Brave Girls and Strong Women

A special collection of books from small publishers for ages 2-17

This list of empowering books for girls is all on one page so you can print it out easily. However, the links below allow you to jump quickly to the section of your choice.

Many of these wonderful treasures are hard to find -- but now you can buy these books directly from this site, many of them at discounted prices. Just click on the title of your choice and put the book in your shopping cart. Then click the "back" button on your browser to get back to this page and continue shopping. When you've selected your final title, follow the instructions to pay for your books and have them shipped to you (or to a gift address).


Studies have shown that as girls reach adolescence, their brave, forthright child selves often disappear, to be replaced by young women who are unsure of themselves and who hesitate to take the lead.

Here is a list of books designed to help girls build and maintain their self-esteem, from small publishers in the U.S. and Canada. Why only small publishers? Small publishers are not just "small" -- they often are committed to making the world a better place and are often more willing to take risks than big publishing conglomerates. Many of the small publishers on this list are dedicated to publishing empowering books for girls and women, or multicultural books, or books that encourage self-reliance and cooperation. Yet small publishers' books tend to get overlooked in the glare of publicity put out by the major firms. This list helps readers identify these little-known treasures.

These books were chosen not only for their positive messages, but also for their engaging, high-quality writing. Boys should be encouraged to read these books too, to see strong girls and women in action.

If you choose not to buy the books from this site, ask for them at any library or bookstore, especially women's bookstores and independent bookstores.

Young Children (Ages 2-7)

