To celebrate Women’s History Month, we have selected 25 of the best picture books about inspiring women for kids!
Do you read books with children? If you’re on this page, you’re probably a dedicated book lover, just like me.
Personally, I have always preferred storybooks for reading aloud to my children. But what if a book has a good story while being based on real events? Well, that certainly opens new possibilities!
These books empower children with the belief that real humans, not fairy-tale creatures and superheroes, are capable of amazing things.
This is especially important when talking to kids about the subject of women in history. Historically, men and women took very different roles in society – roles that were rigidly enforced and hard to break free from, even when they were personally unsatisfying. Now that efforts to ensure equal opportunities across the sexes have lowered many barriers that constrained women, girls need exceptional role models to show them what women are capable of, even against considerable odds. Hence, the increasing number of books about inspiring women for kids in recent years.
One more reason I like these books is that if we read one and children like it, we can go down the rabbit holes of exploration – find photographs, documentaries, paintings, and other historical information about people and events. These books are perfect starting points for learning more – about history, science, geography, and, of course, amazing heroines from history!
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Books About Inspiring Women
Below, you will find compilations featuring stories of inspiring women. Some are more detailed than others; all are good as a starting point to find interesting personalities that can be investigated further and in more depth later.
According to Jason Porath, it all started with a question to his DreamWorks animation coworkers, "Who is the least likely candidate for an animated princess movie?" At first, they all had fun, competing on who can give the most inappropriate suggestion, but, later, it prompted Jason to start working on the list of inspiring women from history. He added illustrations, portraying those real-life women in a style loosely based on canonical Disney Princesses, and created the website Rejected Princesses (check it out - it's awesome!). This book - and its companion Tough Mothers - include a selection of articles from the website, as well as dozens of new entries.
Rejected Princesses ended up being one of my favourites on the subject. Jason possesses the art of making each story memorable and engaging. You end up sympathizing with each of his eighty heroines, which is quite remarkable, considering that each story only takes about three pages. In truth, that number of pages is still more than in other books on this list, so Rejected Princesses ends up being a weighty tome. It is also beautifully bound and illustrated, so it makes a very nice addition to the library.
Entertaining, informative and stylish - this collection of comic strips about famous women in history is quite a gem! The humour and emotional depth of the stories make them enjoyable to read, while the comic strip format makes them accessible to the youngest of readers.
In our family, we already embrace the use of comic books for tackling serious subjects, and this is a very good example of a comic book that is both educational and fun to read. I highly recommend it for exploring the subject with children and teenagers.
Featuring: Mary Anning, Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, Jane Goodall, Valentina Tereshkova, and others
Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world.
The book consists of two-page summaries of each woman's achievements alongside a stylized portrait. It features a rather unique style of illustrations. Not very realistic, which may be important to some readers, but quite atmospheric.
Two popular topics combined, the book is a timely addition to the children's book genre. If you like the format, also try Women in Art and Women in Sports.
Featuring: Ada Lovelace, Amelia Earhart, Florence Nightingale, Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, Jane Goodall, Helen Keller, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Nancy Wake, Nellie Bly, Rosa Parks, and others
Packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women and illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world, this book is definitely an interesting project. The simple and short nature of stories can be a winning feature for parents who want to introduce the subject to young children. That, however, makes it difficult to give justice to each of the women's stories. As a result, some of the stories just barely scrape the surface.
Bottom line, it's alright for piquing the interest of young children (3-5) in the subject, but, overall, I'd choose a different book, such as Rejected Princesses or Brazen.
Featuring: Frida Kahlo, Murasaki Shikibu, Ada Lovelace, Mary Anning, Mary Curie, Florence Nightingale, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Wu Zetian, Sacagawea, Nellie Bly, and others.
The visual guide by DK Publishing invites children to explore the centuries of women that have shaped the modern world. It has a rather different feeling than the previous books on our list. For a start, it isn't trying to be a storybook and engage in a story. Instead, it presents lots of facts and numbers. Also, it is less artsy and uses photographs instead of illustrations. Another feature of the book that sets it apart is subdivision into topics, so if children are especially interested in art or sport, they can read about various women who contributed to that particular field.
