Children’s Books Celebrating Females
By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager
The current New York Times Best Sellers list for children’s books includes four titles celebrating women throughout history. The popularity of these books is indicative of a movement that includes raising our young girls to be confident, to demand respect from others, and to follow career paths without allowing obstructions to keep them away, particularly because of gender bias. All these titles are available at the library:
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky – 48 weeks on NYT Best Seller list
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton – 28 weeks
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – 24 weeks
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison – new last week
Check out the best sellers for teens and you will find Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s book Fierce. Additionally, Andrea Beaty’s fiction picture books Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist, have been on the list for 119 weeks and 43 weeks respectively. They are positively fun and entertaining, showing girls who cannot stop their passion to figure things out. If you are seeking more amazing children’s literature on this topic to share with all genders, here are a few titles that are not on the best seller lists (yet).
Brad Meltzer’s adult thrillers have earned spots on the NYT Best Seller lists frequently over the years, and now his series of children’s biographies have been found there as well, including I am Amelia Earhart in 2014. Inspired by his desire to make sure his own daughter and son were exposed to amazing heroes from the past, he created the “Ordinary People Change the World” series that also includes Jane Goodall, Sacagawea, Lucille Ball, Harriet Tubman and more. These treasures are short enough to share with the youngest listeners, with engaging illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos. A child of a co-worker was so moved by the Rosa Parks story that, at age 5, she memorized the entire book and recited it one year at the Manhattan community Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.
Isabel Sanchez Vegara has four titles in her picture book biography series “Little People, Big Dreams”: Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Audrey Hepburn. Similar to Meltzer, the famous women’s stories are told as short read-alouds with colorful and energetic illustrations. The focus is not only on achievements, but also on the challenges they overcame and their important qualities like determination and perseverance.
Strong is the New Pretty by Kate Parker is the perfect coffee table book for every home with girls. Parker’s powerful photographs show girls doing every kind of activity, from the mundane to the amazing, along with their own inspirational quotes. Booklist reviews calls it “positively moving and totally glorious,” a book that you can look through again and again, “invit[ing] browsers to linger and contemplate the girl-positive messages.” Readers are sure to find at least one or two that particularly inspire them.
In The Little Book of Little Activists, parents get a superb resource for helping young children understand political marches they see or participate in. Inspired by the Women’s March on January 21, the small book features photographs of children holding signs or marching, with simple definitions of words like activism, feminism, democracy and freedom. Quotes from children fill in the rest of the text, which will help young listeners see that they can be a part of changing the world to make it a better place for all.
Two new picture books were published this year about Malala Yousafzai. Malala herself wrote Malala’s Magic Pencil to describe how she grew from hoping for a magic way to rid the world of problems to her determination to find real ways to solve problems using her own voice. Raphaele Frier’s Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education is another informative picture book that provides some details of Malala’s life and highlights her accomplishments with beautiful illustrations by Aurelia Fronty. Malala Yousagzai is also featured in Rad Women Worldwide, a compilation of one to two page biographies of lesser known females (for the most part) representing 30 countries and a very broad range of time. This is a great book to turn to after finishing Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
If you were a fan of Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess and want to pass on those confident, wise, strong values to all the girls you know, there’s no shortage of great literature out there, with more to come.