A Mighty Girl's Reading Series kicks off with 40 of our favorite girl-empowering picture books for young children.
With the school year done, plenty of parents are looking for reading material to keep their kids turning pages! Looking for high quality, high interest books during the summer months is a great way to build literacy skills and foster a lifelong love of reading, which makes this a great time to fill kids' shelves with girl-empowering titles starring smart, confident, and courageous girls and women!
To kick off the start of A Mighty Girl's Reading Series, this blog post features 40 favorite picture books that share fun and thoughtful stories about both fictional and real-life Mighty Girls. Our 5-part series will continue with basic chapter books for early readers to more complex titles for tweens and teens to a selection of recommended reads for adults. All of these selections will show readers, both young and old, the power and potential of girls and women — and inspire her on her own journey as a Mighty Girl!
40 girl-empowering Picture Books
Everyone knows that little girls aren’t real, but Uni the unicorn insists that there must be a smart, strong, brave little girl just waiting to be her friend... somewhere. In fact, Uni can imagine everything she and the little girl will do together, from exploring the forest to sliding down rainbows. Fortunately for Uni, not far away, there’s a little girl who believes in unicorns — and when the pair find one another, it’s the start of a beautiful friendship! With beautiful full-page illustrations of whimsical settings, this book will be a favorite of any child who dreams of meeting her very own unicorn.
The epic space saga Star Wars: The Force Awakens is retold for young children in this new Little Golden Book! When the resilient scavenger Rey meets a lost droid named BB-8, her life will change forever. Soon, she's meeting new friends and allies, facing off against fierce enemies — and discovering unexpected power within herself. Featuring stunning retro illustrations, this book is perfect for Star Wars — and Little Golden Book — fans of all ages! For more books, toys and posters featuring this new Star Wars hero, visit our Rey Collection.
Princess Elizabeth lives a normal princess life in a castle with beautiful dresses and a Prince named Ronald to marry — until her life is turned upside down by a dragon who destroys her castle and clothes and carries Ronald away! Undaunted, Elizabeth pulls on a paper bag and sets off to get her Prince back. Elizabeth very cleverly defeats the dragon, but Prince Ronald is totally unappreciative: “Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Needless to say, Elizabeth’s happily ever after does NOT include Prince Ronald. This modern classic's ending still makes Mighty Girls cheer today! For even more stories of princesses who break the mold, visit our Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess.
Who knew that the young girl who carried a stuffed chimpanzee around with her would redefine the meaning of human? In this charming story of Jane Goodall's childhood, readers learn how she first developed her interest in the natural world — as well as her patience when observing animals in their own environment, which she practiced on her family's chickens! This inspirational picture book biography focuses on Goodall's childhood, but includes a picture of Goodall with the chimps at Gombe to show how she realized her dreams. Fans of Goodall will also want to check out The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps for ages 4 to 8, as well as our Jane Goodall Collection with many titles for all ages.
In this unique retelling of the Cinderella story, Cinderella works all day repairing simple household robots, but at night, she sneaks off to study rocket mechanics. When she gets left behind -- without her tools -- while her stepmother and stepsisters go to the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, her fairy godrobot appears to give her a helping hand in the form of new tools and a space suit. After she fixes a broken ship with her gifts, she's off to space! But when she encounters the Prince in his broken down ship, Cinderella might just discover a new calling — as the new chief royal mechanic! This fun story with its retro-style illustrations is sure to delight kids with its tinkering heroine.
Juliette Gordon Low — Daisy to her friends and family — was not like most girls of the Victorian era. Prim and proper? BOSH! Dainty and delicate? HOW BORING! She loved the outdoors, and she yearned for adventure. Born into a family of pathfinders and pioneers, she too wanted to make a difference in the world — and nothing would stop her. This intriguing story of the daring woman who founded the Girl Scouts celebrates Low's adventurous spirit and vision, and shows how one hundred years later, her Scouts continue to have adventures, do good deeds, and make a difference! For more books about Low, visit our Juliette Gordon Low Collection.
Young Tashi has a problem “like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Her mother, who supports the family by picking tea leaves under the eye of a cruel overseer, has fallen ill and is too sick to work — but they can’t afford a doctor because her mother isn’t working. Tashi tries to pick tea herself but she’s too small to reach the tender leaves. But when Tashi retreats to the place where she feeds the local monkeys, something extraordinary happens — and Tashi discovers that her kindness toward the monkey has been reciprocated beyond her wildest dreams. This lovely fable starring a compassionate and resilient heroine was inspired by legends of tea-picking monkeys in the Himalayan mountains; young readers will be fascinated by this touching story and the gorgeous illustrations.
