We recently took a moment to search for the all-time best selling children’s books and stumbled upon a list published in 2001 from Publishers Weekly. Compiled of well over 100 children’s books ranked by their sales, the number one kid’s book was The Pokey Little Puppy by Janette Lowrey. Published in 1942, this book has sold more than 14,898,341 copies. That’s insane! It’s not surprising that the other top authors are classics such as Dr. Seuss, J.K Rowling, Shel Silverstein and Beatrix Potter, who wrote the Peter Rabbit stories. We noticed, however, that these top selling stories all have one thing in common: the main characters are all male-oriented. With the exception of Hermione Granger from Harry Potter (p.s. she is absolutely one of our all-time favorite fiction females) not a single book within the top 20 spots has a female lead. So we’re taking it upon ourselves to compile a list of our favorite children’s books with strong female leads. Some titles you may recognize and others you may not. Either way, we want your future feminists to have a library full of women they can look up to. Let’s dive in!
For your toddler warriors, our personal favorite is Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen. Check out this little excerpt from the book:
“Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, blue team jerseys that don’t quite fit,
accessorized with a baseball mitt, and a sparkly crown!”
There are also a handful of other picture books that let girls know it is okay to play hard, dress how they want and achieve their dreams. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke tells us the tale of a young princess whose only wish is to be rowdy and strong like her older brothers. To prove her worth, she disguises herself as a boy for a local jousting competition and wins. Only then is she granted the freedom she’s been denied.
Another great tale is Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio. When Grace learns there has never been a female president, she immediately runs for her class’s mock elections. Not only does this story introduce our electoral system in a manner that is easy to digest, it also shows us the courage and determination of a brave young girl. What more could we want for our young girls than confident, intelligent and maybe a little mischievous role models?
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans is a timeless classic. This independent young lady keeps her head mistresses on her toes as she discovers the world and the people within it. We want our ladies to be powerful! These picture books not only make it easy to introduce our young ones to reading, but to inspiring role models as well.
If your young one is just beginning to read, there’s a surprising amount of early readers and beginning chapter books that have phenomenal female characters. In the A-Z Mystery series by Ron Roy, there’s Ruth Rose. She’s a crime solving champ amongst a group full of boys. She’d make any detective proud with her sleuthing abilities.
There’s also the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne. Annie and her brother Jack have a unique secret; their tree house is magic and whisks them away on outlandish adventures full of action and suspense. Annie is a true role model and more often than not, she ends up saving her brother from trouble.
There’s also the Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows, about two best friends who love adventure and causing trouble. If your child prefers something on the “edgier” side, Franny K. Stein by Jim Benton offers the creepy tale of Franny and her bedroom experiments. Talk about needing more women in the STEM fields, Franny makes science fun and dangerous!
In need of something more challenging? If you child is beyond picture books and whizzing through beginning readers, it’s time to enter the realm of chapter books. With girls like Matilda from Roald Dahl or Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, the portal has been opened to a whole world of independent and creative girls who set the bar high and never cease to inspire. There’s Harriet from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh who observes her neighborhood and logs it all in her notebook. Savvy by Ingrid Law introduces us to the character Mibs, who must prove her magical abilities and save her father.
There’s a whole series titled Royal Diaries, each story by a unique author, that take us into the lives of notable historical women. Meet influential ladies like Nzingha the African warrior queen, Isabel the jewel of Castilla, Spain and Lady of Ch’iao Kuo, the red bird of the South. Titles like The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Graceling, The Frog Princess, Walk Two Moons and A Wrinkle in Time are all phenomenal reads with girls who kick total butt!
These girls are full of empowerment. They may not have made the Best Sellers list on Publishers Weekly, but they sure make our list for being strong ladies. This is only the tip of the iceberg, too. Come in and let us show you all the other amazing reads for young girls. There’s no better time to introduce your little leaves to new literature and new role models. Let us know what you think or comment and recommend some of your own.
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