This post is a little out of the ordinary for the Making Life, but I LOVE books and it’s been in the background of my mind that I would like to incorporate something book-related on the blog.
For the past few years, I’ve been compiling a set of books for girls. I set up an Instagram account where I shared books that might appeal to younger girls who feature girls as the lead character.
When my first daughter was very little, it was more difficult to find picture books that featured girls as the main character. They definitely existed but weren’t as easy to locate. I wanted to show other moms and dads where they could find books that shared stories of girls being smart, funny, adventurous, beautiful, silly, strong, interesting, and more. It was also important to me to show my girls books that shared the stories of diverse girls — girls of all colors, races, and cultures.
I hope you enjoy this collection of books, and please feel free to share your favorites in the comments as well!
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Table of Contents for Easy Navigation
1. Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson and Illustrated by Michael Robertson
What I liked about it: It’s a fun read and the pictures and story kept my kiddos captivated. I enjoy books that rhyme because they’re especially fun read-aloud. The main character was fearless and clever, which is a fun combination. I was concerned the book might actually scare my kids but it was so lighthearted that it definitely did not. Very cute book!
2. Winter Days in the Big Woods: My First Little House Books
What I like about it: I believe, sadly, that these books are out of print. However, I purchased this used book on Amazon. I think this is a really fun introduction to the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The illustrations are beautiful and enchanting. I love looking at them as much as the children do. This is a recommendation for this entire picture book series, but also for this book in particular.
It’s very timely with the current weather in the northeast United States. This book talks about how they prepared for winter by storing up their harvest, but it also talked about the ways they enjoyed themselves during the winter by making paper dolls and writing on the frosty windows. Of course, most importantly, the way the family loves each other in this book is expressed well through the text and the illustrations. This book makes you feel warm and cared for, even when the winds turn cold and frosty.
3. Ada Twist Scientist, Rosie Revere Engineer, and Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty and Illustrated by David Roberts
When I first started looking for books for my girls outside of the princess realm, these were at the top of many pro-girl lists. The illustrations are entertaining, these books are again rhyming books, but most importantly, these books show girls doing things amazing things. What’s not to love? These second-grade girls show that we are all made differently and not only is that OK, but it’s something we should champion.
We haven’t read Sofia Valdez yet, but I wanted to include it here as another option in this series.
4. Olivia by Ian Falconer
As a Mom, I often feel like Olivia’s Mom when I read through her antics, 😬, but I can only imagine it makes it all the more appealing to our young readers. Olivia is independent, a bit of a rebel, brilliant, and always always always true to herself.
You kind of imagine as you read that Olivia could be President someday (I think she even says so in one of her books.)
The pictures are a mix of illustrations and real-life photographs in red, white & black (mostly).
When we read Olivia…and the Missing Toy, and all the kids (the older boys included) were very interested in the tale. They especially liked the part when Olivia walks through the dark halls in search of her missing toy.
I included this book as an example, but there are many other books in the series worth checking out.
5. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Once again, you can’t have a series of books for girls and not include, Madeline. This child is daring, courageous, kind, a little reckless, and isn’t even afraid of mice (I am when they’re in my house.) We happen to have the board book edition and have read it many times to our child of a similar name.
6. Beekle by Dan Santat
My kids and I really enjoyed reading The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend. At first, it may not seem like a book specifically geared towards girls. The main character is, after all, a boy. But I would definitely classify this as a book for boys and for girls. Also, originally you may believe that Beekle’s child will be a boy. In fact, this is what Beekle himself imagine him to be. This is not the way the story ends up.
One of the things that most draws me to this book is the illustrations. To say the illustrations are colorful does not do it justice. The colors alone are beautiful, but more importantly, it is the way the artist uses color to portray emotions and feelings.
This book is wonderful for discussing loneliness, friendship, the need for others, and how our hearts will only grow as we allow others into our lovely little worlds.
7. Maps by
When we travel, or when we hear about a different place in the world, we get this book out to investigate. It’s also wonderful for pulling out to talk about specific areas in the world that need our prayers. Really useful for explaining where we are in the world.
My kids enjoyed seeing what other people eat, wear, and do for entertainment. I can’t say enough about this book. Sadly it does not include every country in the world in an in-depth way, but it does cover countries in every region.
8. Anything by Oliver Jeffers
I am a big fan of Oliver Jeffers and his work. When I first saw his illustrations I knew I had to introduce them to my kids. I really would recommend any book written by him, but there are a few I’ll mention here.
This book isn’t just for girls; I would consider it a book for everyone. Oliver Jeffers wrote it for his baby boy when he was trying to think of all the things he thought might be important for his new child to know. The idea of teaching a new baby about the universe was overwhelming to him, so he thought of a way to artistically introduce it.
