A few days ago, a friend’s post on Facebook lead to a discussion about books with strong female characters. I started to put together a list to send to her, and realized that other people might be interested in this list. So now I’m posting it here. The following are picture books that my boys and I have enjoyed over the years. (I’ll post a similar list of chapter books soon.)
All of these books feature strong female characters. It’s not always easy to find books with females who aren’t flippant, who dream big, and who don’t need rescuing (well, any more than all humans do from time to time). I think these types of books are essential for inspiring young girls. I think they’re equally as essential for young boys, as their views of the world around them are shaped by what they encounter, even at a very young age. All types of caring, including gender equality, begin at home. And they begin in the picture books we read to our children.
I’m sure I could come up with more books if I took a careful look through our shelves, but here are a few of our favorite picture books with strong female characters:
Journey; Return; Quest (Aaron Becker) – These books are free of words, but have stunning illustrations depicting a young girl’s bravery and adventures as she helps to save an enchanted kingdom from those who would steal its magic.
Roxaboxen (Alice McLerran) – celebrates the wonder of imagination as a group of children create their own imaginary town.
Peter and Lotta’s Christmas (Elsa Beskow) – Young Lotta and Peter set out on an adventure looking for the Christmas goat, and then later take on the responsibility of caring for baby twins.
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (Erica Silverman) – This is an easy-reader series my son returns to over and over again. Cowgirl Kate outsmarts her horse and keeps Cocoa working, even when he acts stubborn and lazy. It depicts a sweet relationship between the two characters.
Lizzy’s Do’s and Don’ts (Jessica Harper) – Lizzy and her mother lovingly and humorously talk about ways to improve their relationship.
Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka series (Maj Lindman) – Three sisters work together and have an assortment of adventures, including starting their own business.
The Wolves in the Walls (Neil Gaiman) – A young girl cleverly saves her family from the wolves that have taken over their house.
Madeline (Ludwig Bemelmans) – A classic tale of a girl who was full of daring and also brave in the face of sickness.
The Midnight Eaters (Amy Hest) – A multi-generational book in which an ailing grandmother moves in with her daughter. Hest highlights the special relationship between grandmother and granddaughter as the latter learns about aging.
Ada Twist, Scientist (Adrea Beaty) – A child uses science to understand the world around her, and ends up getting her whole family involved.
In our Mothers’ House (Patricia Polacco) – A lesbian couple raises their three children, and encounters both support and negativity from their neighbors. The mothers set a wonderful example of responding with love. Polacco has lots of other books with strong female characters. We’ve loved all of her stories, though – be warned – almost all of them make me cry and they often deal with difficult issues.
Plant a Kiss (Amy Krouse Rosenthal) – A short, sweet book in which everyone tells the girl that no, her idea won’t work, but she does it anyway and spreads love to all.
The Sound of Colors (Jimmy Liao) – In this book we meet a blind girl bravely venturing out in search of a friend. Her imagination is depicted in beautiful illustrations. We especially like how she makes her way out of the maze.
What are your favorite picture books with strong female characters? I’d love suggestions for other books to read with my boys