The best books that encourage girls to pursue self determination

Why am I passionate about this?

I love getting lost in books because I get to experience more adventures than I could possibly fit into one lifetime. Books invite the exploration of limitless possibilities—for everyone. When a book can fire my imagination, make me feel a connection, or just make me think deeplythat’s magic, whether it was meant to be fiction or not. I want to write books that do that for others. For this list specifically, I wanted to pick books that encourage girls to embrace the notions that they are allowed to dream really big dreams, that the goals they set for themselves are worth pursuing, and that we all deserve room to be our authentic selves.


I wrote...

Book cover of Strut, Baby, Strut

What is my book about?

From baby to toddler to big girl to teen to young lady, and finally, a confident woman, this lyrical, rhyming story teaches little girls to reach high, be bold, and love big at any and every stage of their life. Full of inspiring life lessons every parent strives to teach their child from day one, this story, written for little girls everywhere, is about growing up, loving yourself, and embracing your womanhood.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

Amika Kroll Why did I love this book?

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is indeed what got me! I immediately wished someone had captured an image of me looking amazing and strong like the girl featured. I mean, how cool to have a picture that really reflects oneself, so unlike the stiff and awkwardly posed school pics that decorated my home growing up. Her stance and expression just spoke to me and I immediately loved that this book celebrated her strength and presence.  And not just hers! Many, many girls of various ages and backgrounds are photographed doing something that makes them feel good or strong or real. This book is a catalog of photos and words that celebrate girls being their authentic selves. I want that for all the little girls, and all the little girls who have grown up too. 

By Kate T. Parker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Strong Is the New Pretty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by the popular photo project of the same title that went viral in the spring of 2015, Strong Is the New Pretty is a photo-driven book comprised of 100 high-quality black-and-white and color images (with minimal text) of fierce and joyful girls--a celebration of what it means to be strong (whether athletic, bookish, brainy, brave, loyal, or courageous). The photographs champion the message that girls are perfect in their imperfection; beautiful in their chaotic, authentic lives; and empowered by their strength instead of their looks. They are messy. They are loud. Wild. Full of life. Adventurous. Silly. Funny. Strong.


Book cover of Ambitious Girl

Amika Kroll Why did I love this book?

I love that this book encourages girls to be ambitious, speak up, and be confident. I think that when girls are shamed into silence, false meekness, or restrained by pointless societal conventions, everyone loses. In this book, Harris’ main character won’t be deterred by damaging words that try to label her “too loud, too assertive, etc.” just because she’s a girl. She is encouraged to tell the world who she is, not the other way around. My choices and my voice are precious to me and I am painfully aware that not all females have these truly precious things.

By Meena Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ambitious Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

In this inspiring picture book from New York Times-bestselling author Meena Harris, a young girl sees words like "too ambitious" and "too assertive" being yelled at a strong woman on TV and it sends her on a journey of discovery through past, present, and future about the limits put on women and girls and the ways in which they can resist, assist, coexist, and excel.

As Ambitious Girl says:

No "too that" or "too this"
will stop what's inside me from flowering
From now on, when I hear "too that" or "too this"
I won't mind - it's empowering!

And…


Book cover of Reach for the Stars

Amika Kroll Why did I love this book?

Frankly, I like this book because it reminds me so much of mine! Reach for the stars—you can do it! I love it! Straight from the cradle, all the way to adulthood, give love and encouragement! Although this story follows a little girl growing up with many illustrations that include her mother, this book could easily resonate with any adult/child pairing. All those beautiful moments in life where we share and growwhat’s not to celebrate? Warm fuzzies all around.

By Emily Calandrelli, Honee Jang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reach for the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

From Emmy-nominated science TV star and host of Netflix’s hit series Emily’s Wonder Lab Emily Calandrelli comes an inspirational message of love and positivity.

From the moment we are born, we reach out. We reach out for our loved ones, for new knowledge and experiences, and for our dreams!

Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of the world around us, this uplifting book will inspire readers of every age. A celebration of love and shared discovery, this book will encourage readers to reach for the stars!


Book cover of What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Amika Kroll Why did I love this book?

I found that many of the nursery rhymes in this book are very familiar, except…something is a little different. Georgie Porgie is no longer kissing the girls and making them cry, Little Miss Muffett is a heck of a lot tougher, and Mary, Mary quite contrary is embracing her right to change her mind. That’s right, these classic mini-stories have been revamped to have the female characters taking charge and living their best lives. Some nursery rhymes can be outdated and upsetting, but I say "don’t throw the baby out with the bath water." I think keeping the things about nursery rhymes that promote early literacy but changing up the words to reflect our values is a very cool way to carry the old rhymes into this century.

By Jeanne Willis, Isabelle Follath (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Are Little Girls Made Of? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Think you know your nursery rhymes? Then think again! In this witty reworking of some nursery rhymes, Georgie Porgie doesn’t dare to make the girls cry, Little Bo-Peep’s sheep are all present and accounted for, thank you, and it’s a female doctor, of course, who fixes Humpty Dumpty. With the combination of clever rhymes and charming, witty illustrations, this remixed nursery rhyme collection is the perfect gift book for any child (or adult!), to read aloud or enjoy alone.


Book cover of A Girl Like Me

Amika Kroll Why did I love this book?

I like this book because it encourages girls to dream and dream big! You’re a superhero with your own sense of style? Cool. Having an amazing ocean adventure? Awesome. This book encourages girls to hold onto their dreams despite pressure from others who wish they would conform. Dreams are where some of my best ideas come from and I’ve always thought that it’s a shame to dream about the mundane. The more fantastical, the better! Dreams can be the start of a real-life great idea. I like this book because it invites girls to think about who they are and imagine all the possibilities for themselves.  

By Angela Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"[A] rallying cry for girls to reject limitations others might place on them and their dreams."—starred,The Horn Book Magazine


"Once I dreamed I swam / the ocean / and saw everything deep,
cool / and was part of the waves. / I swam on by the people / onshore /
hollering, / 'A girl like you needs to / stay out of the water / and be dry /
like everyone else.'"


Empower young readers to embrace their individuality, reject societal limitations, and follow their dreams. This inspiring picture book brings together a poem by acclaimed author Angela Johnson and…


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American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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