Picture Books with Strong Female Lead Characters

Today, Lindsey shares some great book recommendations:

My daughter is 11, and in her independent reading has found a rich vein of chapter books with strong female protagonists (see my earlier post on books for strong and smart girls). Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and even The Hunger Games series: all of these share gutsy, brave, intelligent girl narrators.

We have been somewhat less successful finding strong female lead characters in picture books, which we still read. Perhaps because I love the category so fiercely, my children do too, and many nights we curl up on the couch to read a new find or an old favorite. I am always looking for books that feature passionate and interesting female characters, to offer a counterpoint to the many picture books written about fascinating, strong-willed, and bright boys. Personally, I care about presenting both my daughter and my son with a balance of girl and boy role models; I think it's equally important for both of them. Here are some of my favorites:

1 + 2.The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole are two books that have long been in our rotation, and which I've given to both of my goddaughters. Each is an explicit attempt to re-write the common princess narrative, which can often emphasize helplessness and a lack of autonomy.

3.Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham makes me cry every single time I read it. Elementary school-aged Grace discovers that there has never been a female president and after getting over her shock, decides to run for president in their school's mock election. Her male competitor assumes that all the boys will give their electoral votes to him (as an aside, this book offers a terrific introduction to the electoral college). The close election comes down to Sam, who represents Wyoming's 3 electoral votes. I'll let you read it to find out the ending, but suffice it to say I adore this book.

4.Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts was under the tree for my 9-year-old son this year, and we all have enjoyed reading it several times. Rosie, who dreams of being an engineer, remembers when her audacious imagination was squashed by the teasing of an uncle. Then she recalls her great-great aunt Rose who built airplanes (from the looks of the illustration, in WW2) and sets her mind to creating a machine that will make Rose's dream, to fly, come true. The book reminds us all that failure is a necessary part of success, and that we can't possibly make our dreams come true if we don't even try.  Rosie's heroism has nothing to do with her gender, but instead for her grit and gumption, her dedication and hard work.

5.The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and Kerstin Meyer is about a young princess, raised by her father and brothers after her mother's death. She is told by her family that she needs to get married, but what she wants to do is joust and compete like her older brothers. Finally, she disguises herself as a boy to enter a tournament. When she wins, she is able to free herself from the traditional "girl" path and also to demonstrate how strong and capable girls can be.

Do you have favorite picture books that depict strong female leads? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image credit: Lindsey Mead