When Grace hears that America has never had a female president, she decides that she will be the first — and the school mock election provides the perfect opportunity for her to get some political practice. But she runs into some difficulty when her popular opponent's claim that he's "the best man for the job" captures the votes of the boys, who hold the most electoral votes. Undeterred, Grace decides to focus on what she'll do with the position in an effort to prove that elections are about the best person for the job. This fun book teaches the election process — and the importance of every vote — as well as the message that girls can be leaders.
Minna dreams of going to school, but the Appalachian winters are too cold to go without a coat — but her father has recently died, and her family is struggling too much to afford one. When the local quilting group, which meets in Minna's house, hears, they come up with a clever solution: each of them will provide some scrap fabric, and they'll work together to make her a coat. And when classmates tease Minna for wearing rags, she reminds them that her coat is made of stories: one story from each of their homes, put together to make something beautiful. This lyrical and heartwarming story conveys powerful messages about community and friendship.
The little girl in this story has an idea in her head for the most MAGNIFICENT thing... so with the help of her puppy sidekick, she collects some bits and pieces and starts building. Except that the result isn't quite as magnificent as she wanted, so she tries again... and again... and again. Eventually, frustration overtakes her, and she not only smashes, pummels, and explodes, she also quits. It's not until she takes a walk with her dog and clears her head that she can see the potential in all her previous designs and build something that she really does feel is magnificent. This fun story sends a great message to young readers about the power of persistence.
Little Molly Lou has always taken her grandmother's advice to "sing out strong and clear" and she carries that confidence with her wherever she goes. But when she moves and starts going to a new school, the school bully starts picking on Molly Lou for her height, her buck teeth, and her (admittedly) unusual voice. Instead of losing confidence, though, Molly Lou shows how every one of her unique features can be a major asset — to the delight of her new classmates! This confident little mouse is sure to be your Mighty Girl's new hero — and fans can also check out the sequel, Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon.
Alice Rumphius always dreamed of traveling the world, living by the sea, and making the world more beautiful. But while she manages the first two, she struggles with figuring out how to do the third. It's not until she is an older woman that she realizes that she could spread the joy she gets from flowers — by planting lupines for others to enjoy. And as she tells her story to her young niece, she challenges the girl to find her own way to spread beauty. This beloved classic, one of School Library Journal's Top 100 Picture Books, has a timeless quality that's sure to inspire.
Lula Mae wants a puppy, but hard times mean that's out of the question. So, instead, she decides to make a pet out of one of her family's chickens! As far as Lula Mae is concerned, Pookie is very dog-like: she can be a show dog, a shepherd dog, even a guard dog. And when Lula Mae's baby brother wanders away, Pookie proves she can be a hero... even if she is a chicken. Kids will giggle at Lula Mae's optimism, her parents' confusion, and the inadvertent way that Pookie saves the day.
When her mother was worn out from caring for her five sisters, her father gave her lessons in brushwork and color. When polio kept her bedridden for nine months, drawing saved her from boredom. When a bus accident left her in unimaginable agony, her paintings expressed her pain and depression — and eventually, her joys and her loves. Over and over again, Frida Kahlo turned the challenges of her life into art. Author Jonah Winter and illustrator Ana Juan have created a vivid, artistic, and inspiring tribute to this groundbreaking artist. For more books about this remarkable painter, visit our Frida Kahlo Collection.
Ada Rios grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option.. .until a music teacher named Favio Chavez arrived. He made the children of Cateura instruments out of materials found in the trash — a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada, and her town, forever changed. Today, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation. This beautiful picture book tells the remarkable true story of the Recycled Orchestra through the eyes of one girl who dreamed of music.
Beatrice Bottomwell has never, ever made a mistake — the whole city knows her as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. But when she narrowly avoids one at school, suddenly, she can't help but worry... about everything. When Beatrice makes a big, huge, impossible to miss mistake in a very public way at the school talent show, though, she realizes that making mistakes might not be the end of the world after all! This funny story is a great way to build resiliency and to remind kids that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.
When kids hear about Rosa Parks' defiant refusal to move seats, they may think that it takes special courage to take that big a step — but the reality is that ordinary people can do incredible things! This title from Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change The World series shows how Parks' willingness to stand up for justice began with small moments from childhood, but became a driving force in her life that made her a major figure for the Civil Rights movement. It's an excellent way to show kids that every hero was once a child just like them. For more books about Parks, visit our Rosa Parks Collection.
