Motherhood

18 Children’s Books With Female Characters

Feminist tee for kids

A couple months ago, a reader named Claire asked a great question: “I’ve found it’s easy to come across children’s books with wonderful male heroes, but now that I’m expecting a little girl, I want more books with female heroines — for my daughter’s sake, as well as my sons’.” So, for all the little ones out there, here are 18 children’s books featuring leading ladies…

What books would you add to this list? I’d love to hear… Plus, just for fun, The 7 Things I Can’t Stop Noticing Whenever I Read Knuffle Bunny.

P.S. Six words to say to your child.

(Top photo of this feminist tee, via Miss Moss.)

  1. Carolyn says...

    And Laura and her sisters in the Little House on the Prairie books. Also the My Naughty Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards and the Ramona the Pest and other Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. And Harriet the Spy, Julie of the Wolves, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

  2. Elizabeth says...

    I love the book “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?” by Carmela LaVigna Coyle.

  3. Amelia says...

    Harriet the Spy for older kids. And Journey by Aaron Becker.

  4. Love this list thank you– another favourite Rosie Revere The Engineer x

  5. I used to read some of these to my students when I was an elementary school teacher. “Blueberries for Sal” was always a favorite.

  6. Scrolling through all these titles makes my heart glad! My daughter (now 22) was able to grow up with girl characters in fiction and I can see the difference in her confidence, her relationships, and her compassion. She never engaged in middle school “mean girls” stuff. Something’s going right in the world!

  7. Lory says...

    Definitely check out http://www.herlittlestory.com – they are using REAL stories from the childhoods of REAL women that are role models for our kids today! Plus the writing & illustrations are super cute.

  8. Joanne Klimpsch says...

    Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series!

  9. Jennifer says...

    Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

    • Kate says...

      Yes yes YES. I just came to this post to leave this exact suggestion!! Was one of my favorites growing up and my son loves it (he needs books with female leads, too!). Can’t wait to read it to my daughter next!

  10. Um, hello, Pippi Longstocking? She’s only the strongest girl in the world, full of wisdom and confidence:

    “The children came to a perfume shop. In the show window was a large jar of freckle salve, and beside the jar was a sign, which read: DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES?
    ‘What does the sign say?’ asked Pippi. She couldn’t read very well because she didn’t want to go to school as other children did.
    It says, ‘Do you suffer from freckles?’ said Annika.
    ‘Does it indeed?’ said Pippi thoughtfully. ‘Well, a civil question deserves a civil answer. Let’s go in.’
    She opened the door and entered the shop, closely followed by Tommy and Annika. An elderly lady stood back of the counter. Pippi went right up to her. ‘No!’ she said decidedly.
    ‘What is it you want?’ asked the lady.
    ‘No,’ said Pippi once more.
    ‘I don’t understand what you mean,’ said the lady.
    ‘No, I don’t suffer from freckles,’ said Pippi.
    Then the lady understood, but she took one look at Pippi and burst out, ‘But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!’
    ‘I know that,’ said Pippi, ‘but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.’
    She turned to leave, but when she got to the door she looked back and cried, ‘But if you should happen to get in any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.’”

    • Pippi is the best!
      And “Ronja, the Robber’s daughter” also by Astrid Lindgren

  11. JT says...

    Many many Kevin Henkes books (Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse, Sheila Ray the Brave, Kittens First Full Moon)

  12. Jamie Rizzotte says...

    Rosie revere engineer is my fave!

  13. Maryann DeCicco says...

    These are some of my favorites.I also love the Frances series and Amazing Grace.

  14. Jessica says...

    The Paper Bag Princess (by Richard Munsch), as well as Bedtime for Frances (and the other Frances books by Russel Hoban). My daughter (3 now) has also enjoyed the Maisy series (by Lucy Cousins), though those are definitely for the toddler/preschooler crowd.

  15. Ria says...

    One book from my childhood with a female protagonist that I can’t seem to forget is Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Great picture book.