It's a Jungle In Here, by Deanne Lee Bingham
Fiction, ages 2-5. A little girl discusses her feelings and actions by comparing herself to various animals. Cute! (Second Story Press)
Minou, by Mindy Bingham
Fiction, ages 4-7. Minou is a pampered cat whose owner suddenly dies. Another female cat shows her how to take care of herself and even find a job. Beautiful full-color illustrations of Paris from a cat's eye view. (Advocacy Press)
The Goat Lady, by Jane Bregoli
Nonfiction, ages 5-8. This is the true story of Noelie Houle, a poor elderly woman who raised goats in rural Massachusetts. Her neighbors did not see Noelie's determination and selflessness. They only saw her run-down house and her unruly animals. Then, a neighbor who is also a portrait painter created portraits of Noelie, which were shown in the town hall. The portraits helped viewers to see Noeli's strength and character, and to appreciate her way of life. (Tilbury House Publishers)
Shy Mama's Halloween, by Anne Broyles
Fiction, ages 5-8. An unusual Halloween book. A family of recent Russian immigrants prepares for their first Halloween. Mama is shy and afraid of the holiday, but when Papa falls ill, she agrees to take the kids out trick-or-treating. Gradually, as she puts on bits of the children's costumes which they are tired of wearing, she assumes her own disguise, and comes to enjoy this strange holiday. A lovely, touching story. (Tilbury House Publishers)
Travels with Tarra, by Carol Buckley
Nonfiction, ages 6-10. This is the true story of Carol, a college student, and the baby elephant she befriends. Tarra, the elephant, was kidnapped from her family in Burma and brought to California as a way to attract customers to a tire store. Carol, who lived near the tire store, quickly became the elephant's caregiver and eventually bought the elephant. She taught Tarra tricks and the two toured the U.S. for many years. In 1995, Carol created an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee for Tarra and a number of other elephants. (Tilbury House Publishers)
The Treasure on Gold Street, by Lee Merrill Byrd
Nonfiction, ages 4-7. A touching story about a mentally-challenged adult, Isabel, who befriends the little children in the neighborhood. Told through the eyes of Hannah, who is about three or four, and whose mother also was Isabel's friend when she was a little girl. English and Spanish text.(Cinco Puntos Press)
Riparia's River, by Michael Caduto
Fiction, ages 5-9. Four children (two girls and two boys) discover that their favorite swimming hole is smelly and overgrown with slimy green stuff. A mysterious woman who calls herself "Riparia" shows them that the water has become polluted due to herbicides and fertilizers from a nearby farm. With Riparia's guidance, the children work with the farmer to solve the problem. This book combines an environmental message with an example of youth leadership and initiative. Highly recommended!(Tilbury House)
Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! by Diana Cohn
Fiction/nonfiction, ages 6-10. Based on the true story of the Los Angeles Janitors strike in 2000, this story tells of Carlitos and his mother, a janitor who joins the strike. Carlitos and his friends make signs for the strike and help the janitors win better pay and more time for Carlitos's mother to spend with him. English and Spanish text. (Cinco Puntos Press)
I'm Lost, by Elizabeth Crary
Self-help, ages 3-8. This is one title of a six-part "problem-solving" series. In this book Gabriela is lost at the zoo, and readers explore different solutions with her, from crying (which doesn't work), to finding someone to ask for help (which does). Other titles (some of which feature girls) are: I Want It, I Want to Play, My Name is Not Dummy, I Can't Wait, and Mommy, Don't Go. (Parenting Press)
Drum, Chavi, Drum! by Mayra Dole
Fiction, ages 4-7. Chavi loves to drum, and wants to drum at the Calle Ocho street festival in Miami. However, her music teacher thinks that girls should not drum, so she is not chosen to be in the parade. She disguises herself, attends the festival, and shows off her drumming skills, thereby earning herself a place on the school float. English and Spanish text. (Children's Book Press)
Princess Backwards, by Jane Gray
Fiction, ages 4-7. A cute, funny book about a princess named Fred who lives in a land where everything is done backwards. Except that she has trouble doing things backwards and everyone makes fun of her and calls her Princess Backwards! However, when a dragon threatens the kingdom Fred saves the day by running forwards and throwing water at it. The dragon becomes her lifelong friend because all he ever wanted was a big drink of water! (Second Story Press)
Sandy's Incredible Shrinking Footprint, by Femida Handy and Carole Carpenter
Fiction, ages 5-8. On a trip to the beach, Sandy is horrified at a pile of trash she encouters. As she cleans up the mess, she meets the "Garbage Lady," an eccentric woman who cleans up the beach. The Garbage Lady teaches Sandy about her environmental "footprint" and how to reduce it. The illustrations were created using recycled and natural material. (Second Story Press)
 Watch Out for Clever Women, by Joe Hayes
Folktales, ages 5 and up. Five traditional Hispanic tales featuring clever women, including "The Day it Snowed Tortillas," about a woman who prevents robbers from claiming three gold bags her husband found, and "In the Days of King Adobe," in which an old woman tricks two rogues who try to steal her ham. English and Spanish on the same page. (Cinco Puntos Press)
Pajaro Verde, by Joe Hayes
