(Co-authored with my very own strong girls, my 10 year-old daughter, Nell, and my 7 year-old, Libby)
In honor of Women’s History Month, (this is how we celebrate at my house!) my daughters and I have put together a list of required reading for strong girls. When my girls were little, it was pretty easy for us to find books about their favorite subject: princesses. Since becoming a princess is a pretty limited career path (just listen to Sonia Sotomayor on Sesame Street) I realized I was going to have to work a little harder to find stories about what I wanted them to become: strong girls.
While we bet your sons too would enjoy reading these stories, it’s worth taking the time connect your daughters with these books. Why do our daughters need to read books about strong girls? I’ll let Nell explain: Because it’s an incentive (that’s a big word on my vocabulary test next Wednesday). It basically motivates us to think that we can do great things too. Great things aren’t just for men and boys. I couldn’t have said it better. Today, men still out-earn women, hold more jobs in technology and mathematical fields and hold more CEO positions at S&P 500 companies (get your grim statistics here). If we want to address the inequality women face, we need to start by telling our daughters stories about all the things that are possible for them to accomplish.
Here are our top picks, in order of age-appropriateness, of required reading for strong girls:
The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
We’re big Munsch fans, and this is our favorite book of his. After a dragon kidnaps her prince, Elizabeth sets out to rescue him. It’s funny, clever and you won’t hate it after reading it 100 times. Already familiar with Princess Elizabeth? Then check out Munsch’s other fierce and funny girls in Stephanie’s Ponytail, Smelly Socks, Angela’s Airplane, and Just One Goal. Trust me, these are books your whole family will love!
The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Review by Libby
I like these books because they’re about a very eloquent princess who turns into a very serious, fighting monsters, rescuing princess. That’s one of the best kinds of princesses because the eloquent princesses just say, “Help me! Help me,” and I think, why can’t you just rescue yourself, Rapunzel? I also really like that her unicorn, Frimplepants, turns into Blacky, who is a very adventurous horse who wants to save people with the Princess in Black. I want to give it 15 stars because I really, really, really liked it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Tía Isa Wants A Car by Meg Medina
The pictures are great in this one, but I especially like reading this story of how a strong girl helps her aunt save money to buy a car. It’s one of the stories that I think subtly influenced Nell to start saving her allowance in order to buy her own bike last year. Financial independence definitely makes women stronger.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
To tell the truth, I’m not sure we actually have ever read this book. Instead, the girls have listened to hours of Pippi lifting horses off her front porch, outwitting burglars, and rescuing boys from burning buildings cuddled up next to the CD player in our living room. For awhile, Libby even told us she was going to be a “thing finder” when she grew up, like Pippi, and I have to say, when it comes time to find her favorite stuffed animal at bedtime, I really wish she’d spent more time exploring this as a career path.
The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson
I love this picture book about Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest marcher in the Birmingham Civil Rights movement to go to jail. I worried at first that the story would scare my youngest, but we were both moved by Audrey’s bravery and thought about causes we might stand up for in our community.
Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Libby adores the book, Rosie Revere Engineer, so when she caught sight of another book in the series in the bookstore, she was over the moon. The story has a strong STEM message, which I dig, but Libby and I can spend a good ten minutes per page just studying the great pictures.
Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath
Review by Nell
This is a great book. It’s all about women in history and what cool things they’ve done. It’s nonfiction and has different entries for different women so you can flip around. It also has really cool illustrations. At the end of each entry, there is a little note that talks about the art so people can understand it better. I give it a five-star rating. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(Mom Note: This book is definitely for a more mature audience as it doesn’t hold back on the gritty reality many of the “rejected princesses” faced. I let Nell read it, but made sure to check in with her as she read. We discussed, for instance, the horrible lynchings that Ida B. Wells reported on and how terrible it was for Nelly Bly to have a stalker (news to me!) As much as I want to shield Nell from some of these realities, I’m glad too that she can read books like this and learn how real women were able to stay strong when the world seemed to be set against them.)
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzi
Review by Nell
I like this story because it is about a real girl who was injured by the Taliban. They targeted her because she was a woman who dared to speak up against them. At one point, her father said, “Malala used to be known as my daughter. But I am proud to say that now I am known as Malala’s father.” The story is told by Malala. This book convinced me that Malala is one of the greatest women in history. Five stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(Mom Note: We spent some time discussing this one, too. I liked how it helped Nell consider what life was like for girls in other countries. The book helped us discuss terrorism, sexism, and bravery in the face of both.)
Other lists of Girl Power Books:
Mirrors for My Daughter’s Bookshelf – a reflection on picture books featuring African or African-American females