Ever feel like the same books are shared over and over again? This round up of books with great role models for girls isn’t abou tthe most popular books, this list is a list of books that when I suggest them to friends aren’t often titles they have heard before. For a book list about strong girls filled with more popular picture books check out this popular book list of books about strong girls we created two years ago. What book would you add to this list?
Mama Played Baseball by David A. Adler This baseball story is told through the eyes of a little girl who watches everything change during World War Two. Her dad goes off to war and her mom tries out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and makes the cut! The story is simple and I was left wanting more but understood why the author ended it when he did. It’s a great book to explain the basics of what baseball was like on the home front during World War Two.
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen is about more than ballet, it’s about overcoming being different, accepting your body, and even standing up for yourself. Sassy is tall, too tall to partner with any of the boys in her ballet studio, and sticks out like a sore thumb. When a chance to audition for a summer ballet program in Washington D.C. arises other dancers in her studio make her doubt her talent. So often adults are able to see how awkward and different children are really striking and unique but getting the child to see that can be impossible. This book is all about a child discovering that different isn’t bad and that those differences are all she needs to stand out in a great way. It was a little long for my daughter who is 3 but she sat the whole time enjoying it all the same.
Supersister by Beth Cedena wasn’t full of x-ray vision or superpowers either but my son adored it. Kids are unpredictable. This story though is sweet and also has a little bit of mystery to it , which upon reflection could be one reason why my son liked it so much. Supersister is a little girl who is brave and helpful demonstrated by how she lovingly ties her moms shoes for her before zooming off to school. Okay so I preach about pre-reading books, but rarely do it, and reading this I was so worried the mom was going to be in a hospital bed and that’s why she needs her daughter to tie her shoes. I lean towards the dramatic so I doubt you’d even be thinking that and my son didn’t either. No nothing tragic has happened to mom, she is just very very pregnant. Supersister is practicing her role as a caregiver and older sister! My son loved that since he takes his still fairly new role of big brother very seriously. Cute book for new siblings especially!
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio is fantastic. The very best part of this book is on the first page when the main character a little girl named Grace exclaims “Where are the girls?” in response to her teacher hanging up a poster of all the presidents. If I wasn’t in a tent in the backyard while reading this with my son I would have stood up and given Grace a standing ovation. I can’t wait to read this to my daughter in a few years. I love how shocked she is and I was really happy that my son was surprised as well. Grace decides to run for president in the mock election for her grade at school and be the change. My love for this book doesn’t end with the wonderful example of basic feminism because next up the author tackles something oh so tricky; The Electoral College. The author does a great job explaining what can be a very confusing system used for American presidential elections and I bet more than a few parents reading this to their kids will get something out of it too. The story of Grace and her own campaign is sweet as well but the brilliance of this story is the complex lessons broken down so well for a young audience.
Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy is about bullying but it’s also about doing the right thing and not losing yourself especially when it’s hard. We both really liked this story about a little girl who is teased mercilessly by a classmate and how she deals with it. What we liked so much was that the bully was really mean and the bullying seemed to come from nowhere. I think that is so important because when you are getting bullied it’s hard to make sense of it, and often there is no clear reason for being a target. The dialog that this opened for us was so enlightening and this book offers parents and teachers many chances to talk about the complex issues of bullying. The thing about this book is that it’s not even so much about bullying but about not losing confidence in yourself and who you are in the face of a bully. Lucy struggles with being teased but ultimately she helps her bully when he needs it even though he doesn’t deserve her help. She does the right thing and gains confidence in herself in the process.
Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke is a fantastic story about a little princess who is different. She is so disgusted with being perfect and pretty that she chucks her crown into the pond. I love this book and cheered throughout. When she refuses her father’s orders he punishes her by sending her to the pigsty but she loves it and feels more at home there than in her royal chambers. I also love that her sisters who are girly, prim, and proper aren’t too bullyish and seem to love their traditional roles. There is room for all sorts of princesses in this family, well eventually there is. Good book!
Brontorina by James Howe is possibly one of my new favorite books on the planet. It’s not a new book but I have never read it before. My daughter loved it and while the lesson about creating inclusive environments went over her head the lesson about being true to yourself and doing something that has never been done before didn’t. The story is about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina and while a studio initially allows her to dance it’s clear that she is just too big. The story doesn’t end there and with some help from friends who support her dream, they find a way to include everyone.
