12 Fearless Girls and Wise Women in Children’s Books
Society helps us teach boys to be brave from day one – but you want your girls to learn that they can be just as heroic. After all, courageous girls will grow into strong young women who can change the world.
So how can you let your little one know that she can be a hero too? Make sure she has fearless, noble examples front and center. To help you get started, we’ve assembled a substantial list of books that feature heroic young females – wonderful role models for any youngster. They’re listed by age level to help you select the perfect title, so check them out and get reading!
by William Steig
Age Level: 4 – 8 years
Irene Bobbin is the dressmaker’s daughter. Despite the threat of a brutal snowstorm, she insists on delivering the duchess’s gown when her mother falls ill. The young girl defies bad weather, injury, fear, and loneliness in order to keep her word. Her rewards include an invitation to the ball, a sleigh ride home and special treats for her mother from the duchess herself. Let your child see how a good dose of willful determination and sticking to your word can make you come out on top.
by Robert Coles
Age Level: 4 – 8 years
Ruby was a real, 6-year-old little girl who only wanted to learn. But in New Orleans in 1960, she was unwelcome at the formerly whites-only school. In fact, angry mobs of white parents kept their kids home and formed huge mobs outside the school. Daily, little Ruby would be escorted by federal marshal to sit in an empty classroom where should could learn. Even very young girls will recognize heroism as little Ruby withstands furious protesters and hateful conditions for days, weeks and months on end, in order to get what she rightfully deserves.
by Kathy Tucker
Age Level: 5 – 8 years
Sometimes love spurs heroism, and such is the case in this timeless tale. When a ferocious dragon steals their youngest sister, the remaining six girls, each with her own unique talent, rush to the baby’s rescue. A tale of courage and teamwork, this book will teach your children how to use their own personal talents to reach their goal.
by Robert D. San Souci
Age Level: 5 – 10 years
After dreaming of adventure her whole life, Margaret jumps at the chance to sail the high seas. Margaret’s adventures begin swiftly and include battling a sea serpent, being captured by a sorceress, and slaying a giant. Margaret learns that the secret to being brave is loving others and oneself. Instill those virtues in your own little hero with this nightly read.
by Marsha Amstel
Age Level: 7 and up
Two thousand British soldiers have attacked a nearby town, but George Washington and his men are too far away to help. Brave Sybil knows what she must do. Readers will root for the teen as she rides all night in the rain to awaken the people to prepare for battle in this historical narrative. Show your little one that even our great nation is founded on young female heroes.
by Jane Yolen
Age Level: 7 – 10 years
Presenting a baker’s dozen folk tales, this collection features heroic knights, serpent slayers, and champions, all of whom happen to be females. With characters both smart and strong, the common thread throughout the stories is that girls should confront their fears head on. Now isn’t it nice to know you don’t have to wait to be saved by a knight in shining armor?
by Grace Norwich
Age Level: 7 - 10 years
Girls may have learned about this valiant icon in history class, but reading the enthralling, dynamic accounts of Ms. Tubman risking her life so that others could improve theirs will captivate them. Not only did the awe-inspiring Harriet Tubman defy odds in escaping her own slavery, she continually rose against social injustice to ensure that others were able to taste freedom as well. Teach your kids how fearless women have helped shape a better America.
by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Age Level: 8 – 11 years
Laodicea Langston, better known as Dicey, was a brave young girl. Girls will learn how the 14-year-old traveled at night, nearly drowning in a swollen river, to warn settlers of an impending attack during the Revolutionary War in this retelling of a real American hero. Another real-life account of how women did their part to help shape our nation.
by Kristin Levine
Age Level: 8 – 12 years
It’s 1958 in Little Rock Arkansas. 12-year-old classmates Marlee and Liz have become fast friends. All is well until school officials discover that Marlee is an African American girl who has been passing as white in the segregated town. Liz and Marlee fight fearlessly for their friendship and for Marlee’s rights. This is a lovely story that shows how little girls can help fight social causes.
by Kathleen Ragan
Age Level: 9 and up
Why limit your favorite girl to just one female hero when she can read about 100? This book is filled with folk- and fairy tales that feature heroines from virtually all cultures. A collection of forgotten heroes, this book helps define what it really means to be a woman. Your little one will enjoy inspiring tales of courage, while embarking on a multicultural journey that shows women can be heroes all over the world.
by Roald Dahl
Age Level: 9 – 11 years
Although Matilda is highly precocious, her mother disregards her, her father insults her, and her headmistress berates her. With the help of a special teacher and her own special talents, Matilda finds the power to stand up to those who mistreat her. And she fights back! A wonderful story of justice where a little girl genius is the hero.
by Alicia Appleman
Age Level: 13 and up
Nazi soldiers killed 13-year-old Alicia’s father and brothers. Disguising herself, Alicia works in the fields to earn food while her mother remains in hiding. Eventually, Germans murder her mother as well and Alicia barely escaped a firing squad. By 14, she has illegally helped transport Jews to Israel, becomes gravely ill, and finds herself in a displaced persons' camp in Austria. Girls will root for this brave teen who overcomes all odds.
Who are some of your favorite female heroes in children’s books? Share with us in the comments below!
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