In honor of my Mama’s mid-life political revolution and her participation in the Women’s March on Washington, I (Brynn) have compiled a list of my favorite awesome-girl books. Some of these characters are brave, others are wicked smart. Some are insanely creative, while others are simply willing to speak their minds. All of them are my heroes and paint a vivid picture of what a little girl like me might aspire to someday.
The books are arranged from least to most complex.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans: Madeline is certainly a classic, and every girl should have it on her shelf. Madeline is fearless in the face of mice, lions, her classmates, her headmistress, and surgery. Her classmates all want to be like her, and so do I!
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow: Molly Lou Melon is short. REALLY short. And she has buck teeth. REALLY big buck teeth. And her voice sounds “like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor.” Squeezed REALLY tightly. Fortunately, Molly Lou Melon has an awesome grandma who gives her outstanding advice to always be loud and proud and confident and the world will love her. When Molly Lou Melon moves to a new school and a bully teases her, her grandma’s advice is put to the test in the funniest of ways. Great illustrations and snappy text make this book hilarious.
Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Dusan Petricic: Both my brother and I are huge fans of Robert Munsch’s stories, and while all of his stories have spunky child heroes, this story and the next are particular favorites of ours. In Mud Puddle, Jule Ann is in a predicament: every time she ventures outside, she is trounced by a mud puddle. She tries various ways to outsmart the villainous mud puddle, but at one point, she is crouched by the back door, too afraid to even stick her nose out. That’s when she has a brilliant idea: soap! A funny, fabulous book that both my brother and I have asked our parents to read time and time again.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko: This book is another Munsch classic. The awesome heroine, Elizabeth, confronts and outsmarts a castle-burning, boyfriend-stealing dragon in nothing but a paper bag. But when she rescues said boyfriend, he doesn’t even thank her. Instead, he criticizes her looks, so she gives him the boot and goes skipping off into the sunset by herself. This final illustration has become the iconic seal for all of Robert Munsch’s classic stories. My mom always laughs out loud at the very last line when Elizabeth tells Prince Ronald, “but you are a bum.” Love it!
My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrated by Mike Litwin: This book functions more as a history lesson than a traditional children’s story. The main character, Isabella, repeats the phrase, “My name is not _____. My name is ______.” And she substitutes names of influential women in history. Each woman is described in a few words, but there are no real details about the women until the brief biographies at end of the book. I like this book because it introduces me to important female figures through the eyes of a young girl like me.
Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: Ladybug Girl is an awesome character, and these books are some of my very favorite. Ladybug Girl dresses in a tutu and ladybug wings, but she is also imaginative, brave, adventurous, friendly, and helpful. These books show that girls can wear tutus and still be amazing at the same time–just like me! The illustrations are fabulous, too!
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts: Books about girls who do cool things are at the top of my list, and this book is one of the best. Rosie loves to create gizmos and gadgets in the middle of the night when no one can see and make fun of her attempts. One day, her great, great aunt Rose comes to visit. She gives Rosie an idea that will not let her be, so in the middle of a sleepless night, Rosie builds her first flying machine for her aunt. It crashes, but before it does, it flies…just a little. When Rosie wants to give up and never try again, her aunt tells her that you never truly fail, unless you quit. Great message, great premise, great character, great illustrations!
The Red Wolf by Margaret Shannon: Both my brother and I like this book. He actually read it to me the other night! Roselupin is a princess who is kept locked up in a tall, stony tower by her father, the king. He doesn’t want her to be hurt by the outside world, so he keeps her completely separate from it. One day, a mysterious box appears for Roselupin’s birthday. In it are balls of yarn along with a note that says, “Knit what you want.” So she does. She knits a red wolf suit, whispers some magic words, and “poof!” she transforms into a giant red wolf. This first taste of freedom is only temporary, however, as she accidentally transforms back into a girl and her father locks her up again. That night, though, Roselupin hits upon a more permanent solution…and wins her freedom for good. A great story of empowerment and clever thinking.
Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Rosemarie Brennan: Willow is a girl who loves art. When she runs into an art teacher who does not appreciate her purple trees and crazy snowpeople, she doesn’t get mad and she doesn’t get sad. Instead, she gifts her teacher with her favorite art book that is chock full of art that defies reality. Her teacher has a turn of heart, and Willow’s gentle insistence that the world can be seen in many different ways is an inspiration in a world that is sometimes depressingly black and white. Willow is my art-hero!
Bloom by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by David Small: This book is the longest and most complex picture book on the list, and it is likely more appropriate for children who are 4-5 years old. Bloom tells the story of kingdom made of glass that has been built up with the help of a fairy called Bloom. The people of the kingdom soon forget that the fairy helped them, and they shoo her away. As soon as the kingdom begins to crumble, however, they are desperate for her help again. The King and Queen both visit her, but when Bloom lays a bucket of mud at their feet and claims that it is the solution, they both recoil and run away. Finally, they decide to send someone “ordinary,” a small girl called Genevieve, to coax the fairy into helping them. When the fairy lays the bucket of mud at her feet, she hems and haws for awhile before deciding to give it a shot. Bloom then teaches Genevieve to make bricks, out of which they build a house. She takes her knowledge back with her and shows her King and Queen how to rebuild the kingdom. Genevieve comes to realize that she has enormous power and that there is no such thing as an ordinary girl. A powerful message for all girls to internalize.
Pinky Dinky Doo by Jim Jinkins: Pinky Dinky Doo is an amazing girl with a crazy imagination. In this series, she makes up all kinds of outlandish, creative stories for her little brother. The stories contain multiple choice questions, search and finds, and matching pages. The illustrations are pretty neat, with photograph backgrounds of a generic house overlaid with cartoon figures, and they help to underscore the main message of the series: anyone, including the reader, can create stories, too.
Girls Rock! Happy Reading!
-Brynn (age 2.5)
Clicking on the pictures of the books will take you to Amazon.com. If you purchase a book, a small portion of the sale comes back to me. I, in turn, will donate profit back to a children’s literacy effort in my area. Thank you!