Quiet Rosie dreams of inventing gizmos and gadgets, so when she hears her Great-Aunt Rose (of Rosie the Riveter fame) sighing that she never fulfilled her dream to fly, Rosie decides to create a solution that will let Aunt Rose soar. Despite her hard work, though, the heli-o-cheese-copter hovers for just a moment before crashing to the ground. Although Rosie considers it a failure, Aunt Rose reassures her that it was actually a tremendous success — because you only truly fail if you quit. This fun story about perseverance is sprinkled with a tidbits about women's aviation history.
After seeing a video of Grandmother Wolfe jingle dancing, Jenna, a Muscogee girl, wants to continue her family’s tradition at the upcoming powwow. But how can she get enough jingles for her dress? By taking a few jingles from dresses belonging to a neighbor and several of her relatives, Jenna is able to sew a dress that will jingle properly. Grandmother helps her practice, and at the powwow, Jenna represents all four women who shared parts of their dresses and their memories with an eager young girl. This book not only celebrates not only the joy of dancing, but also the pride of continuing family and cultural traditions.
When Harriet Tubman was a slave, her faith convinced her that she was meant to be free, and she risked tremendous danger to escape. But how could she leave others in the same bondage she had left behind? So Tubman became one of the most famous Underground Railroad conductors, leading hundreds of others to freedom. This poetic book compares the Biblical story of Moses to Tubman's story, reinforcing why she was known as Moses to so many. Poetic language and dark, dramatic artwork make this a stand out title for teaching African American history. For more books for all ages about Tubman, visit our Harriet Tubman Collection.
Clover and Anna live on two sides of a fence: the fence that keeps Clover’s African-American community separate from Anna’s Caucasian community. Clover’s mother says it’s dangerous to cross the fence, but eventually, curiosity overwhelms caution, and they find a way around the rules by sitting next to one another on the fence. Clover’s friends and family disapprove of this new friendship at first, but by the end of the summer, all the girls play together. At the end, Anna bets that “Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down.” This poignant story of friendships blooming despite a divided community is also an excellent way to introduce the history of segregation to younger readers.
Thanks to her mathematically talented mother, Anne Isabella Byron, young Ada had the opportunity to develop her remarkable intelligence. Years later, when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, he named her the Enchantress of Numbers for her astounding mathematical skills. Little did either of them know that, when she designed an algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she would be making history — by writing the world’s first computer program! With vivid artwork and intriguing anecdotes about Lovelace's genius, this picture book biography pays homage to a little-known but deeply influential figure in computing history — the world's first computer programmer. Ada's story is also told in two more delightful new picture books, Ada's Ideas and Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science.
Nell Richardson and Alice Burke wanted to convince America to support equal voting rights for women... so in April 1916, they set out from New York City to tell people in person! In a little yellow car, carrying key supplies like a typewriter, a sewing machine, and a little black kitten, they toured the country over 10,000 miles of bumpy, muddy terrain. In honor of the 100th anniversary of their whirlwind tour, author Mara Rockliff and illustrator Hadley Hooper have created a charming and lively picture book that beautifully captures their spirit of adventure and their determination to spread the message about equal voting rigt.
Wilma Rudolph was born so tiny that no one expected her to reach her first birthday — but she did. Then, before she was five years old, her left leg was paralyzed by polio. No one expected her to walk again — but she did that too, working so hard on her leg exercises that she stopped using a leg brace before she turned twelve. And eight years later, she represented the US at the 1960 Olympiad, where she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympic Games. Kathleen Krull's telling of this piece of sports history lets Rudolph's determination and drive shine through. For a 2016 picture book that captures how Rudolph inspired the girls who watched her performance, check out The Quickest Kid in Clarksville which is suitable for age 4 to 8.
A little girls' great-grandfather has a home full of fascinating treasures from his long life, but when invited to ask him for the story of any item that catches her eye, she picks an old cigar box. To her amazement, inside is a collection of matchboxes that represents her great-grandfather's life, each one holding a tiny remembrance of a significant event. From an olive pit he sucked when his family was going hungry to a ticket from his first American baseball game, these little bit of personal history create a poignant story for great-grandfather and child to share. This beautiful story is told as a dialogue between elder and child and will leave young readers wondering what stories their own ancestors have to tell.
