Books with Strong Girl Characters
Berkeley Parents Network >
The Arts, Books, Entertainment, & Media >
Books with Strong Girl Characters
please send me titles of children's books that are pro- girl for my 2 year old
daughter. we are growing up and away from the hungry little catepillar and the other
fun classics, and need some new material that ideally are pro-
if you also have suggestions for books on how to raise a strong girl-- please share.
I don't have any specific recommendations for books. But I
do suggest that you hit your local library. We've been
going practically weekly since my daughter was 2 (she's 5
now). I pick one shelf each week and just browse (different
shelf each week keeps things mixed up). There are lots and
lots of good books out there. With
picture books, you can practically read the whole thing on
the spot to find the ones you think are appropriate.
Eventually, your daughter will pick out her own books (but
you can still pick some, too, as long as you are still
reading to her).
Once nice thing about the library is that the books
eventually have to go back, which puts a limit on how many
time you have to read the same book over and over (she may
want to check it out again, but you'll have a week's
You didn't mention what city you are in, but the Oakland
main library has a good-size children's library, and a very
helpful librarian who can help track down specific books or
recommend books on a specific theme (stong girls, for
My partner and I have a 4 year old girl. She's recently begun to
make remarks about people's bellies being ''too big.'' This
concerns us considerably, and we've done a fair amount of talking
with her about understanding that bodies come in all shapes and
sizes and that it's important not to judge people along these
lines. We seek additional resources to help in this regard. Can
people recommend books/stories for 4 and 5 yr old girls that
include characters (especially female) of varying body types,
where such diversity is either a non-issue or, ideally, discussed
in a supportive way?
More generically, we are also looking for stories with girl
characters who value being smart and strong as much, if not more,
than being pretty. She's adorable, and hears as much from the
world all the time, and we are eager to balance this by
reinforcing the power of being smart and compassionate. Our
concern is that she'll conclude that her looks are the easiest
way to win praise, and that emotional or other intelligences
aren't worth the effort, by comparison. We work with each other,
her teachers, and other significant adult figures in her life
along these lines, but would appreciate additional children's lit
suggestions to supplement our efforts. Thanks.
May not be exactly what you are looking for but your post made
me think of ''The Paper Bag Princess'' by Munsch and Marchenko--a
great antidote to traditional fairy tales. Ask a librarian for
books with strong female protagonists. The children's
librarians at the downtown Berkeley public are great.
Regarding books with strong female protagonists, when I was a kid, I read the
book ''The Ordinary Princess'' by M.M. Kaye and loved it. It is a book about a
princess who is given, at birth, the ''gift'' of being ordinary. She isn't beautiful
and demure like her six older sisters, she is freckled and adventurous. I won't
give away the ending, but she does eventually meet her prince... sort of. I
would guess that this book is appropriate starting at age 7 or 8, in terms of
content, so a little old for your daughter, but put it on your list for a few years
One of my favorite positive girl books is ''The Paperbag Princess'', a sort of updated
fairy tale which has the princess outwitting the fire-breathing dragon, rescuing the
prince (who is quite ungrateful) and deciding in the end that she'd rather be alone
than with him.
I wouldn't call this a ''body image'' book, but I really recommend
the book *I Like Me* by Nancy Carlson. It is very simple: the
girl character (she's a pig) talks about the things she likes
about herself (''I read good books with me'', ''I like my round
tummy'', ''When I make mistakes I try and try again'' etc). It's a
very positive book and one of my daughter's favorites. She is
also four and we've been reading it together for over a year.
Can anyone update/add to the list of kids' books with strong
girl characters that was generated in discussion here in 1997?
We have profited from many of the titles recommended but would
like to have more. Also, some of the resources described there
are now out of date. It would also be interesting to know if
there is some kind of newsletter or catalog reviewing such
books. Thank you.
My daughter who is entering third grade helped me put together
this list (except for the middle school books.)
