6 empowering picture books to read to daughters (and sons) during (and beyond) Women’s History Month

     Check out Jen Bradley's list of empowering books for young girls, including 'Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald no combina'. (Courtesy of Monica Brown)

    Check out Jen Bradley's list of empowering books for young girls, including 'Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald no combina'. (Courtesy of Monica Brown)

    March is Women’s History Month, and while the first two words in that phrase should never be limited by the third, it gives us a wonderful reminder to revisit our book collection. I went through and gathered inspiring tales about women and girls to be sure my daughter and I were enjoying them.


    Most of our favorites are not technically historically accurate and some are even about cartoon pigs, but each one offers inspiring examples of strong females making their mark.

    “Olivia” by Ian Falconer 

    We have yet to read an “Olivia” book we didn’t like. And yes, I realize they’re books about a little pig (and therefore an odd way to start this list). But she’s not just any pig — she’s an assertive, creative, spirited, artistic, fiery rebel.

    Portrayed in a simple palette of black, white, and red, the feisty Olivia is empowerment personified. She is porcine, hear her roar! 

    “Me… Jane” by Patrick McDonnell

    This book tells the amazing tale of Jane Goodall, from her start as a wee little girl with a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubillee to her life’s work studying chimpanzees in the wild for decades. The illustrations are old school and as captivating as Jane’s story. 

    “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman

    This classic tale invites young readers to identify with one of their favorite emerging concepts — fairness. Grace wants to be Peter Pan in the class play, but the idea seems laughable to some classmates because Grace is brown-skinned and a girl. With the help of enterprising loved ones, Grace wins the part while shattering stereotypes.

    “Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina” by Monica Brown

    Author Monica Brown grew up mestiza — mixed raced — and spins an engaging tale about young multi-lingual Marisol who simply doesn’t match. With the help of a teacher, from what she eats to how she dresses to her mixed heritage, Marisol gets past teasing and makes her own delightful way. 

    “Mirette on the High Wire” by Emily Arnold McCully

    With gorgeous paintings to tell the story, it’s no wonder this book won the Caldecott Medal. Mirette sees the Great Bellini perform his high wire act, and pleads with him to teach her his art. But in the end, it is the brave Mirette who helps her Master overcome his fear. 

    “A is for Abigail” by Lynne Cheney

    This very clever almanac, organized as an alphabet book, gives us far more than 26 women to discover. Each letter gives the reader one central name, while introducing us to an entire category of related women. For example “L is for Julia Lathrop, and those who have “lifted others up”. The section gives us information about Mother Carrini, Grace Abbot, Harriet Tubman, Jane Adams, and Henriette Szold.

    Each page is intricately illustrated and at three-years-old, my daughter recognized the style of her favorite illustrator, Robin Preiss Glassier. 

    Be they historical or fictional stories, which “girl power” picture books do you love to read to your children? What book would you add to the list?

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