Children's Books with a Positive, Feminist Message

"My daughter has asked for books for her birthday. I am trying to find some books that highlight girls/women and all we can do. Or positive messages to help spread love and hope right now. There are so many (and some aren't that on point--Not all Princesses Wear Pink was disappointing)."

Update: the second half of this article now includes recommendations for children's books with characters who do not conform to gender stereotypes.

Here are what PSP members suggest...

Jacquotte Delahaye 530x


The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

“Features a warrior princess and it’s very funny.”



Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty


Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty


Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

“Personally, I think you still can’t beat Madeline for powerful female role models.”



The Magic School Bus books by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan

“I actually love the Magic School bus books and TV shows because they show boys and girls working together as equals, all with different complementary talents. So much gendered stuff for girls excludes boys completely that I really like finding things that show boys and girls working and playing together.”



Matilda and BFG by Roald Dahl

“Roald Dahl also has some great heroines for slightly older kids, like like Matilda, and Sophie in the BFG.”


worst princess

Worst Princess by Anna Kemp



The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Lawson



The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency/ Precious Ramotswe by Alexander McCall Smith

“The Precious Ramotswe books that McCall Smith wrote for kids do, too, but she might be a little too young.”



I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer

My six year old son bought "I am Amelia Earhart" by Brad Meltzer at a book fair last year and has since come love everything about her!



The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch



The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy



"Perhaps pippi longstocking though I don't love reading it as much as I loved the version pbs showed in the 80's that we had on VHS."



The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires



The Amazing Bone, Boris and Amos, and Brave Irene by William Steig

“Boris and Amos is also one of my favorite Steig books—about friendship…. I still read all 3 of these books with my 12 year old—now she reads them to me too!”



Free To Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas

"Not sure of exact age range, but check out "Free to Be You and Me” .  It’s THE classic book with messages of equality and understanding for girls AND boys! Now more than ever, our boys need guidance on how to conduct themselves in a respectful way. But I digress...  Marlo Thomas created it in 1974 (along with Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin) when she was discouraged by the books available to read to her niece. I still have my copy and the stories/songs are relevant and ring true. Boy Meets Girl, William Wants a Doll, Ladies First, Parents are People, Atalanta and more.   The only thing it doesn’t have is a family with 2 moms or dads -- at an event in 2004 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the book, Thomas said that’s the one thing she regrets."

"I can't resist piling on to the free to be band wagon. I have such fond memories of it and -a huge plus- my boyfriend who didn't grow up with it finds it far more tolerable to listen to than some of the other kiddie drek we have."

"A footnote on Free To Be: Some of the stereotypes it was working to dispel in the 70s -- that women should work as cocktail waitresses and secretaries appears in the first story, for instance -- may be new to your kids. My kids have never had a male doctor. They have no idea that their grandmas could not have been senate pages or campaign managers or actual politicians, to pick some examples that have come up recently. We love this book and return to it, but skip parts. The kid whose principal admits he's wrong and apologizes is such a gem: Lets the kid cry. Plays him a song. It's perfect."



The Who Was Book Series

“For older kids, My daughter like the Who/What history series and I admit the election has skewed which books we're getting out of the library. I’m definitely leaning toward those dealing with civil rights, women’s rights and the people who fought for them — it’s one constructive way to deal with it all.”



The Practical Princess and other Liberating Fairy Tales by Jay Williams

“It is out of print, but you can still find it from used book sellers. The title story, Petronella, and The Silver Whistle are my favorites and all feature strong female characters who are brave, smart and resilient and who solve their own problems and save the day. In addition to being part of the liberating fairy tales collection, they can be found as stand alone books (again sadly out of print, but the stand alone editions have stunning, fun illustrations by Friso Henstra). The Practical Princess is also included in Tales for Little Rebels: a collection of radical children's literature.”



A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter

“A friend recommended this book to our family and both my 4 and 6 year olds love it--  Sonia Sotomayor:  A Judge Grows in the Bronx. The kids tease me a bit because I tear up when she is nominated by Obama but it is really a fantastic book about a girl growing up in difficult circumstances and reaching the pinnacle of her profession.  Perhaps that is why I tear up.”



The Princess and the Dragon by Audrey Wood

“The princess decides she doesn’t like being a princess and the dragon doesn’t like being a dragon.”



Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood

“A twist on the classic Cinderella story. I particularly love the ending.”

Rebel Girls FB 300

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

"Profiles a diverse set of impressive, trail blazing women (my daughter has been gobbling these up)."


Similarly, another parents asked the Advice Group the following:

"Does anyone have book recommendations that defy gender stereotypes for toddlers (ages 3+)?   When my husband's nephews wanted to play with a ballerina music box at my in-laws', my 2.5-year-old daughter said: "No. That's for girls." When asked, she told us that my mother had told her that. I'm not surprised, but it does make me sad.  Any suggestions appreciated!"

Here are the responses:


jacobJacob's New Dress

williamsdollWilliam's Doll

Who Are You?


10,000 DRESSES by Marcus Ewert

In addition....

These would be good for 3+:
• The Paper Bag Princess (listed above). another member also raves: "And The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch!  Princess saves herself AND the prince, and ditches the not-so-nice prince who is overly concerned about appearances."
• The Princess Knight
• No, No Kitten
• Rosie Revere, Engineer
• Ada Twist, Scientist
We also like the following for our kids, who are younger (8 mo & 20 mo):
• Baby Loves Quarks
• Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering