Picture Books with Strong Female Characters

Picture Books with Strong Female Characters

These picture books with strong female characters show gender shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your goals and illustrate female characters as complex rather than one dimensional. The characters are positive role models, relatable, challenge gender norms, learn from their mistakes, show integrity, determination, resilience, and much more.

Picture Books with Strong Female Characters

Characteristics of Strong Female Lead Character

There are hundreds of picture books with strong female characters, particularly compared to when I was growing up!

A strong or inspiring female character doesn’t mean they are perfect. Instead, they learn, adapt, and develop a growth mindset. The picture books about strong women and girls show characters who:

  • Learn about and embrace their culture and identity
  • Are positive role models
  • Have positive relationships, including intergenerational
  • Overcome adversity and fears
  • Challenge gender roles
  • Develop self-esteem and confidence
  • Learn from their mistakes
  • Stand up for themselves and others
  • Keep trying after failures or mistakes
  • Are a positive influence in their communities
  • Show integrity, determination, courage, resilience, and much more

Essentially, a strong female book character is complex rather than one dimensional.

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Diverse Picture Books with Strong Female Characters

These books with strong female characters show the reader who and what they can be, and that gender shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your goals.

The characters come from all corners of the world, with different economic circumstances, cultures and family dynamics.

There is sure to be a perfect choice for your classroom and you can find more strong female characters on any of my book lists!

If you are looking for resources and more books about strong female characters check out:

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Grace’s love of reading and role-play motivates her to audition for the role of Peter Pan in the school play. The other children tell her she can’t play a boys part. Her mama and Nana tell her she can be anything she wants, helping her find the confidence to audition and win the role of Peter Pan.

Promotes determination, self-esteem, enthusiasm, tolerance, and gender roles.

Another by Christian Robinson

A young girl enters a topsy-turvy world that is similar but not quite the same as her as own. She meets other children of many ethnicities, wearing a variety of clothing and playing different games. Another will inspire discussion and questions and provide each reader with a different interpretation of the book. 

Use this wordless book to discuss open-mindedness, adaptability, and perspectives.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

Serenity Strainer fights her fears to save her family from the dreadful (belly button) fluff, along with courage and a vacuum cleaner. The Dreadful Fluff promotes confidence, courage, and overcoming fears.

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood

Najma dreams of being a musaharati, the drummer who wakes families in her Turkish village for the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan. No girl has ever taken on this role and Najma has to show determination and self-belief to follow her dreams.

Promotes courage, over coming fears, and risk-taking.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Best friends, Evelyn and Daniela, have to say goodbye when Evelyn’s family has to move away. As her house is packed up, the two girls play with each other in their favourite places. They know they will always be best friends, no matter where they live.

Promotes themes of resilience, adaptability, and relationship skills.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

A young Asian girl notices her eyes kiss in the corners, just like her mother, grandmother and little sister. She feels empowered by this connection to her family and is filled with love and appreciation for her own identity and beauty. 

Promotes self-affirmation, identity, empowerment, self-esteem, intergenerational relationships and making connections.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.

Promotes a sense of belonging, compassion, friendship and social awareness.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Zuri loves her curly hair even though it has a mind of its own. Her daddy has a lot to learn when he styles it for a special occasion, but he will do anything to make Zuri and her hair happy. 

You can use Hair Love in the classroom to promote self-esteem, positive relationships and identity.

The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers

Emma Turner loves books. As she can’t afford one she saves her money from picking apples and puts it in her mama’s hard-times jar. When she is ready to start school, she is met with a wonderful surprise.

Reinforces themes of reading, determination, self-management, and immigration.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I am Enough follows a girl as she makes positive affirmations for those who lack self-esteem and self-acceptance. This book celebrates children for who they are and reinforces themes of acceptance, self-esteem and poetry.

It's a No-Money Day by Kate Milner

With no money or food in the cupboard, a mother is forced to visit a food bank. Told from her child’s perspective we see the shame of the mother but the joy the daughter gets from the kindness of others. 

