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Where did all the picture books with strong female characters go?
Sometimes it can feel like we’re fending off Peppa Pig or Frozen inspired picture books. And finding it hard to ‘let it go’.
The good news is there are a lot of picture books out there that contain positive role models for girls (& indeed boys) & they don’t always have to involve princesses (although some do).
Role models are important for girls, who often face a host of social challenges & obstacles in younger & later life. So sharing positive role models with them, as a child, helps inspire children as to what’s possible, as well as demonstrate ways to overcome hurdles.
So if you want to add a bit of girl power to your child’s picture books, take a look at the 15 picture books featuring strong female characters below (if your child is ages 6 & 9, try these).
From feisty female engineers to irreverent princesses, these picture books help children understand the importance of staying true to their values.
15 Picture Books With Strong Female Characters
1 – The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp
Anna Kemp’s The Worst Princess tells the tale of Sue, a less than compliant princess who is non too taken with her traditional Prince Charming.
Join Princess Sue and her fiery dragon side kick, as she turns the traditional fairy tale princess on its head and embarks on an adventure to get the fairy tale ending she wants. Ages 2-6.
2 -Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Ludwig Bernelman’s headstrong heroine, Madeline, and her charming Parisian world have been loved by children & adults for 75 years.
A rhyming book with lovely, whimsical drawings of Paris, it’s hard not to fall in love with the courageous Madeline & her delightful hair-raising scrapes. Ages 3-7.
3 – My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry
Isabella’s favourite heroines include U.S. Astronaut Sally Ride, activist Rosa Parks & sharpshooter Annie Oakley. But there’s no bigger hero than Isabella’s own mum!
As well as introducing children to some great women from history, My Name is Not Isabella is a wonderful adventure of self-discovery that teaches kids the importance of embracing who they are. Ages 4-8.
4 – Wild by Emily Hughes
Written & beautifully illustrated by Hawaiian artist Emily Hughes, Wild tells the tale of a girl who has known nothing but nature from birth.
Taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears, and to play by foxes, she is unashamedly wild…until she is captured & civilisation tries to tame her.
A lovely, quirky book about the importance of being who you really are. Ages 3-7.
5 – Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere is a brilliant inventor who dreams of becoming a great engineer.
When her Great Great Aunt Rose comes to visit & mentions her one unfinished goal – to fly – Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true.
A book that teaches us we only truly fail when we quit. Ages 5 & up.
6 – Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Grace has a big imagination.
She also loves stories, especially those told by her grandmother. Grace re-enact these stories, taking on the lead parts. So when she gets a chance to play a part in Peter Pan, guess who she wants to be?
An inspirational book with watercolour illustrations, Amazing Grace is an inspiring tale about self belief. Ages 4-8.
7 – 11 Experiments That Failed by Jenni Offill
Is it possible to eat snowballs covered in ketchup and nothing else? Can a washing machine wash dishes?
By following the step-by-step instructions, kids can discover the answers to these & other quirky experiments. Fun, funny and irreverent, this book teaches an underlying lesson – it’s ok to have fun & experiment. Even if it goes wrong! Ages 4-8.
8 – The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Over 5 million copies of Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess have been printed. A modern classic, it features Princess Elizabeth, who is destined to marry Prince Ronald. The problem is, Ronald has been captured by a dragon.
With her resourceful approach, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him and rescues Ronald (who is not impressed with Elizabeth’s ‘unladylike’ behaviour).
An antidote to the traditional princess story. Ages 4-7.
9 – Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem. Her house is haunted!
Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a bit about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths and bed sheets!
Kids love to be scared (but not too much!) & this book combines just the right mix of gentle scares & fun. Ages 3-6.
10 – Mrs Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Still going strong after 30 years, Mrs Rumphius tells the tale of a lady who longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea & make the world more beautiful.
A lovely story that demonstrated how you can choose to follow your heart & make the world a more beautiful place.
Incidentally, the author travelled the world & lived in a house by the sea, in Maine. Ages 5-8.
11 – Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman is well known for his graphic novels and fiction, but lesser known for his ‘prayer for the blueberry girl’.
Written for a friend, who was about to become a first time mother to a baby girl, Blueberry Girl is simple & powerful.
A beautiful ode to growing up and all the things we all hope for for our daughters, it’s simply lovely. Ages 4-8.
12 – Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum loves her name. In fact, she thinks it’s perfect. Until she starts school & her classmates suggest otherwise.
A great book for children starting, or going back to, school, Chrysanthemum is a book about treating your classmates with kindness.
Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes, Chrysanthemum is a classic story about teasing & acceptance. Ages 4-8.
13 – Grace For President by Kelly S DiPucchio
When Grace’s teacher announces there has never been a female president, Grace decides she’ll be the first… in the school’s mock election.
Whether or not you live in the US, this is a heart warming book with a universal message, which teaches children the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought. Ages 4-8.
14 – Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
Who said vehicles are just for boys? Certainly not Katy – a brave and committed tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in summer & a snowplough in winter.
Katy waits forever be truly useful in winter, as there’s never enough snow…until the biggest snowfall ever.
A timeless story about community, determination & hard work. Ages 4-8.
15 – I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer
I Am Rosa Parks, by New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, is part of the Ordinary People Can Change the World series.
Through the inspiring story of civil rights leader, Rosa Parks, it shows children how we can all be heroes in our own way, however ordinary we may seem.
A great way for children to learn about strong female characters throughout history. Ages 5-9.
Picture Books With Strong Female Characters – Conclusion
Most kids love stories & investing in some picture books, featuring strong female characters, helps introduce positive role models to your child from an early age.
From princesses who just won’t tow the line to strong female characters who demonstrated courage, kindness, determination & an absolute refusal to give up, picture books with positive female role models can prove a simple, yet powerful way to help nurture determination & self-belief in your little one.