15 Feminist Children’s Books That Will Inspire Readers Of Any Age
Though not a mother, nor an auntie, nor the local librarian or the neighborhood babysitter, great children’s books are just something the bookworm in me has not been able to quit in my adult life — especially because it seems that year by year, children’s books are only getting better; like all the feminist children’s books on this list, for example. I mean, sure, Goodnight Moon and When You Give A Mouse A Cookie might have a shelf life (pun intended) in my grown-up-gal library, but children’s books about badass girls and women — like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, and anyone who has ever left the house without brushing their hair (soul sisters) — will never get old.
You can never have enough books about strong girls — especially these days, when most of the messages coming from the powerful elite are not those I would have wanted my younger self, nor any of the amazing young girls I know now, to absorb. If you’re still totally connected to your inner-feminist child, then you’ll definitely want to check out these feminist children’s books that readers of any age will love. (P.S. I totally still love When You Give A Mouse A Cookie too.)
1. ‘The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure’ by Caroline Paul
The title alone has me sold on this one. The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul is all about the stories of fear girls and women tell themselves, and how those stories can’t be the ones that inform our actions. So climb trees, jump off rocks, fly planes, fight forest fires (like the author of this book did). The risk will be well worth the reward.
2. ‘Blueberry Girl’ by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess
If you love bestselling novelist Neil Gaiman then you’ll definitely want to check out his book-length, illustrated children’s poem, Blueberry Girl, which he wrote for his own goddaughter. Blueberry Girl tells the story of a baby girl who grows up to be a woman, through a life filled with adventure, exploration, imagination, and wonder.
3. ‘Wild’ by Emily Hughes
The fact that this is pretty much exactly what I look like when I wake up is only part of the reason why I love the children’s book Wild, by Emily Hughes. In Wild, the Hawaiian author introduces readers to a child who has grown up completely immersed by herself in nature — until one day she meets strange creatures who look like her, but behave very differently. You can take the girl out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the girl (and really, why would you want to?)
4. ‘Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition’ by Margot Lee Shetterly
I love that there is a young readers’ edition of the bestselling nonfiction title (and now film) Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. And while you should definitely read the original version of this true story about the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations not only helped fuel America’s greatest achievements in space, but also fueled the Civil Rights and feminist movements, the young readers’ edition is a great edition to any bookshelf too.
5. ‘Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women’ by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet
Another book that honors the amazing achievements and inventions of girls and women, Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet tells the stories of the women who invented everything from windshield wipers, to liquid paper white-out, to aircraft bumpers, to the chocolate chip cookie, and more. If you’ve ever thought about inventing something totally new, this children’s book is definitely for you.
6. ‘The Hunt’ by Margaux Othats
A minimalist and beautiful wordless picture book originally published in France, The Hunt by Margaux Othats tells the story of a little girl who builds a rock structure that hunters keep blowing to bits with their rifles. Refusing to be intimidated, this young girl continues to build, despite the destruction, until she creates something so strong it intimidates the hunters right back.
7. ‘I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark’ by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley
This is a children’s book about the notorious RBG — need I say more? OK, I will. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley tells the (condensed, simplified) version of the amazing life and achievements of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while combating the idea that young girls and women should always be agreeable, accommodating, and non-confrontational — a lesson I know that at least I need to keep learning over and over.
8. ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
I know that I can always use a good bedtime story — even now; and the rebel girl in me loves this one. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo contains 100 stories of 100 different women from history who rebelled and dissented and protested and achieved and fought and created, all in ways they were told they couldn’t or shouldn’t, but did anyway. Definitely the type of bedtime stories that’ll set you up for sweet dreams.
9. ‘Malala Yousafzai Warrior with Words’ by Karen Leggett Abouraya and L. C. Wheatley
There have been tons of books written about Malala Yousafzai — including those she wrote herself! This one, Malala Yousafzai Warrior with Words, by Karen Leggett Abouraya and L. C. Wheatley, will remind you what a powerful voice for girls and women this Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist for education and women’s rights really is. Plus, the artwork in this one is beautiful.
10. ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
If you ever need a friendly reminder that everyone fails — usually before succeeding — then Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts is the feminist children’s book for you. Determined to build her own airplane, young engineer Rosie Revere toils and tinkers, and finally builds one that hovers above the ground for a moment before crashing. Rosie feels like a failure, until her great-great-aunt (none other than Rosie the Riveter) reframes the experience as a wild success.
11. ‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
The companion to Rosie, Ada Twist, Scientist, also by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, tells the story of Ada, a young girl who has never met a question not worth asking. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? What is that smell that is making Ada’s house unlivable? And will she be able to use science to discover the answer in time to save everyone’s noses? Inquiring minds need to know! You’ll just have to read to find out.
12. ‘Me . . . Jane’ by Patrick McDonnell
I am obsessed with the life and work of Jane Goodall (partly because I wish I could leave everything behind and live alongside the great apes myself.) Children's book Me . . . Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, tells the story of a young Jane, whose favorite childhood toy chimpanzee, named Jubilee, was clearly indicative of greater things to come for the anthropologist and environmentalist.
13. ‘Lucia and the Light’ by Phyllis Root and Mary GrandPré
Lucia and the Light, by Phyllis Root and Mary GrandPré, is about more than one girl’s search for the sunshine that has mysteriously disappeared from her mountainous home in the Far North. It’s also about the search for light in general — and refusing to stop until you find it. It’s a message readers of any age need to be reminded of, at one time or another.
14. ‘Padmini Is Powerful’ by Amy Maranville and Tim Palin
As a yogini and yoga teacher myself, I love any book I can bring onto the mat with me, and Padmini Is Powerful by Amy Maranville and Tim Palin, is one children’s book that definitely has a positive influence on my practice. Introducing readers to Hindu gods, Padmini learns about each god and goddesses’ greatest strength, and then manifests those strengths in her own life. A great message for anyone.
15. ‘The Invisible Princess’ by Faith Ringgold
The Invisible Princess by Faith Ringgold is an African American fairy tale set during slavery, telling the story of one couple whose wishes for their child come true in ways they never could have imagined. That daughter becomes the Invisible Princess, who will one day liberate her parents from slavery, and bring freedom to all the slaves on the plantation. This one is a great reminder of the difference just one individual can make — invisible or not.