I think my favorite part of the book is the ending when he tells his son, even if he (the father), is not available, there are 7 billion people on the planet and we are never really alone. We don’t have to face the difficulties of life by ourselves!
Quirky, whimsical, and fun, this book comes recommended by both my boys and my girls.
We actually haven’t had the chance to read What We’ll Build yet, but I’m including it on the list because Oliver Jeffers wrote this one specifically for his daughter. Now that I’m writing this post, I’d like to get a copy of our own so I can read this one to my kids too.
But I got to go back through the book with her part by part. She started to understand the concept when I did it that way. I tried explaining to her what an allegory was also.
I think this book could open up some conversations for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one and it could also help kids develop empathy for other people who are in pain. The content is a bit heavy and maybe mature too, which I think should be noted if you think that may not be a good fit for your little one.
Have you read this book before? What are your thoughts?
9. I Am Kind written by Suzy Capozzi and Illustrated by Eren Uten
This book is simple, but the concept is also simple. It goes through the life of a little girl and all the ways that she can find to be kind to others. Although it doesn’t specifically say so, I imagine that the more kind acts she does, the more she wants to continue. She does state that she wants to be like her Mom, the kindest person she knows. That’s an inspiration to me as well.
I think my favorite thing about the book was that it was a springboard for my children and a baseline for their actions. I can ask them if what they did was kind, or I can encourage them to think of ways to be kind to others. Today my three (almost four) year old daughter was listing ways that we can be kind to others. This fills my heart up. Books like this plant seeds in their hearts and minds.
10. My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Illustrated by Julie Flett
My favorite part was at the end of the book when I asked them what makes their hearts fill with happiness. They said getting hugs and going on walks with people they love.
11. Books by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
What to say about this book? As a yarn enthusiast myself, having an endless box of yarn (and endless time to use it), would be a dream come true. What was especially fun about this book was the main character, Annabelle, and her ongoing patience and persistence against all manner of resistance. And yet, the theme was not overdone. She didn’t yell or condemn anyone. She just did her thing and covered a dreary town in color.
These creators also have a series about shapes. At this time the series is a trilogy with books SQUARE and TRIANGLE also available. This one was fun for this post because I think the circle is the only girl in the trio and it features her.
Each story is humorous and witty and enjoyable. My kids look like this the whole time we’re reading the book and quite honestly I always wish there was more story when it’s over. Definitely worth checking out!
12. My Chincoteague Pony by Susan Jeffers
If your kid is a horse lover, like I was as a kid, then this book is a must must must. First of all, it’s an early introduction to Marguerite Henry’s Chincoteague books, which will provide many hours of reading to your little pony lovers. I used to spend much time at my public library looking for a book with a little horse picture on the spine.
I was always looking for one I hadn’t read yet. The Chincoteague books were among the first I read in a long line of horse literature.
This book has lovely illustrations that will bring joy to your horse enthusiasts. It is the classic “girl wants a horse dream,” but it has a tender addition about paying kindness forward. My four-year-old horse lover was hanging on every word and has requested to read it again several times.
13. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
A) The illustrations are adorable. Vashti Harrison said she used old illustrations as inspiration. She said in an interview, “It goes back to that vibe I was looking for – that very vintage, classic illustration,” Harrison said. “That pose, with the eyes down, and a kind of a sweet, subtle smile, is really just a position of sweetness and serenity and innocence.”
B) Some of the themes may be troubling to young readers such as slavery and the issue of civil rights. The very concept that some people may be treated differently because of the color of their skin, may be confusing and sad. I believe this book is a good springboard for conversation, and these conversations can be handled more delicately when delivered by a loving caregiver. For us, it’s a little bit at a time. While we champion the women in the book (and I’ve been reading to my boys and my girls), learning about the heartache humans put on one another is best done in measure, in my opinion.
C) The book is not primarily about how these women had been mistreated, but rather how they triumphed. These women show strength in so many different circumstances. Amazing achievements in the face of adversity. When we read the page on Ella Fitzgerald my kids asked to hear her music. We played it and danced in the girl’s room together.
14. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker and Illustrated by Eda Kaban
Here’s what I love about this book. First, it’s a book about superheroes. Superheroes are super on fire right now. I didn’t think there could be that many movies about superheroes, but here we are. And kids LOVE superheroes. They want to be them. So this book is great in that regard.
What I really REALLY love about this book is that it talks about making good choices in a really fun way. If you’re like me… you’re all the time talking to your kids about making good choices. This book talks about making good choices even when it’s hard, and even when you don’t want to. It thoughtfully explains that even superheroes want to make bad choices sometimes, but then they think about the consequences and choose the right one.