Promotes themes of wellbeing, perspectives, and poverty.

Journey by Aaron Becker

A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor’s army to set the bird free.

Journey is a wordless picture book that promotes confidence, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.

Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz

Leila learns self-acceptance from her grandmother and an understanding of her heritage. Her grandmother complements the saffron beads on her scarf, leading Leila to seek out characteristics that make up her unique identity as a Pakistani American.

Promotes themes of acceptance and belonging.

Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard

Lila’s dark skin, hair and eyes make her stand out at her new school. She is bullied and likened to a crow. At the autumn festival costume party, she embraces who she is and dresses as a crow. 

Promotes self-acceptance,self-awareness, discrimination, resilience, and loneliness.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy

Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California. Mira is inspired by a mural artist to transform her grey city into colour. She, in turn, inspired the community to add their voice to the mural.

Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival

Meesha finds it hard to make friends because she struggles to read and respond to social cues. It takes an overwhelming situation for her to realise her special skills can help her make friends. 

Promotes self-esteem, relationship skills, and mental and emotional wellbeing. 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

A girl and her canine assistant adjust, examine, tweak, fasten, fix, straighten and study to create the most magnificent thing. But not everything works out the way she imagines. 

Promotes creative thinking, self-management, perseverance and a growth mindset.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

Daisy Ramona loves zooming around the neighbourhood with her Papi on his motorcycle. She witnesses her rapidly changing community but knows her Papi’s love will always be there.

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald

Cartwheel’s new home is an immigration camp where she struggles to settle. With the help of a new friend she makes a smooth transition and is no longer lonely. 

Reinforces themes of acceptance, and belonging.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

When Unhei moves from Korea to America her classmates can’t pronounce her name. She wants to choose a new name that is easier to pronounce but decides she likes her name just the way it is.

Promotes themes of acceptance, identity, integrity, open-mindedness, principled and tolerance.

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Zura hesitantly brings her Nana Akua to her school for Grandparents Day. With traditional Ghanian tribal markings on her face, Nana Akua looks very different from the other grandparents. She creatively explains to Zura and her classmates the meaning of her culture and why it makes her special.

Promotes themes of identity, open-mindedness, making connections, and belonging.

Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park

A young South Sudanese girl goes on a journey that requires determination, persistence, and compassion. Young Nya takes her little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. When Akeer becomes too ill to walk, Nya takes one step, then another so she can reach home.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

It’s pouring with rain and a girl wants to play computer games. She rushes outside when her mother tries to take the game off her, only for her to drop it in a freezing cold pond. Despite her disappointment, she curiously explores the surrounding nature feeling like “the whole world seemed brand new as if it had been created right in front of me.”

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier. 

Promotes tolerance, communication, friendship and open-mindedness.

A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

Mako is thrilled when she gets a new pair of Geta, traditional Japanese shoes. They are shiny with red lacquer until she cracks them playing outside. She tries to fool her mother to get a new pair of Geta but soon realises honesty is the best way to go.

Promotes forgiveness, making connections, and honesty.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Princess Elizabeth saves her fiancé Prince Ronald from a dragon only for him to tell her to clean herself up and look like a princess. Elizabeth happily skips into the sunset by herself.

Promotes gender roles, independence, self-esteem and strong female characters.

The Promise by Nicola Davies

After carrying out a criminal act a nameless girl travels the world planting seeds and transforming bleak landscapes to make up for her misdemeanour. 

Reinforces themes of determination, open-mindedness and wellbeing.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad

On the first day of school sisters, Asiya and Faizah walk in hand in hand. Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time, which represents being strong. Faizah admires her sister’s beautiful blue scarf but hears other children making fun of her. The sisters follow their mother’s advice about being strong and true to themselves in the face of bullying.

Promotes themes of tolerance, self-esteem, making connections, and different points of view.

Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Ixchel wants to continue the weaving tradition of her Mayan community. She walks around her village to find items to weave with, but only finds colourful plastic bags. As the bags pile up she decides to cut them into strips and starts weaving them, producing a rainbow fabric.