Mirette on the Highwire
Ride on the Red Mare's Back Ursula K. LeGuin (folktale, set
in Sweden. Girl rescues brother from trolls.)
Catwings (& sequels) Ursula K. LeGuin (strong female
Girls to the Rescue ed. Bruce Lasky (modern stories of
brave girls by different authors)
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole (She wants to play with
her pets, rather than marry & outsmarts her parents and the
princes who come to call.) There's a similar book called The
Paperbag Princess. I can't remember the author.
The Magic School Bus books by Joanna Cole (Ms. Frizzle is the
Tatterhood and Other Tales ed. Ethel Johnson Phelps
(folktales, some scholarly footnotes)
Not One Damsel in Distress ed. Jane Yolen (folktales)
Birdie's Lighthouse by Deborah Hopkinson (a girl takes over the
lighthouse in a storm when her father is gone)
My daughter is now 13 and is quite a reader. She really liked
the Ella Enchanted books and Wolf Star books (trilogy-can't
remember the authors name). Isabelle Allende recently
wrote a children's book that my daughter liked a lot. There
might be two in the series. I can't remember the title (what
happened to my brain!).
How's that to start? I don't know how old your daughter is,
these are for 10-13 year olds.
I love the Olivia picture books by Ian Falconer and, for kids
ready for relatively easy chapter books, the Ramona books by
Beveryly Cleary. Both heroines have very active imaginations and
very definite opinions.
Every few years a resource is published recommending books with
strong female characters. One from 2002 that I bought for my
library is called ''Great books for girls : more than 600
recommended books for girls ages 3-14.'' It's by the children's
librarian Kathleen Odean and is published by Ballantine. Also,
don't forget that your local children's librarian can make
*personalized* recommendations based on your reading tastes!
This way you can find books not only with strong female
characters, but that your family will really enjoy. Best of all,
this service is free (your tax dollars at work) and the
librarians love doing it.
A Helpful Children's Librarian
I'm wondering if anyone out there has recommendations
for children's books that have strong, capable,
intelligent female characters and don't reinforce the
crazy beauty focus, body-image neuroses and gender
stereotypes that abound everywhere. For example, we
have Princess Smartypants and The Paper Bag Princess,
both a good start (although both books feature only
white characters), and I would like to
expand our library. Do y'all have any favorites?
I have enjoyed Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue, which is a
chained series of old fairy tales ''in new skins'' that make them
feminist without feeling preachy.
One of my favorites is called ''Rumplestiltskin's Daughter.'' It
is a picture book but has a lot of text. A funny twist on the
old fairy tale with a strong and clever lead character who
outsmarts the greedy king. Also nice lessons about the
distribution of wealth....
my favorite picture book in that category is ''A chair for my
mother'' by vera williams; if you go to amazon.com and search it,
you'll also get all sorts of lists, on the right hand side of
the page, compiled by others (titles like ''books for feminist
girsl and their moms'') with great recs... then of course you
should buy those books NOT at amazon, but at your local book
store (maybe Boadaecia's in kensington, a small woman-centered
store that is in danger of closing!)
There is a great collection of stories, poems, and writings
called Stories for Free Children published by the Ms. Foundation
in 1982 (if you don't mind going back to the 70's era feminist
mentality, and looking for an out of print book). My kids, ages
5 and 7, have all repeatedly enjoyed a story in the book called
X by Lois Gould, about a family that doesn't reveal the gender
of their kid to the world ''it's an x'', and the reactions of the
world to x, and x to the world of stereotypes. Many of the
stories are more for ages 6 and up.
For kids, I recommend Miss Rumphius and the American Girls
series. I especially recommend the American Girls because it
gives kids a framework of American history from a cultural point
of view which makes schoolwork and textbooks more
For Adults, you might want to try Reviving Ophelia and
Schoolgirls by Peggy Orenstein.
