In celebration of International Women's Day, we're featuring a collection of 50 books about global girls and women from Afghanistan, Chile, the Philippines, China, and many other countries around the world!
When we highlight children's books about real-life Mighty Girls and women, they often focus on individuals from Western countries such as the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. While kids' books about remarkable women from elsewhere around the world are often harder to find, there are fortunately growing numbers of titles celebrating the accomplishments of girls and women worldwide.
In celebration of International Women's Day, we're featuring a collection of 50 books about global girls and women from Afghanistan, Chile, the Philippines, China, and many other countries around the world! There are dedicated scientists, gifted artists, empowering politicians, and courageous activists. Some of the women featured lived centuries ago, while some of them are still changing the world today. By sharing these stories with our kids, we can help them develop a global perspective on women's contributions — one which helps more women's voices be heard in both their own countries and around the world.
Children's Books for International Women's Day
After a bout with polio and an accident as a teenager, Frida Kahlo was left unable to walk and suffering permanent pain. She began painting from her bed, creating self-portraits, which show her pain and grief, but also her passion for life and instinct for survival. This board book version of Frida Kahlo from the Little People, BIG DREAMS picture book series is a perfect way to introduce little readers to Kahlo's story.
On an island filled with music, one rule always holds true: girls cannot be drummers. That is, until the day that a girl appears who dreams of drums all day and all night. She didn't dare let people see and hear her desire for music, even as she heard rhythms in every sound and every moment. But after years of determined, secret practice, the drum dream girl's music was enough to convince everyone that boys and girls should be allowed to play. Inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's taboo against women drummers, this book captures the power of a dream to change others' lives as well as your own.
Before Gabriela Mistral became the first Latina woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was a Chilean girl who loved words, sounds, and stories. She taught herself how to read, and even chose her own name because she liked how it flowed off the tongue. She grew up to become a beloved teacher, who inspired thousands of children and young adults, and a poet, whose writings inspired millions around the world. In this lyrical picture book biography, kids will learn how Mistral's musical language inspired people around the world, showing us the power of words and the importance of following our dreams.
Frida Kahlo grew up in Mexico, and her childhood wasn't easy: she was the only girl who attended her school, and a bout with polio left her with a permanently weakened leg. Then, as a young adult, she survived a bus crash, but was left in serious pain. As she recovered, she started to paint — starting the path to becoming one of the most famous painters of the 20th century, and a feminist icon! This book from the Ordinary People Change the World biography series introduces young readers to the inimitable Frida. For more picture books about Kahlo, we recommend Frida, My Little Golden Book About Frida Kahlo, and Me, Frida, all for ages 4 to 8.
Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, where many fathers didn't believe in educating their daughters — but Ziauddin Yousafzai was determined to give her every opportunity a son would have. That became much more dangerous, though, when the Taliban came to power and forbid girls from attending school. When Malala spoke out about it, she became the target of an assassination attempt. After barely surviving, and establishing a new life in England, she became an activist for girls' education everywhere and the youngest Noble Prize laureate in history. For more books about Malala, check out Free As A Bird: The Story of Malala and Malala's Magic Pencil for ages 5 to 9, and Malala: Activist for Girls' Education for ages 6 to 9.
Shaesta Waiz was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan and moved to America as a baby. As a child, she knew she wanted to do "great things," and as a teen, a trip to Florida on a plane gave her taste of "the view from above" — so she decided to be a pilot! Waiz would become the first person in her family to graduate from college, and got a pilot's license. Then she decided to try a challenge: flying around the world solo! She became the youngest woman, and first from Afghanistan, to circumnavigate the globe alone in a single-engine aircraft — and at each stop, she talked to kids and encouraged them to "chase down dreams of their own!" This inspiring picture book biography includes a personal note from Waiz and information about her nonprofit organization Dreams Soar.
Corazon Aquino was a quiet, shy child — but she had a keen intellect and a fierce sense of justice, one which was fostered by her family. Her country, the Philippines, was being ruled by a dictator, and as a young woman she could see just how much damage he was causing. Even though it meant a risk to both herself and her family, Corazon had to speak up. She would go on to lead the revolution that dethroned the dictator — and to become the first female president of the Philippines! This inspirational book features from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series includes back matter with detailed information about her life and work that's sure to inspire young justice-seekers.