Young Wangari Maathai was a big exception in Kenya: a girl permitted to go to school. But she also grew up learning traditional Kikuyu reverence for nature, including the careful husbandry of natural resources. After studying science in the US, she came home with a big plan — that started with Kenyan women and a handful of seeds. By founding the Green Belt Movement, Maathai championed both women's rights and environmental causes, for which she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. An engaging story and vibrant illustrations are sure to appeal. You can find more books about Maathai in our Wangari Maathai collection.
Viv has just moved to a new town by the sea, and she's still struggling to feel at home — "I always need help finding my way, especially in a new place," she thinks. On her first day at school, her teacher tells her that they're looking for a community action project to do, and urges Viv and her classmates to think of ideas. It's not until Viv learns about the sea turtle hatcheries nearby — and the way the hatchlings can get lost when they mistake artificial lights for the moon that normally guides their way — that the class finds the perfect project. This engaging picture book based on the real kids who helped save the South Carolina sea turtles is sure to inspire young nature lovers!
Some girls are perfectly happy never doing anything out of the ordinary, but not Addie! At a time when a young lady appearing onstage was considered most unusual, Addie defied convention and became a dancer — and when she married the world-famous magician Herrmann the Great, she became part of his show, even agreeing to be shot out of a cannon. But when Herrmann the Great died, Addie couldn't disappoint her loyal fans; she decided she would perform the show all by herself! This true story of one of the first female conjurers in show business includes extensive back matter, including instructions for performing one of Addie's original tricks.
Jane Addams wanted to find a way to change the world, but she didn't know what that would be until she saw Toynbee Hall in London, a settlement house dedicated to social reform and working towards a future without poverty. Inspired, she returned to America and bought a run-down house in a Chicago neighborhood that became Hull House, a community center where newly arrived immigrants could find medical care, English lessons, athletic classes, and more. Her house transformed the neighborhood and, through her anti-war activism, Addams' helped transform the world — so much so that she became the second woman in history to be honored with a Nobel Peace Prize.
When Kathy Sullivan was growing up, she hated the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" — because no matter what she said, people told her the job wasn't for girls. Men had all the exciting jobs... and she was going to have an exciting job too! So when she was a teenager, she learned to fly a plane, and in 1978 she became one of the first women to be selected by NASA. When she finally got to space in 1984, she made her mark as the first American woman to perform extravehicular activity — a spacewalk. This fun and inspiring story ends with detailed background info, including a note from Sullivan and capsule biographies of other American women space pioneers. It's perfect for budding astronauts — or for anyone who refuses to believe something "isn't for girls."
When Elizabeth Cady Stanton started pushing for women's rights, most people thought she was nothing but trouble — how could she think that women, who couldn't go to college or own property, should have the right to vote? But thanks to Stanton, and generations of women working together, women's suffrage is now a reality! This unique book acts as a timeline of key events in the suffrage movement, from the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Doreen Rappaport captures the tremendous dedication and sacrifices of the suffragists, from protests to trials to jail sentences, as they fought for the rights that we enjoy today.
Louise's mother wove tapestries like a spider weaves threads, and Louise grew up with her in Paris, helping her mother every step of the way. When she grew up, Louise also worked with fabric, first as a tapestry artist, and then as a sculptor — and her memories of her mother were always an inspiration. In fact, she called her 30-foot sculpture of a spider Maman! In this beautiful picture book biography, vivid language and dramatic illustrations combine to create a unique depiction of this groundbreaking artist.
Classmates sneer at Wanda for wearing the same faded dress every day. Wanda’s insists that she has a hundred beautiful dresses at home, but her obvious lie only earns more derision from her peers. Maddie never joins in — but she never interferes, either. Then Wanda's father sends a letter to her teacher that they’re leaving town because of the mockery the whole family has suffered. With Wanda gone, Maddie realizes that she can never apologize for what people said to her, and resolves that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” Eleanor Estes' classic book about empathy and compassion won a 1945 Newbery Medal and has never been out of print since; it's sure to generate thought-provoking conversations.
This unique alphabet book provides an introduction to twenty-six women from the 20th Century who made their mark on history! From the titular Amelia Earhart and Zora Neale Hurston to other important figures like Dolores Huerta, Maya Lin, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, each page tells a capsule version of the woman's story, as well as providing a distinctive quote, all against beautiful collage artwork. This fascinating book is sure to get her looking for more information on these inspiring women.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more summer reading ideas, check out our Top Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls.
- For our full selection of over 1,000 high quality picture books, visit our Picture Book Collection.
- For 2016 releases to add to your reading list, visit our blog post New Release Round-up: 25 New Mighty Girl Books for Early Spring.