If you are looking for books about strong girls to share with your daughters (and your sons!), you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading to find a huge list of some of our very favorite children’s books about mighty girls, including amazing picture book biographies and anthologies about the strongest, smartest, coolest ladies — both from world history and today!
It's Women's History Month, which means it is the perfect time to share some amazing books about strong girls. After all, what better way is there to celebrate than by reading phenomenal picture book biographies about the world's most remarkable women? The ladies featured in the stories below are leaders and pioneers. They have broken barriers, persevered in the face of the most daunting obstacles, and continuously fought for social justice. From dancers to doctors, artists to architects to activists, the stories of these women who continuously and tenaciously broke boundaries and challenged societal norms are not just inspiring, but a crucial part of the world's tapestry. So, in honor of this month, here are some of our favorite books about strong women whose determination and accomplishments have made indelible contributions to our contemporary society. Happy reading!
Books About Strong Girls: Picture Book Biographies
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, by Joyce Sidman: Maria Sibylla Merian was the first person to document a butterfly’s metamorphosis. She was also one of the first people to study insects at a time when bugs were considered “beasts of the devil.” This gorgeous book, a winner of the 2019 Robert F. Sibert medal for the most distinguished informational book for children, contains Merian’s own illustrations. It brilliantly conveys how Merian repudiated gender constructs in the pursuit of her own passion for naturalism and knowledge.
Ordinary Extraordinary Jane Austen, by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Qin Leng: An extraordinarily beautiful picture book about an extraordinarily special writer who never let rigid gender constructs hold her back from achieving her dream: writing extraordinary stories. Jane Austen would not be deterred, despite a publishing industry that wholly favored male writers. And she didn't just succeed in the mild sense of the term - she went on to create unique novels that have delighted readers for generations.
She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein Mary Shelley, by Lynn Fulton and illustrated by Felicita Sala: Two hundred years ago, on a dark and stormy night, Mary Shelley dreamed of being a writer. Yet, the poet Lord Byron, a good friend of hers, gave her a deadline to write the best scary ghost story, and that deadline was the very next day. Anxious about her lack of ideas, she fell asleep. And that nighty, she didn’t dream of a ghost, but something even more frightening: a man that wasn’t truly a man, but a monster instead. A fabulous look at the inception of Frankenstein and the woman who started it all.
The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs, by Fiona Robinson: This is the gorgeous story of Anna Atkins, the very first person to publish a book of photography. After her mother died when Anna was a young girl, Anna’s father gave her a scientific education, a highly unusual endeavor for girls in the 19th century. Having fallen in love with nature while studying with her father, Anna became a botanist, recording all of her findings and eventually inventing cyanotype photography in 1842 which she used to catalogue plants. Her book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, contained handwritten text and cyanotype photographs, and is considered the first book of photographs ever published!
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer, by Diane Stanley and illustrated by Jesse Hartland: Did you know that the famous poet, Lord Byron, had a daughter who is touted as the very first computer programmer? Ada had a vivid imagination like her father and a scientific mind like her mother. Put them together, and you get one important visionary - a passionate woman who envisioned a world driven by computers and actually wrote the first computer program.
I am Harriet Tubman (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos: We are totally in love with this incredible biography series and could highlight every single book here on Happily Ever Elephants! This installment is about brave Harriet Tubman, a heroic woman who helped to abolish slavery. As one of the key players in the Underground Railroad, she helped so many slaves escape, find freedom, and establish new lives for themselves.
Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller, by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares: When she was only a toddler, Helen Keller became blind and deaf, no longer able to speak or communicate with the people around her. Despite her handicaps, Helen wanted to experience life. With the help of a phenomenal teacher, Helen gained knowledge and wisdom which led her on a mission to change the world and fight against injustice. Even without a spoken voice, people listened. So, so powerful!
Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad: Another dazzling beauty by two of my favorites! This biography, about a young girl who always felt "brutta" (ugly), lyrically tells the story of how Elsa discovered her own imagination and went on to create some of fashion's most unique and influential designs. A must for budding fashionistas!
Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotton, by Laura Veirs and illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: When you learn that a five year old picks up a guitar for the first time, flips it upside down and backwards, and teaches herself to play, you know a great story will unfold. And so it is with Elizabeth Cotton, who, at only eleven years old, wrote the song Freight Train, which became one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. A lyrical gem that is as inspiring as it is beautiful.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, by Renee Watson and illustrated by Christian Robinson: Florence Mills, with the voice of an angel, was the daughter of former slaves. Her beautiful voice helped her obtain roles on Broadway where she inspired all those around her. Yet, despite her many successes, she saw first hand how the evils of prejudice and racism haunted every day life. Florence thus chose to fight for equality and social justice, always championing her fellow performers and the importance of civil rights for all.
I am Amelia Earhart (Ordinary People Change the World), by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: Amelia Earhart loved adventure and did not back away from challenges -- even when those challenges involved participating in activities that girls had never done before. She dreamed of flying and would stop at nothing to accomplish her goals, eventually breaking records and becoming the first woman to fly all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, by Anika Aldamuy and illustrated by Paola Escobar: This is a stunning picture book about Pura Belpre, her arrival in the United States in the early 1920s, and her job at a neighborhood library as a bilingual assistant. While working at the library, Belpre was surprised at the lack of any stories from her native Puerto Rico on the shelves. She thus began to spin unique tales for the children based on her home in Puerto Rico, infusing the neighborhood’s library with multicultural tales, diverse storytelling… and puppets! Exquisite in prose and illustration, we simply adore this one! For our full review of Planting Stories, click here!
Frida Khalo and her Animalitos, by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra: Though famed artist Frida Khalo is typically remembered for her self-portraits, most people don't know about her beloved pets: a parrot, an eagle, a black cat, a fawn, two turkeys, two monkeys, and three dogs. This is the story of Frida and her animals, and it considers how the artist embodied the characteristics of her cherished pets.
Pocketful of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire, by Amy Guglielmo and illustrated by Brigette Barrager: Mary Blair was never one for to play by the rules. At a time when studios preferred male artists and shied away from color, Blair was anything but shy, painting mermaids and filling canvases with viridian trees and mauve-tinted skies. She eventually bucked tradition within the animation industry, and her amazing sense of color became critically important as she helped design the ride of all rides: Disney's It's a Small World. Stunning!
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man on the city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, remains one of the most pivotal moments - and remarkable actions - in American history. The stunning prose and cut paper illustrations are a winning combo here, bringing new life to Parks’s perseverance, courageous story and steadfast commitment to the civil rights movement. Rosa made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month!
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Did you love this movie? Well now you can share the inspiring story of these four brilliant women with your kids and students. Hidden Figures is the remarkable true story of four black American women who lived at a time when being black— and being female - limited their abilities to do what they wanted to do: math. And they were really good at math. Did they let societal and gender norms stand in their way? Absolutely not… and so they broke boundaries. This book is outstanding! Hidden Figures made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Erin McGuire: Alabama Spitfire tells the story of Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee, on April 28, 1926 in segregated Monroeville, Alabama. An overall-wearing, tree-climbing tomboy, Nelle would spend afternoons at the courthouse watching her father, an attorney, fight for justice. She also loved books and the written word. From Alabama to New York and back again, this is Harper Lee's story -- and the story of the events that inspired her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. For our full review of Alabama Spitfire, click here!
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s most Fearless Scientist, by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguenz: Eugenie Clark was just a young girl when she - gasp! - fell in love with sharks. Though most people found sharks to be terribly scary, Clark thought they were strong and graceful, and she dove deep into the ocean to discover the wondrous world below the water. Not only did Eugenie Clark the scientist make significant contributions to research and discoveries about sharks, but she proved to the world that women can not be held back from achieving their dreams!
Maya Angelou (Little People, BIG DREAMS), by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Leira Salaberria: Maya Angelou had a challenging life as a young girl in Stamps, Arkansas. After a traumatic event when she was just eight years old, she didn’t speak for five years. How did she rediscover her voice? Through books, of course. Angelou went on to become one of the world’s most honored and revered writers and poets, using her words— and her voice — to inspire, educate and fight for justice around the world.