  16. Char says...

    For my baby shower, I requested that the guests give a book for my baby girl’s library rather than a card… My friends and family totally ran with the idea. The number of books we received was amazing, not to mention the fact that there wasn’t a single repeat!
    Our favourites with female protagonists:
    Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series box set
    Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson
    The Tea Party In The Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
    Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse

  17. The Frances books, such as Bedtime for Frances. Pippi Long stocking books. The Corduroy books. Later, The Secret Garden. Heidi, Girl of the Limberlost. PollyAnna. Sarah Crewe. Bible stories of Esther, Deborah, Candace (Ethiopian Queen), etc. George MacDonald’s WONDERFUL fairy tales where females are used to symbolically represent wisdom, God, and so much more.

  18. Christy Doering says...

    Please don’t forget The Paperbag Princess… it’s a lovely little feminist story. A must-read for any toddler and his or her parents!!

  19. This is a great list! I have only read 6 of them with my daughter so I’m looking forward to the rest. I chose your post as one of My Friday Favorites. You can check it out here: http://wp.me/p2hp9V-1iY
    Happy New Year!

  20. Megan says...

    I’m sure it has already been listed in older comments, but Brave Irene is a must read for young girls. It still makes me cry every time I read it and with two girls of my own, it will be read many,many times!

  21. Marina says...

    Once I started reading your post I thought to myself “It’s a good list for when I have a little girl”. But then I realized that it would be good to read for boys too, so they will know that girls can be heroes too.

  22. Maria says...

    Paper Bag Pricess is an absolute must!

  23. Sarah says...

    “Frances Dean, who loved to dance and dance” by Birgitta Sif :D

  24. Em says...

    Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Willmark. This is a gorgeous, brand new book about the first woman coder! The publisher is a small Berkeley press that does amazing children’s books, and all are printed in the US.

    http://www.crestonbooks.co/static/ada.html

  25. Cindy B says...

    Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells

  26. sara says...

    The Little Engine that could was a girl train helping the broken down girl train deliver all the goodies to the kids over the mountain!

  27. Amy says...

    My kids loved Yo Vikings! by Judy Schachner (probably better known for her Skippyjon Jones books) about a little girl who buys a real viking ship and sets it up in the back yard. Fantastic story for girls and boys!

  28. Tina Asher says...

    The paper bag Princess by Robert Munsch

  29. Mel says...

    There’s a great website called “A Mighty Girl” which has hundreds of titles of books with empowering female leads, for girls of all ages! Well worth a look!

  30. Kristen says...

    Max and Ruby. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Amelia Bedelia. Dorrie the Witch. Pippi Longstocking. Eloise. American Girl, especially the ones set in the Depression and World War II.

    • Kristen says...

      Also any of the Jan Brett books. Beautiful illustrations and lots of feisty male and female characters.

  31. Lisa says...

    The book “Infinity and Me” by Kate Hosford. This has beautiful pictures and explains this mathematical concept in an easy to understand way. I read it to my two boys but they love it and we have read it at least 100 times in the past two months.

  32. The Paperback Princess

  33. Marisa says...

    Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera Williams

    Beautiful illustrations!

  34. Bonnie says...

    I’ve always been super partial to “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon.” She’s short and clumsy and has buck teeth and her grandma teaches her to stand up for herself and be proud of her little idiosyncrasies. I was bullied pretty terribly growing up (I had a bilateral clef palate and lip) so I thought this was the best thing ever. Stand tall girls!!

  35. Hannah says...

    Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. My parents started off reading them to us, and we began to tackle them on our own as we reread them as we grew older. They also would incorporate stops at all the places her family had lived when we would set out of vacation. The Ingalls’ persistence, adventure, and devotion to each other is something I still draw from today!

  36. I love the princess and the pony – it’s about a warrior Viking princess and her love of battles and her adorable pony. It’s got a non-typical theme for girls and has a hilarious unexpected twist for ending!

  37. Wow this is such a good list, bookmarking this!

  38. Marlena says...

    When my daughter was little, ( she turned 18 on Christmas!?!) we had regular bedtime reading. One of our favorites was Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Wonderful character who changes her environment for the better!! Plus the illustrations are charming.

  39. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is my all time favourite! She’s clever, brave and can tell the dumb prince just exactly how it is! I made sure I had a copy for when my son was born!

  40. ekbnyc says...

    Love Extra Yarn too but Rosie Revere, Engineer is a favorite in our house.