Women’s History Month is not only a time to reflect on the past – the accomplishments of the brilliant women who have come before us to forge new paths – but also a time to assess where we are today and inspire future generations to dream big and dare even bigger.
I want to empower my daughter using stories of fierce and persistent ladies. I’ve been on the prowl for books that provide positive role models for my daughter – books that tell the less-often told stories about women in history who have made a difference. In recent years, publishers have been filling bookshelves with some remarkable stories in children’s picture books for young readers and young adult nonfiction for tweens and teens. These women are brave pioneers. They launched rockets, flew planes, programmed computers, broke world records, stood up for injustice, played sports, solved crimes and invented gadgets.
Reap the reward of my hours of hunting with this mega list of book recommendations. Here’s my round-up of 50 books about girls and women who excel in science, math, design, athletics and business many other fields. These are ideal picks for teachers looking to build a library with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) educational topics. And parents: You’re sure to find something on this list to add to your child’s library to celebrate women’s history not just in March, but all year-round.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley – This is the first picture book about the life of Justice Ginsburg. It’s elegantly simple prose, and tells the tales of her dissents from childhood to the Supreme Court. Recommended for ages 4-8.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger – This lovely piece of children’s literature, recommended for ages 4-8, covers a diverse group of women who were fearless and bold.
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Emily Winfield Martin and more – This inspirational picture book for kids ages 4-8 is filled with 14 profiles of amazing young women, each with their own poem and illustration.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, Illustrated by Kerascoët – A wonderful read for younger students learning about young Malala in Pakistan. She writes about her belief that girls everywhere deserve an education. Recommended for ages 5-8.
This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Daniel Roode – This board book for preschoolers is part of a series. It’s a short, age-appropriate introduction to the stories of 10 trail-blazing females in history – from Florence Nightingale to Sonia Sotomayor.
I Am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos – This picture book is part of the Ordinary People Change the World series, which tells biographical stories for the youngest nonfiction readers. In this story, kids can learn about the first woman to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean.
I Am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos – A picture book about the scientist who studied in Africa, made observations about chimpanzees and learned so much about humans in the process.
I Am Lucille Ball by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos – In this short biography, kids can learn about the redheaded comedian who brought humor to most any situation. There are many more in this wonderful series from Brad Meltzer, including I Am Helen Keller, I Am Rosa Parks, I Am Harriet Tubman and I Am Sacagawea. I haven’t gotten my hands on the lot, but I confess I feel compelled to collect them all!
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman – Based on the bestselling book and movie Hidden Figures, this picture book tells the story of these remarkable women who are really good at math. It’s approachable and well-crafted to introduce this inspiring true story to young readers ages 4-8.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born To Lead by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham – Kids can read about the first female presidential nominee in U.S. history who paved the way for women to follow her lead and take on roles of leadership. Recommended for ages 4-8.
What I Can Learn from the Incredible and Fantastic Life of Oprah Winfrey by Melissa Medina and Fredrik Colting, Illustrations by Ester Chen – This biography, part of the What I Can Learn From series, helps young readers (recommended for ages 4-8) get to know the media icon. This book breaks down some simple, life lessons from her success, including being kind, reading books and staying positive.
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper – Two suffragists set off to spread the word about equal voting rights for women, facing obstacles to their cause. This picture book for ages 5-8 is packed with primary colors and whimsical illustrations, and is a good primer to educate little ones about the history of voting rights in America.
Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, Illustrated by Jordi Solano – A kid-friendly biography about the ground-breaking researcher who studied fearsome marine life.
Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, Illustrated by Laura Freeman – A colorful picture book about the designer who overcame adversity to open her own shop and design exquisite high-society gowns for other women.
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, Illustrated by Brian Selznick – A picture book with pioneering spirit about the evening in 1933 when Amelia Earheart and Eleanor Roosevelt crept away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane and took off on a glorious adventure still dressed in evening gowns. Recommended for ages 5-9.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts – This is a story of little Rosie who dreams of becoming a great engineer (like her great, great aunt Rosie whose name we all know). There’s a powerful lesson in here for all of us to keep trying. We can never truly fail unless we give up.
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, Illustrated by Jessie Hartland – This delightful picture book biography, written for ages 4-8, follows the ingenious programmer from childhood to adulthood.
Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray, Illustrated by Christine Davenier – The tale of a persistent young girl who practiced gymnastics to become one of the best gymnasts in the world.
Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith, Illustrated by Matt Tavares – Rich with a sense of wonder, and watercolor and pencil illustrations, this picture book, recommended for ages 6-9, tells a story of aspiration and accomplishment.
How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln: The Story Behind the Nation’s First Female Detective by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, Illustrated by Valentina Belloni – This picture book teaches kids about the woman who played a vital role in uncovering a plot to assassinate the president. A primer for U.S. history, this biographical book is recommended for ages 4-8.
Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women’s Rights by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Amy June Bates – This Ready-to-Read Level Three book recounts the life of lifelong advocate for women’s equality, Susan B. Anthony, including contributions to the suffrage movement. It’s an accessible introduction recommended for ages 6-8.
Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation by Cokie Roberts, Illustrated by Diane Goode – From African American poet Lucy Terry Prince to Native American explorer and guide Sacagawea to First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams, this nonfiction picture book pays homage to 10 women in U.S. history. This book is a followup to Roberts’ book Founding Mothers. Recommended for ages 6-10.
