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Strong and Resourceful Female Characters in Children's Books


Cover art of One Crazy Summer novel for ages 10-14
Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins
"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen." When I read those words as a child, I was transfixed. The Secret Garden became my favorite children's book. It remains one of the few children's books I enjoy reading again every few years. Mary Lennox is a fascinating character, a brave and resourceful girl if there ever was one. Like Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, another strong and resourceful young girl, Mary is an orphan.

Where do you find books like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, books that girls and boys will enjoy and that will reinforce the concept of females, including girls, as strong and resourceful? Ask women you respect about their favorite children's books, check booklists and recommended reading lists, and see if the same books tend to be mentioned again and again. Look for books in a variety of genres, from mysteries to sports books. Check the biography and autobiography sections in the children's section of your favorite bookstore or library.

The following are some of the resources that provide information about books featuring strong and resourceful female characters:

The Amelia Bloomer Project
Learn all about the Project and the book lists of recommended feminist literature for babies to age 18. Read book reviews of some of the fiction and nonfiction that has been selected over the last decade: Rapunzel's Revenge, The Librarian of Basra, One Crazy Summer, The Evolution of Calpernia Tate, Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom, and Crossing Stones.

Beyond Female Protagonists - Female Voices in Picture Books
Professor Kay E. Vandergrift of Rutgers University provides a bibliography of picture books plus a bibliography for adults, along with links to some of her articles.

Women's History Month Booklist
This annotated recommended reading list from Reading Rockets includes books for children ages 3 to 6 and 6 to 9.

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