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully is a book that all little girls should read. I think I may buy 20 copies and give them to every girl that invites either one of my kids to their birthday parties. The reason I think this book is so wonderful isn’t that it’s about some woman that is on a coin (no disrespect Susan) but because I had never heard of Mattie but I should have, we all should have. Many of her inventions are still in use today – like the paper bag that stays upright. She made history many of us just didn’t know it. Her story of invention, entrepreneurship, and strength of character are stunning. She stands up for herself, learns from her mistakes, and follows her passion even though it’s not the easy or even the “only kinda hard” road. All the way she faces challenges and just keeps going. This is far more inspiring than any girl power book that I have read before, and it’s true.
Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochilltree is a story I had never heard before we found this book at the library but am so glad I know it now. Molly was an African American cook who provided meals for the firefighters in a town in New York. When a fire broke out and most of the firefighters were ill she put on the gear and stood side by side with the men to help fight the fire. She is the first known female firefighter. What I love about this story is that Molly didn’t grab the gear and start fighting because she wanted to be the first, she did it because there was a need and she was capable of helping. Being the first woman to be a firefighter was brave and Molly kept volunteering with the department for years after the first fire.
Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson is a lovely story about a big hippo that loves to dance, although her neighbors aren’t as keen. See Hilda is bog and when she dances she shakes and rattles everything, it’s noisy and disruptive and is making her friends very angry. They suggest that she try new hobbies, but knitting and singing won’t do it’s simply not in her heart, Hilda needs to move and groove! I love that a solution is found that makes everyone happy, that Hilda doesn’t have to give up her passion, but that she isn’t so selfish as to simply say “too bad” to her friends either.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen. This book is not so much about being different and facing adversity but about being yourself even if the world has decided you should fit perfectly into the mold it’s given you. When we think of Princesses we think pink, sparkly, and dry clean only! These princesses can’t be pigeonholed, they do what’s in their heart not what’s expected of them just because they are princesses. The princesses have all different interests, all different looks and I love that there are some with glasses too. Strong girls being themselves isn’t too different but for a book about princesses it is and it’s refreshing to read.
Thanks for the list. Can’t Wait Willow is another great one.
What about role models for boys? Why is the list discriminating?
Allison McDonald says
I missed this comment. There are countless representations of great role models for boys in books and one of MY passions is to find books that do that for girls. So often women and girls are someone’s sister, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter in books and not the main character, and if they are maybe the message isn’t one that exudes strength. I have long thought of putting together a list for boys but every time I sit down it’s way too long and honestly my heart is not in it. I blog because I am passionate about what I blog about and all of these lists are subjective. If you would like to suggest some books I would be more than happy to leave the list in comments.
Yes I Can, I’m Clover Anne is another great choice.
Emma J. Homes says
Ten-year-old Ruthie lives on a bus with her wildlife scientist parents, a younger brother and sister, and a pet orphan wombat. Together they travel around Australia helping wild animals. I was inspired to write the two fictional adventures ‘The vanishing frogs of Cascade Creek’ and ‘Saving wombats’ after meeting and befriending a couple of dedicated wildlife scientists. They are available as ebooks only, on Amazon, and are aimed at kids who love nature and are aged around 8 to 11. I would love to hear from any child who reads one of them and will try to respond, via the contact form on my website emmajhomes.weebly.com
To Laura: Historically, the accomplishments of outstanding Caucasian male have been widely reported and written about,so it is not difficult to find books for boys. There are fewer books representing women and other cultures available.
Alison Lynch Richard says
So happy to see Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun on this list! We just added it to our book list for the WITS Programs to prevent bullying and it’s already a favourite among the schools we work with. For anyone interested in using the book in a classroom setting, we’ve developed a lesson plan with discussion questions and activity ideas at: http://www.witsprogram.ca/schools/books/spaghetti-in-a-hot-dog-bun.php?source=book-lists
Just read “A Bad Case of Stripes” by David Shannan yesterday. The girls starts out weak at the beginning not wanting to own up to liking lima beans because nobody else does and then comes down with a case of “stripes” and once she finally admits she likes lima beans and eats them, the stripes are gone.