In this much-anticipated follow-up to She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World, author Chelsea Clinton goes beyond America's borders to introduce young readers to inspiring women from around the globe! Scientists, athletes, artists, and activists: these women refused to listen to the naysayers and insisted on making their voice heard. From famous names like J.K. Rowling, Malala Yousafzai, and Marie Curie, to less familiar ones like Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, and Kate Sheppard, these profiles will show kids that women everywhere prove that persistence is power every day. For more picture book, board books, and early chapter books from this empowering series, visit our She Persisted Collection.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari Maathai's family defied tradition so she could get an education; she also learned traditional Kikuyu reverence for nature. As a young adult, she had the opportunity to attend university – if she went to the US. But she swore she would return, and when she did, she combined her scientific education with her appreciation for good husbandry of natural resources to found the Green Belt Movement, which not only provided sustainable work for women across Kenya, but also helped them replant millions of trees. For more picture books about the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, we recommend Mama Miti for ages 4 to 8, Wangari's Trees of Peace for ages 5 to 8, and Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees for ages 7 to 10.
Years ago in Rhodesia, a child dreamed of an education that was off limits to girls like her. So while she taught herself to read and count, she reconciled herself to a life as a wife and mother only. But when she married, she followed a community tradition: she wrote her dreams down and buried them in an old can as a reminder never to give up. Years later, Dr. Tererai Trent would indeed get university degrees in America — and return to educate the children at her home. This true story of how one girl's dream of education changed the lives of many is both compelling and inspiring.
Growing up in Iran, Maryam Mirzakhani loved reading — math was so boring compared to the exciting characters and stories on the pages of a book! But then she discovered geometry, where the numbers became shapes, and "every number held a story." Soon, the math prodigy was studying mathematics at Harvard, then teaching others to love math as a professor. And her innovative research solving some of math's trickiest puzzles won her the Fields Medal, mathematics' highest award — the first time that a woman had won. This gorgeous picture book, imbued with Mirzakhani's love of math and passion for storytelling, is a vibrant celebration of a pioneering woman in STEM.
In Gambia, when people used woven baskets, they would toss them out when the broke, and the baskets would break down. But when they did the same thing with plastic bags, the bags never went away and soon they littered the entire country. It was Isatou Ceesay's innovative idea to recycle the bags by crocheting them into purses. The women involved in her project were able to earn money selling their creations and the streets were soon clean again. This real-life story of a clever woman's solution to both an ecological challenge and a way to find employment for local women is sure to inspire young readers.
How Maria Toorpakai Wazir Pretended to Be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and Became a World Famous Squash Player
How Maria Toorpakai Wazir Pretended to Be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and Became a World Famous Squash Player
Maria Toorpakai Wazir loved sports — but in Pakistan, girls weren't supposed to be athletic or competitive. Despite being teased and even beaten, she joined a squash club and proved she was a talented athlete. As she grew more famous, though, the risks became greater, and when she received an award from the President of Pakistan, the Taliban threatened her life and the lives of those she cared about. To protect them, she quit the team — and practiced in her bedroom for three long years. This compelling biography from the People Who Shaped Our World series is a celebration of a determined athlete who refused to let anyone stand in her way.
Growing up in Iraq, Zaha Hadid dreamed of designing her own city. After she studied architecture, she opened her own studio in London — but a Muslim woman architect faced many obstacles, especially when she wanted to design buildings that curved and swooped like natural objects rather than sticking to lines and columns. Today, even after her death, her architects continue to chase her vision, remembering her motto: "the world is not a rectangle." This poetic introduction to the life and work of Hadid from beloved author / illustrator Jeanette Winter reminds kids that a different perspective can be a powerful thing. For another book about this pioneering architect, we recommend Zaha Hadid (Little People, Big Dreams) for ages 5 to 8.
Wu Chien Shiung's name meant "Courageous Hero," and her parents supported her in achieving her dreams: at a time when most girls in China didn't attend school, they encouraged her love of science. When she faced prejudice, they urged her to "Just put your head down and/ keep walking forward." Wu would end up traveling to the US, where her work on parity and beta decay helped drive physics forward — but because of prejudice against both her race and her sex, she was overlooked for both promotions and the Nobel Prize. This bittersweet but inspiring biography from the People Who Shaped Our World series introduces young readers to a little-known trailblazing women in physics.
Alia Muhammad Baker had spent fourteen years as a librarian in Basra, Iraq, when the Iraq War began. Inside her library there were thousands of books — books about the history of her country, which would be utterly irreplaceable. She worried that her large building could become a military target, or that it could be damaged or destroyed by accident. So, slowly — at first alone, and then with the help of others in her community — she smuggled thousands of books to homes and local businesses... anywhere that they would be safe. This inspiring true story about a heroic librarian will give kids new perspective on the power of libraries. For older readers interested in her story, we recommend Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq for ages 9 to 12.