I am not certain what age range you are looking for, but I want to
recommend for young adult readers (6-up, depending on reading ability)
Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman Saga. This series of seven books focuses on
a family who builds a home with their grandmother after being abandoned
by their mentally ill mother. The women in the books are very strong,
not sterotyped and the writing is beautiful. Another good writer with
strong young women characters is Karen Cushman who wrote the Midwive's
Apprentice and Catherine called Birdy. These are set in Medevial times, but do not
have fantasy elements like so many books set in that period.
Middle School English teacher
resource is ''Great Books for Girls'' by Kathleen
Odean. I have a young daughter, 2 nieces now 9 and 12 and 2
other girls I'm close to that are 3 and 6. The author is/was a
children's librarian and former Chair of the Newbery Award
Committee. This book has kept me in (very popular) Chirstmas and
birthday gifts for many years. All the books the author lists
feature strong female characters - she is even conscious of the
lack of strong female animal characters in kids books and is
sensitive even to weak background characters. Terrific! Odean
divides her listings by age range, then by type (fiction,
fantasy, biography, etc.), so you can find books for different
interests or moods.
I have purchased several other books similarly billed, but theese
others seemed to have a hard time finding good books, and listed
many that they admitted were mediocre stories.(?!?) Don't miss
Odean's book if you are interested in strong female messages.
(She also has several other books about books for kids: books
for boys, for babies and toddlers and books about things kids love).
I'm a big fan,
We just got out our holiday books and I was reminded of your
post. Jan Brett's ''The Wild Christmas Reindeer'' has a tough,
resourceful girl as the main character, and it has stunning
drawings, too. I recommend Brett's ''The Trouble with Trolls'' for
the same reasons. My 2yo and 5yo daughters are both big fans.
Here's one list of where to begin with feminist books. I've arranged it
roughly by age.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros. (A girl and her grandmother fly over the city.)
What Kind of Babysitter is this? by Dolores Johnson (mom has a night class,
elderly female babysitter is a big baseball fan)
Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (nurturing male teacher, strong
Michael and Rosie by Cynthia Voight. (A boy and girl are ''best friends'')
Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen
(Jane Yolen has written many other books with female and male characters who
have the full range of emotions and behaviors.)
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lundgren
The Catwings books by Ursula LeGuin (brave little flying cats, well written and funny for adults as well as kids.)
A Ride on The Red Mare's Back by Ursula LeGuin (Big sister rescues little
brother from trolls -- insightful into both of their motivations, though mostly
about the sister and the red mare.)
Inspirations: Stories of Women Artists by Leslie Sills. For older kids, though my
7-year-old likes it as a read aloud with plenty of discussion. Includes Frieda
Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, Faith Ringgold (who has written and illustrated a
number of good kids' books herself), and Alice Neel.
Tamara Pierce has written a number of series set in a medieval world where
girls prove their mettle as knights.
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursual LeGuin (explores the meaning of gender --
suitable for 12+. I think it was written for adults.)
In Code: A Young Woman's Mathematical Journey by Sarah Flannery. At 16
Flannery develops an important cryptography algorithm, winning Ireland's
Young Scientist of the Year award.
Too many choices but you cound consider books by LeGuin, Margaret Atwood,
Octavia Butler, Adrienne Rich (poetry), Marge Piercy, Lucia Berlin, Pat Murphy,
Lucille Clifton (poetry -- has some books for kids), Fanny Howe (poetry --
some books for adolescents) are good starting points.
I notice my list is heavy on the science fiction -- partially that's
personal taste, and partially that's because a number of feminists are writing
science fiction in order to deconstruct our ideas about gender.
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (there are three books
featuring this character) and all of the Oz books by Baum! If
you only know Dorothy from the movie, please check out the
original books because they are completely different. Dorothy
is confident, strong, brave, self-assured, and funny. After the
first book, the wizard leaves the Emerald City and it is ruled
after that by the rightful ruler, Ozma--a young girl who is
wize and brave. I can't recommend these books enough,
especially if you are looking for strong female characters.
