist comment quickly became the backbone for female empowerment campaigns around the world. Curiously, Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World was published one month before Trump insulted Clinton and before #NastyWomen went viral. And yet, the women featured in this book are ‘bad’ in the same way that Clinton supporters describe themselves as ‘nasty’. That is, in the good sense. From Cleopatra, Boudica and Jane Austen to Beatrix Potter, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oprah, the table of contents alone will inspire you and your daughters to turn ‘nasty’ too. (Note that ballsy, strong-willed women are often surrounded by controversy and some readers have complained that the book is too politically bias in parts).
6. HerStory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook the World
By Katherine Halligan & Sarah Walsh
This uplifting book celebrates 50 intrepid women from around the world and throughout history. From Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi to Beatrix Potter, Coco Chanel and many more, Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World celebrates the lives and of these pioneering women, telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced and the changes they made.
Best Books for Girls under four
by Emily Hughes
This lovable tale of a green-haired, huge-eyed girl who has known nothing but nature from birth. She was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears and to play by foxes and she is, unashamedly, Wild. A wonderful tale for young girls on the importance of being true to yourself.
8. Interstellar Cinderella
By Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt
This futuristic take on the classic Cinderella tale sees Cinders as a skilled mechanic, who studies rocket-ship repair late into the night. Her fairy godrobot makes sure she gets to the Royal Space Parade in time (in her atomic blue space suit) where she meets the prince but Interstellar Cinderella decides she’d rather explore the world than get married.
9. Clara and Davie
By Patricia Polaccio
This charming book, Clara and Davie, is about the childhood of Clara Barton who grew up to become the founder of the American Red Cross. As a young girl in the early 19th century, Clara was shy and was often teased for having a lisp. Her brother, Davie always knew she had the gift of healing and would go on to achieve great things. The book follows the siblings and charts Clara’s development in medicine, from animals to humans.
Books for Girls aged 4-8
10. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
By Vashti Harrison
Featuring 40 inspirational black women, this book tells the stories of both famous and everyday women who did extraordinary things. Some of the women featured in the Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (Vashti Harrison) include nurse Mary Seacole, singer Shirley Bassey and mathematician Katherine Johnson.
11. My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream?
By Jennifer Fosberry
Join Isabellaas she imagines herself in the shoes of some of history’s most extraordinary women. When addressed as Isabella, she will remind her mother that actually she is ‘Sally’, the ‘greatest, toughest astronaut who ever was!’ or that she is ‘Marie the scientist’. In the end she decides she has the best parts of all her heroines. An appendix lists the women she alludes to, with details of their lives and careers.
12. The Paper Bag Princess
By Robert Munsch
This wonderful tale tells the story of Princess Elizabeth who is all set to marry her perfect Prince Ronald. But then a dragon appears, kidnaps the prince, destroys her castle and burns all her clothes so that she’s left with nothing to wear but a paper bag. The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch for Kids) sets out to rescue Ronald and, in doing so, realises that he’s a not worth it and dances off into the sunset instead.
13. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With Chimps
By Jeanette Winter
Named Best Book of the Year by a number of publications, The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps documents the career of Jane Goodall, one of our favourite adventurers. The highly regarded biologist and conservationist has inspired thousands of school children around the world to continue the important work of protecting chimpanzees from extinction. After children learn about her extraordinary life, they won’t want to let her down.
14. Mirette on the High Wire
by Emily Arnold McCully
Set in 19th century Paris, Mirette on the High Wire is a young and courageous girl who persuades the Great Bellini – a master wire walker – to teach her the art of walking on an high wire. In doing so, she also helps him regain his lost confidence as well as demonstrating to young readers that anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it.
15. Rosie Revere, Engineer / Ada Twist, Scientist
By Andrea Beaty. Illustrated by David Robers
I love this series of books! Like their buddy, Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere and Ada Twist have vivid imaginations. Ada’s thirst for answers often leads to messy experiments (sound familiar?!) and Rosie’s aunt shows her that her ‘failed’ contraption is in fact a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.
