Here are 10 books to inspire young girls. These stories are of accomplished and ground breaking women around the world who have faced fears and overcome obstacles in order to achieve success.
Malala’s Magic Pencil
Written by Malala Yousafzai
Illustrated by Kerascoet
Ages 5 to 8
Malala Yousafzia is a Pakistani activist and the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Prize. She is known for her human rights advocacy for the education of women and children, and her advocacy has grown into an international movement. As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the small of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But, as she grew older, Malala saw that even if she found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true. This beautifully illustrated volume shows how Malala was able to hold on even in the most difficult of times.
The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure
Written by Caroline Paul
Illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton
Ages 9 and up
Why should girls miss out on the joy of adventure. They can jump off rocks, swing on ropes, and climb trees just as well as boys can. But often, fear gets in the way. Caroline Paul was a scaredy-cat herself once, but she overcame her fear to become a pilot, raft big rivers, climb tall mountains and fight fires in San Francisco as one of the city’s first female firefighters. In The Gutsy Girl, Paul emboldens girls to live a life of adventure. She shares her greatest escapades as well as those of other girls and women throughout history, and offers engaging activities such as confidence-building stances, creating a compass, positive self-talk, and using crickets to estimate outside temperature. Each section includes a place for girls to “journal” their adventures. The book is fully illustrated with the pen-and-ink drawings of New York Times bestselling illustrator and graphic journalist, Wendy McNaughton.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Ages 8 to 11
This beautifully illustrated bestseller features 40 trailblazing black women in American history. Each story is told with a full-page narrative and a full-page illustration. It brings to life the stories of both iconic and lesser-known groundbreaking black female figures of US History including abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Also included are athlete Florence Joyner, poet and activist Audre Lorde, union spy Mary Bowser, journalist Gwen Ifill, sculptor Augusta Savage and Rebecca Lee Crumbler, the fist African American woman in the US to earn a Medical Degree.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Gingsburg Makes Her Mark
Written by Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Ages 4 to 8
In the first book about the celebrated Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Gingsburg, Her Honor proves that disagreeing doesn’t make you disagreeable. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing. She disagreed about inequality. She argued against unfair treatment. And, she stood up for the rights of people everywhere. This is a biographical picture book abut the “Notorious RBG” that tells the story of her many famous dissents and disagreements. Words like protest, object, disagree, and agree are set in colorful and bold typography and the book is complemented by Baddeley’s cartoonish drawings. Back matter includes photos of Gingsburg, more information on her life and the Supreme Court cases alluded to in the text, and a bibliography.
Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves
By Kate T. Parker
5 and up
Strong Is the New Pretty celebrates, through more than 175 memorable photographs, the strength and spirit of girls being 100% themselves.Real beauty isn’t about being a certain size, acting a certain way, wearing the right clothes, or having your hair done (or even brushed). Real beauty is about being your authentic self and owning it. Kate T. Parker is a professional photographer who finds the real beauty in girls, capturing it for all the world to see in candid and arresting images. An affirmation of the fact that it’s what’s inside you that counts, Strong Is the New Pretty conveys a powerful message for every girl, for every mother and father of a girl, for every coach and mentor and teacher, for everyone in the village that it takes to raise a strong and self-confident person.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
Written by Catherine Thimmesh
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Ages 10 to 12
In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented ingenious innovations that have made our lives simpler and better. Their creations are some of the most enduring (the windshield wiper) and best loved (the chocolate chip cookie). What inspired these women, and just how did they turn their ideas into realities? From Sybilla Masters, the first American woman with a documented invention (although the patent had to be in her husband’s name), to twelve-year-old Becky Schroeder, who in 1974 became the youngest girl to receive a patent, Girls Think of Everything tells the stories of these women’s obstacles and their remarkable victories.
She Persisted Around the World
Written by Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Ages 4 to 8
This is the companion to Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiler’s #1 New York Times bestseller, She Persisted. She Persisted Around the World is a book for all who have aimed high and been told to step down, for everyone who has ever raised her voice and been told to quiet down, and for everyone who has ever felt small, unimportant or unworthy. Alexandra Boiger’s vibrant artwork accompanies this inspiring text. This book features: Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Viola Desmond, Sissi Lima do Amor, Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, Wangari Maathai, Aisha Rateb, J.K. Rowling, Kate Sheppard, Yuan Yuan Tan, Mary Verghese and Malala Yousafzai.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped our History…and Our Future
Written by Kate Schatz
Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Ages 8 to 16
Like all A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet—but instead of “A is for Apple”, A is for Angela—as in Angela Davis, the iconic political activist. B is for Billie Jean King, who shattered the glass ceiling of sports; C is for Carol Burnett, who defied assumptions about women in comedy; D is for Dolores Huerta, who organized farmworkers; and E is for Ella Baker, who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. And the list of great women continues, spanning several centuries, multiple professions, and 26 diverse individuals. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes, rock stars and rabble-rousers, and agents of change of all kinds. The book includes an introduction that discusses what it means to be “rad” and “radical,” an afterword with 26 suggestions for how you can be “rad,” and a Resource Guide with ideas for further learning and reading.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky
Ages 10 to 12
A charmingly illustrated and educational book, New York Times bestseller Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Ages 8 and up
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is packed with 100 bedtime stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. Each woman’s story is written in the style of a fairy tale. Each story has a full page, full color portrait that captures the spirit of the portrayed hero. Included are Aung San Suu Kyi, Coy Mathis, Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, The Mirabal Sisters, Seondeok of Sillia, Yoko Ono and 93 other women from all over the world and throughout time. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is also the most crowdfunded original book in history. Plus it’s a beautiful book. Hardcover, with an extra smooth matte scuff-free lamination, 100lbs beautiful paper, a double satin bookmark and an extraordinary print quality. Companion book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2, was published in 2017..
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years and founded Mothering.com in 1995. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out my email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.