Our daughter is really into reading chapter books now, but has come home
with a string of
them which have all been situated in white, middle class, suburban
families with siblings
who bicker constantly, tell each other to "shut up!" and call each other
"stupid" and "jerk."
In the latest book, the main character invited some girls over for a
slumber party for her
11th birthday and two girls would not eat pizza because they were on a
diet! Please tell me
there are chapter books out there where girls are not obsessed by body image,
siblings do not fight and name call, and all the people are not white and
class (or European and nobility -- princesses, etc). She loved Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory, but seems to want to read about girls recently. I would
any recommendations with either boys or girls as main characters that would be
topically appropriate for a first grader. Thanks! Dana
Regarding chapter books for young girls--one of my favorite
topics and makes me want a baby girl very badly:
from my childhood (19070s), so some of these may be a bit
outdated, harder to find, and some might be better at a slightly older
The "shoes" books, by Noel Streatfeild --Ballet, Dancing,
Theater, Circus, Travelling, etc.
Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink
The All-of-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor (Tailor?)
The Little House on the Prarie books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Betsy Tacy Tib books, Maude Hart Lovelace
The Anne of Green Gables books, by LM Montgomery (perhaps at a
slightly older age)
Little Women, Little Men, Jo's boys, Eight Cousins, Rose in
Bloom, An Old Fashoned Girl, plus a few others as well that I don't
recall off the top of my head, by LM Alcott
The Beverly Cleary books-- Ramona Quimby, age 8 comes to mind,
but they are all great.
Famous Five, Secret Seven (detective series), The St. Clare
girls, and Mallory Towers series, by Enid Blyton and anything else that
Enid Blyton has written
The Five Little Peppers
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
Madeleine L'Engle books (again, perhaps for older kids)
Charlotte's Web, by EB White (plus the rest of the the EB
Other great Authors, some of the titles are escaping me now:
Many books by Eleanor Estes: the Moffats (series), Ginger Pye
Betsy Byars (good for that age)
Other resources to find great kids books:
Newberry Book Awards
Caldecott Book Awards (Amazon has a list of all the books to
receive these awards)
The North Berkeley Branch of the Berkeley Public Library...
almost all of these authors/books were there in the last millennium, and
they have amazing children's librarians.
Good luck and happy reading. I enjoy re-reading many of these
even now, so I hope you enjoy them as well!
Sorry, I forgot to add Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
to the list... (a must read!) and if anyone has a similar list from when
they were young
boys, I would love to see it!
In addition to the excellent list provided by Shahana (clearly
my soul mate, as I'd read and loved almost everything on her list), I'd like
to suggest the following books:
Edward Eager: Half Magic, Magic or Not, Knight's Castle and a
host of others
Lynne Reid Banks: The Indian in the Cupboard books (series)
An additional plug for Beverly Cleary: Ramona the Pest, Beezus
& Ramona, Henry Huggins, Henry & Ribsy, Otis Spofford, etc.
Lloyd Alexander: the whole Prydain Chronicles -- The Book of
Three, The Black Cauldron, Taran Wanderer, The High King, etc.
Robert O'Brien: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Louise Fitzhugh:
Harriet the Spy, Sport John Fitzgerald: The Great Brain books (series)
Elizabeth George Speare: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The
Bronze Bow E. L. Konigsburg: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.
Frankweiler And for the slightly older child, let us not overlook the
much, and deservedly, lauded Harry Potter books.
Any of the these books (possible exception of the Witch of
Blackbird Pond, but even there I'm not sure) I would recommend with a clear
conscience to kids who like to read, of either gender. Some might be a bit
challenging for a 6-year-old. One thing I do find pretty annoying is the
unthinking classification of some wonderful books as a "girl's" book or a
"boy's" book, often simply because of the gender of the main protagonist.
Boys especially are apt not to read a "girl's book" and thus miss out on
really great stuff.
My husband read certain of the above (and the L.I. Wilder
books) as an adult, at my insistence, and had to agree, they were swell.