Folktale, ages 6 and up. A magical tale based on New Mexican folklore. Mirabel falls in love with a green bird (Pajaro Verde) and marries him despite her sisters' and mother's jeering. He is of course a prince in disguise, and when he is injured, she must rescue him. Another twist in the story is that Mirabel's sisters have various numbers of eyes, from nine to one. The illustrations are gorgeous. English and Spanish text. (Cinco Puntos Press)
Mighty Mountain and the Three Strong Women, by Irene Hedlund
Folktale, ages 5 and up. A Japanese tale about a wrestler who, on his way to the capital to compete in the Emperor's wrestling match, encounters three women stronger than he! They help him train for the competition, he wins, and then he returns to marry one of the women. A funny story with beautiful color illustrations. (Volcano Press)
You Can't Do That, Amelia! by Kimberly Wagner Klier
Biography, ages 5 and up. This absorbing picture book about Amelia Earhart concentrates on her childhood and young adulthood. Her final fatal flight is not covered (perhaps to end the book on a positive note for young readers). However, the appendix features a complete biography and timeline of her life. (Calkins Creek Books)
Impatient Pamela Calls 911, by Mary Koski
Fiction, ages 3 and up. Pamela, a very impatient preschooler, learns her own address and telephone number, and she learns about 911. Using her knowledge, she helps a friend who is choking. (Trellis Publishing)
Shower of Gold: Girls and Women in the Stories of India, by Uma Krishnaswami
Folktales, ages 5 and up. Eighteen folk tales from India, including the story of Chitrangada, who chooses to rule her kingdom rather than remain the wife of a handsome prince; and Supriya, who teaches adults about compassion. Told in a simple, engaging style. (Linnet Books)
Girl, You're Amazing! by Virginia Kroll
Rhyme, ages 2 and up. A rollicking rhyme about all the amazing things girls can do. (Albert Whitman & Company)
Father Gander Nursery Rhymes: The Equal Rhymes Amendment, by Douglas Larche
Rhymes, ages 2-5. Non-sexist versions of Mother Goose rhymes. Jill and Jack both jump over the candlestick, and cooperation is emphasized. This book is an international best-seller. (Advocacy Press)
The Princess Who Danced with Cranes, by Annette LeBox
Fiction, ages 4-7. A tale with an environmental theme. Princess Vivian loves to play in the marsh near her castle, and especially to see the cranes. But when everyone in the kingdom goes bonkers over a new game called Gullywhupper, they fill in the marsh for more lawn to play on. Eventually, Vivian remembers the marsh and the cranes, and convinces her father and others to restore the marsh. Lovely illustrations. (Second Story Press)
My Mother the Mail Carrier, by Inez Maury
Fiction, ages 4-7. Lupita's mother is a mail carrier, and Lupita sure is proud of her! Mother is strong enough to carry a whole sack of mail and brave enough not to be scared of dogs on her route. The pictures are full of details to keep a child's interest. English text with Spanish translations on the same page. (Feminist Press)
 The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch
Fiction, ages 4-7. Princess Elizabeth wears expensive clothes and plans to marry Prince Ronald. When a dragon burns up her castle and clothes and carries Ronald away, Elizabeth dons a paper bag to rescue him. She outwits the dragon and enters its lair, but Prince Ronald turns up his nose at her attire. She promptly leaves him to his fate. (Annick Press)
 Stephanie's Ponytail, by Robert Munsch
Fiction, ages 4-7. Stephanie wants a hairstyle like no one else has. First everyone says how ugly she is, then when she defends her hairstyle, everyone copies her. Stephanie's hairstyles become more outrageous in her quest for individuality. Finally she threatens to shave her head -- and guess what happens? (Annick Press)
 The Only One Club, by Jane Naliboff
Fiction, ages 5-8. Jennifer is proud because she is the only Jewish girl in her class. She starts a club called the "The Only One Club." At first she doesn't want anyone else to join. However, her friends help her see that everyone is unique in some way, and Jennifer makes "The Only One Club" badges for everyone.(Flashlight Press)
Pianomania! by Manjusha Pawagi
Fiction, ages 4-7. A funny book that conveys a subtle message. Priya desperately wants piano lessons so she can play the music she hears in her mind. However, when she starts learning, she is dismayed to find that she is expected to practice scales. Where is the music of her imagination? She tries various outrageous solutions, such as arranging for her friends to bring all their instruments onto the stage at the fall recital and play along with her, but that just creates lots of noise and havoc. Fun, but not what she had in mind. Finally, she tries playing some scales and chords and starts to hear, faintly, the music in her mind. (Second Story Press)
 Tatterhood and Other Tales, by Ethel Johnston Phelps
Folktales, ages 5 and up. Fun, absorbing tales featuring strong, brave, and/or clever girls and women. These are not made-up tales -- they are actual folk tales from around the world that the author has discovered. A rich treasury for family reading. (Feminist Press)
The Princess and the Admiral, by Charlotte Pomerantz
Fiction, ages 6-10. Princess Mat Mat rules the Tiny Kingdom, which because of its poverty has never been invaded. But on the eve of 100 years of peace, twenty war ships are sighted. Despite a lack of weapons, Princess Mat Mat devises a plan to save the kingdom, and 100 years of peace are celebrated. (Feminist Press)
Mother Scorpion Country, by Rohmer and Wilson
Folktale, ages 6 and up. In this tale from the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua, Naklili loves his wife Kati so much that when she dies, he follows her to Mother Scorpion Country, the land of the dead. Kati protects both of them from dangers along the way, and when Naklili realizes he doesn't belong with Mother Scorpion, Kati sends him back to the living. Beautiful color pictures add to this memorable, slightly spooky story. English and Spanish text. (Children's Book Press)