To The Stars!: The First American Woman to Walk In Space by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Illustrated by Nicole Wong – A biography of Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to do a space walk during her 1984 mission on the Challenger. Recommended for ages 5-9.
Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy, Illustrated by C. F. Payne – An engaging picture book biography about a girl who loved sports. When she wasn’t playing sports, she was reading about them and talking about them. Mary Garber became a sportswriter during a time when few women were in the field. Recommended for ages 5-9.
For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George, Illustrated by Janna Bock – In a culture where women were supposed to be quiet, Malala refused to remain silent. This biography is geared for young readers, ages 7-10.
Sonia Sotomayor: I’ll Be The Judge of That! by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Angela Dominguez – An accessible biography for ages 7-10 about the woman who became the first Latino justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. This book is part of Krull’s “Women Who Broke the Rules” series.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton – This picture book tells the story of the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Suggested for ages 5-10.
Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal – An account of our not-so-distant past when it wasn’t a given that girls could play basketball or soccer, or become engineers or doctors. This book, geared for readers ages 8-12, tells the story of the lawmakers, teachers and parents who fought to pass a law in 1972 which allowed girls equal access to PE classes, sports programs, universities and graduate degree programs.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashiti Harrison – This New York Times bestselling children’s book introduces us to 40 black women who helped to change our world. I cannot get enough of these darling illustrations! Recommended for ages 8-11.
You Should Meet: Women Who Launched The Computer Age by Laurie Calkhoven, Illustrated by Alyssa Petersen – This “Ready-to-Read” Level Three paperback is the story of six women who programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer as part of a secret WWII project. They were brilliant pioneers in programming languages and tools, yet not publicly credited for their work.
You Should Meet: Mae Jemison by Laurie Calkhoven, Illustrated by Monique Dong – Another Ready-to-Read Level Three book from the “You Should Meet” series. This is the story of the astronaut who became the first African-American woman to go into space.
You Should Meet: Misty Copeland by Laurie Calkhoven, Illustrated by Monique Dong – This book for readers ages 9 to 13, “Ready-to-Read” Level Three, is an inspiring story about Misty’s childhood and the challenges she faced on her way to becoming one of the most famous ballerinas in the world.
Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly – The story of the female mathematicians who calculated how to launch rockets using a pencil and slide rule. This young readers edition of the bestselling Hidden Figures book is geared for ages 8-13.
Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey – If your kiddo has outgrown the Goodall picture book listed above, this National Geographic Kids book, geared for ages 8-12, is a great biography about her achievements in science.
I Got This: To Gold And Beyond by Laurie Hernandez – A memoir of Olympic gymnast and Dancing With the Stars winner, where she shares her account of training, sacrifice and triumphs. Recommended for ages 8-12.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World by Rachel Ignotofsky – Charming illustrations and packed full of information about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), this is recommended for ages 9 and up. Quite frankly, it’s an excellent read for adults too.
Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky – Women for the win! Recommended for ages 9 and up, this book recounts the achievements of Olympians, record-breakers, pioneers and well-known athletes in more than 40 different sports.
She Stood For Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland by Loki Mulholland and Angela Fairwell, Illustrated by Charlotta Janssen – This is the picture book edition with an age-appropriate account of the biography of one teenager’s participation in the Civil Rights movement.
Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell – A story of a union activist’s attempts to increase wages and improve working and living conditions in garment and mining industries. Recommended for ages 9-12.
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins – Three different time periods. Three women who became ground-breaking scientists. Their stories told through evocative poems. Recommended for ages 9-14.
Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage (Young Readers Edition) by Tilar J. Mazzeo, adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell – The story of the woman who took enormous risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, adapted from the original publication for a younger audience, ages 10-14.
Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Foreword by Mary Lou Retton – Autobiography about the gymnast from Spring, Texas who pursued her dream to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, bringing home four gold medals. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
The Jerrie Mock Story: The First Woman to Fly Solo Around the World by Nancy Roe Pimm – This biography for middle grade readers, ages 10-13, tells the story of a woman who flew a Cessna from Columbus, Ohio all the way around the world, accomplishing what her heroine Amelia Earhart had disappeared trying to do.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet – From the windshield wiper to the chocolate chip cookie, women and girls have been inventing great things that make our world a better place. Learn about them in this book geared for ages 10-12.
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – And The World by Rachel Swaby – From Nobel Prize winners to major innovations, these profiles span the centuries to teach us about women in science, encouraging the next generation of girls to put on a lab coat. Recommended for ages 13 and up.
First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth – An account of the woman who founded the first national organization for girls, complete with historical photographs. Recommended for ages 10-12.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History…And Our Future! by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl – This New York Times bestseller is an inspiring book with colorful illustrations and introductions to 26 individuals. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl – An additional volume of global biographies. Together these two volumes are a good resource for Social Studies, History or English classes looking to engage 6th to 8th graders with narratives.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – This crowd-funded publication is a beautiful volume filled with 100 bedtime stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary women past and present, illustrated by 60 female artists from around the world. From Queen Elizabeth to Cleopatria, from Simone Biles to Malala Yousafazai, this is a great read.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – Once you’ve read the first book, you might want to check out volume two with 100 more incredible stories.
Look for these books and more at your local Half Price Books and online at HPB.com.