Harriet of Harriet The Spy is appealing to any kid. The fact that she's a
girl is practically a non-issue, but boys don't tend to read that
book. Anyway, I can't wait until my 3-year-old son can sit still for a story
without too many pictures, so that I can start the indoctrination. And I
too would love to hear about books I may have missed.
The Narina series by C.S.Lewis are terrific for both boys and
girls. All the books feature at least one, sometimes two, girls and boys
as lead characters. Lewis's themes are about good and evil and finding
the moral courage to do the right thing in the face of adversity.
There's a lot of magic, (trees and animals that can talk, dwarfs and elves,
spells etc.), plenty of action and comedy. We read them aloud when my son
was a little younger, but now at the age of eight he reads them himself and
for the first time says things like "I can't wait to read more of my
There are a few great series books that get more challenging
as the themes and characters in them get older; the Betsy/Tacy/Tib series,
and the Little House series.
Other books I remember loving:
Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge (great family
dynamics, some fantasy/magic)
Family Sabbatical and Family Grandstand (and Caddie Woodlawn)
by Carol Ryrie Brink
(Caddie Woodlawn has some uncomfortable native American
(these may be out of print, but available at the library)
The Saturdays, Four Story Mistake and pretty much anything by
The Moffat Series by Eleanor Estes
(Rufus M is particularly charming!)
I also remember fondly the Carolyn Haywood Books but haven't
read any recently to see if they hold up over time, but reading level and them
wise they are *perfect* for an excellent first grade reader.
We've been reading Redwall (Brian Jacques) to our eight year
old happily. We also read all of Narnia, though the earlier in the
series are far more accesible than the later ones, and the Christian
symbolism gets difficult. We'll probably start with Lloyd Alexander fairly
This is in response to Dana who would like non-typical
childrens books for her daughter.
I remember loving folk tales from all over the world at that
age. I had a bunch of them from Russia, India, Africa...they teach
about cultures, have colourful pictures and different language
styles. Im not sure about what your stand is on comics, but
Asterix and TinTin used to be favorites
We're very lucky to be in Berkeley where we have access to so
many cultures. You should be able find these books in the used book
stores on Telegraph. best of luck!
Great books for girls, by Kathleen Odean, lists more than 600
titles, from picture books on up.
Try the Girls to the rescue series, edited by Bruce Lansky.
There are about 6 books in the series, all paperback, with different
short stories about the many smart, courageous things girls
can do. Check http://www.newmoon.org & also ask your local
children's librarian. There are many resources for 'alternative' books.
It's been a while since I actually read these to myself, and I
just don't remember what seven year old girls are capable of reading, but my
favorites as a child were by Zilpha Keatly Snyder. My absolute favorite was
Game, which had a very diverse group of young characters who created a
fabulous pretend world.
I probably read it about 15 times as a child, and I've read it a couple
times as a
grown up as well. These are the most memorable books of my youth. One other
that I enjoyed was The Westing Game (not by Ms. Snyder),
though I think it may be a couple years before she's ready for that one.
don't really remember how old I was when I read these, you may want to
check them for
I'm not concerned with the content, just that they may be above her reading
I know just what you mean about bickering siblings. Ramona and
Beasus (?) drove me nuts as did any number of rotten little kids who put
down their siblings. I liked books for my kids like the Boxcar Children
who stood up for their brothers and sisters. Also, the Betsy and Tacy
series (my grown up girls STILL discuss Betsy's life in great detail), the
House on the Prairie series and my favorite non series book...."Understood
Betsy." This last one is a very old book but still in print and last I knew
available in local bookstores. In most cases I read the story aloud once
and then my girls (and boy) read and reread on their own. Janet
We have recently read "The Stories Julian Tells" and "More
Stories Julian Tells" by Ann Cameron about 2 young African American
brothers. They get into mischief, the stories have a bit of fantasy to
them, and their parents are there to set limits in a loving way. My son
has really enjoyed these books. Jennifer
The Magic Tree House series has a strong girl character (no
eating disorders) and some interesting science and history. It is
about a brother and sister who time-travel in a magic tree house owned
by a magic woman who is a librarian in King Arthur's court. Leslie
Books for a 7 year old girl: If you daughter loved (and was
able to read)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, she should definitely try
Matilda, and The Magic Finger (also by Roald Dahl). There are some very
good authors who write about middle class white kids but without the body
image focus and with realistic sibling issues that are resolved in
The Beverly Cleary series are great, as are books by Johanna
Hurwitz. Miriam Sachs has written many books over the years, many about
middle class families, but others about families facing financial or
health issues as well. As your daughter gets a bit older--my daughter
and I have both enjoyed books by Lois Lenski. My daughter has also read
historic fiction by an author whose name I forget, but who wrote one
book called Lyddie about factory work in New England and another about a
runaway slave making his way to freedom.