When Amalia Hernández saw a troupe of dancers perform, her dreams were full of dancing! She studied many kinds of dance, like ballet and modern, under the best teachers in the world — and then she returned to Mexico and studied under the best regional dancers of her country. After years of studying and dancing, she founded a dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, that combined all these different kinds of dance, becoming an international sensation. Duncan Tonatiuh's distinctive and colorful Mixtec-inspired artwork adds to his inspiring text, creating a story about Hernández that seems poised to leap off the page.
When Zheng Yi Sao's village in Guangzhou, China was attacked by pirates in the late 1700s, the captain was captivated by her — but she refused to marry him unless she got a share of his business. Six years later, when he died, she took over his fleet, but realized that the best way to hold her power was by sharing it, winning the loyalty of other ships' captains by offering them their own shares. Before long, she commanded 1,800 ships and 70,000 sailors, rivaling the emperor's own navy. And even though she had a price on her head, when she was ready to retire, she convinced the governor-general of Canton to grant her freedom. Helaine Becker's exuberant picture book about Zheng Yi Sao's remarkable life includes an equally fascinating author's note about what it's like to tell the story of a person whose history is almost forgotten.
Across history, women in every field have dreamed big dreams — and turned them into reality! In this illustrated collection of capsule biographies, author / illustrator Vashti Harrison introduces kids to creators like painter Mary Blair, actor/inventory Hedy Lamar, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, and many more. Each of them approached their field with creativity and vision, changing it forever. This follow-up to the best-selling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is an aspirational collection of great women from history. Both volumes are now available in a Leaders and Dreamers: Bold and Visionary Women Around the World Gift Set.
When Miriam Makeba was rising to fame, South Africa was at the peak of apartheid, the brutal racial segregation system that held back so many people. She used her renown and her voice to bring the issue to the forefront at jazz clubs, at rallies, and even before the United Nations. In this defiant and inspiring biography, full of vibrant illustrations by Charly Palmer, author Kathryn Erskine uses call-and-response text to capture Makeba's fight for equality — and the power of voices that speak out against injustice.
When the Taliban soldiers arrived in Herat, Afghanistan, art, music, and learning disappeared... and so did Nasreen's parents. Now, in the care of her loving grandmother, Nasreen refuses to speak, traumatized by the loss. To help her granddaughter, the grandmother enrolls Nasreen in a secret school for girls run out of a private home — even though she knows how dangerous that could be. There, with the help of a caring teacher, new friends, and the power of the written word, Nasreen learns about the potential for a brighter future... as long as she has hope. This powerful book, based on a true story, is a reminder of the power of education to heal and inspire.
I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai's memoir about risking her life for the right to go to school, has now been abridged and adapted for chapter book readers. Raised by a father from a poor background who dared to defy tradition by ensuring his daughter was educated, and an illiterate but determined mother, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believed in. When the Taliban started restricting girls' access to education in Pakistan, Malala's determination to go to school set her on a path that would make her an inspiration to the world. For more resources about this inspiring education advocate, visit our Malala Yousafzai Collection.
8-year-old Tuyet believes she is too old to be adopted, especially since polio left her with a limp; she's resigned herself to helping care for the babies at the orphanage in Saigon where she lives. But when the North Vietnamese are about to invade the city, she finds herself on the last airplane of at-risk children being sent for adoption in the West. To her shock, the Morris family treats her as a daughter, not a caretaker for their baby son, and they even plan corrective surgery for her twisted ankle. Tuyet is just learning English and afraid things will all go wrong, but starts to trust that, maybe, her dreams really can come true. This omnibus edition of Last Airlift and One Step at a Time tells Tuyet's inspiring true story, complete with archival photographs.
You don't have to be an adult to change the world — there are plenty of girls who made their mark on history! In this revised and expanded edition of Girls Who Rocked The World, you'll learn about 46 female role models who created life-changing opportunities for herself and others, starting as teenagers... or even younger! With a wide variety of interests and backgrounds represented, readers are sure to find someone who inspires them to rock the world. And for stories of even more heroines, check out More Girls Who Rocked The World.
Rebeka Uwitonze was born with arthrogryposis, a disease that twisted her hands and feet — and in Rwanda, there was little medical help to offer. The determined girl taught herself to walk on the tops of her feet by age 7, but she dreamed of getting the care she needed to stay mobile. Then, when she was 9, she received an incredible offer: the chance to travel to the US for the multiple surgeries she needed. To do so, however, she would have to live in America for a year — without her family. “Amahirwe aza rimwe,” her family says: “chance comes once.” With the help of the Davis family in Texas, Rebeka studied English, went through multiple surgeries, and finally learned to walk again. This inspiring book about courage in the face of disability and medical intervention celebrates perseverance and optimism.
