Picture Books with Strong Girl Characters

Since we started The Reading Bug, I have been asked on a number of occasions to compile a list of picture books that feature strong, independent girls. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and here are my favorites.

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty is a great new picture book that is flying off our shelves! Rosie wants to be an engineer—she loves to design and build amazing gadgets and gizmos—but she’s worried that her inventions might not work. When her great great aunt visits, Rosie takes a risk and decides to build a flying machine to help her aunt realize her dream of flying, and she learns that failure isn’t something to fear: it’s the first step on the path to success. There is an endnote in the book that describes how women staffed U.S. factories during World War II when the men were at war. Ages 4 to 8.

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell is the story of young Jane Goodall—the renowned humanitarian, conservationist and animal activist—and her childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As young Jane observes the natural world around her, she dreams “of a life of living with and helping all animals. A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book. Ages 4 to 8.

My Name is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? By Jennifer Fosberry. Isabella wakes up one morning with dreams of becoming someone great, and she spends the rest of the day pretending to be some of the greatest women in history, including U.S. astronaut Sally Ride, activist Rosa Parks, and scientist Marie Curie. At the end of the book, there is a short biography of each of the real women who inspired Isabella. If you like this book, you should also read Isabella: Star of the Story. In Star of the Story, Isabella’s visit to the library becomes an unexpected adventure through the pages of classic children’s stories, featuring heroines like Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan. Ages 4 to 8.

Dream Big Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi is about Poppy, a little pig who wants to be a champion ice skater. Poppy discovers that it takes persistence, determination, and self confidence to become a champion. This book will inspire girls to dream big. And if you like this book, you should also read It’s a Big World, Little Pig. Poppy’s hard work has paid off, and she is competing in the World Games ice skating championship in Paris. Ages 4 to 8.

Ladybug Girl by introduces Lulu, a resourceful little girl who discovers that when she puts on her “superhero” ladybug cape, she can do anything that she puts her mind to. In this first book of the series, Ladybug Girl, accompanied by her bassett hound, Bingo, proves she is not too little to explore nature, build forts, and make her own fun in her backyard after her older brother tells her that he is too busy to play with her. There are lots more picture books in this series, as well as board books, in which Lulu continues her adventures. Ages 2 to 8.

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Books? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle is a great book to help our little princesses realize that they can do everything their male counterparts do—incluing riding bicycles, climbing trees and going for long hikes. The book ends with an illustrated picture frame that surrounds a mirror to answer the little girl’s most important question. This book provides an important message about self-acceptance and will inspire little princesses to follow their dreams, no matter where they lead. If you like this book, you will also like Do Princesses Scrape Their Knees?,
Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? and Do Princesses Have Best Friends Forever?. Ages 3 to 8.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan introduces Betty Bunny, a bunny with a big personality who is short on patience but has discovered one of life’s pleasures—chocolate cake. Her mother wants here to have patience, but Betty wants chocolate cake because it tastes so much better than patience. This is a great book for picky eaters. If you like Betty Bunny, you’ll also want to readBetty Bunny Wants Everything and Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It. Ages 3 to 6.

Freckle Face Strawberry by actress Julianne Moore introduces us to a red-haired little girl who learns to live with all the things that make her unique. This is a great book about individuality,pride, and self esteem. If you like it, you’ll also want to read Freckle Face Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully andFreckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever. Ages 4 to 8.

In Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio, Grace decides to become president of the United States when she learns that there has never been a woman president. She kicks off her plan to entering her school’s mock election, but finds that politics are not as easy as she thought. Ages 5 to 8.

Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes is about Sheila Rae, a mouse who is not afraid of anything. Sheila teases her timid little sister, Louise, relentlessly until one day Sheila Rae decides to take a new route home. When she realizes she is lost, Sheila Rae becomes frightened, but little Louise helps her overcome her fear. Ages 4 to 8.

In Nelly May Has Her Say by Cynthia DeFelice, Nelly May lives with her 12 siblings and her parents in a tiny cottage in the Bottoms where there is never enough food. When Nelly May decides to take a job as Lord Pinkwonkle’s housekeeper and cook, he requires her to call him the “Most Excellent of all Masters” and to use other silly names for the members of his household—until Nelly has had enough and decides to have her say. This story, which is based on an English folktale, is a great story about a girl with spunk, self-respect and a big heart. Ages 4 to 8.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward, the critically acclaimed author of Porgy, is a classic that cannot be missed. Heyward wrote this story for his daughter in 1939. The book is about a rabbit who dreams of becoming one of the five (all male) Easter bunnies, even though she has 21 children. IN the end, the country bunny’s intelligence and kindness trump over the strength and bluster of her male counterparts. Ages 4 to 10.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is a classic tale (first published in 1980) that you simply can’t miss! Princess Elizabeth plans on marrying Prince Ronald, but a dragon destroys her kingdom, kidnaps Ronald and burns her clothes so that she is forced to wear a paper bag. Elizabeth follows the dragon and rescues Ronald, who is ungrateful and tells her to return when she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth realizes she is better off without Ronald and sets off into the sunset to live her own life. The Paper Bag Princess has won critical acclaim from feminists, including an endorsement from the National Organization for Women. Ages 4 to 10.

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