OK folks, it's been a tough week (month? year? presidential term?) for womankind. But children's publishing has a salve for all that burning rage, giving us a wealth of children's books that lift up some of history's greatest women. It's a facet of the #resist movement I can squarely get behind. I mean, I have a dream that someday, when a girl puts her mind to accomplishing great things, her gender won't even factor in. But until the day when the glass ceiling is actually shattered, we could all learn a thing or two from the women celebrated in these books who did it against the tide.
Real talk: I hadn't heard of a lot of these women before (my mind is instead filled with knowledge about the William Henry Harrisons and Rob Fords and Joe the Plumbers of the world). But researching them has been the most delightful romp through Wikipedia that I have ever taken. So join me in building a kickass feminist library for the children in your life. I'm clearing a whole shelf for these gorgeous works of art. I'm ready to celebrate the social activists, the artists, the scientists, the writers, the politicians, the athletes and the badass feminists found within these pages. Time to get your pre-order on, ladies and gentlemen and non-binary loves, because you seriously need these books.
1. 'Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women Of Vision, Grit, And Guts' by Leah Tinari
I had a strong emotional reaction to seeing this cover. I love Carrie Fisher. I sort of want two copies of this book, which includes highlights of each woman stenciled around her portrait: one to read with my kids, and another to wallpaper my children's rooms. It's impossible not to feel inspired by the art.
Kickass woman included: Lozen, a female warrior and prophet of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache.
2. 'Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World' by Susan Hood, Illustrated by 13 Extraordinary Women
Poetry and art collide with women's history in Shaking Things Up. For each of the 14 young women (from architect Maya Lin to 6-year-old activist Ruby Bridges) Susan Hood has written a poem. Each poem is illustrated by a different female artist, so reading this book feels like surrounding yourself with a gorgeous patchwork quilt of women's accomplishments.
Kickass woman included: Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian in New York City.
3. 'Little Dreamers:Visionary Women From Around The World' by Vashti Harrison
As a follow-up from Harrison's wildly popular Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History, this necessary volume introduces young readers to 40 more incredible women who were groundbreakers in their fields. (And, really, also check out Little Leaders, because I love my intersectional feminism, which Harrison's books have in spades.)
Kickass woman included: physicist Chien-Shiung Wu.
4. 'HERSTORY: 50 Women And Girls Who Shook Up The World' by Katherine Halligan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Herstory is a necessary reference book for every child's bookshelf. The 50 women profiled here are put into categories such as "Imagine & Create" and "Think & Solve" and "Hope and Overcome." It's a great place to start learning about these women, but it's also a great overview of the glass-ceiling-shattering women have done throughout history and around the world.
Kickass woman included: Cathy Freeman, an Aboriginal Australian Olympian.
5. 'Malala: My Story Of Standing Up For Girls' Rights' by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick, adapted by Sarah J. Robbins
Now, Malala's inspiring story, told in her own words, has been adapted for chapter-book readers. (The youngest readers can pick up Malala's Magic Pencil and older, middle grade readers can check out the I Am Malala) Basically, no matter your child's age, they can find inspiration from Malala's steadfast championing of girls' educational rights!
6. 'Gloria Takes A Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, And Change The World' by Jessica M. Rinker, illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley
Gloria Steinem never accepted the path that women were expected to take. She brilliantly forged ahead to fight for equal rights for all women. This book shows how her upbringing affected her life, and how a life of activism brought forth an enormous wave of feminism. And it all started with her as a little girl, reading books.
7. 'She Persisted Around The World' by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
The first volume of She Persisted was one of the first books I got in my collection of books about badass women, so I was thrilled that Chelsea Clinton was putting together another book with women from around the world. Again, this volume highlights the times when women were told to back down, but persisted anyway.
Kickass Woman included: Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.
8. 'She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed The Way We Think' by Emily Arnold McCully
Want to discover some groundbreakers you might not be familiar with? (Personally, I had to google multiple women included in this one for more information.) Author/illustrator Emily Arnold McCully dives deep into just how groundbreaking these women were.
Kickass woman included: Joan Cooney, creator of Sesame Street and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
9. 'Juno Valentine And The Magical Shoes' by Eva Chen, illustrated by Derek Desierto
Instagram fashionista Eva Chen has written a picture book and it's just so great. Not only does the little girl in the story, Juno Valentine, love fashion, she also admires a lot of women in history. She gets to imagine "life in their shoes" quite literally. Not only does this book pay homage to some of history's greatest women, it also gives them snaps for their fashion sense. Also in the works: a fashion line at Janie and Jack based on this character and designed by Chen.
Kickass women included: Singer and fashion icon Lady Gaga.
'Baby Feminists' by Libby Babbott-Klein, illustrated by Jessica Walker
Baby Feminists by Libby Babbott-Klein, illustrated by Jessica Walker ($9.99, Indiebound)
Michelle Obama, Malala, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg feature in this lift-the-flaps board book that lets you see today's feminist heroes as babies. Empowering for little kids of any gender in the most simple way.