Celia Cruz was a powerhouse performer, with an enormous vocal range, a vibrant stage presence, and a love of flashy costumes that her fans adored. As the lead singer of the Cuban band Sonora Matancera, she led the group all over the world, where she delighted audiences. But when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, she was no longer allowed to return home — so she and her fellow Cuban exiles in America kept making music, creating an all-new genre, salsa. She would become the most popular Latin artist of the 20th century and was hailed as the "Queen of Salsa"! This vivacious biography from the Who Was...? series introduces young readers to a dynamic performer who defied a genre dominated by men to top the charts! For a bilingual picture book about Cruz, check out My Name is Celia / Me llamo Celia for ages 5 and up.
When Aisholpan Nurgaiv won the Ölgii eagle festival in Mongolia, it was a testimony to her perseverance and drive: at only 13 years old, the girl had stepped into a tradition dominated by men and excelled. Her story, and the exquisite documentary The Eagle Huntress, stunned people around the world. Now, Aisholpan tells her own story with the help of best-selling author Liz Welch, describing how her father supported her as she captured and trained a golden eagle, overcame skepticism about a girl's participation in the sport, and proved her mettle with her winged companion by her side. This compelling story of empowerment and perseverance celebrates evolving traditions and the young people who make progress possible.
From the warrior queen Zenobia to lawyer Amal Clooney, women from the Middle East have left their mark on the world! In this gorgeous hardcover anthology, young readers will meet 25 Middle Eastern women, past and present, and learn about their lives and the impact they had on history. These women — activists, scientists, rulers, writers, and many more — have their own legacy of vision, courage, and determination to share. Written by award-winning author Wafa Tarnowska and illustrated by a team of renowned artists, this is a compelling introduction to the real-life stories of women from a little understood part of the world. For another book about trailblazing Muslim women, check out Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World for ages 10 and up.
Renowned journalist Rania Abouzeid crafts a unique and personal look at the Syrian revolution-turned-civil war in this story of two pairs of sisters. Ruha and her younger sister Alaa are Sunni Muslims in rebel-held territory, facing constant attacks by the Syrian government. Hanin and Jawa are Alawite, living in the oppression of the Syrian regime. They see things many young people could not imagine — from violent arrests to destroyed homes to the full horrors of war — and yet these four girls maintain the hope for a better life to come. This harrowing account of life in the Syrian conflict helps young readers understand the full complexities facing children there, building empathy and urging readers to imagine what potential could be lost in war.
Tweens and teens can learn Malala's story in her own words in this youth edition of her bestselling memoir. Through her own eyes, young adult readers will learn how Malala's life changed when the Taliban took control of her once-peaceful region of Pakistan, and how she had to adjust to their oppressive rules. And yet, with the support of her family — particularly her father — Malala started writing for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule, and continued to advocate for the right to education even after they tried to silence her by taking her life. Older teens can check out the original edition of the memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and was Shot By the Taliban.
In 1977, 11-year-old Zhongmei Lei was determined to audition for the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy — even though everyone said a poor country girl, with no connections to the powerful Communist Party, could never get in. Still, she beat 60,000 other girls to win one of the 12 coveted spots. The Academy was difficult, especially in a big city far from her home, but Zhongmei persevered... and excelled. She would go on to found her own dance company, making a New York debut by the time she was in her late 20s. In this intriguing book, Zhongmei's husband, renowned journalist Richard Bernstein, captures a stunning portrait of a girl who defied all the odds to follow her dream.
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
The authors of the New York Times bestselling book Rad American Women A - Z take a look at global history with this collection that features forty inspiring biographical profiles from around the world. Well-researched and riveting biographies, accented by expressive cut-paper portraits, make this book a treat to read and a compelling addition to women's history collections. And for inspiration for young readers, check out the third title in the series, Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women.
In October 2016, seven-year-old Bana Alabed became the voice of millions of children when she took to Twitter to tell the world about the horrors of the Syrian civil war. She lost her best friend, her school, and her home, and her heartrending messages — including “I just want to live without fear” — captured the world's attention. Following her and her family's life in Syria and eventual escape to Turkey, this book alternates Bana's words with short chapters by her mother to create a reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit, the unconquerable courage of a child, and the abiding power of hope.