But God Remembered: Stories of Women from Creation to the Promised Land, by Sandy Sasso
Folktales, ages 6 and up. This collection of stories about strong women in the Bible was written by a feminist rabbi who searched through Biblical literature to find women whose stories are usually ignored. Includes tales of Lilith, Adam's first wife; Serach, Jacob's granddaughter; and Bityah, the woman who drew Moses from the water. (Jewish Lights Publishing)
Noah's Wife: The Story of Naamah, by Sandy Sasso
Fiction, ages 4 to 8. Noah saved all the animals on earth from destruction by the flood. But what about the plants? In this book we find out that Noah's wife, Naamah, gathers seeds to save all the plants on earth. Written by the same feminist Rabbi as the above book. Beautiful color illustrations. (Jewish Lights Publishing)
In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage, by Alan Schroeder
Biography, ages 6 and up. Augusta Savage, a poor African-American girl living in Florida in the 1890s, loved to make figures from the clay she dug up around her house. Her father, a preacher, discouraged this hobby, believing the figures to be profane and sinful. At the age of 27, she won a sculpture contest at the county fair, and used the prize money to move to New York, where she gained entry to the Cooper Union School of Art. She became a noted sculptor and art teacher. Rich paintings by JaiMe Bereal accompany this absorbing biography.(Lee and Low Books)
Sing Through the Day: Eighty Songs for Children, by Marlys Swinger
Songbook, ages 2 to 6. This absolutely wonderful songbook and CD features multicultural illustrations and songs about nature and joyful living from all over the world. Many of the illustrations are "gender-neutral" -- the child pictured could be either a girl or a boy. Some of the pictures break gender stereotypes: a girl doing construction work, a boy watering flowers, a father holding a baby. (Plough Publishing)
That's Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice, by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca
Picture book biography, ages 5 to 8. This book focuses on Emma Tenayuca's childhood, and her awakening empathy with Mexican-American laborers. In 1938, at the age of 21, she led 12,000 pecan shellers in a successful two-month strike. The pictures are simple and colorful. The emphasis on fairness will appeal to early elementary children. (Wings Press)
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom, by Tim Tingle
Fiction, ages 5 and up. A Native American girl, Martha Tom, helps a family of slaves escape into her tribe's Choctaw territory. Written by a Choctaw storyteller and beautifully illustrated by a Cherokee artist, this is a haunting, magical tale. (Cinco Puntos Press)
Belfry Bat the Scaredy Cat, by Gayle McGuire Tremblay
Fiction, ages 4-7. Belfry Bat, who's afraid of everything, gets a chance to lead Witch Mildred on a race with a roller-coaster. Despite her fears, she helps Mildred win the race. (Second Story Press)
The Seven Chinese Sisters, by Kathy Tucker
Folktale, ages 4 and up. Six Chinese sisters each use their special skills to rescue their seventh sister, a baby, from a dragon. A cute story with attractive illustrations. (Albert Whitman & Company)
Clever Rachel, by Debby Waldman and Cindy Revell
Folk-tale, ages 5 and up. In this retelling of a Jewish folk-tale, Clever Rachel is a girl who loves riddles. A smart boy, Jacob, hears about her and decides to challenge her. He is astonished when she answers his best riddles in no time flat. But when a desperate woman visits Rachel needing answers to some riddles, Rachel and Jacob realize they must work together to help solve the riddles.(Orca Book Publishers)
Elizabeth's Song, by Michael Wenberg
Biography, ages 5 and up. This is the story of the childhood of Elizabeth Cotten, who composed the folk song classic "Freight Train" at age 11. Her unique, self-taught way of playing the guitar (upside down and left-handed) gave rise to the phrase "cotton-picking." Wonderful illustrations and a memorable story. (Beyond Words Publishing)
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, by Paula Yoo
Biography, ages 6 and up. Anna May Wong was one of the earliest Chinese-American movie stars. She was born in Los Angeles in 1905, and started working as an actress in the 1920s, during a time when movies portrayed Chinese people in a demeaning way. Because her family was poor and relied on her earnings, she played these kinds of parts for many years and became a successful actress. In 1936, Anna May visited China and learned as much about the culture as she could. While there, she vowed never again to act in a movie that portrayed the Chinese in a negative light. Starting in 1937, Anna May Wong accepted only roles that showed her character in a positive light. These movies include Daughter of Shanghai (1937), The Lady from Chungking (1942), and Bombs Over Burma (1943). (Lee and Low Books)
The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, by Zubizaretta, Rohmer, and Schecter
Folktale, ages 5 and up. Lucia Zenteno arrives in a village and the animals and plants immediately love her. But the people are suspicious and drive her away. When she leaves, the village's river goes with her. Humbled, the people ask her forgiveness. She returns the river and reminds the villagers to treat even strangers with kindness. This story is part of the oral tradition of the Zapotec Indians of Mexico. Color pictures, English and Spanish text. (Children's Book Press)

