March is Women’s History Month, and we are scanning our bookshelves, exploring the library, and filling up the Amazon wish list with books featuring strong female characters. There’s no shortage of choices—fiction and nonfiction, picture books and chapter books—showcasing fearless females for readers of all ages. Some of my favorite childhood books spun tales of strong girls—there was Pippi Longstocking, Ramona (though perhaps strong-willed is a more apt description), the female cast of characters in the Little House series, and the beloved Anne of Green Gables. Here are some of my more recent favorites that I’ve enjoyed reading with my two older daughter (4 and 6)…and a few I can’t wait to read, too.
(cool) books with super strong girls
I am Amelia Earhart (Ordinary People Change World) by Brad Meltzer
We were originally drawn to this book’s awesome illustrations, specifically the adorable drawing of Amelia Earhart as a spirited kid flying across the cover in her aviator cap. Brad Meltzer presents fun facts about Earhart paired with Christopher Eliopoulos’ sweet illustrations to convey Earhart’s message—never let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams. The photos at the end of the real-life Amelia Earhart sparked enough questions from my daughters that I went online to reserve a library copy of Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming, a nonfiction title for older readers. Next in Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World picture book series is the story Rosa Parks, which will be released in June 2014.
After we finished I am Amelia Earhart, my oldest daughter Olive was talking about other books about cool “real” girls. She then launched into a description of Josephine Baker—a spy and a dancer who got to live in Paris (the city of my Olive’s dreams). Olive had learned about this jazz legend in library at school, which led us to this colorful picture book. Jazz Age Josephine uses playful rhythms to tell the tale of the dancer’s relentless spirit and the obstacles she had to overcome on her journey to Paris.
Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio
Ever tried explaining the electoral college to a 5 year old? This upbeat picture book makes a solid attempt through the eyes of Grace, who wonders exactly why our country has never had a female president. The book explores leadership and civic duty while keeping the story relatable to the young audience.
Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Roxie is a scrappy adventurer, well prepared to deal with most adventures in the wild. The one thing she struggles with is a relatable challenge for lots of elementary school students—a group of bullies. You and your kids (ideal for grades 1-3), will root for Roxie as she navigates life when she finds herself stuck on a dessert island with the band of bullies known as Helvetia’s Hooligans and other perils.
Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (Fancy Nancy) by Jane O’Connor
Grow up reading Nancy Drew? If the readers in your house aren’t quite old enough to appreciate The Hidden Staircase or The Secret of the Old Clock, revisit the picture book diva Fancy Nancy in this girl detective series. Nancy and her old pal Bree get to the bottom of mysteries at school, while continuing to introduce young readers to new vocabulary in a fun and engaging way. While many of the female leads in early chapter books written make me want to poke my eyes out (you know who I’m talking about Junie B. Jones), Nancy manages to toe the line between cute and annoying, and the stories move along at a nice pace.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
We haven’t read this one yet, but it’s next on our list to read out loud. We’re fans of Lin’s picture books and Ling & Ting early readers. This novel incorporates Chinese folk tales into the story of a young women’s journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to help her family. With vibrant full-color illustrations and a strong female heroine, I’m confident this will be a bedtime hit.
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
The final book on my list is a high seas tale with a female heroine written for the elusive tween, or middle grade market. When the main character is turned away from The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates simply because she is a girl, she sets off on adventure to make things right. The supremely talented Caroline Carlson is a former co-worker and I’m not at all sure why it has taken me so long to read it (sorry Caroline!) since it was released back in September. Can I blame Donna Tartt and Goldfinch? If I ever finish that one, it’s next on my list for sure, and then I’ll tuck it away for the girls in a few more years.
What books with super strong girls are you reading this month?