16. Miss Rumphius
By Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius longs to travel the world; a girl after our own heart!
17. Grace for President
By Kelly S DiPucchio
Sadly this book, Grace for President seems more poignant now than ever before. When Grace’s teacher explains that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she’ll be the first. By staging a mock election, Grace’s teacher shows the kids how the American system works and why every vote counts. However as one critic points out, the concept of the popular vote isn’t fully explained, leading readers to think that the winner of the popular vote will be president. As as we all know from recent political events, that isn’t the case. Nevertheless, it’s informative introduction to American politics and an inspirational read for our future leaders.
18. Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child
By Jessie Hartland
A visual treat, Hartland’s characterful illustrations and handwritten scribbles beautifully capture the passion, joy and boundless energy of culinary legend, Julia Child. Kids will love her playful attitude and naughty streak (she once painted a toilet seat red at her private school and used to throw mud pies at cars from her treehouse). And remember, ‘Don’t apologise for your cooking mistakes. It is what it is’. Amen to that.
19. Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote
By Tanya Lee Stone and Rebecca Gibbon
From an early age, Elizabeth Stanton knew that women didn’t have the same rights as men. Rather than accept this fact, however, she went to college and later gathered other like-minded women to challenge the right to vote. An inspiring tale about not taking “no” for an answer.
Books for Girls aged 8-12
20. Flora & Ulysses
By: Kate DiCamillo
Flora Bellis a self-proclaimed ‘natural born cynic’ who saves a squirrel (Ulysses) after her neighbour accidentally hoovers him up with her new vacuum cleaner. The near-death experience gives the squirrel a new lease on life and Flora is certain he has gained superhero powers.
21. One Crazy Summer
By: Rita Williams-Garcia
Set in 1968, One Crazy Summer is a moving tale about three sisters who spend the summer with their mother, a poet who abandoned them seven years earlier. Resentful of their presence, their mother sends them to a summer camp run by the Black Panthers where they get a revolutionary education.
22. Inside Out and Back Again
By Thanhha Lai
Told in verse, this award-winning book tells the story of a young Vietnamese girl who is forced to flee her war-torn country in 1975 for the States. Based on the author’s own childhood experience, Inside Out and Back Again follows Hà and her family as they adapt to their new lives and foreign lands.
23. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
By Patricia Hruby Powell. Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Full of life and razzmatazz, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, will have you toe tapping as you read it out loud to your kids or possibly breaking into a full-on Charleston. The story documents the life of performer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Baker as she takes Paris by storm in the roaring 20s.
24. Brown Girl Dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson.
As a child Jacqueline Woodson struggled with reading. However, her love for story telling motivated her to become an award-winning writer and poet. In Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson uses verse to tell the touching story of her own childhood and what it was like as an African American girl growing up in the 60s and 70s, a period heralding the start of the Civil Rights movement.
25. I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai
The fearless memoir of I Am Malala, the young girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to go to school, is a truly incredible story. Co-written with journalist Christina Lamb, the tale begins on the fateful drive home from school on the day that she was shot, aged just 15-years-old. “Who is Malala?” asked the gunman who stopped the school bus. No-one answered, but everyone knew who she was, having been an advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan since the age of 11.
Best Books for Teens and Young Adults
By Marjane Satrapi
Mariane Satrapi is a Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director and children’s book author. In this, The Complete Persepolis, she shares her memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; her high school years in Vienna; and of her return to Iran and her eventual self-imposed exile. It’s a story of girlhood and adolescence and a unique look into a country and way of life that is not well understood.
27. The Hate u Give
By Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give follows sixteen-year-old Starr as she attempts to navigate the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the posh suburb where she goes to school. Her world is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the shooting of her unarmed best friend by a police officer. It’s powerful tale of one young girl’s struggle for justice.
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