Just Being Jackie, by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos: Jackie Kennedy was not just JFK’s beautiful wife and an icon of style and grace. She was so much more than that! Jackie was smart, tireless in her work as first lady, a gifted journalist, a critical part of the preservationist movement to secure the legacies of national landmarks, and an award-winning editor. Her name alone evokes respect, brilliance and sophistication, and this book so beautifully highlights her life and achievements. Just Being Jackie made our list of Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018!
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark, by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley: Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up at a time where women were encouraged to be homemakers, not lawyers. But this did not dissuade RBG from following her aspirations and dissenting widely in the face of injustice. As a child who dissented to being forced to write with her right hand (when she was truly a lefty) and as a Supreme Court Justice who continually disagreed with unequal treatment of all people, this is an inspiring and powerful book about how we can always stand up for what's right, even when it seems the whole world is against us. For our full review of this amazing book, Click Here!
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With the Chimps, by Jeanette Winter: Jane Goodall blossomed from a child watching birds at her windowsill to studying chimpanzees in the African wilds. An extraordinary woman, her observations have led her to become the foremost expert on chimpanzees, and she has led a worldwide crusade to save these remarkable primates from extinction.
Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III: So many young girls today know of- and hope to emulate- the great Misty Copeland. But they likely don’t know about the famous ballerina who inspired Misty herself. Meet Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company. Though she faced racism and derision, she never let it hold her back. Raven was persistent, and this persistence led her to dance for royalty in Holland and at the New York City Opera after that— until she was fifty years old. A must have for your little dancers. Trailblazer made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black American History.
Anybody’s Game: Kathryn Jonhston, the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball, by Heather Lang and illustrated by Cecilia Puglesi: Would your little girl much rather play baseball than barbies? Then you NEED this book! ANYBODY’S GAME is the true story of Kathryn Johnston, the very first girl to play little league baseball. She’s got spunk, perseverance and a whole lot of grit— and we absolutely loved her inspiring story. Here’s to mighty girls who refuse to be held back by rigid gender constructs. Love this one!
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, by Jeanette Winter: Trees. They surrounded Wangari as a young child growing up in Kenya, Africa. But years later, when she returns to her home country after studying in America, she discovers that whole forests have been knocked down. Wangari vows to do something about it. She plants nine seedlings in her backyard, and the trees grow.. and grow. And as they grow, Wangari uses her voice to inspire other women to plant trees as well. Wangari eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize, and more than thirty million trees have been planted as a result of her vision.
The Doctor With an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley: From toy chemistry sets to laser probes, this vibrant rhyming book tells the story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a young girl born in Harlem who dreamed of being a doctor. Undeterred by sexism and racism, Dr. Bath eventually became an ophthalmologist and subsequently co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the gift of sight. Another win for STEM! The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley: When Temple Grandin wasn't talking at age three, she was never expected to speak. Yet, this remarkable woman, currently a spokesperson for autism, eventually went on to become one of the most powerful and quirky voices in modern science. Due to her unique mind, Grandin was able to connect with animals in a unique manner, which allowed her to invent groundbreaking improvements for farms worldwide. Looking for more on Temple Grandin? We also love How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine!
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, by Jeanette Winter: It wasn't easy to be a visionary Iraqi architect when you were living and studying in London. But Zaha Hadid fought against adversity and eventually designed buildings that brought her famed mantra - "the world is not a rectangle" - to life. Her unconventional designs turned into museums, stadiums and opera houses reminiscent of nature, and upon her death in 2016, she was the only woman to receive both the Pritzker Prize and the Royal Gold Medal for her designs.
Turning Pages: My Life Story, by Sonia Sotomayor and illustrated by Lulu Delacre: Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court justice, inspiring children across the United States - and even world wide - to chase their dreams. But did you know that reading was what truly inspired Justice Sotomayor? Stories helped the Justice navigate her world, everything from her father’s death to her diabetes diagnosis to helping her connect with family in New York and Puerto Rico. If you simply turn the page, you are opening yourself up to a world where anything and everything is possible.
Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Barrington: Women in space? Yes, please. A child with a big heart and bigger dreams, who would stop at nothing to achieve her goal? Yes, yes, YES, please! This is the sweet story of the brilliant Dr. Mae Jemison, who not only enrolled at Stanford University when she was just sixteen years old, but eventually went on to become a doctor and then the very first African-American female astronaut. STEM, anyone?!? Mae Among the Stars made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines, by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk: As a little girl, Maya loved to observe space and structure and used her house as a model to build little towns out of scraps of paper. She also grew up with art, and it was the combination of her love of light, lines and art that gave her a vision for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. After beating out more than a thousand others, Lin won a public design competition to create this memorial, one of the most influential memorials in modern history.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton: Audrey Faye Hicks was only nine years old when she heard the grownups grumbling about segregation and civil rights. And because she wanted the same opportunities as everyone else, she wanted to make her voice heard too. One of the youngest civil rights activists in the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama, Audrey's story reminds children everywhere that age is nothing but a number. The Youngest Marcher made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. This is a wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport. Game Changers made our list of Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018 and our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story, by Rebecca Langston-George and illustrated by Janna Bock: This is a beautifully illustrated new biography about Malala Yousafazi, who, despite the fact that she was a girl born in Pakistan, refused to be quiet. Girls in Pakistan were not educated, so Malala's father simply schooled her in secret, unafraid of the consequences. Though an enemy sought to silence her powerful voice, Malala was undeterred, eventually traveling the globe to advocate for the right to education for every person.
Books About Strong Girls: Notable Anthologies
Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh. What a collection! This is a fabulous keepsake, a beautiful compilation celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of fifty women who changed the world and left an indelible mark on our society. Readers young and old will learn about the challenges these women faced as children and young adults and be forever inspired by their courage and stunning achievements. Herstory made our list of Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018.
Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit and Guts, by Leah Tinari: This collection stands out from some of the others for its stunning, oversized portraits of 24 phenomenal women. With grit, guts and determination to leave their mark on our society, these larger than life portraits are the perfect way to highlight the artistry and serious work carried out by the trailblazing women featured inside.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger: This beautiful duo of books about strong girls is a wonderful introduction to remarkable women. It is easily digestible for a young reader, with simpler, shorter text. These books are great bedtime or class read alouds!
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World and Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes who Played to Win: by Rachel Ignotofski: These fabulous books set themselves apart by focusing on the contributions of women in two major areas. Women in Science is dedicated to women who have made significant contributions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and Women in Sports focuses on notable female athletes from the 1880s to today. These books are beautiful illustrated, and oh so much fun! A wonderful gift set, too!
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2, by Elana Favilli and Francesca Cavallo: These New York Times best selling books transform biographies of famous and notable women, turning each story into a unique fairy tale that is perfect for bedtime. From Nefertiti to Beyonce, young readers will be entranced by these beautifully illustrated books that tell captivating tales of the worlds’ most fascinating females!
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison: This stunning anthology features snippets of 49 black women who, in their own various ways, helped change the world. From poets to pilots to politicians, the fascinating stories combined with stunning illustrations make this book a winner, conveying to our children how people can break barriers when they dream, persevere and never stop believing in themselves. Little Leaders made our list of Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month.
Rad American Women A to Z: Rebels, Trailblazers and Visionaries who Shaped Our History … and Our Future!, by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl. Oh how we love this unique take on an alphabet book! Forget about A being for Apple. Instead, A is for Angela Davis, an iconic political activist! And so it goes, with each letter of the alphabet representing a significant woman in American history. Two new books have recently come out by this dynamic duo, including Rad Women Worldwide and Rad Girls Can!
Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, by Kate T. Parker: This STUNNING book is a collection of 175 photos that celebrate real girls doing all of the things that make them beautiful: being silly, being sporty, being smart, and being spirited. As this book states, real beauty is about being your true, authentic self, loving that self, and owning exactly who you are. This is a true gem, and we can’t rave about it enough!
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World, by Susan Hood: We absolutely adore this book of poems that is accessible, fresh and perfect for young readers! Each of the fourteen young women in this collection is paired with a noteworthy female artist, resulting in a beautiful celebration of activists and trailblazers. This mesmerizing poetry will captivate young readers, giving them an array of inspirational heroes to admire.