On a totally different note, my son loves books by James Howe.
He has written a whole set told from the point of view of Harold the
dog. They are "mysteries," starting with Bunnicula (a bunny found
abandoned in a movie theater where Dracula was being shown and brought home;
Chester the cat is convinced he is a vampire and begins to try to rid the
house of him--very funny), and going on to Howliday Inn (Harold and
Chester are boarded at a kennel while the family is on vacation), Return
to Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight... you get the idea. He has
enjoyed these from first grade through fourth. It's true all the main
characters are male, but these are extremely funny, and my daughter loves
them, too, even though she has far "out grown" them by now. And to the
extent that people show up as characters at all, the women are generally
sensible, direct people (the image of men tends to be less positive...
quite a few bumbling fools, I'm afraid).
This list, as you will note, is very thin on books from other
cultures/ethnicities/racial backgrounds. It doesn't reflect my
preference, just what we found and what I can remember them
reading. In the area of picture books there seems to be much more variety.
Again, I can't remember the names of many authors, but two of our
favorites are Faith Ringgold and Ezra Keats (I think I have these names
right). The books of both of these authors go beyond a good story to
beautifully illustrate childhood experiences and family relations, and my
children have enjoyed them well past the stage when they moved on to
My daughter's long-time favorite was *My Side of the
Mountain,* by Jean Craighead George. Although the protagonist is a boy who
off to live by himself on a mountain, my daughter had no trouble identifying
with him. The book is full of positive messages about independence and
self-reliance. And it stimulated trips to the library to get books on
foraging, which were
followed up by dandelion salads and other delicacies.
My daughter also read all the Redwall books.
My daughter also became interested in reading about girls when
she was around seven. I highly recommend looking at some series chapter
way when your daughter finds something that interests her theres are still
to read. They are not great literature but for my daughter they really
interest in reading.
In first grade her teacher read "Meet Addy" from the American Girl series.
Addy is a slave
during the civil war era. She begged me for a copy of the book and read it
over and over
again. We finally got her some other books from the series.
There are five in all. She then began to read books about the other
characters. A girl from
the Amercan Revolution, from the Victorian era, from the Great Depression,
pioneers and from the Southwest. Unfortunately all are white except for
Addy and Josefina from
the Southwest. What is nice is that the books are attractive to young girls
superficial give them a little taste of different historical events and
past ways of life.
Some other series my daughter enjoyed at that age that are almost all about
white kids but
certainly much more wholesome than what you were describing are "Boxcar
Children", "Magic Attic
Club",and "The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashly Olsen" Other books my
daughter has loved in the past few years, she
is now 10 include,
-books by Scott Odell "Island of the Blue Dolphins"
"Carlota" -"Ella Enchanted"
-"Anne of Green Gables"
-books by Yoshiko Uchida "Journey Home"
"A Jar of Dreams"
-books by Laurence Yep "The Amah"
-"Marisol and Magdalena" by Veronica Chambers
-"Gwinna" by Barbara Helen Berger
A lot of these are about girls of different ethnicities and
are all beautiful stories. My daughter has loved all of them and has read most
of these stories several times. Some of these wont be appropriate
until your daughter is a bit older but a few might make good
read alouds so that you can help her understand the content.