Doaa Al-Zamel was only a teenager when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, forcing her family to flee to Egypt. It soon became obvious that it wasn't safe for Syrians to live there, either, so Doaa and her fiance made a difficult decision: pay a smuggler to take them to Europe, where they might find both safety and opportunity. When the fishing vessel carrying them and five hundred other refugees was rammed and started to sink, though, Doaa had to fight for survival yet again. As she did in the adult readers' version of A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea, Melissa Fleming lets Doaa's compelling story speak for the millions of refugees facing the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time with determination and hope.
12-year-old Ji-li Jiang is at the top of her class and anticipating a bright future in 1966 Communist China... until the Cultural Revolution begins. Now, because her grandfather once owned property, Ji-li's family are classified as "Landlords" who are considered "Enemies of the People." People who were once her friends and neighbors turn on her and her family, forcing them to live in constant terror of arrest. When her father is arrested, Ji-li faces a terrible choice: criticize and denounce her father to prove her loyalty to the new regime, or stay silent and wonder what the future brings. This powerful autobiography explores one the most terrifying authoritarian regimes of the 20th century through the eyes of a girl trying to understand it all. For two more books about the Cultural Revolution, both for ages 12 and up, check out Girl Under A Red Moon and Snow Falling In Spring.
In 19th century Cuba, opposing slavery was a dangerous choice. Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula, witnesses the injustice all around her, but doesn't know how she can oppose it — a 14-year-old girl is essentially property, primarily useful for arranged marriages to solidify business deals. But when she discovers the poetry of José María Heredia, she also discovers her own voice, and becomes emboldened not just to write, but also to defy the expectations of her family and culture. In this novel in verse, author Margarita Engle pays tribute to one of the boldest abolitionist poets in Cuban history, who gave up a life of privilege for a life seeking justice.
Margarita feels caught between two cultures and two countries: her mother's homeland, Cuba, which she visits every summer, and the bustling, busy world of Los Angeles, where words and images provide better companionship than her classmates. Slowly, though, she comes to love her own country as much as her old one, if in a different way. As tensions rise in the late 1950s and early 1960s, being caught between these two homes is not easy, and when the Cuban Missile Crisis breaks out, Margarita is afraid for her Cuban family and confused by how two places she loves can hate one another so much. This evocative and heartfelt memoir in verse depicts how Engle's sense of conflicting allegiances shaped her childhood — and her award-winning writing career.
When Marjane Satrapi is 9, fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah of Iran — and initially, her community welcomes the change, especially when the rebels free friends and family members the Shah had imprisoned. But it soon becomes clear that the rebels have also brought their own brand of totalitarianism. Religious extremism is on the rise, and as the new regime clamps down, she loses some of those she cares about the most. Her parents manage to send her to Vienna for high school, where she discovers just how different life is elsewhere... and even when she returns to Iran as an adult, she no longer feels like this place is home. This searing and often heartbreaking graphic biography is a stunning accomplishment, capturing the struggles of finding your identity when stepping a foot out of place is so dangerous.
Mariatu has heard stories of rebel attacks in other places in Sierra Leone, but one day, the 11-year-old encounters their brutality first-hand: rebel soldiers destroy her village, murder her neighbors, and cut off both her hands with a machete. “We want you to go to the president and show him what we did to you,” they say. “You won’t be able to vote for him now.” Miraculously, Mariatu survives, a single mango providing her first meal after the attack — and giving her the desire to live on. Her journey will take her to a refugee camp in Freetown, a home and education in Canada, and, finally, a position as a UNICEF Special Representative. Kamara's raw and powerful account of the conflict in 1990s Sierra Leone is unsettling, but inspiring: if Mariatu can find new hope, others can, too.
On November 25, 1960, three sisters were found dead in the Dominican Republic, next to a wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a cliff. The state newspaper reported their "accidental" deaths, but many readers knew the truth: Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa Mirabal were Las Mariposas — The Butterflies — vocal opponents of Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship. In this extraordinary novel of courage and love, the voices of all three sisters, as well as their surviving sister, Dede, speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo's authoritarian rule and the human cost of political oppression.
Nujood Ali was forced to marry at the age of 10 — and the groom was three times her age. In her husband's isolated rural village in Yemen, she suffered abuse from her mother-in-law and rape from the husband who had promised Nujood's family he would wait until she was no longer a child. So the courageous girl fled to the capital, and found a lawyer who would fight her case. In a country where almost half of girls are married underage, Nujood's victory established precedent allowing divorce for child brides, and the international outcry has pushed countries to enforce underage marriage laws. This is a powerful story of a girl who refused to give up on her life, even when all odds were against her.