Middle Readers (Ages 7-14)

Sarah Gives Thanks, by Mike Allegra
Biography, ages 7 and up. This informative, inspiring picture book tells the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. The book emphasizes Hale's determination -- she worked for decades to achieve her goal. (Albert Whitman & Company)
Sarah's Boat, by Douglas Alvord
Fiction, ages 8-12. Sarah's grandfather teaches her how to sail a small boat, and Sarah decides to enter the town's Labor Day race to see if she can beat Tommy Watkins, who made fun of her boat. Filled with diagrams and details about sailing. (Tilbury House Publishers)
Sita's Ramayana, by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar
Folk tale/graphic novel, ages 8-12. This retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana is from the point of view of Sita, the queen of Ayodhya. Sita feels compassion for all living creatures, even those who are considered "enemies" by the men. This book features a strong anti-war message. (Tara Books)
The Wikkeling, by Steven Arntson
Fiction, ages 9-12. This engaging, slightly spooky fantasy novel can be read on a couple of levels. Upper elementary kids will likely read it as an adventure story. Henrietta and her friends, Gary and Rose, manage to vanquish the mysterious, menacing "Wikkeling" with the help of a gender-obscure cat named Mister Lady. Adults and older readers might read this as an allegory of uncontrolled industrial growth. (Running Press)
How Come the Best Clues are Always in the Garbage? by Linda Bailey
Fiction, ages 8-12. This is the first book in the Stevie (AKA Stephanie) Diamond detective series. Stevie has to figure out who stole money from the Garbage Busters, the environmental group her mother runs. After several mishaps and hair-raising adventures, she catches the thief -- with some help from her 72-year-old woman neighbor. Stevie's adventures continue in three other hilarious titles: (Albert Whitman Publishers)
Rose O'Neill: The Girl Who Loved to Draw, by Linda Brewster
Biography, ages 8-12. Rose O'Neill is most famous for the "kewpies" she created in the early 1900s. She was one of the earliest women commercial illustrators in the United States. This lavishly-illustrated book concentrates on her childhood, and features over 100 drawings and photos. Rose used her wealth and prominence to work for the right of women to vote, and to support her parents and siblings.(Boxing Day Books)
Before the Lark, by Irene Bennett Brown
Fiction, ages 9-13. Jocey has a harelip, and in 1888 Kansas City she's teased mercilessly. She flees to her father's abandoned farm with her grandmother, and manages to raise crops and make a living for them both. When neighbors are kind to her she decides to seek out friends instead of hiding herself. Then she hears about an operation to fix her mouth, and she travels alone to the hospital and gets the operation. Jocey's strong sense of self despite people's reaction to her face is inspiring. (Blue Heron Publishing)
Willow Whip, by Irene Bennett Brown
Fiction, ages 11-16. It is 1918, and Willow desperately wants her family to own their own Kansas farm instead of moving every year as tenant farmers. She works for hours planting and plowing, thinks up ways to earn more money (winning a horse race, selling walnuts), but gets so caught up in her single-minded pursuit that she cannot even sympathize when her brothers fall ill. When she succumbs to sunstroke and her friends help harvest the alfalfa for the downpayment on the farm, Willow realizes she must balance hard work with fun and compassion. An absorbing novel. (Blue Heron)
Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs, by Sarah Conover and Freda Crane
Folk tales, ages 8 and up. The 39 stories in this book are retellings of Islamic tales collected from all over the world. Several stories feature important women in the Islamic tradition. Rabia Al Adawiya of Basra was a famous Sufi saint. Khadija, Muhammed's first wife, was a wealthy businesswoman and the first follower of Islam. The stories stress generosity, honesty, cooperation, simplicity, fairness, hard work, equanimity, humility, and the importance of education.(Skinner House Books)
Super Women in Science, by Kelly Di Domenico
Nonfiction, ages 9-14. Profiles of 10 women scientists from around the world. This is part of the Women's Hall of Fame Series. Other titles in the series include: (Second Story Press)
History of Women series, Vivian Sheldon Epstein. Nonfiction, 9-14. This unique series includes: All books are fun to read and very informative. (VSE Publishers)
Is There a Woman in the House -- or Senate? by Bryna Fireside
Nonfiction, ages 9-14. Absorbing profiles of 10 women members of Congress, including the first woman in Congress, Jeanette Rankin; the first African-American woman, Shirley Chisolm; as well as Bella Abzug, Patricia Schroeder, and others. Chronicles their childhoods and career set-backs as well as successes. A must-read for future leaders! (Albert Whitman Publishers)
Women of the Lights, by Candace Fleming
Nonfiction, ages 9-12. True-life stories of the daring and difficult lives of several women lighthouse keepers, many of whom rescued men from the ocean and kept the lighthouses shining despite storms and earthquakes. (Albert Whitman Publishers)
Native Women of Courage, by Kelly Fournel
Biography, ages 9-12. Ten native women from the United States and Canada are profiled in this useful compilation. Included are well-known women like Wilma Mankiller (first woman chief of the Cherokees), as well as lesser-known women like Lorna Williams, an educator who created a native-centric curriculum. Black and white pictures help these biographies come alive. A great resource! (Book Publishing Company)
Period. by Gardner-Loulan, Lopez and Quackenbush
Nonfiction, ages 8 and up. A down-to-earth discussion of menstruation and pelvic exams, including thoughts on body image and quotes from real women and girls on how they feel about menstruation. Removable parent guide helps parents talk to their daughters about these issues. Spanish edition available. (Volcano Press)
A Friend Like Zilla, by Rachna Gilmore
Fiction, ages 8-13. Nobby meets a neat girl, Zilla, while on vacation. The weird thing is, Zilla is 17 -- but she acts 10! Nobby's parents explain that Zilla is slow for her age. Nobby admires Zilla's knowledge of nature and cooking ability. Zilla admires Nobby's skill at reading. Then Uncle Chad arrives and makes fun of Zilla's disability. When Uncle Chad disappears in a storm, Zilla uses her knowledge of nature to find him, and he comes to understand her special kind of intelligence. (Second Story Press)
Victoria Woodhull: Fearless Feminist, by Kate Havelin