Anyhow, you might want to take your daughter to Codys or another bookstore
with plenty of childrens books and let her look around in the childrens
section. It is often easier for children to find books in a bookstore
than in a library where book covers are more frequently on
display. I hope this is helpful. There are many great books out there
these are just a few. Have fun!
The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald are a fun read.
There are seven in the series and they were originally written
for adults but published for kids. They've got everything:
history, mystery, adventure, humor, thrills...all written in
a style suited to reading outloud or alone. If you ignore the
covers and sample the first chapter of the first one in the series,
The Great Brain, I guarantee you'll want to finish at least
the first book.
Adam and Deatra
The "Misty of Chincoteague" series by Marguerite Henry is still a pleasure
for my girls, aged 9 and 5.
This might sound like party-pooping on a great childrens' book series,
but I have to say I have very mixed feelings about the Narnia books. One
thing that troubles me is that there are no good women in any of the
books. There are good female animals and good little girls, but all the
women are witches; or, like Prince Caspian's poor mother, they get killed
off or something and we never hear much about them. Also, if you pay
attention to who the bad guys and good guys are, there aren't many
dark-skinned good guys, but there are a lot of dark-skinned bad guys who
seem to subscribe to a Muslim-type religion/philosophy (The Horse and
His Boy is just crawling with them). This troubles me.
I do like the books for being really great adventure stories that work
out ideas around loyalty, hard work, doing the right thing even when it
costs you. I read all of them to my kids and we talked about why we
liked them and I also talked about these issues. Maybe it's not
necessary to deep-six this series if you can talk to your kids and help
them to think critically about what they are reading.
Another book I adored as a kid was The Sherwood Ring, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.
It is a ghost story set in New England that is involved with dashing
British spies and
courageous women - great adventure, and yes, romance, set during the
War. It is available at the Albany library but is not in print. My 9 year
old boy read it
and liked it alot, so it's not just for girls even though the main
character is a girl. Lucy
One of my favorites from childhood is Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William
and me, Elizabeth -- by E.L. Konigsberg. It is a story about the friendship
narrator, Elizabeth, and Jennifer, who claims to be a witch. Jennifer
happens to be black,
and Elizabeth seems to be white, though I don't recall that being a big
deal in the book. Elisa
I have two sons - 3 1/2 years and 6 months - who love it when we read
stories. The problem is that all of Pooh's friends are boys (except for
Kanga who is often wearing an apron) and so are the trains on the Island of
Sodor (except for Daisy who doesn't like smelly tunnels). You get the idea.
I'd really like to have books with a wider variety of boy and girl
characters. Any suggestions?
I love "The Paper Bag Princess". Summary: A princess rescues her
prince, who has been carried off by a dragon, then realizes what
a jerk he is and decides not to marry him after all. Some parents
may be distressed by the lack of a good male role model (the prince
is quite a jerk), but I think it's a nice contrast to stories like
Thomas the Tank Engine.
I also love the Frances books (Bedtime for Frances, A Bargain for
Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances). These are old books -- I read
them when I was a child -- but I like them even more as an adult
because the parents seem so sensible and wise.
Sorry I don't know the authors, but I think any children's librarian
or good children's bookstore could help you find them.
Berkeley Public Library has a list called "Brave, Active & Resourceful
Females in Picture Stories"...pick it up at any branch. Includes many of
the books previously mentioned, as well as:
Best Friends for Frances, by Russell Hoban
Banned from an all-boy baseball game, Frances organizes a "No Boys"
outing with interesting results.
Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney
Alice Rumphius has a career, travels to exotic places, retires by the
sea, and becomes an interesting old woman.
