Feminist picture books aren’t new (anyone remember “Free to Be…You and Me”?) – but until recently, there wasn’t much of a variety to choose from. Most of us remember classics like “The Paper Bag Princess”, and new favourites like “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”, “Rosie Revere, Engineer”, and “Princess and the Pony.” But did you know that feminist books for the children genre has exploded in recent years? Let’s look at just of sampling of what is out there for your little feminists.
Sleeping Brilliant by Jessica Williams
What if the princess outsmarted the curse on her own? This stunningly illustrated book turns Sleeping Beauty on its ear by having the classic character use her wits and her engineering skills to save herself. Don’t worry, the prince and princess still become friends. (This book made my mother laugh out loud.)
Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman
Why should pink be just for one gender? This simple book shows all colours are for girls and boys (and though it doesn’t say it in the book, all colours are for non-binary people too.) With examples for each colour, this book teaches colours and gender equality to toddlers and preschoolers.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
If you liked “Rosie Revere, Engineer”, you’ll love this book. After her Abuelo gets injured on a trash heap, Sofia fights to turn the gross hazard into a park. Though she meets pushback at each stage, she perseveres, starts a movement, and makes real changes in her town.
The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey, Jerome Pumphrey
A book of few words, but big feelings. An old truck and a young girl work hard, dream big, and grow older. This story follows a truck through generations of little girls who grow up to be farmers, illustrating the power and the reward of hard work and dedication.
Dear Girl by Anna Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal
Important and poignant advice from mother to daughter. Co-written by the author with her mother, this book hits home for little girls and big girls alike. Sometimes, we all need to hear these things.
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Told mostly through beautiful illustrations, this is the story of a young boy who loves mermaids. After telling his Abuela that he is a mermaid, he uses items from around his house to make his outside look more like a mermaid. His Abuela offers him support and brings him to meet other mermaids like him. A wonderful story of gender expression and love.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Malala adapts her memoir “I am Malala” into a story kids can understand. Malala speaks of her wish for peace, equality, and safety for all, and the power we each have in our voices.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Young Ada is so busy thinking, she doesn’t talk until she is three. After that, she questions everything, comes up with hypotheses, and performs experiments. Although the mess takes over the house, Ada’s parents learn to encourage their inquisitive daughter and her scientific pursuits.
A is for Awesome by Eva Chen
From Amelia Earhart to Wu Zetian (and of course, eXtraordinary You and the Zillions of adventures you will have), this board book highlights an incredible woman for each letter. The language is simple, and the illustrations are captivating, making this an engaging book for even the littlest feminists.
My First Book of Feminism (For Boys) by Julie Merberg
This book is part of a set that also includes “My First Book of Feminism (For Girls)”. I almost didn’t include this book, because neither gender nor feminism is binary – but the book sets the stage for some great discussions about gender stereotypes, respect, and consent. Use this book as a springboard for those conversations that don’t always have a natural introduction.
Mary Had a Little Lab by Sue Fliess
Feeling lonely one day, Mary invents a machine that makes sheep out of a small piece of wool. At first, this is a great idea! But then the machine malfunctions, and there are sheep everywhere! What is Mary to do? What will she invent to fix this situation?
I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings
Jazz likes playing with her friends, dressing up, and swimming like a mermaid. When she was born, her parents thought she was a boy because her body looked like a boy body. Jazz knew she was a girl and told her parents. When her parents realized she was a girl, they let her choose a different name and wear the clothes she likes to wear. Jazz lets other kids who may be a different gender than they were assigned at birth know there are other people out there like them, and that their happiness is the most important thing.
Shark Lady by Jess Keating
This true story of how Eugenie Clark went from a little girl who loved the aquarium to a scientist who studies and protects sharks shows children their dreams can become their realities. With beautiful illustrations, and a section on shark facts at the back, this book is a must for oceanographers-to-be.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
Say it loud, say it proud – you are awesome. That’s the mantra of this fun book. You are great just the way you are, no matter what anyone else thinks. It’s impossible to read this anthem of self-esteem and not feel good about yourself.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
There is no one right way to be a boy. Some boys like trucks, some boys like princess dresses. Boys can dress any way they like, and play with anything they want to. Sometimes people laugh at a boy in a princess dress, but that’s their problem, not the princess boy’s. This book challenges gender stereotypes, and is also just plain fun. (My boy who went dressed as The Paper Bag Princess for Halloween agrees.)
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle
The Drum Dream Girl wanted to play drums. She dreamed of playing them, and heard her music in her head – but on the Island of Music, only boys were allowed to play drums. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers, this book tells the story of a young girl who refuses to be denied her passion because of her gender.
Her Body Can by Katie Crenshaw, Ady Meschke
I wish this book were available when I was a chubby little girl. Showing that every body is a good body, this book narrates as a little girl (who is bigger than most kids you see in books) does different activities, wears different clothes, and shows what her body can do. The body-positive message in this book is subtle, which makes it even better. Never once is this little girl described as being chubby, or any euphemism thereof. It just normalizes her doing the same things any other kid does, and discusses all bodies being awesome.
Dress Like a Girl by Patricia Toht
The steps to dressing like a girl? 1. Be a girl. 2. Get dressed. Those are the only rules for dressing like a girl! This book offers fashion ideas for any activity a girl wants to do, be it conducting a symphony, or blasting into outer space. Of course, these are only suggestions – girls (and boys, and non-binary people) can wear whatever they like.
The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson
This book tells the true story of Anishinaabe First Nations elder and Nokomis (Grandmother) Josephine Mandamin and the Mother Earth Water Walkers, who walked 17,000 km around the Great Lakes to protect, give thanks to, and pay respects to Nibi (Water). Seeing the environment being abused and resources being polluted, Josephine and the Mother Earth Water Walkers put on their sneakers and went out to do something about it. In addition to telling Josephine’s story, the book asks readers what they will do to protect the planet.
Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood
Each of the fourteen world-changing young women in this book gets her own double-page spread containing a stunning illustration, a short bio, and a poem written about her. Profiles include Mary Anning, Ruby Bridges, Frida Kahlo, and more.
Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids
Annie loves her plaid shirt. She wears it everywhere. But when her mom insists she buy a dress for an upcoming wedding, Annie feels uncomfortable. She feels weird wearing dresses – she doesn’t feel like herself in a dress. Thankfully, Annie thinks of a way to wear dressy clothes for the wedding while wearing her plaid shirt – and no dresses!
Whew, so hard to choose from such an amazing list of books! Thankfully, most of these books are featured as read-aloud videos on YouTube, if you aren’t in a position to make purchases. Happy reading!