Did I mention that it also rhymes?!
15. Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker and Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
I loved reading this book about Katherine Johnson to my kids, and they loved it too. At first, my oldest son didn’t want to come over (he was reading his own book), but soon he couldn’t help himself, and he joined us too.
I was impressed by Katherine Johnson’s life, and I found myself learning things about space travel that I did not know. The book explained it in a very easy-to-understand way. I also happen to really like the colorful and detailed pictures in this book.
16. The Princess and the Pitstop by Tom Angleberger and Illustrated by Dan Santat
I would call the Princess and the Pitstop a rainbowy book about a fun tough princess who smokes the competition. Filled with lots of amusing puns, references, and bright colorful pictures, this short read will entertain all your kiddos (and you).
17. Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin and Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
18. Anything by Mo Willems (Featuring Nanette’s Baguette)
Oh, Mo. Mo. Mo. Mo. You and your amazing rhymes and comical writing. You’re one of the few who can write amusing children’s books that also capture deep intense feelings like failure, fear, regret…baguette.
Read this book if for no other reason than to be surprised and entertained by how many words rhyme with baguette.
19. Gossie and Friends by Olivier Dunrea
All the Gossie books are adorable with sweet little illustrations surrounded by white space. Gossie and her friends have several fun adventures and we’ve read them so many times the books are falling apart. Perfect little board books to read to very young book enthusiasts.
20. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
21. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder and Illustrated by Julie Morstad
This book is interesting, poetic, magical, and sad. It kept the interest of my children, and after we read it, we looked up videos of Anna Pavlova dancing.
22. Dancing on the Wings by Debbie Allen and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
If you’re looking for another book about dancing, we recommend Dancing on the Wings. It follows the story of a girl who doesn’t quite fit in but has big dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. It’s relatable, beautiful, and interesting.
23. Part-Time Princess by Deborah Underwood and Illustrated by Cambria Evans
Are any of you familiar with the Part-Time Princess? It’s a really adorable book about a girl that goes to bed and then begins her adventurous Princess reign. She’s helping dragons, literally putting out fires, dancing with trolls, and generally doing an incredible job running the kingdom. My favorite part, though, is the special relationship that she has with her Mom in the book. If you’ve read it then you know what I mean 😉
24. Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner and Illustrated by Heidi Smith
I bought this book for my daughter for Christmas on year because her favorite book used to be a National Geographic book about predators. That book was hocked (hawked?) by her old brother for Pokémon cards so I thought this book would fill as a sort of replacement.
What I love about this book: The main most lovable thing about this book is it takes the notoriously creepy or scary animals in the world and shines them in a good light. The book shows the softer side of the animals and also shares their worth in the world. I couldn’t help but think this type of thinking might also help my kids have compassionate hearts when it comes to the way they think about other people. Perhaps it would help them not judge someone too quickly. Or, perhaps it’s just a fun book to read about spiders, and sharks, and lions. 😘
25. Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond and Illustrated by Fizer Coleman
No, but seriously. This book is super cute and you and your kids are probably going to learn something about birds. My girls especially liked the bird sounds in the book and we looked up some sounds so they could hear them in real life.
26. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma and How She Got Her Name is a Caldecott honor book about a girl with a very long name. She doesn’t want her name because it’s long and hard to spell, but then her father explains to her the heritage of her name. She was named after brave and interesting ancestors and soon realizes that she’s proud of her name — even if it’s still very long.
27. The Birdsong by Julie Flett
Birdsong by Cree-Métis author Julie Flett, is a beautifully written and illustrated story about a mother and daughter who move to a new home. The daughter befriends the elderly neighbor and learns from her about art, making, and gardening. There are themes of loneliness, comfort, joy, and sadness.
28. Not Little by Maya Myers and Illustrated by Hyewon Yum
A story about a small girl who isn’t little. My 5-year-old daughter asked for this book to be read to her 3 times in a row and she loved yelling “I’m not little! This story has adorable pencil drawings and a story that is simple but keeps you wanting to read on.
29. Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist by Evan Griffith and Illustrated by Joanie Stone
Secrets of the Sea is a children’s book sharing the life of marine scientist Jeanne Power. The book is a little lengthy for younger readers but my 5-year-old daughter did pretty well sitting through it. We learned so much about this revolutionary scientist and the role she played in marine life research.
What are YOUR favorite books for girls?
This is the list of books we love for girls. As time goes on I’ll probably add more to this list because we love books and we’d love to continue sharing our favorites with you.
What books are a must add to this post? Add your comments below.