Biography, ages 10-14. Victoria Woodhull is a little-known women's rights leader. Her colorful, controversial life includes making a living as a spiritual guide, running for U.S. President, owning a stock trading business, caring for an alcoholic ex-husband, and eventually marrying a wealthy British banker. (Lerner Publishing)
Across the Great River, by Irene Beltran Hernandez
Fiction, ages 10-14. When Kata's father disappears into the Rio Grande during their flight to the U.S. and Mama falls ill on the other bank, Kata and her brother are taken in by Doña Anita, an herbalist who owns a small farm. Kata grows to love this brash, wise woman who saves her mother's life. Kata is a perceptive narrator who matures from her harsh experience and Doña Anita is a wonderful role mode. (Arte Publico Press)
Book of Black Heroes, Vol. II: Great Women in the Struggle, by Igus, Ellis, Patrick and Wesley
Nonfiction, ages 10 and up. Black women throughout history are profiled in this easy-to-read book featuring famous and not-so-famous women freedom fighters, educators, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, policy makers and scientists. (Just Us Books)
 The Lilith Summer, by Hadley Irwin
Fiction, ages 8-12. To earn money for a new bike, Ellen agrees to be a paid companion for an elderly neighbor, Lilith Adams, for the summer. Soon Ellen learns that Lilith is also getting paid to babysit her. After they each get over their anger at needing someone to watch over them, a special intergenerational friendship develops. Lilith's dignity, gentleness and wisdom make her a wonderful role model, and a lesson in the humanity of older women. (Feminist Press)
Susie King Taylor: Destined to be Free, by Denise Jordan
Nonfiction, ages 7 and up. A short biography of a little-known African-American woman. Susie King Taylor was born a slave and was just 14 when the civil war started. Because she had been secretly taught to read, she became a teacher to Black children and adults during the war. She also worked as a nurse. Much later, she was the first Black Civil War nurse to write her own story. (Just Us Books)
Girls and Young Women Entrepreneurs, by Karnes, Bean, and Verdick
Nonfiction, ages 8-14. Girls and young women who have started a business tell their stories in this fun to read book. You'll read about girls who make and sell jewelry and cheesecake; two sisters who perform magic shows; a girl who uses a home computer for graphic design; and more. Information on starting your own business included.(Free Spirit Publishing)
Girls and Young Women Inventing, by Karnes and Bean
Nonfiction, ages 8-14. True stories of girls and young women ages 6-17 who've invented everything from a blinking tooth-fairy light to computers that recognize speech. Includes information on how to invent something yourself. Inspiring! (Free Spirit Publishing)
Girls and Young Women Leading the Way, by Karnes and Bean
Nonfiction, ages 8-14. Real-life stories of girls and young women leaders such as the girl who organized a recycling project, and two girls who led a campaign against censorship of library materials. Includes tips on being a leader yourself. (Free Spirit Publishing)
I am Lavina Cumming, by Susan Lowell
Fiction, ages 8-12. After her mother dies, 10-year-old Lavina Cumming must travel alone from Arizona to California in 1905 to live with her aunt and be raised as a "young lady." Lavina misses her exuberant Arizona life of riding horses and killing rattlesnakes. Her survival skills come in handy during a San Francisco earthquake when she helps rescue her aunt and cousin. Despite her homesickness, Lavina decides to stay in California to study and eventually become a teacher. A very satisfying read. (Milkweed Editions)
Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, by Ann Malaspina
Nonfiction, ages 8 and up. Long before the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, Susan B. Anthony argued that the 14th Amendment, which gives all citizens equal rights, already granted to women the right to vote. Anthony successful registered and voted in 1872, and was then arrested and put on trial. This book makes Anthony's campaign understandable to children by concentrating not on legal intricacies, but on simple ideas of fairness and justice.(Albert Whitman & Company)
Ezzie's Emerald, by Kathleen McDonnell
Fiction, ages 7-10. Jake calls Ezzie a "hippo" because he thinks she's fat. Ezzie tries to ignore him, but she gets so furious that she shouts at even her friends. When Ezzie saves a baby from an attack by a fierce dog, the newspapers and her classmates make a big deal for a few days -- then it's back to "hippo" again. But this time Ezzie's ready, and she stands up to Jake and tells him never to call her names again. (Second Story Press) 
The Secret of the Ruby Ring, by Yvonne McGrory
Fiction, ages 8-12. Lucy, a spoiled Irish girl, receives a magical ruby ring for her 11th birthday. When she wishes for a larger house, she never suspects she will be transported back in time to an Irish castle, where she must work as a maid. How will Lucy get back home? Readers interested in historical fiction should love this engaging book. (Milkweed Editions) 
Maggie and the Chocolate War, by Michelle Mulder
Fiction, ages 8 and up. This is a fictionalized version of a true protest led by children: a Canadian children's boycott of chocolate bars in 1947, when the price went up in from 5 cents to 8 cents. Maggie wants to buy a chocolate bar for her friend's birthday, but when the price goes up, she can't afford it! She takes part in the strike, which involves protests in front of stores, and even a visit to the state legislature. The book is illustrated with photos of the real protests. This novel is part of the Kids' Power series.(Second Story Press)
Riddle of Roses, by Caryl Cude Mullin
Fiction, ages 9 and up. A delightful fantasy novel. Meryl, a young bard-in-training, decides to go on a quest to become a bard the "old" way -- by experience -- rather than the "modern" way -- by book-learning. She seeks an ever-blooming rose bush in Avalon, and returns home wiser, more confident, and ready to continue her travels. (Second Story Press)
Grandmothers' Stories, by Burleigh Muten
Folktales, ages 6 and up. A collection of eight  "wise women tales" from many cultures, including Senegal, Japan, Russia, and Sweden. Some of the tales are funny, some a bit scary, and all are fun and inspiring.  (Barefoot Books)
Connie and Bonnie's Birthday Blastoff, by Ray Nelson, Jr.
Nonfiction/Fiction, ages 6-10. Connie and Bonnie, "identical twins who look nothing alike," blast off to Pluto for a birthday party. While their silly story is told in equally silly rhymes, each page is covered with colorful photos and drawings of the solar system, as well as facts about planets, comets, asteroids, and galaxies. A good book to get girls (and boys) interested in astronomy. (Beyond Words Publishing)