I've noticed the very same thing about Pooh and Thomas, as dear as
they are. Richard Scary Busytown books also tend to assume
traditional gender roles. When I read it to my nearly three year old
son I sometimes change the "he's" to "she's". "Go Dog Go" doesn't
assume any gender in the text. But there seems to be some code in the
pictures that I or my son respond to. I've tried talk about the action
and say "See what she is doing?" Sometimes he goes with it, but
sometimes my son will say emphatically "That's a daddy, not a mommy".
I recently found a book called "Allie's Basketball Dream" by Barbara
Barber (?) which is really well written and beautifully illustrated
(illustrator is someone else.) The main character is a girl who is
given a basketball by her father. When she practices shooting
baskets, at first she misses; nearby boys laugh, other kids ask what
she is doing, even offering to trade a volleyball for her basketball
since the volleyball would be "easier" for a girl to
handle. Ultimately, she keeps trying and makes some baskets. The other
kids want to play with her and even the older boys cheer her. I like
it and my son loves it. It has actually helped him to not get
frustrated when he misses a shot. He often says "I'm Michael Jordon"
when playing b-ball. But just the other day while playing, he said
The Max board book series by Rosemary Wells is about a "boy" rabbit,
but his sister Ruby is always present. My son likes those too. In the
Carl the dog series, it is a little girl that Carl goes on adventures
with. There is the Madeline series, but that may be for slightly older
kids. I have a train book that has both male and female characters
doing all the different jobs associated with trains. I can look up the
for my daughter's first birthday i got a great book as a gift. the
book is by Kathleen Odean & is called 'Great Books for Girls'. it
describes more than '600 books to inspire today's girls and
tomorrow's women'. it lists pictory-story books, books for
beginning readers, middle readers to older readers. it also
contains resources for parents (locating books, tips on
empowering your daughter).
i thought it would make a great book resource for *boys*, since
they need to see girls/women as 'strong, free, bold and kind' too.
books with girls.
Owl Babaies, Martin Waddell,
sarah, (big sister) and her two little brother owls
are scared waiting for their mom to come back.
Madeline books, (which are for older kids)
In doctor suess books I often just write an "s"
in front of "he" since the chracters are all weird
creatures, this is especially easy in "one fish, two fish".
You're right though there aren't very many books for the under
two set with any girls.
On books with female protagonists for young children, I don't think anyone
has mentioned Russell Hoban's "Francis" books (Best Friends for Francis, A
Birthday for Francis, Bread and Jam for Francis . . .). They're charming.
Francis handles all sorts of common childhood challenges in believable but
amusing ways, often breaking into little extemporaneous songs, like this one
on poached eggs:
I do not like the way you slide.
I do not like your soft inside.
I do not like you lots of ways
And I could live for many days
I personally enjoy the contrast these books provide to Hoban's books for
grownups (e.g. "Riddley Walker" and "Pilgermann"), which are as dark and
strange as the Francis books are sweet and light.
We really enjoy the work of Kevin Henkes--he has a number of books with
"strong leading women." My 3 yr old son's favorite is "Sheila Rae the
Brave," and there's another one I'm fond of about a mouse named Lily (I'm
blanking on the title). Sheila Rae is about a mouse (as many of Henkes'
books are) and her little sister who teach each other about fear and
independence. It's a real charmer! [We actually got the book with the
CD-Rom interactive version that includes some really delightful songs.]
I also highly recommend Kevin Henkes' books. My own favorite is the book I
believe Natasha was referring to: "Julius, the baby of the world"--
it's hilarious. My 4-year-old daughter likes the "Angelina Ballerina" books by
Katharine Holabird. She also loves Mark Tolon Brown's "Arthur" books; even
though the title character is male, there are several prominent female
characters as well.
San Francisco Public Library
Tomie de Paola (sp?) has two books which I like very much with strong women
characters: Helga's Dowry, and Fin McCoul. Both are about creative,
courageous women who overcome dire odds with miraculous plans and actions
entirely of their own doing. The books are very short with great pictures.
I think they would appeal to a wide age range. They're funny and definitely
cast women in a positive light.
this page was last updated: May 25, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network