I thought that this was a solid book to use as a starting point in studying women's history. It introduces children to over 100 engaging personalities!
Individual Women's Biographies for Kids
Below, you will find the books that focus on one (rarely, two or three) interesting personalities.
Featuring: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas
This graphic novel turns to three remarkable primatologists of the last century - Jane Goodall, who studied chimpanzees, Dian Fossey, who worked with gorillas, and Birute Galdikas, who is recognized as a leading authority on orangutans.
While the graphic novel focuses on the uplifting and inspiring parts of these outstanding women's stories, it does allude to some darker subjects as well, such as death, divorce, and sexual harassment, so it is probably more suitable for older kids.
The full name of this book is The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer. With so many women's biographies being written these days, why do I chose to add the story that was only mostly true to the list? It is just an exceptional and innovative work.
The art is gorgeous, the historical research, presented in lengthy footnotes, is both astounding and entertaining to read. Honestly, most of the appeal of the story for me was in those footnotes! And while the graphic novel part of it at times presents an alternative reality, the footnotes will keep you well-informed on Victorian life in general and Ada Lovelace's genius in particular.
Meet Temple Grandin, a renown scientist and one of the first people on the autistic spectrum to document insights into the disorder. In this book, her story is told in an upbeat verse that will be appreciated by the youngest of readers. Far from being simplistic though, it touches on difficult topics of being different and struggling with bullying.
The end of the book includes a letter from Temple Grandin, a timeline with photographs, and a two-page biography in prose. All of this makes the story satisfyingly real for the readers!
If you enjoy it, check the Amazing Scientists series that, at the time of my writing, includes three more books - The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath; The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague; and The Astronaut With a Song for the Stars: The Story of Dr. Ellen Ochoa.
Born in 1647, Maria Sibylla Merian was one of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly as well as one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly.
This book is interesting in a number of ways. First of all, it is a chapter book, so you can count on a story that is both immersive and detailed. Second, it uses both photographs and illustrations to give a full of depiction of the nature world that Maria was attracted to. Some of the illustrations are copies of Maria's own work. Third, this book not only celebrates the life of a distinguished woman, but also the union of art and science, so it will be great for children who are interested in both.
A timeless story, adapted as a graphic novel, The Diary of a Young Girl introduces Anne Frank and the topic of the holocaust to younger readers, who aren't yet ready to read the original book. Still, it isn't simplistic in the least. The book contains extracts from the original diary, with vivid illustrations that help readers visualize Anne's life.
This adaptation shows a lot of love and care for the original, and it has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel.
As far as her physique was concerned, Anna Pavlova was not meant to be a ballet dancer. Her body was all wrong, according to her teachers. But she practised more than any other student and, eventually, became one of the most renown ballet dancers of her time and the first ballerina to tour the world.
This is the book about a woman who proved that, in the end, hard work means more than natural predisposition. It is a very lyrical book. While it doesn't rhyme, it reads rather like a poem. There is a detailed biography of Anna Pavlova and her contributions to the art of ballet in the end.
This is a book about a woman who overcame her physical disability and transformed girl's sports. Along the way, she also revolutionized swimming fashion for women. An inspiring story for children, especially those who are interested in athletics.
Are all the inspiring women from the past? Not at all!
This is the story of Malala Yousafzai, an activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. In 2008, at the age of eleven, she started to blog anonymously about her life in Pakistan under the Taliban regime. It was a dangerous thing to do, and Malala knew it.
In this book, her story story is told in clear, accessible language, perfect for children in elementary school. Certain subjects are simplified for the audience, however the story brings a powerful message of the necessity to speak out against intolerance and hatred.
Using Women: Guess Who Game, dedicated to famous women in history for kids, you will learn about twenty amazing heroines who changed the world. Included are Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, and many more!