When Pacific Rim came out in 2013, female fans of the film were befuddled as to why the movie didn't pass the Bechdel test, so they took to Tumblr to create their own version of the feminist media test. The film depicts only three women who don't speak to one another (therefore violating the Bechdel test), but has a strong supporting female character, Mako Mori, who is a complete badass. Thus was born the Mako Mori test. Introducing kids books that pass the Mako Mori test to your child's bookshelf is a definitely do in the realm of parenting.
In order to pass the Mako Mori test, a book (or any piece of fictional narrative media) must have at least one female character who gets her own narrative arc that is not about supporting a man's story. The test itself was created to address the character development of specific female characters in film. It's not intended as a test to use instead of the Bechdel test, but as an extra tool for those who seek to analyze the presence of women in film and books. Because some pieces can pass the Bechdel test, but still have a female character with a purpose of her own that doesn't involve supporting a man. And if there's one thing in life you want to teach your children, it's that they have a purpose of their own that doesn't involve supporting a man. To make your child's bookshelf as empowering as possible, here are a few books that pass the Mako Mori test with flying colors.
1. 'The Midnight Library' by Kazuno Kahara
In The Midnight Library, a little librarian and her three owl assistants always help their patrons find the perfect book. One night, one of the animals stirs up a little bit of trouble, and the librarian handles it all by herself.
2. 'The Wolves In The Walls' by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean:
The Wolves In The Walls follows young Lucy, who is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her house, but nobody believes her. When the wolves finally do come out, only Lucy is brave enough to return to the house and talk the others into forcing the animals to leave.
3. 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl
In the classic tale of Matilda, the titular character is all about living in her own skin, discovering her superhuman powers along the way. She faces family and foes, but is never bogged down by their negativity, and uses her powers to save the day.
4. 'Ella Enchanted' by Gail Carson Levine
At birth, Ella was given the "gift" of obedience by a foolish fairy, and has been living with that so-called gift ever since. Ella must obey any order that is given her, from standing up, to going to sleep, to chopping her own head off. But strong-willed Ella is not willing to let her life go by this way. Ella Enchanted gives readers an adventure with a heroine determined to be in control of her own life and break the spell.
5. 'Esperanza Rising' by Pam Munoz Ryan
When tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to flee their beautiful home and luxurious way of life for California during the great depression, everything changes. In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza must rise above the hard labor she and her mother find in the Mexican working camps, and adapt to the change around them.
6. 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' by Judy Blume
In the classic coming of age tale Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret, Judy Blume outdoes herself with crafting a tale for young girls to usher them into womanhood. Revolving around Margaret and her move from the city to New Jersey and the new friends she finds there, it's a story that has stood the test of time for ages.
7. 'When You Reach Me' by Rebecca Stead
Miranda is in the sixth grade, and just when she thinks she has everything figured out, it all starts falling apart. Between the mysterious notes she's receiving, and her falling out with her best friend? Things are less than normal in Miranda's life. When You Reach Me gives readers a protagonist to believe in, and a puzzle to solve at the heart of its pages.
8. 'Swamp Angel' by Anne Isaacs
Swamp Angel can lasso a tornado, single-handedly defeat the bear Thundering Tarnation by wrestling him from the top of the Great Smoky Mountains, and drink an entire lake dry. This tall tale set on the American frontier is one that will have your kids coming back again and again.
9. 'Childhood Of Young Americans' Series by Various Authors
The Childhood of Young Americans series is one of the most wonderful and popular ways to teach children about history. Providing fictional biographies of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Sacagawea, Helen Keller, Amerlia Earhart and more, the books celebrate women who have contributed to American history and culture in irreversible ways.
10. 'Flygirl' by Sherri L. Smith
All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly, but as a young black woman in the '40s in Louisiana, she knows it will never happen. Until American enters World War II, and an opportunity presents itself. In Flygirl, if Ida's willing to use her light skin to pass as a young white woman, she can take to the sky. She wants to fly more than anything, but soon learns that denying yourself, your heritage, and your family, can be a dangerous road.
11. 'The True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle' by Avi
When 13 year old Charlotte Doyle is supposed to return to Rhode Island from England for the summer in 1832 and the family she's supposed to travel with cancels on her, she decides to go it alone. Keeping a diary of the turn of events, The True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle takes readers on a high seas adventure they never could have imagined.
12. 'Island Of The Blue Dolphins' by Scott O'Dell
Karana is a young girl who was left behind on an island years ago, and has adapted to the island in order to survive. From creating shelter, to hunting, to surviving, Island of the Blue Dolphins tells a beautiful tale of not only adventure, but of self-discovery.
13. 'Pippi Longstocking' by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking is a rollicking children's tale of young Pippi who moves in next door to Tommy and Annika, changing their lives forever. With no parents and a fancy for the whimsical things in life, Pippi marches to the beat of her own drum.
14. 'Julie Of The Wolves' by Jean Craighead George
When Miyax runs away from her small village, she attempts to flee to San Francisco, where her pen pal awaits. Her pen pal knows her as Julie, and Julie is ready for a change. But when she gets lost in the Alaskan wilderness, Julie of the Wolves finds herself in a precarious situation. When she finally finds her way back to civilization, she is torn. Is she Miyax of the eskimos? Or Julie?
15. 'Harriet The Spy' by Louise Fitzhugh
In Harriet the Spy, the titular character marches to the beat of her own drum, not letting anyone dictate her life. Spying is her life, and she writes down all of her observations in her notebook. But when her notebook gets into the wrong hands, Harriet has to face her closest friends with the observations she's made.
16. 'The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate' by Jacqueline Kelly
Calpurnia Tate is the only girl in a family with seven children, and is struggling to find her identity as a young woman. At 11, she's expected to begin wearing a corset, learn to cook, sew, and more. But these things don't interest Callie, who would much prefer to spend her days in the dirt, collecting scientific specimens. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate brings readers a tale of growing up, and growing into yourself, even if you feel like an outsider.
17. 'The Detective's Assistant' by Kate Hannigan
Eleven year old Nell is an orphan, so imagine her surprise when she arrives in Chicago to find that she has an aunt. In The Detective's Assistant, Nell assists her aunt, America's first female detective. Together, they make a blazing team of female empowerment.