Inside: Read these nonfiction girl power books to show your kids they can do and be anything. Girls rule, and these feminist children’s books rock!
Nonfiction Girl Power Books Show Kids they Can Do Anything!
Girl power books show children – no matter their gender – that they can do big things. Hard things.
Change the world kind of things.
I’ve forever loved the power of story to show children that their dreams are attainable, no matter what obstacles they may be forced to tackle along the way. This collection of girl power books does just that, showing kids that even with the toughest challenges looming ominously in front of them, there is always a path to success if you refuse to give up.
These Girl Power Books Inspire All Kids to Dream Big & Be Persistent
My students always have trouble accepting the fact that throughout our history, women did not have the same opportunities as men. It’s unfathomable to them, and both my boys and girls alike struggle to understand why women had a strict set of rules to abide by, whether spoken or unspoken, only decades ago.
These stories shock them. Then awe them. And they always finish reading these girl power books with a sense of wonder, determination and inspiration.
“I can be anything,” the girls say. “I can do anything.”
And it’s true.
The paths they take won’t always be easy — and sometimes will be downright difficult — but with persistence, grit, and the willingness to fall and fail and get back up, they will be on their way to making their dreams reality.
This curated selection of feminist children’s stories teaches kids to embrace aspirations, ignore conventions, and give their all to conquer their goals. If they trust in themselves and remember that failing and learning go hand in hand, these big dreamers will attain even bigger things.
Girl Power Books that Rock!
A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered her Voice, by Jasmine A. Stirling and illustrated by Vesper Stamper: If there is one thing kids adore, it’s reading about other mischievous children who grow up to walk to the beat of their own drum despite people trying to get them to follow the same old path everyone else has taken. As a child, young Jane loved telling stories to make others laugh, poking fun of popular novels with their ridiculous damsels in distress and absurd plots. Jane wanted to tell stories her way, and using details from her own community, she wrote with a wit and humor that was well ahead of her time. When faced with grief, however, she debated whether she would ever write again. She eventually picked up her pen once more, writing stories that have captured the hearts of readers for hundreds of years. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution, by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Sarah Green: Little do most people know that it was a female spy who helped save the American Revolution! Anna Strong was recruited by George Washington’s own spymaster and began to deliver Washington himself secret messages at great risk to not only herself, but her family, too. With clever techniques like hanging laundry on a line in such a way that others could “read” her clothesline message, Strong was a revolutionary who undoubtedly changed the course of American history. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston, by Alicia D. Williams and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara: Zora Neale Hurston was “attracted to tales like mosquitoes to skin.” In this picture book biography, readers are instantly transported to the sultry South, where a young Zora spins tales almost as early as she walks. Her mama knows she’s talented, telling Zora to “jump at de sun” because even if you don’t reach it, you’re still getting off the ground. After Mama dies, Zora does just what Mama had always told her: she jumps from home to Howard University to Harlem, where she was good friends with Langston Hughes, and then to Barnard, where a professor suggested she tell the stories of her people, of a culture rarely represented in literature. And so she did— and the rest is history. This is a wonderful and inspiring biography, lovely and fresh, that gives readers an insightful introduction to one of America’s iconic writers. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Brooke Smart: If you have kids who love secret codes, they will be mesmerized by this picture book biography about a brilliant woman who cracked codes for a living. Elizabeth Friedman had always been intrigued by codes, and she was so good at deciphering them that her abilities led her to destroy Nazi spy rings, take down gangsters who were smuggling alcohol during prohibition, and create the CIA’s very first cryptology unit. Even cooler? The back matter not only gives great information about different kinds of codes and ciphers, but also provides secret messages for readers to decode. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera: Even as a young girl, Gwendolyn Brooks wanted to write. And when, at seven years old, her mother saw snippets of Gwendolyn’s poetry and compared her to a famous poet, Gwendolyn glowed. Readers follow Gwendolyn from her girlhood to her adult life and all the writing she did along the way, including the poems she had published in a newspaper when she was just eleven years old. But it wasn’t always an easy path, as the Great Depression wreaked havoc on the country, and Gwendolyn began to struggle with her identity and finding her place in the world. From invisible to invincible, the story of Gwendolyn Brooks will resonate with readers young and old, who will applaud her perseverance and celebrate her becoming the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe, by Sandra Nickel and illustrated by Aimee Sicuro: What would you do if you were never taken seriously in your chosen career, even though you knew your abilities were top notch? This was the case with Vera Rubin, a woman who never gave up on her dream of being an astronomer, even when men told her this was not a woman’s job. Yet, Vera never gave up on her goal and went on to discover dark matter and other groundbreaking realities that modern scientists are only just beginning to appreciate today. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way we Eat, by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Giselle Potter: Mushrooms. Mangoes. Melons. Believe it or not, these weren’t always staples at the market. And it was Frieda Caplan who brought so many exotic foods into play, simply because she didn’t want to compete with all the men selling apples, potatoes and tomatoes! Always willing to try a new delicacy, Frieda was a groundbreaker who continuously bought exotic foods to the United States. She literally changed the way we eat, and we will all be forever grateful! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Finish the Fight!, by Veronica Chambers and the Staff of the New York Times: We all know the big names: Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cary Stanton. But did you know there were many more people who held crucial roles in the fight for women’s suffrage? Women around the country from diverse backgrounds helped lead this important fight for voting rights, women whose stories have been long forgotten. Yet this wonderful book teaches children about advocates like Mary Eliza Church Terrell, who cofounded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, who, when she was just a teenager, helped lead what was considered the biggest parade in history to promote women’s suffrage. The short biographies in this book are fabulous, and it’s a necessary addition to bookshelves – especially those that have previously only offered whitewashed histories of the suffrage movement. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
I am Anne Frank, by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopolous: When she was just a young girl, Anne Frank and her family were forced to take cover in an attic during the Holocaust to hide from the Nazis during World War II. While in hiding, Anne kept a journal documenting her life and observations in the tiny attic. Despite her very real fears and the cloud of terror hanging above her head, Anne’s words are those of resilience, hope and optimism. This book is as sensational as it is somber. This is an absolute must read. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America, by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Alexandra Bye: Did you know there was a woman behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal? A shy girl at heart, Frances Perkins tried to live by her Grandmother’s words: “when somebody opens a door to you, you go forward.” So when FDR asked Frances to be the first female Secretary of Labor, she went for it. And it became her duty to advise the president how to lift the United States out of the throes of the Great Depression. The first woman to serve in a Presidential Cabinet, Perkins paved the way to create a safety net that protects American workers today. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Tonya Engel: In this visually and lyrically stunning biography, readers learn about Maya Angelou’s life — a life defined by trauma and transformation, perseverance and passion. From working as a freedom fighter to becoming a world-renowned poet, Angelou’s story is gently written but oh so powerful, an ode to the written word and the power of prose to heal, transform and unite. An utter beauty about a woman whose words have touched millions. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Shirley Chisholm is a Verb, by Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Rachelle Baker: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” This famous quote by the pioneer Shirley Chisholm epitomizes this trailblazer’s life. Chisholm was always the kind of woman who got things done, and young readers will be inspired by her active participation in our country’s democracy and her willingness to stand up to the men that held all the power. From her time in Congress to her presidential bid, this is an empowering biography of a woman who continues to inspire people world wide today. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Send a Girl: The True Story of How Women Joined the FDNY, by Jessica Rinker and illustrated by Meg Hunt: This book was a hit with my students who couldn’t get over the fact that when many of their parents were young, women couldn’t hold certain jobs. This fascinating story about Brenda Berkman tells what happened when the New York Fire Department finally allowed women to become fire fighters in the 1970s. Yet, even upon passing grueling tests, the hatred and ill will towards female firefighters was all too real. From the physical strength required to fight fires and save lives, to the inner strength required to fight brutal discrimination from those who believed firefighters should only be fireMEN, this captivating book shares the story of one woman who was determined to pave the way for girls who didn’t just dream of becoming firewomen, but could actually become them, too. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
What Do You Do With a Voice Like that? The Story of extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes: As a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan always stood out. She had a big, confident voice — and when she spoke, she never failed to get people to stop, stand up and listen. Barbara took her big, bold voice to places few Black American women had ever been before — places like law school, the Texas Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. She had a keen intellectual curiosity, a passion for justice, and a desire to use her powerful voice to protect the voiceless. As President Clinton once famously said, “when Barbara Jordan talked, we listened.” Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Gloria Takes a Stand, How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote and Changed the World, by Jessica Rinker and illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley: Even as a young child, Gloria Steinem never wanted people to tell her what to do or how to think. She had her own voice, she spoke her mind, and she read a lot. She wanted to be the heroine of her own story, but because she grew up at a time where women were not allowed to do many of the things men could do, she faced some serious obstacles. Always having a mind of her own, Gloria set out to change these restrictions. From her career in journalism to her passion for social justice to her advocacy with the women’s liberation movement, Gloria encouraged generations of women and girls to demand equal rights for all people! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted, by Susan Wood and illustrated by Sarah Green: Elizabeth Warren was the first female United States Senator of New York. But, before she was a senator, she was a child in a struggling family in Oklahoma City. When her father was forced to stop working after suffering a heart attack, she took a number of side jobs to help her family out. She also excelled on her school debate team, eventually winning a scholarship to college due to her sharp skills! Through debate, she learned the power of words and never stopped using them to fight for poor and middle class families to advance economically. Love the way this story encourages children to stand up and use their words to fight for themselves and those around them who need an advocate! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice, by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Kamala Harris was a fighter for justice even as a little girl when she accompanied her parents to civil rights marches in her stroller. As Harris grew from a young girl in Oakland to a law student to a U.S. Senator and then to the Vice President of the United States, she learned a thing about persistence — and justice — along the way. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Queen of Tejano Music: Selena, by Silvia Lopez and illustrated by Pablo Escobar: When she was only 9, Selena Quintanilla was performing in her family’s band. From hairbrushes to microphones, Selena’s career eventually began to grow as she played gig after gig around town. Though many believed she would never be successful performing Tejano music, Selena was determined to prove them wrong. And that she did, learning to sing in Spanish, becoming a superstar in Tejano music before crossing into mainstream American music. Selena inspired Latin girls world wide and opened the door for many LatinX entertainers across America. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Building Zaha: The Story of Architech Zaha Hadid, by Victoria Tentler:-Krylov: British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid knew from a very young age she wanted to be an architect. Yet, it seemed like all odds were against her. She faced obstacles at every turn, a colored woman in a white man’s world. Even when critics challenged her novel and innovative ideas, she never let them hold her down. One by one, brick by brick, she followed her dreams, denied convention and overcame, becoming one of the world’s most famous and revered architects! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Michelle’s Garden: How the First Lady Planted Seeds of Change, by Sharee Miller: When Michelle Obama was in the White House, the First Lady had a big idea: she would grow the largest kitchen garden the White House had ever seen! Yet, she had a problem — she had never, ever gardened before! With the help of local students, the White House staff, and even President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama learned how to grow a garden — and she inspired the country along the way. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles, by Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Ebony Glenn: I have so many gymnastics obsessed students, and they are all head over heels for Simone Biles! They thought they knew all about her, yet they actually didn’t know so much — like the fact that she grew up in foster care, or that her grandparents adopted Simone and her sister and became their parents. This is a story of remarkable dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, and the devotion of love from family. This is a great one for very young readers! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Beyonce: Shine Your Light, by Sarah Warren and illustrated by Geneva Bowers: Looking at Beyonce on stage today, one would never guess she was a shy little girl. Yet, that’s how most of the world saw her, until she opened her mouth to sing. When Beyonce got onto the stage, she was a different person. She was confident, dazzling and bold, and she knew the stage was where she belonged. Through ups and downs, trials and tribulations, Beyonce became a world famous superstar, shining her bright light on all who listened. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Little People, Big Dreams: Megan Rapinoe, by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Paulina Morgan: When she was just a little girl, Megan found her home on the soccer field. The sport called to her, and she was a star on the field. Off the field, however, Megan didn’t always fit in among her peers. Yet with her soccer team, she knew she belonged. Megan eventually earned a coveted spot on Team USA and led her team to not only an Olympic gold medal, but a World Cup medal as well. Off the field, Megan continues to inspire as she champions both women’s and LGBTQ rights and fights for representation in sports. She is a true champion! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Muslim Girls Rise, by Saira Mir and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel: Introducing nineteen powerhouse Muslim women who spoke truth to power and made their voices heard! These twenty-first century women have excelled and broken barriers, rising above societal challenges to blaze trails in a wide variety of areas, including culinary arts, fashion, sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism. Refusing to be silenced, these modern women fought against every no they heard, working to rise above the obstacles and live out their dreams. Just fabulous! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers, by Juliet Menendez: In this beautiful and unique collection of short biographies, young readers will learn how 40 influential Latinitas became the women we celebrate today! From authors to artists, activists to engineers, and even a Supreme Court Justice, this book inspires little kids everywhere to follow their dreams – and to keep fighting even when the going gets tough. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!