Tofu Quilt, by Ching Yeung Russell
Poetry, ages 8 and up. I've never seen a book quite like Tofu Quilt. It is a collection of 38 free-verse poems about the author's childhood in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 1960s, and her desire to become a writer, despite the fact that she is a girl and is not expected to have a career. The poems are simple, story-like, and heartfelt. (Lee and Low Books)
See Jane Win for Girls: A Smart Girl's Guide to Success, by Sylvia Rimm
Nonfiction, ages 10 and up. Wow! What an interesting, useful book! Rimm surveyed 1,000 successful women fo find out how their childhoods helped them to succeed. Now she has written this book for girls with ideas, worksheets and resources to help them lay the foundation for success. Includes chapters on building self-esteem and social skills, learning from family members and teaching family members, dealing with change, and more. This book is very encouraging and practical. (Free Spirit Publishing)
How Ella Grew an Electric Guitar: A Girl's First Adventure in Business, by Orly Sade and Ellen Neuborne
Fiction, ages 8 and up. A fun introduction to financial literacy. In the process of figuring out how to earn money to buy an electric guitar, eleven-year-old Ella learns about the stock market, running a small business, marketing, and business loans.
Gutsy Girls: Young Women Who Dare, by Tina Schwager and Michele Schuerger
Nonfiction, ages 10 and up. Profiles 25 girls and young women who have done something daring: climbed mountains, sailed around the world, performed in a circus. Also contains a section on how readers can be "gutsy" themselves. A fun book. (Free Spirit Publishing)
Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories, by Ouisie Shapiro and Steven Vote
Nonfiction, ages 9 and up. This 30-page book features photos and stories from kids who have been bullied and how they overcame this challenge. There are even stories from a few young people who talk about their experiences as bullies. While some tips from an educational psychologist are presented, the book is really devoted to the voices of the kids themselves. This could be an important book for kids who are trying to break out of gender stereotypes, because bullies tend to pick on kids who are "different." A good discussion starter.(Albert Whitman Publishing)
Aruna's Journeys, by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Fiction, ages 8-12. Aruna's parents are from India, and Aruna hates looking "different." Just when she finally finds a best friend at her new school, her parents take her to India for the whole summer. There she meets her feminist aunt Vandana who is on a hunger strike to avoid an arranged marriage. Vandana's example and words encourage Aruna to hold on to her dreams and enjoy being different. Filled with details of urban life in India, and one of only a very few available novels about Indian-Americans. Winner of the 1998 Skipping Stones Magazine Award for multicultural books. (Smooth Stone Press)
Ela Bhatt: Uniting Women in India, by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Biography, ages 10-14. Ela Bhatt overcame her shyness and her stuttering to start a union for the poorest women in India. By really listening to the women and helping them implement their own ideas, Ela helped the women start a bank, worker cooperatives, and child care cooperatives. This inspiring book is part of the Women Changing the World series published by the Feminist Press. Other titles in the series include: (Feminist Press)
The Moon Over Crete, by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Fiction, ages 8-12. Eleven-year-old Lily travels back in time 3,500 years to ancient Crete, where women and men were equal. Lily has to figure out how to warn the Queen about an impending fatal attack by patriarchal warriors. A fast-paced adventure and one of the only children's novels that deals with sexism head-on and helps kids imagine a world of equality. (Smooth Stone Press)
Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change, by Garth Sundem
Nonfiction, ages 8-14. Profiles 30 young people from around the world who are making the world a better place. The profiles are grouped into five categories: Kids Saving the Environment; Kids Standing Up for Themselves; Kids Helping Others; Kids Overcoming Challenges; and Kids Using Talents and Creativity. (Free Spirit Publishing)
Doe Sia: Bannock Girl and the Handcart Pioneers, by Kenneth Thomasma
Fiction, ages 8-14. Ken Thomasma has written several books in his "Amazing Indian Children" series. This one is the gripping story of a ten-year-old American Indian girl, Doe Sia, who encounters a group of Mormon pioneers making their way on foot from Iowa City to Salt Lake City. Doe Sia becomes friends with a Mormon girl, Emma, and helps to save her life when Emma becomes lost in a winter blizzard. A moving story with many factual details gathered from careful research. This book would be great to read alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. (Grandview Publishing)
Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran, by Kenneth Thomasma
Fiction, ages 8-14. Another in Thomasma's "Amazing Indian Children" series. Naya Nuki was friends with Sacajawea when both were captured by an enemy tribe. This was about four years before Sacajawea began leading Lewis and Clark. Naya Nuki escaped from the enemy camp and walked 1,000 miles back home. Based on true events. (Grandview Publishing)
The Truth About Sacajawea, by Kenneth Thomasma
Nonfiction, ages 8-14. Sacajawea was the Native American woman who guided Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American west. She is featured on the new one-dollar coin. This book documents her life - from a teenaged mother to a world-famous guide and interpreter -- using the actual diary entries by Lewis and Clark. (Grandview Publishing)
Behind the Bedroom Wall, by Laura E. Williams
Fiction, ages 9-14. Thirteen-year-old Korinna Rehme loves Hitler and what he's doing for Germany. Then she finds out her parents are hiding a Jewish family behind her bedroom wall. Will Korinna turn her parents in -- or save the Jewish family? Unusual perspective and thought-provoking situations. (Milkweed Editions)
Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet, by Janet Wilson
Nonfiction, ages 8 to 14. Features full-color, two-page spreads about 10 young people from around the world, as well as shorter profiles of 20 more. At the back of the book are suggestions for how readers can get involved and make a difference. (Second Story Press)
New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams --
The Web site for the award-winning feminist magazine by girls, for girls 8-14. Profiles of women and girls, stories, comics, feedback from girls on sexism and other problems.

Older Readers (Ages 12 and up)

Boy v. Girl? How Gender Shapes Who We Are, What We Want, and How We Get Along, by George Abrahams and Sheila Ahlbrand
Nonfiction. Based on a survey of 2,000 teens and pre-teens, this interesting book examines the gender stereotypes and expectations that kids encounter every day. Contains chapters on gender roles in school, in sports, in the media, and in the social scene, as well as a chapter on going beyond gender stereotypes. A great book to spark lively discussions! (Free Spirit Publishing)
Tao-Girls Rule! by CJ Golden
Self-Help. A cross between a self-help book and a pep talk, this book is based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao. According to this book, a Tao-Girl is tenacious, accepting, optimistic, grateful, imaginative, radiant, and loving. Chapters are organized around these seven qualities, and explain how girls can use Tao principles such as "tzu jan," "wu-wei," and "yin-yang" to deal with life's challenges.(Eronel Publishing)
Dear Diary, I'm Pregnant: interviews by Anrenee Englander
Nonfiction. Anrenee Englander decided to interview teens who faced pregnancy to help teens understand their choices in this difficult situation, and the possible results of those choices. In their own words, 10 teenaged girls talk about how they decided to keep their baby; give the baby up for adoption; or choose an abortion. They also talk about the consequences of those decisions: their feelings, their lives after giving birth or having an abortion, and their advice to other teens facing a similar situation. First published in 1997, the book was updated in 2010 with a new resources section.(Annick Press)
Women Making America, by Heidi Hemming and Julie Savage
History. This fascinating 360-page book tells the story of women in America from 1770 to the present. Filled with photos, illustrations, snippets of information from the lives of women, and stories of real women, including African-American women, Native American women, and other minorities. Written by two teachers. A great gift for a girl, boy, or for your favorite history teacher! (Clotho Press)
Lacey and the African Grandmothers, by Sue Farrell Holler
Fiction. Lacey, a 12-year-old Blackfoot girl living in Canada, decides to help grandmothers in Africa who are raising grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. She organizes her community to make beaded purses, sell them, and send the money to Africa. She is thrilled when two African grandmothers comes to Canada and she is able to meet them. This unusual novel was inspired by a true story.(Second Story Press)
Cool Women, Hot Jobs, by Tina Schwager and Michele Schuerger
Self-help. Profiles 20 women with interesting or unusual jobs, such as: Egyptologist, dolphin trainer, executive director of a foundation, zoo director, FBI agent, newspaper columnist, and so forth. The women talk about how they got into the career, what they do on the job, their most favorite and least favorite aspects of the job, as well as practical matters such as the hours, the dress code, the work environment, and education and skills needed. Each chapter also lists books and web sites for more information about that career. There is also a section on how girls can work towards their dream careers. A useful book for high school students. (Free Spirit Publishing)
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone
Nonfiction. In the 1960s, as white male fighter pilots were being tested to be astronauts, a small group of women pilots was also put through the same tests. Thirteen women passed the tests, and although they fought for the right to be astronauts, this dream was denied them. This 130-page book tells the gripping stories of the individual women, as well as the story of their collective effort to break the gender barrier in space travel. Highly recommended.(Candlewick Press)
The Vanishing Shadow, by Margaret Sutton
Mystery. This is the first in a series of 38 mysteries featuring Judy Bolton, a high school girl and amateur detective. These books sold millions from the 1930s to the 1960s. They are now being reprinted by Applewood Books. Judy is an intelligent, courageous girl who lives in small towns in Pennsylvania. Each book is based on an actual event. The Vanishing Shadow is based on a tragic dam accident. (Applewood Books)
Also see my blog post on Women Scientists in Novels for four novels written for adults that could be appropriate for teens.

This list was compiled by Jyotsna Sreenivasan -- jyotsna64 [at], to whom you can send questions, comments, suggestions, etc.

Back to main Gender Equality Bookstore page.