The best children’s books about brave and extraordinary women

Aimee Bissonette Author Of Headstrong Hallie!: The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female Fire Guard
By Aimee Bissonette

The Books I Picked & Why

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

By Sarah Warren, Robert Casilla

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

Why this book?

I have long been a fan of stories about courageous women and I love it when I discover a book for young readers that brings to life an inspiring story of someone they may not know well (or at all). That’s exactly what Warren does in this book about Delores Huerta. The text works well for even the youngest readers. It promotes empathy by describing the poor living conditions of migrant children and their parents. Its themes are as relevant today as they were in Delores’ time. We need to care, we need to stand up for others, we need to be fair. It’s beautifully illustrated, too.


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Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

By Michelle Markel, Melissa Sweet

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Why this book?

The title of this book hooked me right out of the gate: Brave Girl. I knew it was a story for me. How could it not be? Young Clara Lemlich stood only 5 feet tall, but she was a spitfire. Her story will inspire boys and girls alike when they learn how she fought for equality, raising her voice against powerful factory owners in the early 1900s. Another reason this book is such a treat is that it was illustrated by Melissa Sweet, one of the most creative children’s book illustrators around. The art in this book is a feast for the eyes!


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Dear Mr. Dickens

By Nancy Churnin, Bethany Stancliffe

Dear Mr. Dickens

Why this book?

Some people might not think writing a letter is a tremendously brave act, but it is if you are a young woman who knows in her heart that she needs to challenge a very famous and beloved author – a man even she admires! I had never heard of Eliza Davies and her letters to Charles Dickens and was captivated by the story. Davies wrote to Dickens protesting his stereotypical and harmful depiction of Jewish people in Oliver Twist. And she made a difference! I love how the story teaches kids that they, too, can make a difference and that activism takes many forms, in this case, letter-writing. Added bonus: the book contains quotes from Eliza’s actual letters, which appeals to me immensely as a history geek. 


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The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

By Heather Lang, Jana Christy

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Why this book?

I always loved science as a kid. I also loved it when people doubted what I said I could do. It just made me buckle down and try harder! No surprise then that I found “Canopy Meg” to be just my kind of girl. As Lang tells us (often in her subject’s own words), Meg Lowman didn’t let obstacles stop her from her dream of exploring and documenting discoveries in the rain forest canopy. Lowman’s work led to the creation of an important branch of environmental research and helped others see the importance of protecting the rainforest. Jana Christy’s illustrations are marvelous. They draw the reader right into the lush rain forest with its wild array of creatures. Nature loving kids will adore this book.


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Before She Was Harriet

By Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome

Before She Was Harriet

Why this book?

Did I save the best for last? I may have (although I recommend all of these books). This book appeals to me on so many levels. First, it tells the story of an important woman of history who was dauntless in her mission to help others to safety and freedom. Second, the dreamy, lyrical narrative is so different from how so many picture book biographies are written, yet incredibly effective. Third, the art is amazing – especially in its depiction of Harriet as an old woman when her strength was still so evident. And fourth, the story is told in reverse chronology. What a great decision! I use this book often when I teach about nonfiction picture book writing because of this creative approach. Hands down. I love this book.


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