This bilingual book promotes perseverance, recycling and problem-solving.

Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon

Rocket dreams of being an astronaut like Mae Jemison. She tells everyone in town about an upcoming meteor shower and even persuades her brother to look up from his phone in time to see it.

Promotes a sense of community, enthusiasm, observation and curiosity.

Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

Ruby impresses her grandfather in old China with her determination to continue her education in a time when girls were not encouraged to go to university. 

Promotes commitment, determination, gender roles and perseverance.

Running Shoes by Frederick Lipp

Sophy lives in a poor Cambodian village. Her dream of going to school is realised when she receives a pair of running shoes. Promotes themes of determination, following our dreams, poverty and education.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Ava waits all week for the weekend to arrive as Saturday means special mother and daughter time. She is disappointed when things don’t quite go as they planned, but she learns that things will work out.

Promotes themes of adaptability, making connections, and resilience.

The Secret Garden by Claire Freedman

After the death of her parents in India, a young girl is sent to live in Yorkshire at the home of her uncle. Alone and bad mannered, she explores the estate and discovers a neglected and secret garden. With the help of a young gardener she makes new friends and returns the garden to its former glory.

Reinforces themes of curiosity, determination, loneliness, and friendship.

The Sky of Afghanistan by Ana Eulate

An Afghan girl sits watching kites as she dreams of peace for her family, friends and country as the war continues on around her.

Deals with themes of hopes, dreams, self-awareness and conflict.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty

After Sofia’s Abuelo hurts his ankle at the Mount Trashmore, she brainstorms ways to make it safe. She develops a plan to turn it into a park, but when City Hall turns the idea down she gets the community involved to make her dream come true.

Promotes activism, problem & solution and determination.

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.

Promotes a sense of community, poverty, responsibility and hope.

Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch

When everyone copies Stephanie’s unique ponytail she decides to make more and more outrageous styles. Everyone questions her decisions but she is determined to her herself. 

Promotes self-esteem, individuality, self-awareness and peer pressure.

A Story About Afiya by James Berry

Afiya wears her white dress every day. As she goes about her day, the dress becomes imprinted with memories of her day, including sunflowers, flowers, fish, butterflies and tigers. She washes her dress every night so it is ready to record more memories.

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Set in 1939 Harlem, Cassie Louise Lightfoot lies on the roof of her apartment, the tar beach. She imagines flying over the buildings and bridges of New York and dreams of helping her family out of poverty. 

Promotes themes of different perspectives, black identity, inference, and summer.

The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

Two siblings discover a tunnel. The brother rushes in, dismissing his sister’s fears. When he doesn’t return she finds the courage to follow him. 

Promotes themes of facing our fears, cooperation, curiosity, responsibility and being a risk-taking.

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

A girl is frightened when she discovers a slave hiding in a barn. Her compassion takes over when she saw the fear in their eyes and she cares for them even when slave hunters come looking for the escaped slave. She is rewarded with a doll as a token of gratitude.

This wordless story promotes themes of black history, courage, inference and asking questions.

Usha and the Stolen Sun by Bree Galbraith

Usha lives in a town where the sun doesn’t shine. Her grandfather tells her stories about a time when people built a wall to keep the sun to themselves. She thinks of a unique way to make sure her voice is heard. Instead of showing anger, she shares her grandfather’s stories with the people on the other side of the wall who start to remove bricks and ultimately bring down the entire wall.

Your Name Is a Song by J Thompkins-Bigelow

A young girl leaves school frustrated after a day of her classmates and teacher mispronouncing her name. On their walk home she tells her mother she doesn’t want to go back, who in turn tells her daughter “your name is a song.” She returns to school empowered and shares what she has learned.

Promotes themes of identity, respect, individuality, empowerment, love, confidence, and self-esteem.

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What Next?

Remember to check out Classroom Resources for International Women’s Day for supplementary resources and Best Books about Inspiring Women for real-life, remarkable female characters.

Do you have any favourite picture books with strong female characters and real-life heroes?

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